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  1. #1

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    I have played hybrid style for many years but I would really love to dispense with the pick altogether. The thing that bothers me is the tone. I never seem to get a clean attack using my fingers.
    I have tried using nail only, flesh only, and both. I always get this tfft tfft sound on the attack of each note.

    Q. will I develop callouses on my right hand fingers and will these help with the tone?
    Q. Does anyone have any suggestions or exercises I might do to improve my fingerstyle tone.

    I live in a small coastal town in NSW Australia and I think I am the only jazz guitarist in town. (Yes! I am finally the first call)

    Any help will be greatly appreciated.

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  3. #2

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    Classical guitarists and instructors really dissect the right hand technique. You might want to study that approach.

    I'm thinking you should look into what they call the "preparatuon" part of the attack which is that your finger or thumb rests on the string prior to plucking.

    The tone I really like is from our forum member Tim Learch who uses mostly the flesh of his fingers i.e. not much if any fingernail.



    Talks about using the flesh of his fingers at about 10:15 of this video:
    Last edited by fep; 12-30-2020 at 09:00 PM.

  4. #3

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    Fep’s spot on about attack. Classical guitar teaches that the motion is to depress the string slightly then pluck. Imagine a darting motion of your fingers where it hits the string slightly pushing it then pulling it back to towards the palm while releasing. It’s not an intuitive motion and does take time to master. Also classical right hand technique calls for the main motion pivoting on the large finger joint at the base of the finger. IE not using any of the joints out in the finger but just the joint closest to the palm. Much more power and control, and also keeps your wrist from clutching or collapsing which is a very big no-no. You want a nice arch not extreme at all but enough again to prevent collapse. (Called ‘clutching ‘)

    Head on over to classicalguitardelcamp.com, there’s tons of good (and not so good) material there.

    You may also consider the standard work for right hand technique Mauro Giuliani 120 Exercises for Right Hand Guitar Technique. Starts easy and goes crazy, but nearly all of us came through it.
    if you Google it I suspect you will find PDF s. Been around >100 years I guess the copyright ran out)))))

    Another suggestion as I suspect your area is not blanketed with classical guitar teachers is artistworks.com.
    The classical instructor is Jason Vieux, a great talent. You can take a three month minimum subscription and I saw they are running a half price sale. Good right hand help there.

    have fun!
    dave

  5. #4

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    Is there a player who sound better or at least as good when they use fingerstyle as when they use a pick on electric?

    This is probably highly personal but I think the pick technique has a higher ceiling when it comes to tone, articulation, dynamics, consistency, evenness and attack than fingerstyle on electric (or steel strings in general).

    Note Wes is not in this category as he didn't really have a fingerstyle technique, he used his thumb as a pick.

    Maybe the rest stroke has some potential like some good bass players do. But it's hard to achieve speed and dexterity with the rest stroke alone. 10.000 hours and with some legato support may do it.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 12-30-2020 at 11:01 PM.

  6. #5

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    Wes knew tone:

    "I didn't like the sound of a pick. I tried it for, I guess, about two months. I didn't even use my thumb at all. But after two months time, I still couldn't use the pick. So I said, 'Well, which are you going to do?' I liked the tone better with thumb, but I liked the technique with the pick. I couldn't have them both, so I just have to cool.

    I think every instrument should have a certain amount of tone quality within the instrument, but I can't seem to get the right amplifiers and things to get this thing out. I like to hear good phrasing. I'd like to hear a guitar play parts like instead of playing melodic lines, leave that and play chord versions of lines. Now, that's an awful hard thing to do, but it would be different. But I think in those terms, or if a cat could use octaves for a line instead of one note. Give you a double sound with a good tone to it. Should sound pretty good if you got another blending instrument with it."

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Is there a player who sound better or at least as good when they use fingerstyle as when they use a pick on electric?
    Frank Potenza has a very toneful and articulate fingerstyle technique, along with very well developed picking skills.

    You can see both here, in a jamming context on a standard. Along with using the pick for the melody statement, Frank starts his solo fingerstyle at 5:32 playing some very nice clear lines and then switches to a pick mid-solo at 6:48. It all sounds really good to me!



    Frank is also a tremendous fingerstyle solo guitarist.



    He has a lot of ~1 minute videos on his channel, playing fingerstyle just the heads of a bunch of tunes:

    Frank Potenza Videos - YouTube

    Plus he’s got some great instructional videos on My Music Masterclass:

    Frank Potenza Archives - My Music Masterclass

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by BickertRules
    Frank Potenza has a very toneful and articulate fingerstyle technique, along with very well developed picking skills.
    Yes indeed his fingerstyle technique is pretty close to his pick technique in terms of articulation, attack and dexterity with a rounder tone.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzkritter
    Fep’s spot on about attack. Classical guitar teaches that the motion is to depress the string slightly then pluck.
    There is a great body of technical advice in the classical guitar tradition. Worth a look indeed.

    Playing with nails, the Segovia technique, we're taught that the shape of the nail causes the string to be pushed into the sound hole as the finger crosses it. So, the string starts its vibration perpendicular to the face of the guitar, not parallel. The difference in tone between the two is remarkable.

    A similar result can be had without nails by almost pulling the strings with the finger tips. Rob MacKillop has a video demonstration of this on a gut string guitar. Rob's tone is wonderful.

    FWIW, I play with very short nails which... and this is important... are polished smooth with very fine paper.

    Experiment. Small changes can make a big difference!

  10. #9

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    Polishing the edges of the nail as smooth as possible is something I find to be very important to tone when playing finger style. I also find, at least in my case, that shorter nails (very short) sound better than longer nails with steel strings. The difference is analogous to a thin versus a heavy pick. Short nails sound darker and rounder, longer nails sound brighter and thinner.

    Also, interestingly enough, I find that solidbody guitars are a better platform for amplified fingerstyle tone than acoustic or archtop steel string instruments- at least in terms of getting a jazz tone. Someone else may have the opposite experience, though- my technique or lack thereof could be the issue,.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara
    Also, interestingly enough, I find that solidbody guitars are a better platform for amplified fingerstyle tone than acoustic or archtop steel string instruments- at least in terms of getting a jazz tone.

    Yes, me too and I was surprised to discover that.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Is there a player who sound better or at least as good when they use fingerstyle as when they use a pick on electric?

    This is probably highly personal but I think the pick technique has a higher ceiling when it comes to tone, articulation, dynamics, consistency, evenness and attack than fingerstyle on electric (or steel strings in general).
    Uhm... Tim Lerch (see second video in post #1 above, he uses both fingers and a pick in that video). Pretty much all the good fingerstyle players sound better with their fingers than a pick to me. It's a warmer, more dynamic, more articulate tone. Yep, must be a subjective thing.

    I do think it's easier to play fast single note playing with a pick, not that I can play fast, but it's easier for me to play faster with a pick. So the pick has the advantage there. And there are certain rhythmic strumming that is much better and easier to play with a pick.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Is there a player who sound better or at least as good when they use fingerstyle as when they use a pick on electric?

    ....
    I'd say Joe Pass seems able express whatever he wants, electric or acoustic, finger style or pick. It can be hard to tell on recordings. I've always admired how he gets such strong tone when playing bop lines fingerstyle.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Litterick
    Wes knew tone:

    "I didn't like the sound of a pick. I tried it for, I guess, about two months. I didn't even use my thumb at all. But after two months time, I still couldn't use the pick. So I said, 'Well, which are you going to do?' I liked the tone better with thumb, but I liked the technique with the pick. I couldn't have them both, so I just have to cool.

    I think every instrument should have a certain amount of tone quality within the instrument, but I can't seem to get the right amplifiers and things to get this thing out. I like to hear good phrasing. I'd like to hear a guitar play parts like instead of playing melodic lines, leave that and play chord versions of lines. Now, that's an awful hard thing to do, but it would be different. But I think in those terms, or if a cat could use octaves for a line instead of one note. Give you a double sound with a good tone to it. Should sound pretty good if you got another blending instrument with it."

    Hi, L,
    You hit the proverbial nail on the head! This is the decision you must make as a player and here's the answer for me. A Classical Guitar and an Electric Guitar are two different instruments. If you try to get the purity of sound from an EG to sound like a CG it can only be approximate with a good amplifier and some Black Magic. It will never be the same when your ears are attuned to the rich complexity of a quality, luthier built CG and its sound. And, you complicate it further with pick vs fingerstyle and your hole is deeper. I have played EG(on and off) since 1964 and CG, daily, since 1992. Over a year ago, I took my EG from its case after a long sleep and began working on only sound(chords/scales/arpeggios/licks) and my epiphany is this: I cannot get the purity of sound I want when playing EG fingerstyle that I do when playing CG or when playing EG with a pick. To my ears, it is muddy, dead, and lifeless without a pick. Now, perhaps it is because I play through a Fender Piano Amp(used for Classical gigs) that will not give me the spark I expect and that's a possibility but its not the quality of my EG which has a remarkable sound when played without amplification.
    So, I haven't given up, yet, and when Covid becomes less of a concern will certainly try some different amps at a music store for comparison. However, at present, I'm redeveloping my pick technique for EG while playing CG fingerstyle. Perhaps, I'll find the sound I hear in my head for EG but haven't been able to find it to my satisfaction as off yet.

    Play live . . . Marinero.
    Last edited by Marinero; 12-31-2020 at 06:18 PM. Reason: spelling

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Neverisky
    Yes, me too and I was surprised to discover that.
    I find a Tele is great for fingerstyle playing - a bit wider string spacing for your fingertips, nice sustain, easy to dial in a little zing in the top end to add clarity.

  16. #15

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    I've just come back to fingerstyle jazz again after studying classical for the last eight years. Classical technique is a good starting point as others have mentioned.

    - Nail care and shaping is important. Assuming your right hand is you picking hand, ramping your nails so that they are shortest on the left side is a popular shape. I shape and polish them using a glass nail file and 1500 grit wet-dry sandpaper. Emery boards are not great for this - my nails are too rough using them. Now that I'm playing more electric again I find I keep my nails a little shorter than I would for classical (to play both requires me to compromise a bit).

    - One electric guitar I really try and focus on using more flesh and less nail than I would on classical (i.e. I adjust my technique a bit). Too much nail on electric gives me a plinky tone.

    - Don't pick too hard with your fingers - let the amp do the work. This is a difference from classical where your fingers have to generate all the volume.

    - I find flatwound strings are better on the electric. The scrapes I sometimes get on classical with the roundwound bass strings are even worse with roundwound strings on an amplified electric.

    - You may want to check out Rob MacKillop's YouTube channel (I think he's a member here). He's a classical and jazz player who plays without nails. You may find some of his ideas applicable.

    - For me Teles and solid bodies are good for fingerstyle tone. The archtop I have (Ibanez AF105) doesn't work as well for me - maybe a better quality archtop would.

    Dave
    Last edited by swampguide; 12-31-2020 at 08:57 PM.

  17. #16

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    The "Tfff tfff" sounds you mention, most obvious in the bass strings, is probably the result of weak technique on planting the fingers on the strings before hitting them. Your finger (or nail) slightly touches the string and causes it to rattle. Or hits at the wrong angle producing an unbalanced sound.

    I struggled for years with this, and at some point I started to focus very diligently on that alone, at the quality of sound and attack. You obviously know what constitutes a good sound (which a beginner player wouldn't), and that helps a lot. After a while your sound improves. But for me at least it took a lot of very concentrated effort, you can't just play scales etc..

    Also, playing pieces helped much more than exercises, don't know why (probably because concentration comes easier when playing actual music).

    My best fingerstyle sounding period was when I first got my Elferink archtop. It had the buttons on the pickguard, and me playing Benson picking I couldn't play it with a pick (I eventually had them removed). So I spent a couple of months playing fingerstyle many hours a day on that guitar. Smoking tone! There's no way I can even approach that tone now that I'm back to my picking habits..

  18. #17

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    I find the same issue with tone on finger style single line runs, so I decided to stick with hybrid picking and use all fingers for certain tunes that require it (usually no soloing). It's too late for me to perfect a whole new technique at my age

  19. #18

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    "Also, playing pieces helped much more than exercises, don't know why (probably because concentration comes easier when playing actual music)." Alter


    Hi, Alter,
    I think this might be an individual thing since it works for you. However, one of the best ways to develop ones sound and fluency(and which is why it is taught in formal CG pedagogy) is to play scales at varying speeds concentrating on the purity of sound as it relates to attack, finger/hand positioning, and final execution. In this manner, it is the note that has importance vs. melody, harmony, etc. The goal is to match fluency with sound.
    However, beginners should listen to all POV's especially from a talented guitarist like yourself who has certainly paid his dues over the years and plays beautifully. Hopefully, 2021 will be better year for us who perform!
    Play live . . . Marinero

  20. #19

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    As Marinero said, electric guitar and classical guitar are two different beasts. I divide my time between my Tele and my Flamenca, and I find I have to develop distinct approaches to both of them. Most classical right-hand technique doesn't work for me for the sole fact that the geometry of the two instruments is entirely different. Not only does it look daft to play a Tele in the classical position; the body is smaller and thinner, therefore your right hand is at an entirely different angle. No upper bout to to rest the right arm on. IMHO you can't just play the Carcassi exercises on an electric and hope to develop good right hand technique.

    Anyway, this thread gives me something to work on.

    As to Tal's question: "Is there a player who sound better or at least as good when they use fingerstyle as when they use a pick on electric?" - Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler immediately come to mind

  21. #20

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    docsteve, I went through a similar period where I felt that holding an electric like a classical looked and felt weird. However, once I started using a strap and standing for some of my practicing (since there are gigs on which I have to stand), I found that I could get pretty close to a good classical position and utilize my right-hand fingers more efficiently. In fact, when I acquired a Godin Multiac nylon 7-string, it proved to be much more comfortable with the strap and a Joe Pass/classical-style position both standing and sitting, abandoning the footstool, thus having very similar positions for both sitting and standing. The choice of nails or no nails is more personal; I studied classical guitar with Ghiglia, LaGoya and Williams, and always used nails. I takes some adjustment to get a good sound with them on the electric, but it's entirely possible. I think this young upstart Mancuso shows the way very well.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy blue note
    Absolutely! I have three grades of polishing boards, I need to re-edge my nails all the time. Everyday life is brutal on the edge I need to play with a pleasing sound.


    Mick Goodrick switched over to nails during a time he was touring regularly with Gary Burton. It took a long period of adjustment to close in on the right technique of angle, attack intensity, string choice, guitar and amp settings, all of which changed and, at least for him, are extremely idiosyncratic and needed to be changed for fingerstyle. For him, it was a completely different instrument. He uses all nail, cut short, polished edge but he said if he could do it again, he'd go flesh. He'd heard students of his who'd played all flesh and that sound was beautiful.
    Personal taste honed over time, trial and error.
    It's true that it is personal. I'm not sure how Mick Goodrick sounds with a pick but in the video I prefer Pat Metheny's tone by a mile. Mick Goodrick is still immensely enjoyable to listen to but his tone with his fingers is a bit more scratchy and his attack is a little less precise than Pat Metheny's in my opinion.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 01-01-2021 at 10:51 AM.

  23. #22

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    Lost my nails years ago when I learned my current pick technique... it’s a trade off with all sorts of factors.

    Part of the reason I decided to focus on flatpicking: although now I teach classical grades again I often feel a bit lacking tonally. I should probably get lessons with Rob. Nails are a faff too much for me at least atm.

  24. #23

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    Another difference between CG and EG is that the expectations of consistency and quality of tone production and articulation during performances in the CG tradition is wildly different from the styles of music that typically feature EG (including jazz). Lol.

  25. #24

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  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175
    Another difference between CG and EG is that the expectations of consistency and quality of tone production and articulation during performances in the CG tradition is wildly different from the styles of music that typically feature EG (including jazz). Lol.
    Of course, it’s the same for technique across the board. I’d say my main reason for focussing on plectrum guitar was acoustic projection. More recently this has become less important, but I still pick in a non electric guitar way (I have to modify my approach to play electric.)

    So it works for fingerstyle as well; a full classical technique that will carry on a concert hall is not necessarily appropriate for jazz on an archtop of course. Or even an amplified nylon string playing jazz or Brazilian music.

    OTOH there are a lot different ways to fingerpick on an acoustic; folk, flamenco, old school classical approaches (like Sor’s)