Five Great Tips To Improve Your Fingerpicking Skills

by Rodrigo Sanchez, Jul 17, 2020 . 3 min read

Five Great Tips To Improve Your Fingerpicking Skills

Some guitarists tend to focus solely on improving their left hand. The dirty little secret is that the left hand can only be as good as the right hand allows. Good hand synchronization is imperative for any guitarist.

Improving your fingerpicking skills will make you a stronger and more developed musician. It will also add an important tool to your arsenal. Fingerpicking is used in so many styles and genres, it’s nearly impossible to avoid it. Blues, Rock, Classical, Folk, Latin, and many other styles can benefit from fingerpicking. So you might as well learn to do it well. Here are five great tips to improve your fingerpicking skills.

Learn songs that feature fingerpicking

This is a no-brainer. It is one of the best ways to improve your fingerpicking skills. Playing songs that feature this skill will give you context, a goal, and a clear path to getting better. It is very simple: if you can play a given song, you move on to the next one. If you can’t, keep working at it until you are able to play it well. “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor is a great tune to help you improve your fingerpicking skills.

Slow down

This is perhaps the best tip for anything involving learning an instrument. Sadly, it is also ignored by many. Can’t play a passage? Slow it down until you can. “Slow down” has a twin brother named “break it down”. Together, they work magic and solve most musicians’ problems (at least when it comes to learning, anyways). Break down a long passage into smaller phrases. Slow it down. Try it now. You’re welcome. 

Find your balance

Playing fingerstyle will involve a very unique sound and feel. You might want to use just your flesh or maybe add a bit of nail to produce sound. You will have to find out what works for you. Some guitarists prefer to have very long nails. Others can’t stand it. Chances are you will be somewhere in between those extremes. What sound do you prefer? Which feel do you like? 

Take care of your right-hand nails

Don’t worry pal, I’m not sending you to the salon just yet. Once you find your balance, all you need to do is take care of your nails and file them often. Keep them at the same length always. Whatever you do, keep it consistent. This is imperative for developing accuracy. Otherwise, I’d be like a basketball player having a different height every time he plays. Yes, that drastic. 

Isolate your right hand

Practice just your right hand. It’s the same principle as “slow it down” and “break it down”. This is especially useful if you are attempting a classical piece or any other that features challenging fingerpicking. If you want to go the distance, check out the book Pumping Nylon by Scott Tennant. It focuses on classical and flamenco techniques that can be useful in a myriad of styles. It is a classic textbook that has helped guitarists of all styles.  

Understand that playing fingerstyle is an important asset to have. It will only make you a more rounded guitarist. Don’t shy away from it. All it takes is some practicing, just like everything else guitar-related. Besides fingerpicking, there’s also hybrid picking. That’s where you pluck your bass strings with a pick and the high strings with your fingers. It is quite useful in Rock, Blues, Pop, etc. Leave your comments below and let us know how your fingerpicking is going!

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