ELEC­TRIC FIN­GER­STYLE BLUES Play like 10 ‘fin­gers only’ gi­ants

In this very mu­si­cal les­son Ja­cob Quist­gaard ex­plores a va­ri­ety of elec­tric blues fin­ger­style tech­niques and dis­cov­ers count­less ben­e­fits along the way. It’s time to flex those dig­its!

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

‘From The Vaults’. Quist shows why ditch­ing a flat pick makes play­ing so much more or­ganic, and why it’s so pop­u­lar with so many greats.

The fol­low­ing pages are ded­i­cated to ex­plor­ing the ad­van­tages of fin­ger­style tech­nique as ap­plied by a se­lec­tion of the finest elec­tric fin­ger­style play­ers, all grounded in blues. We will ex­plore var­i­ous ex­am­ples of these play­ers’ per­sonal vo­cab­u­lary and stylis­tic ap­proach, in or­der for you to gain more in­sight into their worlds and thus hope­fully take a load of in­spir­ing ideas, tech­niques and licks with you on the way.

We will see how chord play­ing can be highly con­trolled when fin­ger­picked, how riffs can go from ‘pretty cool’ to ‘ex­tra­or­di­nary’ and we will see how us­ing fin­ger­pick­ing as a lead play­ing tech­nique can give your solo­ing a whole new dy­namic di­men­sion and range of pos­si­bil­i­ties you prob­a­bly hadn’t spot­ted be­fore. With pos­ses­sion of good fin­ger­pick­ing tech­nique, phras­ing across strings and even com­plex string skip­ping pat­terns be­come much eas­ier to ex­e­cute. Sweep­ing is a whole new thing, of­ten per­formed by the thumb. Cool sound­ing dou­ble-stops and chords are sud­denly in­creas­ingly wel­come el­e­ments in your solo­ing and much eas­ier to con­trol, in terms of keep­ing un­wanted strings and noise from sound­ing.

Re­gard­ing the no­ta­tion of the mu­si­cal ex­am­ples, I have in­cluded some fin­ger­ings and pick­ing op­tions for you to ex­per­i­ment with, but do ex­plore what works best for you. We use the stan­dard, clas­si­cal no­ta­tion sys­tem with thumb as (p), first fin­ger as (i), sec­ond as (m), third as (a) and fourth as (c).

First up, we will visit ‘The Texas Can­non­ball’, Fred­die King, youngest of the ‘three Kings’ of elec­tric blues gui­tar. Fa­mous for sin­gles like Have You Ever Loved A Woman? (1960) and his Top 40 hit Hide­away (1961), King had a raw and bril­liantly in­tu­itive play­ing style, us­ing a plas­tic thumb pick and a metal first fin­ger pick. With this set-up, he achieved quite an ag­gres­sive fin­ger at­tack, but al­though Fred­die did use picks on his fin­gers, he ob­vi­ously still main­tained many of the great ben­e­fits of hav­ing more than one ‘pick­ing de­vice’ in­volved. So, re­gard­less of whether you like to at­tach picks to your fin­gers or not, there’s loads of great moves to learn from this fiery blues master.

Next, it’s the in­stantly recog­nis­able style of Mark Knopfler, founder of Dire Straits, whose mu­sic - in ad­di­tion to sell­ing over 120 mil­lion al­bums - fea­tures lots of ab­so­lutely top notch gui­tar play­ing. Knopfler is a highly ac­com­plished fin­ger­style gui­tarist and his smooth and dy­namic solo­ing style, which so ef­fort­lessly in­cor­po­rates melodic arpeg­gia­tions and chords em­bel­lish­ments, is all about fin­ger­pick­ing. “The pick is the big­gest am­pli­fier there is” he says - and how right he is! The dy­namic range made avail­able by fin­ger­pick­ing is vast - and can aid the de­vel­op­ment of a more per­sonal sound too. As the young Knopfler started on his acous­tic gui­tar, learn­ing all the folk pick­ing pat­terns, he set him­self up for great­ness as he trans­ferred this skill into mod­ern dis­torted bluesy rock gui­tar play­ing - us­ing his own vari­ant of the ‘clawham­mer’ style.

Speak­ing of per­sonal styles, we shall also ex­plore the leg­end that is Jeff Beck - the gui­tar player’s gui­tar player. Safe to say, Beck is one of the most tech­ni­cally and stylis­ti­cally unique play­ers in the world, and that’s count­ing any of the great­est greats, past and present. Beck’s unique sound is in no small part due to his fin­ger­pick­ing - hav­ing thrown away his plec­trum years ago, de­ter­mined to “go out naked” with­out a pick. The way he com­bines his highly evolved fin­ger­pick­ing tech­nique with mav­er­ick whammy bar use and a gen­er­ally hy­per-cre­ative spirit - well that is the fun­da­ment of his awe­some and in­stantly recog­nis­able sound.

We shall also dive into the highly evolved gui­tar styles of both All­man Broth­ers Band mates and con­trib­u­tors, War­ren Haynes and Derek Trucks. Haynes with his stun­ningly awe­some blues stylings, in­clud­ing his abil­ity to play great slide in stan­dard tun­ing - and Derek Trucks, whom many see as quite pos­si­bly the world’s fore­most liv­ing slide gui­tarist! For slide, fin­ger­pick­ing re­ally does open up a whole new level of con­trol, as not only can you eas­ily skip across strings and pick any com­bi­na­tion of notes and strings to play, but you also get much greater mut­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties, through be­ing able to use more of your pick­ing hand freely to mute un­wanted strings, sep­a­rat­ing sin­gle-note slide lines and ‘clean­ing up’ chords and dou­ble-stops.

Fi­nally, sand­wiched be­tween Haynes and Trucks, I have thrown in a touch of the leg­endary Wes Mont­gomery, who al­though com­ing from an al­to­gether more jaz­zori­en­tated per­spec­tive, will add an ex­tra di­men­sion with his amaz­ing and very recog­nis­able thumb tech­nique. Us­ing his thumb pretty much ex­clu­sively, Mont­gomery took that tech­nique and sound all the way and it re­ally is worth ex­per­i­ment­ing with, as it’s a great tech­nique to have in your arse­nal. Ba­si­cally, a good rule of thumb (sic) is that for the smoothest pos­si­ble at­tack on any picked note, you use your thumb - so go ahead and en­joy the beauty of Wes-style ‘thumb­ing’.

Lastly, don’t for­get the mu­si­cal ex­am­ples have all been recorded and are there for you to re­fer to - and of course there are also back­ing tracks for ev­ery ex­am­ple, so you can en­joy play­ing through all the mu­sic your­self. Are you ready to get started? Re­mem­ber, great tone lies at your fingertips - let’s nail it!


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