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Old 02-01-2019, 12:34 PM
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ctvolfan ctvolfan is offline
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Default Flatpicking vs thumbpicking opinion

I'm sure this subject has been covered numerous times on here. I am a flatpicker and always have been. It's just that when I started playing when I was young I thought you only played guitar with a pick. I have dabbled in fingerpicking and have progressed some but I have a long way to go. Dust In The Wind has been my intro to Travis Picking. I have that one down okay but have yet to translate that into other tunes. I really have trouble getting those other fingers to work in alternating rhythm. As many have stated here in the past, I just have trouble finding the patience to try to stop doing what I am so comfortable doing to try to get bogged down learning something else like fingerpicking. It is as if I am wasting valuable playing time struggling through a totally different technique as opposed to immediately playing something I am familiar with as soon as I pick up the guitar. I am stubborn, lazy and impatient.

But I must say, I am incredibly envious of fingerpickers. It just seems like you can get a lot more complexity from fingerpicking as opposed to flatpicking. I have compensated for this somewhat as I have through the years unknowingly developed my own playing technique only to find out it has been discovered before and that is called hybrid picking. I get so much more out of a guitar when I can pluck a bass string with my pick and pluck a treble string with my ring finger. Sometime I just rake the ring finger over a couple of treble strings to get a fuller sound.

What are the honest opinions out there? Is fingerpicking more advanced, difficult and versatile than flatpicking? I know there are great complex flatpickers in the world but I have to think that fingerpicking in general is a more advanced style of playing than flatpicking. Is this a matter of opinion or is this fact? And this is coming from a flatpicker. Hope I don't stir up any hard feelings with this question. This is just my opinion and I could be completely wrong. Doesn't mean that flatpicking still isn't an incredibly great sound and technique.
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Old 02-01-2019, 12:59 PM
DukeX DukeX is offline
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I do both, but I am a better finger picker than flat picker (spent a lot more time learning and practicing). I don't think one or the other is more advanced or better. They are both fun as heck, and hybrid picking is something I am just now picking up. Very cool.

One thing you can do while learning fingerpicking is to just work on patterns, such as the numerous variations of Travis Picking, and just start ripping through chord changes (to work on speed and alternate bass lines) or chord progressions of songs you already know. You can do the same thing with arpeggio picking or even blend the two styles.

Have fun and good luck!
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Old 02-01-2019, 02:05 PM
Martie Martie is offline
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I played with a plectrum for nearly twenty years before I turned my hand to fingerstyle. I also tried cross-picking which requires an incredible amount of accuracy to play well (go look at the Molly Tuttle video in the Listen section of this forum!).

My introduction to fingerstyle was a book by Bruce Emery, which I would recommend to anyone, not least because he makes it fun and engaging, which is always a bonus. I also used a couple of books by Mark Hanson, which were excellent.

I don't play anywhere near as much as I did when I was younger, but when I do it's pretty much exclusively fingerstyle, mainly because I can't be bothered with electric anymore, and I guess I'll always associate that more with flatpicking (although not exclusively).

I don't consider fingerstyle played well to be more 'advanced' than flatpicking (depending on the player/what's being played). I just find fingerstyle suits me more for what I want to get out of playing music these days. When it was younger it was the buzz of being in a band - playing an electric loud and proud. As such, I played guitar as a member of a team etc. Now it's about digging into the nuances and relaxing whilst playing alone, and the reason I prefer fingerstyle these days is that it's just me, so I have to fill things out more. I guess you could say that context/what you want to do dictates what techniques you need to adopt.

That said, from the day he picked a guitar up I always encouraged my son to pay equal attention to both hands, including learning to use his fingers. I saw him play recently and it warmed my heart to see him switching effortlessly between using a pick and playing fingerstyle - something he's thanked me for encouraging him to do on a number of occasions
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Old 02-01-2019, 02:40 PM
Mycroft Mycroft is offline
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Neither is superior, both are tools in the toolbox. There are simply superior exponents of each style.

If you like hybrid flatpicking, get thee to a few videos with Richard Thompson, who flatpicks and fingerpicks with all three of his other fingers. Good fingerpicker too.

I kind of came at things from the other side. I had used nothing but my fingers for twenty-odd years. I did own a pick, somewhere (singular. It was embossed with the name of the local music store from when I lived in Tahoe)

So when I decided to learn to use a thumb pick (and later a flatpick) one bit of advice from a friend (also a guitar teacher) was to take an unplugged electric or muted acoustic, and simply play patterns slowly and repeatedly while watching the telly. It was simply a matter of becoming so use to using your fingers in that way that it becomes a bit second nature.

(FYI, Emery's book, "Fingerpicking from Scratch," "Travis-Picking From Scratch" and "Blues from Scratch" all well worth it.)
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Old 02-01-2019, 02:42 PM
zmf zmf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ctvolfan View Post
Dust In The Wind has been my intro to Travis Picking.

I know there are great complex flatpickers in the world but I have to think that fingerpicking in general is a more advanced style of playing than flatpicking.
If you have "Dust" down, it has a very regimented picking pattern. Keep doing what you're doing, but break out of that pattern, just wing it for a while, and you're ready to get on with Travis picking in general.

On which playing style is "advanced", I'm a Doc Watson fan, and he excels at both. I'm a fingerpicker, but I think his flatpicking is as advanced as his fingerpicking. YMMV.
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Old 02-01-2019, 02:58 PM
Brooklyn Bob Brooklyn Bob is offline
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I do both. In my head finger-picking is more right-hand intensive and flat-picking is more left-handed.
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Old 02-01-2019, 03:06 PM
zmf zmf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooklyn Bob View Post
I do both. In my head finger-picking is more right-hand intensive and flat-picking is more left-handed.
Would you care to defend that opinion?

I fingerpick mainly with only thumb and index, and I'm sometimes surprised at how much hammer-on and pull-off my left hand has to do to keep up with my right. My right hand seems to run on autopilot.
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Old 02-01-2019, 03:07 PM
Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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I started and mainly used a flat pick for many years. Like many I learned to finger pick and do finger style plus slide. A couple of years ago I stopped using a flat pick and focused on finger picking. What intrigued me was the way they could do odd chords up the neck. Now after immersing myself in finger picking I am moving back to flat picking. Why? It's more natural for me so it's more enjoyable in more ways than the finger picking was. The journey thought me that the way old blues finger pickers or country finger pickers conceptualized the fret board is pretty much similar to anyone else. Part of this comes from how I conceptualize the fret board. It's mainly cowboy chords up the neck though often a string is fretted or not fretted because the string is or isn't going to be struck. But over all the notes being fingered evolved from a chord shape. So the chords or fingerings that finger pickers do can be accomplished with a flat pick and maybe an added finger pluck sometimes. That is unless you are trying to accomplish a total mimic of someone else's song/sound.
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Old 02-01-2019, 03:28 PM
Silly Moustache Silly Moustache is offline
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I honestly can't remember how I started, probably with fingers, but when I discovered bluegrass there was only one way.

I never fingerpick when performing, because my flat-picking style is just "what I do" the exception of course is when I'm playing dobro which doesn't happen much nowadays.

When I do fingerpick , it is just with thumb and index finger.
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Old 02-01-2019, 03:36 PM
Steel and wood Steel and wood is offline
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I too do both. (I fingerpick with thumb using a plastic thumb pick plus first and second finger only using metal fingerpicks).

Develop a few fingerpicking pattern in 4/4 as your base and then go from there. (Simple banjo rolls and/or more difficult Travis style patterns). Your choice if you want to use a thumb pick or fingerpicks. (Experiment until you find something that feels and sounds right for you).

Good luck!

Last edited by Steel and wood; 02-01-2019 at 03:45 PM.
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Old 02-01-2019, 07:25 PM
The Bard Rocks The Bard Rocks is offline
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If anyone thinks flatpicking is less intricate or whatever, listen to Beppe Gqmbetta.
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Old 02-01-2019, 07:40 PM
zmf zmf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Jelly View Post
Now after immersing myself in finger picking I am moving back to flat picking. Why? It's more natural for me so it's more enjoyable in more ways than the finger picking was.
After doing nothing but fingerpicking, I've added flatpicking with my index fingernail. So I can move between the two. Sometimes a song needs both. Is this allowed?

But I obviously can't flatpick as fast as someone holding a plectrum.
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Old 02-01-2019, 09:30 PM
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Came to guitar from having played piano for many years. Flatpicking was not even a consideration. Most instruments and most styles are difficult to be really good at.
Fingerstyle often is much more complex compositionally though and that's why I like it. Since you're adept at flatpicking it could be a natural for you to work on hybrid
picking. You might enjoy that and still have a flatpick between your fingers.
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Old 02-01-2019, 09:46 PM
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TBman TBman is offline
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I used to be a flatpicker, but it didn't give me what I wanted at the time so I moved onto finger style eventually after some big spans of non playing time. If I were to get back into flat picking it'd be bluegrass and that is a ton of fun by the looks of it. The problem for me is its louder than finger style and I might get a lot of resistance to my practicing at night.

If you plan on playing out with friends, I suggest keeping flat picking as your main style.
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Old 02-02-2019, 12:16 AM
AceLocke AceLocke is offline
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I am a flat picker on steel strings and fingers on classical. I hate bare fingers on steel strings and they really devour any bit of nail, so I just finger pick the nylons.
As far as finger picking goes it really takes some dedication to get used to it. My way of learning was to just avoid using picks completely to just focus on my fingers until I felt I could do it fluently. I am no classical triained guy by any means but it opens up a lot more ideas once you get the hang of it. Acoustic Slap is pretty cool too.
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