Finger picking help

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birdobirdo Frets: 24
I m trying to get to grips with some finger style blues . I normally play an electric with a pick but I m playing more acoustic these days. However I m having major problems trying to get my thumb to pick the alternating bass notes. Well picking is easy but the timing is the problem . I m alright for a bar then everything just starts to get into sink . So some how I need to learn to keep the thumb at a steady rate and not affect it when I start the melody. Hopefully you understand what I mean and if you can give me any tips that would be great. Thanks.
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  • VimFuegoVimFuego Frets: 6275

    one thing that worked for me was I started out with just playing the thumb part, then I'd add the on beat parts (this becomes a pinch) then add the 1/8th note parts, then add any slurs etc. So you're breaking it down into smaller and smaller chunks. In the end you do develop thumb independence.

    I'm not locked in here with you, you are locked in here with me.

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  • wordywordy Frets: 66
    If a was really trying hard to get this i'd probably stick the metronome on and pick every beat with my thumb, then make every second beat a pinch, then try to stick an open string in between the beats, and just get more complex from there with more notes and style. Every time you lose the beat with your thumb, you just stop and regain it.
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  • LewyLewy Frets: 724
    VimFuego said:

    one thing that worked for me was I started out with just playing the thumb part, then I'd add the on beat parts (this becomes a pinch) then add the 1/8th note parts, then add any slurs etc. So you're breaking it down into smaller and smaller chunks. In the end you do develop thumb independence.


    Exactly this. There's an excellent video by Happy Traum called something like Demystifying Alternate Thumb Style which would help a lot.

    Practicing this is very tedious early on but after a little while it will open up a whole world of music to you, well beyond blues.


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  • streethawkstreethawk Frets: 1521
    General fingerstyle:

    There's no shortcut imo. Thumb independence is one thing, but there's also knowing when to add a ringing open string over a fretted one and using repeated drone notes on the G string.

    I just studied songs I liked from tab, and although it's painfully slow progress getting to grips with something like Vincent Black Lightning or Big Love, you're actually killing 2 birds with one stone. Oh and talking of birds: Blackbird is a good one to learn!

    Even now, with my own humble stuff, I have to slow down what I'm doing and make sure I get it right in the trickier passages. I imagine Richard Thompson has no such issues. :-S

    For blues style fingerpicking I would recommend thumbing the bass strings in the usual manner, or just the E string for starters, then playing the simplest single note lead over it - giving absolute priority to the thumbed notes. As soon as you miss one thumbed note - or start cocking up the tempo - start again and make it even simpler! 

    You might as well be starting out on the drums, the brain has to make new connections, so slow down and limit your expectations.


    AmberGuitar quality parts for Fender and Gibson
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  • tonyrathtonyrath Frets: 51

    Some good advice above. Also what type of guitar are you playing. The width of the strings affects the distance the thumb will travel. Slow is good for this and be it does not come quickly allow months rather than weeks to get this right. 
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  • birdobirdo Frets: 24
    Thanks for all the tips. It's a bit like learning all over again if not more frustrating . It's a bit like trying to play the piano properly but only using one hand.
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  • My fingerstyle technique improved drastically when I started learning to read notes and play some really simple classical songs.  The first couple of books from the Royal Conservatory of Music series have some good ones to start on.  Once I got the right hand going I went on to learn some blues, ragtime, Celtic and flamenco before starting to write my own music. This came later in life after I had already played guitar and bass in some busy rock bands, all by ear and with a pick.  

    Whoever called it "rush hour" should not be allowed to name anything else.

    Dulcet Jones Creepy Music Blog http://dulcetjones.blogspot.com/

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  • holnrewholnrew Frets: 8156
    I find keeping the rhythm most difficult, with the extra appendages. Sometimes my head ends up frazzled.
    My V key is broken
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  • bertiebertie Frets: 1595
    edited August 2013
    tho Ive been f/picking ever since I picked up a guitar nealy 40 years ago,  being completely self taught Im not very good at describing advice in words :)

    Save -  one thing I would agree with Vim/Lewy on about getting to grips with thumb independence, is to use just the thumb to pick out lines,  then use thumb and "one or all" of the fingers (ie fingers = 1 entity)  using them as counter beat to the thumb (like a strum),  focusing on but not concentrating too hard...if that makes sense...... you need to "feel" the bass  but not at the expense of the finger(s)

    Cliche for sure -but it does take time.  Frustrating amount of time.
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