1. #1

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    Try as I might, I just can’t get along with a pick. Finger style seems to allow me much more nuance and complexity but at the expense of the tone I’m able to achieve with a pick. I’m a pianist, first, so utilizing each finger comes naturally. However, I play with a light touch and can’t seem to dial in that fat tone I’m searching for. I’ve tried going down to lighter strings but that neuters the sound. I use a CV Tele and a modified Epi ES-175, primarily, through a Katana 100w or direct into an RME UC running into Cubase/Amplitube. Should I add in some compression or tweak the amp a different way? I tend to run the Katana flat with a small dose of verb. I’m shooting for a Ted Greene type of sound.


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  3. #2

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    Up till now I have usually used a pick, but now I am also practising solo guitar a lot, for this I am using fingerstyle. I have found that I can get a reasonable sound if I use a combination of flesh and short nails on my right hand. Which is quite similar to the approach I have always used for classical guitar.

    If I use the flesh only it sounds a bit muddy to me and also I lose a bit of picking precision. Having said that, I just googled ‘ted Greene right hand’ (as I don’t know much about his approach) and found a reference on the Ted Greene forum where someone said he played with the flesh only. So I think you just have to experiment and see what works for you.

    Re. strings, I use .012 strings, I don’t like the tone with anything lighter than that, but again everyone will have their own preference.

    I should add, I am not a great believer that you can fix these things at the amp. I believe the tone has to be right at the point you pluck the string. But again, that’s just me!

  4. #3

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    I am in a similar boat. Never used a pick, (although recently began trying again, at least as hybrid picking). Also began with classical guitar like the previous poster. Getting a good balanced sound with my fingers has been a major technical focus of mine for quite a while.

    Rob McKillop argues quite convincingly here and in his blogs that you don’t need nails to play finger style. He is ten times the player I am. Still, I have to beg to differ. For a sharp attack and plenty of volume, especially on heavier strings, I find I need nails. I think pieces like “Recuerdos de Alhambra” and “Leyenda (Asturias)” really prove the point. I find it near impossible for a balance between the melody line played in the bass and the accompaniment on the treble strings playing with the flesh of my fingers.

    I would suggest that you let your nails grow a little longer than you are used to and see if that helps.

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  5. #4

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    Haha, people differ from me all the time - no need to beg :-)

  6. #5

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    In the world of classical guitar it's a never-ending discussion whether to use nails or the fingertip and countless players today rely on the help of the friendly ladies in the nail-salons .... the colleagues who play the lute however NEVER play with nails as the tone would become much too brittle and hard. What unifies ALL players is the hard work it is to develop a good tone, either with or without nails. There is simply no easy way out, you have to WORK at it for years !!!!! When you listen to earlier recordings of Ralph Towner for instance where he plays his nylonstring the tone he gets is rather poor, he just hadn't had the time to develop a strong right hand. Listen to his recent CD's and witness the BIG difference !

    When using fingers on steelstrings it becomes more difficult since these strings are much harder on the nails and the skin. Flatwound strings help but still, you need strength and precision, re-inforced nails or really thick callouses before you achieve success. I know that british fingerstyle player Lawrence Juber plays with his fingertips and he gets a good sound out of his custom Martin OM. Ted Greene played his Tele with his fingers exclusively, so did Joe Pass and John Abercrombie in their later years and both did not use heavy strings.
    Other great players (who often if not exclusively play fingerstyle jazz guitar) to check out are Jody Fisher, Russell Malone and Mick Goodrick.
    So, it is possible and certainly so without the help of outside gear. Daily practice and diligence will get you there !

  7. #6

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    Martin Taylor gets a gorgeous fat tone playing finger style - I think with short nails & flesh ?

  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by dot75 View Post
    Martin Taylor gets a gorgeous fat tone playing finger style - I think with short nails & flesh ?
    I’m a big fan of Martin. I’ve watched the vid of him and Julian playing probably 50 times.

    I suppose it’s just gonna take time. Gonna throw some 11 flats on the Tele, tonight. It’s still strung with the stock 9s and maybe it’ll help to use the same gauge that I have on my 175. I find that if I play awhile on the Tele that I play too lightly on the Epi that has larger flats on it.

  9. #8

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    Ted amps were always set pretty bright, and he loved Fender amps, which naturally scoop some midrange as well.

    I hate the feel of nails on steel strings (and love it on nylon) and I don't think you need nails to get an articulate tone, but decent technique helps. Make sure your hand isn't balling up. Make sure your thumb is "ahead" of your other fingers. Make sure the wrist drops naturally and is loose and comfortable, no tension. I only took a year of classical lessons...it's amazing how much of that stuck with me, even though I was just a lazy teenager.

    I've said here before, I wish I had retractable nails, like a cat.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    T...I don't think you need nails to get an articulate tone, but decent technique helps.
    I played classical guitar in college and slavishly cared for my fingernails. Significant changes in tone can come from changes in picking technique - true if you are using a pick, fingernails or fingertips. My advice would be to sit down with a pro and have them adjust the position of your hand and angle of attack on the string.

    I use only the shortest of nail, and highly buffed, when playing steel string electric guitar. I find I can get a warm and fat tone from my guitar with .011 flatwound strings. On steel string acoustic guitar with .012 round wounds strings, I play with Alaska Picks and a thumb pick for a full tone.