Many people started learning guitar because they saw their favorite guitarists in action, and they wanted to be able to do the same. This means many may start playing guitar wanting to play what their guitar heroes play.
Depending on the genre, these guitar masters may play fingerstyle or use picks. This means learners must also decide whether to start learning fingerstyle or picking first. Which is better for beginners?
In general, picking is more suitable for beginners. This is because it is easier and less technical to learn. Players can better focus on their fretting hand and pressing chords when picking. Fingerstyle tends to be very precise and can make learning guitar unnecessarily difficult. Beginners may lose motivation easily in this case.
This article explores fingerstyle and picking guitar and see which technique a beginner should learn first. It will also look into additional questions, such as where learners can go to learn and the pros and cons of each technique.
Want to see the latest guitar accessories that are popular right now? Just click here!
What Is Fingerstyle Guitar?
Fingerstyle guitar is a method of playing guitar. Players use their fingers to play the strings instead of a pick. This style allows players to execute complicated, intricate plays and produce great sounds. Fingerstyle play tends to be featured in classical pieces and may be played using nylon or steel string guitars.
Fingerstyle guitar is a play in which the right-hand fingers are used instead of a pick to pluck the guitar strings. The term fingerstyle may also be used interchangeably with the word ‘plucking,’ ‘finger plucking,’ and ‘finger picking.’
Fingerstyle guitar may trace its roots in traditional folk and blues music. In these genres, guitarists use their fingers to make unique sounds often used to accompany singing. As musical genres expanded from blues and folk, the technique was used in many kinds of music, such as jazz and rock.
Fingerstyle guitar is much more prominent in older musical pieces, such as classical. Southern European traditional music, such as Flamenco and Tarantella, may also use finger styling.
One of the best things about fingerstyle guitar is that it gives you more control and more ways to play. A guitarist’s fingers can make a wide range of sounds, from soft and gentle to loud and percussion-like.
Fingerstyle guitar also allows you to play melody, harmony, and rhythm simultaneously on the guitar, making it possible to make intricate and complex arrangements. You can also easily execute detailed embellishments, such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides.
This may explain why players playing solo using fingerstyle can play very complicated pieces and execute unbelievable solos.
One issue with fingerstyle is the lack of attack on the string. This is because the fingers have a soft surface, meaning they cannot strike the strings to produce more violent and sudden vibrations. This means fingerstyle guitar may not be as loud as using a pick.
Fingerstyle guitar can be played on acoustic and electric guitars, but it is usually associated with acoustic guitars. Fingerstyle guitarists often use steel-string acoustic guitars because they have a bright, resonant sound that works well with style.
Fingerstyle guitar has become more popular than ever in recent years, and more and more guitarists are getting good at it. Some of the popular guitarists that influenced fingerstyle guitar include:
- Tommy Emmanuel
- Jung Sung Ha
- Sergio Altamura
- Andres Segovia
- Antoine DuFour
What Is Picking In Guitar Playing?
In guitar picking, you use a pick to strike the guitar strings to play them. Guitar picking allows players to play more accurately and at a louder volume. Picking requires players to use a pick, or plectrum, which can be awkward initially. Many popular guitar masters play picking.
Guitar picking is a popular way to play guitar. In picking, the strings are plucked or strummed with a plectrum (pick). The term picking may also be used interchangeably with words such as ‘strumming’ or ‘Flatpicking.’
A plectrum is a hard, flat object held between the fingers. They are normally about the size of a coin and are made of materials such as nylon or plastic. They may come in different thicknesses, colors, and shapes. To play picking, you need to use a pick.
READ MORE: Do Professional Guitarists Use Picks?
To perform picking, tou use your thumb and index finger to hold on the pick. Aim the sharper end of the pick to face toward the strings. You then use the pick to replace your finger to strike the strings individually or strum them all in a single stroke.
Picking tends to be heard in music genres such as rock, pop, and country music. Picking is also a more popular technique with guitarists compared to fingerpicking. Many points to picking being easier to learn and master than fingerstyle. However, this may not be true for everyone.
The guitar picking technique allows you to play faster and more accurately than fingerstyle. This is because you are hitting the string with a pick, a hard object. This means you can get strings to ring fast and reach maximum volume faster.
The pick also allows you to execute alternate picking and sweep-picking techniques. With these techniques, you can play more than one note simultaneously. This means you can use picking techniques to execute complicated plays.
Many popular, legendary guitar players use the picking technique, although they may switch to fingerstyle occasionally. These include, but are not limited to:
- Jimi Hendrix
- Eddie Van Halen
- Dave Grohl
- Mark Tremonti
Should I Learn Fingerstyle Or Pick First?
In general, picking may be a better technique to learn first, as they are easier to pick up. You can focus more on your fretting hand with picking. However, your decision to start with a finger style of pick may depend on the musical genre you intend to learn. If you intend to play classical pieces, you may want to learn fingerstyle first.
It may be a better idea to learn to pick first. In fact, many new guitar players pick up a guitar by first learning to pick before graduating to fingerstyle.
If you are deciding between learning picking or fingerstyle first, here is why picking may be a better option:
You Learn Faster
One thing about using a pick is that you simplify the guitar learning process. Instead of constantly trying to get your fingers on both your hands to pick the right string, you get to focus on the fretting hand.
The strumming hand can instead hold on to the pick and strum along. This significantly simplifies the learning process and can speed up your learning speed.
In fact, some good learners can actually play a song in several hours after learning the guitar. They only need to learn how to press several open chords and transition well. The picking hand then focuses on strumming on a steady pattern using the pick.
With fingerstyle, you will need weeks, if not months, to play a song since fingerstyle is highly technical. Most new players spend months playing nothing but scale to develop muscle memory and precision.
On top of that, players may need weeks to learn to play a piece since fingerstyle musical pieces are hard to master. The whole journey can be difficult and frustrating.
You Spare Your Fingers And Nails
You will use your four fingers to play on the strings if you lean fingerstyle. This means you will be striking the strings with your fingertips. New learners may have soft nails and fingertips, which may hurt after a while.
In fact, it is not very surprising to see newer players getting blisters and cracked nails from the first few weeks of playing fingerstyle guitar. Your fingers will eventually develop calluses, and your nails harden, but you will suffer for the first few weeks.
You Can Play Independently Faster
As you learn faster with picking, you can also play independently faster. Generally, by using a pick, you tend to play more popular and recent music and songs, such as rock, pop, and such.
You may be able to easily find the chords and simplified tabs online for these songs and try to play them. In many cases, if you can play and transition between open chords, chances are you should be able to play these songs independently, using a pick.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Learning Fingerstyle?
In general, if you learn fingerstyle, you may develop a deeper understanding of your guitar. You also get to master the skill that many pickers are scared to even try. Fingerstyle guitarists also can play solo without needing accompaniment from other instruments.
Learning fingerstyle comes with many upsides, such as:
You Become A Much Better Musician: One thing about learning fingerstyle is that you need to learn your guitar. At the most basic, you need to learn which fret to press, and which string to strike, to get the exact sound you need. This is unlike picking, where you can hit a chord and strum away.
On top of that, if you play fingerstyle, chances are you want to play more classical pieces. This means you may need to learn how to read detailed tabs or sheet music. Reading sheet music is not easy and may require formal training and instruction.
If you can play fingerstyle on classical pieces, chances are you are a more complete musician. A guitar picker will definitely not be able to play as technically as you, and do not be surprised if they do not read sheet music.
You Get To Pick Up Skills Many Avoids: Here is a little secret that may surprise you. Many guitarists may pick up picking because they think fingerstyle is too difficult to learn. In fact, they actually fear learning fingerstyle.
Many also prefer to go straight to picking to make it easier to learn guitar and to play faster. Picking, in some ways, can be seen as a shortcut. But it also may come at a cost. Many casual players who pick guitars may not be able to play technically, relying on chords and strumming alone.
By learning fingerstyle, you may show them that you are willing to put in more hard work and struggle up front with your guitar journey. They may not say it out loud, but they may respect you more for this.
You Do Not Need Accompanying Instruments: People who play fingerstyle guitars tend to be able to play well. They may also be appreciated for their individual musicianship. This means people may actually enjoy healing a solo guitarist to play alone as a solo act.
This may also be noticeable to you, where many guitarists with some solo albums tend to play fingerpicking. Suppose you are the type that enjoys playing solo and appreciates the limelight and attention. In that case, learning fingerstyle may give you this perk.
You Get To Play What You Want To Play
Perhaps you were inspired to play guitar after hearing the energetic flamenco music or the great fingerstyle duel in Deliverance. Perhaps you desire to dress in a tuxedo one day and play solo in an orchestral show instead of jeans and a rock concert.
That means playing classical, more traditional pieces of music. To play those, you will need to learn fingerstyle. If you learn fingerstyle, you can play these musical pieces then.
Picking May Come Easier: You may get another perk if you play fingerstyle first. You may find it easier to transition to picking. This is because fingerstyle is generally harder to master and pick up.
That means you may find it easier when you try to learn to pick. The only awkward bit is to get used to not having all fingers to play on the strings, but only a single pick. This may need some time to get used to.
As much as you may find learning fingerstyle coming with so many benefits, there is also the darker side of fingerstyle playing:
Your Fingers And Nails May Hurt Bad: In fingerstyle playing, you will use all five strumming hands to play on the strings. Not so much on the pinky, but some guitarists do use them.
Initially, your fingers and nails may not be strong enough to handle the constant stress and abrasion you will put them through when playing fingerstyle guitar. This means you may have broken nails and sore fingers. Some skin may also be torn off your fingertips.
The good thing is these may go away as you redevelop thicker nails and calluses on your fingertips.
You May Not Get To Play In A Band: Fingerstyle playing may put you in the spotlight and mean people enjoy hearing you play solo. This may be enjoyable to some players, but some prefer a more social aspect of music.
This means they may enjoy playing in a band more, jamming and fooling around instead of playing solo. If you are similar to these guys, you may need to be aware of this.
It May Be Very Hard And Demotivating: This is why many people may not be keen to learn fingerstyle. It is hard and demotivating.
You may need to spend months learning how to play scales to develop the right muscle memory to execute the playing techniques. Learning a single piece of music may take weeks or months, as they are complicated.
And then you turn around, and you look at a complete newbie being able to play songs only after several days of practice. How do they do it? They use a pick to strum and only remember and play several open chords.
As a result, fingerpicking can be very hard and demotivating, which can be a turn-off to many.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Learning Picking?
Generally, if you learn picking, you can progress and play guitar fast. You also spare your fingers and nails, as you will strike the strings with a pick instead. You also get to play with other instruments too. However, you may not play fingerstyle music, and you must replace your picks on and off as they wear out.
There is a reason why picking is popular with beginning players, they are easier to learn, and you get to play faster. Here are some of the benefits if you learn picking:
You Progress Fast: This aspect attracts guitar learners the most. If they learn fingerstyle, it may take them months before they can even play a single song. With picking, they can reduce the challenge to days.
Many tutors also help to deliver faster results to their students by teaching picking. The hand holds the pick strums while the learner learns and memorizes several open chords. As they strum, they also perfect their transition.
This may be very attractive to learners, as they can play popular songs as fast as over the weekend if they learn to use a pick. If you are the kind that wants fast results, you will be keen to learn picking too.
You Spare Your Fingers And Nails: When learning to pick, you usually use a plectrum (pick) to replace your fingers. This means the pick is the one that is going to do the hard work of striking the strings and sparing your fingers and nails.
This means, unlike fingerstyle players, you will not have issues such as broken nails or sore fingers. You also will not develop thick nails and calluses on your fingertips, which may be important to some, especially females.
You Get To Jam With Other Instruments: One aspect of playing picking is you tend to play musical pieces that require you to play in a band.
At the basics, you may be playing rhythm guitar, which requires you to at least have a lead guitar to do the shredding and a bassist. At this point, you may as well have a drummer too. As a result, you may bet to enjoy a more social side of guitar playing by picking rather than finger styling.
As much as picking can be fun and easy, they also have their own issues. As a result, some players choose not to start with picking:
You May Not Be Able To Execute Some Plays: When you learn to play picking style, you rely on a pick to strike the guitar strings. This means instead of using four fingers to hit the surface, you are down to one.
This means you may not be able to play certain techniques that you may normally hear in fingerstyle music, such as Spanish Flick or Scratches. You may also be unable to play musical genres such as classical or flamenco that require these techniques.
You May Need To Change Picks: When you replace your finger with picks, you use the pick as the tool to do the hard job. The pick will strike the strings and help to make your guitar ring.
This means the pick will wear out over time and need to be replaced. If you are going to learn to pick, make sure you factor in costs such as pick replacement into your guitar budget. Fortunately, picks are rather affordable and should not cost you too much.