View Single Post
Old 01-09-2021, 07:02 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 5,512

Originally Posted by NormanKliman View Post
I would call that Travis picking before I called it fingerstyle. The latter term isn’t well defined, as far as I know, such that all Travis pickers are fingerstylists but not all fingerstylists are Travis pickers. I know you know this, I realize it’s splitting hairs, and I wouldn’t normally correct anyone’s usage of the term, but since you corrected his with that example...
As a fellow hair-splitter, I agree!
I never really liked the term "Travis picking" to describe folk-blues fingerstyle in general. Firstly because he didn't invent it, and secondly because he had a particularly idiosyncratic technique, using just the index finger.
Almost everyone who plays in style that they call "Travis picking" plays differently from him. They'll use at least two fingers for a start. They might also allow the bass notes to ring rather than damp them as he generally did.
Originally Posted by NormanKliman View Post
It seems to me that fingerstyle means two things: (1) in a very broad sense, playing the guitar with your fingers instead of a pick
Originally Posted by NormanKliman View Post
and (2) specifically, a style of playing the guitar without a pick that was developed in the late 20th century and that combines several techniques and musical influences (examples of those techniques and influences would round out this definition).
Well - to continue the hair-splitting - that's more contentious.

Firstly, classical guitar is played "fingerstyle". How else would you describe classical guitar technique? That obviously dates back centuries - even to before guitars were invented.

Secondly, the non-classical technique is at least 100 years old, in American blues and folk music. It may have developed in the late 19th century, and certainly existed once recordings began.

It's true the technique evolved over the 20th Century, and I'd identify two separate styles as broadly "blues" (Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson, etc) and "folk/country" (Mississippi John Hurt, Merle Travis, Doc Watson, etc). The latter is distinguished by the "alternating bass" technique, and there is a further distinction between the damped bass style more common in country music (Travis, Chet Atkins etc) and the freely ringing bass more common in contemporary folk (derived largely from MJH?).

There's also the more banjo-based semi-frailing style in country music (Maybelle Carter etc).
Originally Posted by NormanKliman View Post
And when I say pick, I’m referring to holding a plectrum between your fingers, so I’d (grudgingly) concede that fingerstyle includes the use of thumbpicks and banjo picks, although "fingerpick" would be a better term for that, in my opinion.
Yes, the term "fingerpicking" is not a clearly defined one. It seems to me it's often used as a more "downhome" term for "fingerstyle", but I agree it ought to imply the use of fingerpicks.
Then again, do we need a different word for the common habit of using a thumbpick but no fingerpicks?
"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." - Leonard Cohen.
Reply With Quote