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