Sort out your finger­pick­ing

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Brid­get Mer­mikides looks at all the tech­niques needed to ac­quire per­fect fin­ger­style tech­nique. De­signed for clas­si­cal but will ben­e­fit all styles.



Info Key Var­i­ous Tempo Var­i­ous CD TRACKS 24-39 Will im­prove your… Pick­ing hand sta­bil­ity Rest and free stroke Tre­molo and ras­gueado

Any fin­ger­style player knows how cru­cial it is to de­velop good tech­nique in their pick­ing hand. Once in full flow this hand re­lies al­most ex­clu­sively on touch and feel. How­ever, un­like the fret­ting hand, which gets plenty of vis­ual at­ten­tion, the pick­ing hand is rarely glanced at.

This fea­ture fo­cuses mainly on clas­si­cal tech­niques with some ba­sic fla­menco el­e­ments thrown in. And al­though ev­ery­thing here can be trans­lated to steel-string, I am ad­dress­ing tone and touch in a way that’s more rel­e­vant to ny­lon strings so this should make a great com­pan­ion ar­ti­cle to my reg­u­lar Clas­si­cal col­umn. It might even in­spire you to dig out the old ny­lon-string and give it a go.

The tech­niques will in­clude ‘apoyando’ and ‘tirando’. Apoyando is the Span­ish term for rest stroke; apo­yar, mean­ing to rest or to lean, refers to the stroke of the fin­ger or thumb push­ing through the string and land­ing (rest­ing/lean­ing) on an ad­ja­cent string. Tirando or ‘free stroke’, from tirar; to throw, is the term used when the fin­ger plucks the string by curl­ing it in­side the hand, miss­ing the ad­ja­cent string com­pletely. Rest stroke has the stronger, warmer tone and is used for sin­gle line melodies, for oc­ca­sional em­pha­sis and for scales. Free stroke tends to be used for ev­ery­thing else.

The ma­jor­ity of teach­ers be­gin with rest stroke be­cause the move­ment is eas­ier, more nat­u­ral, and pro­duces a warm, full tone. This tone be­comes the aim for the nat­u­rally qui­eter, thin­ner sound­ing free stroke. In the words of vir­tu­oso gui­tarist and teach­ing guru Pepe Romero: “The rest stroke is the teacher of the free stroke”. So the free stroke has the same in­trin­sic move­ment as rest stroke in that the string is ‘pushed’ by the fin­ger, and causes the string to vi­brate as sim­i­larly as pos­si­ble. A com­mon mis­take in free stroke is for the fin­gers to be­come claw-like and pull the strings out­wards. Al­though this can feel like a nat­u­ral way to pluck, it ham­pers the res­o­nance and will not pro­duce a good tone on ny­lon strings.

Work­ing on the fin­gers in­di­vid­u­ally to mas­ter the move­ment helps: po­si­tion the hand by first rest­ing the thumb on one of the bass strings and plant the three fin­gers on the top three strings. Keep the wrist away from the guitar and the fin­gers length­ened so that the knuck­les are di­rectly over the string on which each fin­ger is sit­ting. Now push the string in­wards slightly with the first fin­ger and pluck so that the fin­ger fol­lows through un­der the hand and on the in­side of the thumb. The fin­ger should im­me­di­ately re­lax af­ter it plucks to al­low it to ‘fol­low through’ nat­u­rally and then ‘spring’ back to its start­ing point. Re­peat this process with the sec­ond and third fin­gers. If the nails are too long and ‘catch’ un­der the string, then they need to be filed to a smooth curve. Ideally the string should be plucked with a com­bi­na­tion of fin­ger­tip flesh and the nail.

Sim­ple tre­molo pick­ing is fea­tured here too, and this is a real test of pluck­ing hand con­trol; a steady hand and con­sis­tent tone on each fin­ger is the key. Also in­cluded are em­bel­lished chords us­ing all strings, and ras­gueado strum­ming tech­niques, some of which use the ‘c’ (fourth) fin­ger - com­mon in fla­menco. At the end is a short piece that in­cor­po­rates a num­ber of these tech­niques.

De­vel­op­ing good fin­ger­style tech­nique is a life­time pur­suit so take your time and be hon­est when eval­u­at­ing your tone, tech­nique and clar­ity of ex­e­cu­tion. Ap­proach the ex­am­ples at the right tempo in or­der to get the most out of them. A reg­u­lar, fo­cused prac­tice sched­ule us­ing these ex­er­cises is guar­an­teed to bring your play­ing to a new level.

Good tech­nique helps in ob­tain­ing great tone too

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