With the term fingerstyle we usually tend to define any kind of guitar tecnique based exclusively on the use of fingers to pluck the strings. It can actually be used even a particular kind of pick for the thumb, called thumbpick, in place of just the nails or the fingertips. Moreover we can also have the case, not so common, of guitarists playing fingerstyle with fake plastic nails, but usually just on metal strings. It is important to remind the we can’t consider the classical guitar technique as a typical fingerstyle technique simply because, even if we pick just with fingers in both cases, there are some basic but essential differences on the approach to the instrument.
The approach of fingerstyle is extremely instinctive, having as the first important rule the indipendence of the thumb from the other fingers, in order to build a solid and groovy bass rhythm with the use of the thumb itself. This is usually achieved picking on the bass strings of the chord firstly the root, then the 3rd, the 5th, the 3rd and then starting again on the root. This creates a sort of an undergoing rhythmic pattern ideal to support the melody and the harmony played by the other fingers of the hand, usually the index, the medium and the ring finger.
The house of the rising sun (The Animals) – performed by Federico Chianucci
There is instead a lot of freedom about the position of the guitar in relation to the body and, as a consequence, even the way to approach the fretboard with the left arm is completely left to discretion of the student. If on one side this is good because gives you chance to explore different solutions in relation to the unique phisycal body features of the students, on the other side can be technically difficult to put into practice properly without the guidance of an experienced guitar teacher. Getting bad picking or posture habits is in fact really common and can deeply affect the effectiveness of the technique. The process to get rid of this bad habits can be frequently challenging, time consuming and quite frustrating.
On the other hand the classical guitar approach is much more precise and defined about not only the posture and the way to properly hold the guitar, but even about the proper way to approach the strings with the fingers. This is the main reason why, at least according to our personal belief and experience, it is always advisable starting to get confidence with a nylon strings guitar with a classical technique, and then moving on the fingerstyle technique in a second time.
Another important choice we have to face when starting playing fingerstyle is wether anchoring the picking hand on the body of the guitar or instead maintaing it free and completely detached from the instrument. Both Anchoring and Floating hand techinque have advantages and disadvantages. With the first one we can get a solidity in sound and rhythm which can be hardly achieved with the second, but at the same time we are likely going to lose the use of the ring finger to pick. With the Floating technique instead we maintain a complete freedom of the hand to control the timbre and the dynamics, and richer harmonies are warranted by the use of four fingers to pick at the same time.
Studying fingerstyle is an incredibile and fullfilling experience but it takes time, consistency and dedication. Here at the Fingerstyle & Classical Guitar Studio, with almost 30 years of experience, we are proud to offer you the guidance you need to achieve your fingerstyle guitar dream at every level, from very beginner to extremely advanced.