Play­ing with FIN­GERS

Ditch your pick and join a host of great gui­tarists that have turned on to Flesh Tone !

Guitar Techniques - - FRONT PAGE -

If you are new to play­ing elec­tric lead gui­tar with the fin­ger­style tech­nique, why not use this fea­ture as an ex­cuse to give it a go?


Key: Var­i­ous Tempo: Var­i­ous CD: TRACKS4-7

Will Im­prove your

Fin­ger­style tech­nique Lead feel and phras­ing Ex­pres­sion and tone The phrase ‘The tone is all in the fin­gers’ is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant to this month’s fea­ture. The flesh and nails of your pick­ing-hand fin­gers are full of great tone and can make the plec­trum sound bland by com­par­i­son. The fin­gers also have great dex­ter­ity, and are handy for play­ing ideas on ad­ja­cent strings and also ideas that re­quire string skip­ping. In con­trast the plec­trum is per­fect for play­ing fast tremolo pick­ing ideas and also pro­vides a uni­form attack. Many play­ers have com­bined the plec­trum and re­main­ing fin­gers to great ef­fect (re­ferred to as hy­brid pick­ing and you’ll find a bunch of it in Steve Laney’s Coun­try Work­out fea­ture). Hold­ing the plec­trum puts the first fin­ger and thumb out of ac­tion, so while hy­brid pick­ing is more ver­sa­tile than pick alone, dex­ter­ity is still re­duced when com­pared to pure fin­ger­style.

An­other popular route is the use of a thumb pick. The thumb pick clips onto the thumb and there­fore doesn’t re­quire hold­ing, thus main­tain­ing full fin­ger­style dex­ter­ity. The thumb pick ads def­i­ni­tion to bass notes and is popular with coun­try and acous­tic fin­ger­style play­ers.

Elec­tric gui­tar play­ers like Mark Knopfler and Jeff Beck have made a ca­reer out of play­ing lead with the fin­gers ex­clu­sively. Jeff favours a com­bi­na­tion of down pick­ing with the thumb for a fat tone and pluck­ing with the fin­gers, which is all topped off with his ex­pert ma­nip­u­la­tion of the whammy bar and vol­ume con­trols. Mark plays lead lines by pluck­ing the strings with the thumb, first and sec­ond fin­gers, with the re­main­ing dig­its act­ing as an an­chor on the pick­guard. This tech­nique is as unique as it is un­con­ven­tional, but you can’t ar­gue with the re­sults!

Other play­ers such as Joe Pass, Eric Clap­ton, Ge­orge Ben­son and Ritchie Kotzen dip into the fin­ger­style ap­proach as re­quired. Jazz leg­ends Wes Mont­gomery and Jim Mullen use the flesh of the thumb ex­clu­sively to brush the strings with fab­u­lous ef­fect.

What­ever your style, it’s hard to ig­nore the won­der of util­is­ing the fin­gers for lead gui­tar play­ing. This fea­ture aims to iden­tify some core tech­niques and ideas that you can then use in your lead work.

For no­ta­tion pur­poses the pick­ing hand thumb and first three fin­gers are la­belled as p, i, m and a. The fourth fin­ger (c) is rarely used due to its rel­a­tive weak­ness, and most ap­pli­ca­tions can be cov­ered with the thumb and three fin­gers ap­proach. For this piece you will just need to know p = thumb, i = first fin­ger, m = sec­ond fin­ger and a = third fin­ger.

The ten ex­am­ples are in a va­ri­ety of keys, styles and tem­pos and have been writ­ten to high­light a spe­cific tech­nique or fa­mous player’s ap­proach. The idea here is to prac­tice th­ese ex­am­ples at a slow tempo at first and then work up to the per­for­mance tempo. A sep­a­rate back­ing track has been pro­vided for Ex­am­ples 1 to 5 and Ex­am­ples 6 to 10 so you can play along and prac­tise your new skills. There’s also a full piece to learn, com­plete with its own back­ing track to play it over.

If you are new to play­ing lead gui­tar with fin­ger­style, why not use this fea­ture as an ex­cuse to give it a go. You may sim­ply want to use the tech­nique oc­ca­sion­ally, for a spe­cific sound or feel; or, as hap­pened with Jeff Beck, it could change the way you play for­ever!

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