What is Finger Picking Guitar?

Finger picking opens up new playing possibilities, providing your guitar as a stand alone instrument.

Finger picking gives you a full sound allows you to be a one-man band and allows you to take your music in new areas. This lesson’s fingerpicking patterns can be found in a variety of songs, so they’re well worth learning.

What is Finger Picking? Finger Picking goes by multiple names such as finger style, carter picking, flamenco, classical, etc. But, it is basically an overarching term that encompasses finger tips rather than a pick when playing the guitar.

In this article, we will cover these in more detail…

1. What is Finger Picking?

Finger Picking (aka Fingerstyle guitar) is a technique for playing the guitar or bass guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or picks attached to fingers.

The laternative to finger picking is flatpicking, which means that you pluck individual notes with a single plectrum. Fingerpicking is less common on electric guitar.

2. Whats the Difference Between Finger Picking & Finger Style

So, without getting to bogged down in the terminology there is some debate of the difference between “Finger Picking” & “Finger Style”.

The simplest explanation is that “fingerstyle” is used more in the Classical, Flamenco & fingerstyle jazz circles. This involves more complex chord changes with melodies that intertwine between those chords.

Whilst, the phrase “fingerpicking” is most commonly used in country and folk-style circles. It will be used alongside “Travis picking”, “Carter Family” and “pattern picking”. This involves more melodic based playing and legato, that doesn’t normally entail any complex chord changes.

Overall, both terminologies are a catch-all phrase for any type of playing that uses the fingers rather than a pick or plectrum.

3. Why is Finger Picking Guitar Important?

A guitarist playing fingerstyle can perform numerous musical elements at once because individual digits play notes on the guitar rather than the hand acting as a single unit (as is the case when a musician holds a single pick).

You are able to play several elements of a musical arrangement that would ordinarily be done by different band members.

When playing with your fingers the deep bass notes, harmonic accompaniment (the chord progression), melodies, and percussion can all be performed at the same time.

The melody notes are frequently interwoven with the melody’s accompanying chords and the deep bassline (or bass notes) by the guitarist. Along with the melody, chords, and bassline, some fingerpicking guitarists use percussive tapping.

4. Gear To Help Finger Picking?

To improve tone and reduce nail wear and the risk of breaking or chipping, many fingerstyle guitarists use a mix of artificial nails and a thumbpick.

5. Advantages & Disadvantages


  • Players are not required to carry a plectrum
  • You can use up to four fingers and a thumb, to independently strike the strings. Playing multiple non-adjacent strings at the same time
  • Allows guitarists to simultaneously play bass lines along side melodies. By separating melodic and bass lines gives you the ability to create small ensemble
  • Allows the guitarists to play double stops such as an octave, a fifth, a sixth, or other intervals that are appropriate for the harmony


  • If you want to use fingernails over the skin on your finger tips you must keep fingernails at the proper length and well maintained
  • Plectrums can easily strike each string on both up and downstrokes. Whereas the technique to build this using fingers is very advanced
  • When playing acoustically, less energy is often transmitted to strings than when using a plectrum, resulting in decreased volume
  • Fingerstyle is better suited to nylon strings or smaller gauge steel strings because playing on heavier gauge strings might harm nails.

6. Hybrid Picking

Picks have the advantage of increasing the attack, volume and sustain when striking a note as compared to picking each string with finger tips.

Hybrid Picking is a technique that attempts to solve this problem. This works by holding the pick between your thumb and the index finger; then use remaining, available three fingers to finger pick.


There are many terminologies, used in different circles of guitar culture that describe the action of using your fingers instead of a plectrum. In this article, we have discussed that finger picking and finger style is a catch-all phrase for any type of playing that uses the fingers rather than a pick or plectrum.

Rich Wilde Music

My name is Richard Wilde and go by @richwildemusic on all major social channels. I am an artist, guitar player, and producer. I have been playing guitar for over 15 years and have come to learn the "tips" and "tricks" to enhance guitar playing, recording guitar, setting up guitar, and overall get that professional sound.

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