Acoustic Blues Guitar – Bare Finger or Picks?

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I’m going to talk about ‘acoustic blues guitar‘ due to the fact this is my primary interest and I want to talk about finger picking methods. Usually, electric guitarists use a plectrum of some form to pluck the strings in and up down motion. Naturally, there are often exceptions, similar to Mark Knopfler, who uses his naked fingers to play both electric and acoustic guitars.

His unusual style caused Chet Atkins to say “I don’t know how he’s doing, but he can sure do it! ” You don’t need to adhere to the norm – we can make our own rules, but we need to begin somewhere. This starting point is normally focused on previous master players. In the genre of acoustic blues guitar, this implies people like Robert Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Doc Watson, Reverend Gary Davis and many others.

Naturally there are quite a few variations in style, but pickers can be broadly divided into two categories – those who wear finger picks and those that don’t. We’ll disregard how many picking fingers they applied for now. I’ve witnessed ragtime blues artists perform competently with up to 3 finger picks on the right hand, which didn’t most master pickers only use one, either steel or plastic.

Picks for the fingers.

I prefer a steel pick, as they can be bent a little so that the tip of the pick corresponds with the contact point of a naked finger striking a string. This suggests that there’s no realignment necessary for the angle of attack. Plastic finger picks are normally thicker and stick out a bit more, so an adjustment in picking technique is necessary. This is essential if playing songs which need picks, and some that don’t, for example.

Thumb-pick opposed to bare thumb.

Commonly, the pick makes a sharper, louder sound and amplifies substantially. Some  techniques are simpler to accomplish in this way, like ‘throwing’ the thumb on to the string making a percussive effect. A considerable benefit is that it saves the thumb from getting sore. Bare finger players have to practice very frequently in order to grow a thick callous so these folks can play in comfort. In general, picks are much easier to get between the strings, so are excellent for plucking individual strings in fast succession.

Naked fingers technique.

A bare thumb can hook behind a string, pull it up from the body of the guitar and let it snap back, making an accented note which can be effective in some styles of blues. In general, naked fingers are really precise and can produce a wonderful bouncy technique when playing ragtime blues guitar, either in the style of Scott Joplin-type piano rags or original ragtime blues in the fashion of Blind Blake. The thumb rolls and triplets featured in the latter’s music make it quite tricky to perform with finger picks.

Many of the latter stylists, like Chet Atkins, utilized strengthened finger nails. I question if any older blues guitarists utilized this method, but who can say? Quite a few Texas guitarists favored a plastic thumb pick and naked fingers, typically just using one finger of the picking hand with astounding dexterity. Blind Blake appeared to have employed naked fingers and and several older blues men recollected that he had a hole in his right it was worn down by the bass strings of his guitar.

The mysterious Wile Walker, who only registered two sides in the 20s, seemed to be a real master of the ragtime style. His tracks feature lightning fast single string runs that seem tricky if utilizing the thumb and first finger alternately hitting the strings. It looks probable that he used a plectrum gripped in between thumb and forefinger, utilizing this to alternate the bass line whilst picking with one or two fingers.

There are a lot of, types of finger picking and we can rely on the example of the fantastic guitar masters to help us to generate our own techniques while searnching for the ideal blues guitar lessons.



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