Week 4 – 12 Notes: Acoustic/Finger-style Basics


This was originally posted on ”12 notes”, a page on this website dedicated to guitar music and lessons.  So, for the more musically inclined, here is my fourth guitar lesson to you.   An acoustic/ Finger-style primer.  If you run into any problems, drop me a line and let me know, and thanks for reading!

Enjoy!

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Lesson four: Acoustic/ Finger style Basics

It’s rare that I use disparaging terms about my own playing skill, but in this instance I will, because, being basically self-taught, I never had a music teacher to properly guide me to play finger style properly.   I suck at proper finger picking.  I taught myself by feel, having only rarely heard and even more rarely having seen anyone play finger style until years into playing.  To this day I still have some problems with playing, particularly when it comes to using my right hand ring finger when picking, which I almost never do, and as a consequence almost never do well.

What I am going to show here, is a few basic things that I found beneficial when  playing finger style.

Point one:  I leave the pinky finger out mostly, but I do use it.  As an anchor.  I’ve found that it is most comfortable to hold the right hand near the base of the sound hole and the pinky finger touching the body of the guitar midway between the sound hole and the bridge maybe 3/4 of an inch away from the high e string.  If I were you I would experiment and find what works for you, but this position has always been a comfortable one for me, and comfort here is key.

Point two:  Playing right handed and seated, the right foot should be elevated maybe 6 inches to a foot off of the ground on a foot rest, the bottom of a chair, your other foot, whatever you can to get to create the proper angle for the best feeling playing position.

Point three:  When looking straight down at the guitar, you should be looking at the 12th to 14th fret.

Point four: The right hand should always be in close proximity to the strings they will be plucking before you start playing, and the left hand should be on the fretboard in playing position, with your index finger on the fret the piece of music dictates it should be at.  That may seem obvious, but it’s always good to keep the basics in mind.

Point five: Start slow, get the notes right before you speed up, and if you can’t get a whole piece down, break it down into smaller sections, as small as you need to until you can play each piece well, then put them together.

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A simple piece, and here the right hand thumb will always pick the Bass note, wherever on the fretboard it is while the index and middle fingers work out harmonies on the other strings.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-13 –12 –10 –8 –6 –5 –3 –1 – –8 –10 – – – – 10–12 – – – – – –12 –13 – –
-14 –12 –10 –9 –7 –5 –4 –2 – – – – – – – 10– – – – – – – –12 – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –10 – – – – – – – –12 – – – – – – – – –
-12 –10 –8 –7 –5 –3 –2 –0 – –7 –8 – – – – – – – –10 – – – – – – – –12 – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

And yes, that is in fact “Joy! to the world”.  There are a number of ways to play the basic harmony here, and the slightly subdued A minor variation given here works for our purposes. I will perhaps toss out a more happy sounding version of it at some point.  Kinda sounds like  “MEH! to the world”, played this way.

I chose this piece for the ease of playing.  While the bass line moves, it never leaves the A string, making the bass notes a snap to play.  The middle finger gets easy duty as well, as it plays exclusively here on the B string.  The only real right hand movement here happens with the index finger which moves between the d and g strings, and even there the movement is minimal, having only 2 notes to play on the D string, and nothing out of position where there is any stretch for the left hand, which would effect the right hand picking.

BTW, any string plucking here, unlike using a pick is almost always done with an upstroke, almost catching the string under the fingernail and pulling up and out.  Don’t think about the movement too much or you will over exaggerate and pull your hand out of place.

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The second piece, a small part of a composition of mine, is another simple example using almost the same type of simple, one finger one string playing.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
-0 – – –1 – – – –3 – –5 – – – –3 – – – –1 – – – 0– – – –3 – – – –1 – –0 – –
– –0 – – – – –0 – –2 – – – –4 – – – –2 – – –2 – – –0 – – – –2 – – – – – – –
– – –4 – –2 – – – – – – –2 – – – –0 – – – – – – – – – –4 – – – –0 – –2 – – –
-5 – – –3 – – – –2 – –0 – – – –2 – – – –3 – – –5 – – – –2 – – – –3 – –5 – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The chords here, just for reference are  G Maj 7th\ C maj\  B|d5\ A sus2.

The simple right hand pattern again makes this an easy beginner piece to practice fingerpicking.  Again, like “MEH! to the world” The thumb is playing on one string only, and again the A string.  It’s even easier here seeing how only four notes are played, and they are close together.  Also like the earlier piece, the middle finger is the only finger to play the B string.  The D and G strings are covered by the index finger, but I bring the middle finger to pick a note on the G string when moving from the Asus2 to the D5 with the B bass.

I hope everything is clear here.  If not, drop a note and I will explain.

Thanks for dropping by!

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