When it comes to play fingerstyle technique on a guitar we have two possible different approaches on the way we use the picking hand. One it is keeping our hand free to hover over the body of the guitar, while the second is anchoring the hand down on the guitar, usually by means of just the pinky or the pinky and the ring finger at the same time. There are positive aspects on both the techniques and it is wrong trying to compare them in terms of better or worse. The choice depends on several factors but mainly on the kind of music we are going to play.
When we talk about classical guitar technique, being able to master the floating guitar technique is absolutely necessary even just to be considered a classical guitarist, and this is mainly due to the fact that the classical approach is based on really strict and traditional learning methods whose rules cannot be broken. Far from us disputing if it is right or wrong, the reality is that to play classical guitar technique you need the floating guitar technique.
The situation is completely different when we talk about the tyical fingerstyle or even the more contemporary variations of it. In both cases we have absolute freedom of choice in the approach we are going to use. This is given by the fact that the ultimate goal is not as much achieving an “aesthetically” perfect picking guitar technique as just the ability of delivering the best rendition possible of a given music.
As you can see the difference in the approach is not exclusively technical, but it is even theoretical about the idea of what properly playing a guitar means. But what are the strong points of the floating guitar technique?
First of all the floating guitar technique is the most natural way to pick the strings because the hand, and as a consequence the fingers, has completely freedom of movements in all 3 space dimensions. In this way the musician can have full control of dynamics and musical timbre simply moving the hand along the length of the strings, between the music hole and the bridge. But not only that, having the chance of picking with at least four fingers at time it ensures very rich harmonies, typical feature of classical music. In addition we have to take into account that the picking hand can easily perform a strumming guitar technique whenever it is necessary.
Moreover the fact that all fingers are completely free to move indipendently one from the other allows the guitarist to play with a particular technique called Tremolo. This guitar technique consists in the emulation of the sound of a mandulin played with a pick with an extremely fast and consistent rhythm. This can be achieved using a particular picking pattern where the thumb is followed by the ring finger, the middle and index all picking at very high speed the same string. If this picking pattern is performed smoothly and at the right speed we get easily the illusion of listening to a mandulin playing. Anyway, the last few years have seen a different picking pattern getting more and more common amongst classical guitarists and is the one where the place of the ring finger, usually the weakest of all picking fingers, is taken by the middle finger. In this way the sequence of the fingers become thumb, middle, index and middle finger again. This new sequence can solve all the issues related to the weakness and lack of indipendence of the ring finger, but at the same time demands a much haevier job from the middle finger which has to pick twice per cycle.
Last but probably most important characteristic of all is the fact that the floating guitar technique is easier and more natural to perform, whereas anchoring one or two finger to the body of the guitar is going to limit to a big extent the indipendence of the ring finger and partially of the middle finger as well. Here at the Fingerstyle & Classical Guitar Studio, with several years of study on the field, we can properly assist you in the development of a correct and extremely effective floating guitar technique.