How are you guys doing?
Here we are going to talk about fingerstyle (or fingerpicking) technique.
I am going to show you the way I do it, but there are many ways to use fingerpicking on electric guitar. The idea here is to show a little bit of fingerstyle and, even if you’ve never practiced this technique, you should come away with enough patterns and fundamentals to begin using in your own playing.
Let’s get started with the basics-of-the-basics-of-the-basics: getting the sound with the thumb then adding the first three fingers.
The idea is to do something simple, while still creating something that sounds cool.
Start with a chord or phrase that’s fairly easy to play and improvise around it. For this D minor example, the pattern is the thumb, first finger, second finger, third finger.
Experiment with that pattern around the neck. You can even use some simple barre chords; just make sure you are playing these patterns slowly at first. Focus on control and tone.
The other basic pattern is going to be: thumb, third finger, second finger, first finger.
Between these two basic patterns, you can play a lot of different stuff.
Simple! And now we can start improvising and creating different patterns. Another exercise we can work on involves using only the thumb, first finger, and second finger.
If you’ve seen any of my other lessons, you know I always talk about playing slowly to start.
Try to be consistent, get the flow, and then start to increase the speed.
Once you’re comfortable and a little more confident, you can experiment with making your fingerpicking more rhythmic and percussive.
Finally, you guys aren’t asking me about what kind of pick I’m using!
I think Jeff Beck realized a long time ago, “I’m going to play with my fingers, so nobody will ask what kind of pick I use!”
One thing you can do using the same thumb-one-two-three pattern is to go down then up across the strings, starting on the sixth string, then the fifth, then the fourth. On the way back up, instead of thumb-one-two-three, you would do thumb-three-two-one.
Another variation you can try is something similar to the song “Feijão de Corda” (String Bean) off my second solo album, Universo Inverso.
As you can see there are many ways to use the technique. And with the rolling-like feel I use on songs like “Conquer or Die,” it can be applied in many ways — like adding octaves. Experiment with this more and more, and you can start to create some cool vibes.
And of course, we can’t forget the most famous one of all! Maybe you have heard it?
The secret to this technique is to change the key right before you get demonetized.
In Angra, we all liked to have some intros and outros using acoustic guitars, played by me and Rafael [Bittencourt]. There’s a song called “Rebirth” off the second album with this pattern.
Another one is off my new album Open Source called “Du Monde.”
For practicing runs and scales you can work on just using the first and second fingers.
One other thing that is good to know is, when you want to play all six strings, you will use your thumb for the first three. So it goes thumb-thumb-thumb-first-second-third.
You may think it would be easier with the pinky, but you have more control this way because the pinky is too short — I mean, maybe your pinky is as long as the rest of your fingers, but mine is not. So it’s easier and more precise this way. Another way would be to hit that last string with your index finger.
So just do the basics and combinations of the basics — practice just using your thumb and simple two-note patterns and chords using your first two fingers:
Some of these two-finger techniques could use another hour lesson just to get into! There are so many other examples. So many songs in Angra where we came up with something like this, where it’s just a thumb and one finger, much like U2’s The Edge in a way.
Very Brazillion as well. That was composed by Rafael Bittencourt (Angra), an amazing thing that he created using just two fingers. It made a nice vibe for a song — simple and beautiful.
What I suggest for you to explore are simple things. That doesn’t mean easy to play — sometimes simple things can be hard to play.
It doesn’t have to be super complex chordal arrangements, just two-note patterns. Experiment with those as well as the basic thumb-fingers approach.
And then just be happy playing music!
I hope you enjoyed this lesson! Share with your friends, other guitar players and check out some of the other guides here on Guitar Hacks and videos on my YouTube channel.
My next lesson will be on the Lydian mode. There’s been a lot of questions about the mysterious Lydian mode — so let’s talk about it!
Finally, I hope you all have had great holidays and I’m wishing you all the best for this new year! And it’s going to be a great year — because it cannot be worse than 2020, right?
See you soon!
Q&A From Chat
What kind of fingers am I using?
That’s a great question! My fingers are of different sizes with broken nails. My nails should not be a reference for anybody …
How do I take care of my nails?
As I said, I don’t — but I should! I was getting ready to do this video and saw that all my nails were broken! When I play live with Megadeth, my index nail always gets broken because of the intense riffs.
I’m using 10-46 — again with the equipment! It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. It could be 8,9,10,11,12,13 … it doesn’t matter. Normally this [fingerstyle] is done on acoustic guitar or … the harp! So it doesn’t matter the strings.
Conquer or Die [Megadeth]:
It has the rolling feeling, right? Here’s another angle:
Once you get it — get the pattern — it’s not very complicated. The difficulty in this song is controlling the G string, because it’s always open. It can be a little difficult because that G is always ringing and sometimes it’s too loud. Then there is the other sections here:
What about the pinky?
I don’t use it. Fingerpicking on electric guitar is something that you must make your own. It might be that some others do — but normally the classical players don’t use it. Even the flamenco players who hit the guitar for percussive effect mainly use only the second and third fingers.
I think you can use it — you never know. You can try whatever you want — if it works for you. I’m left handed so anything with my right hand is, like, no … that would be like another two years of practice!
On Brazillian guitarists being “special”
Brazil has a tradition of nylon string classical guitar. I think the main difference is, when you hear any electric guitarist from Brazil, they probably started on nylon acoustic guitar. The younger generation maybe not as much, but for sure there is always a nylon guitar around, so everybody plays a bit of nylon classical using fingerstyle … [fingerstyle] is a tradition of the Spanish culture, Flamenco, the Portuguese and all of South America with acoustic guitar or charango, tres [Cubano] or cuatro; different instruments, but all coming from the same cultural traditions. That’s why Brazillian players in general will play acoustic guitar more like the classical players.
No Pain For The Dead?
I don’t remember it, but something similar — some chords with open strings will sound good. Like when you do an E minor, you can leave the G open and let it ring out as you change chords.
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