Arlen Roth on Learning Fingerstyle
I cannot stress enough just how important finger-style guitar is to developing your true overall approach to the guitar. If I didn’t play with my fingers in addition to using the pick, I would certainly feel like I only had a “half” ability on the instrument. More than that, finger-style is the only true way you can really “control” the 6 strings of your instrument. The blocking, dampening, muting and overall touch you get in this way totally helps define your tone in a much more complete way than just using a flatpick.
Not that flat-picking is something to ignore…on the contrary; I have doing so much finger-style lately that flatpicking seems like the more “exotic” style! And in a way, it is! After all, imagine having to jump around all over the 6 strings to get the notes you want is a lot harder than having your fingers all “at the ready” to play your notes either simultaneously or broken up. And having your fingers “ready” and having that unique muting ability is what finger-style really affords you.
“Hybrid” picking is something I arrived at a long time ago when I was using a pick but wanted that split-string sound Buddy Guy was getting, and when I was developing my “steel guitar” bends on standard guitar. It’s true that you lose the use of your index finger since it is also busy gripping the pick with your thumb, but it gives you a bright tone if you are combining the pick and fingers, especially if you have nails grown on the middle and ring fingers!
I am a great proponent of learning finger-style as well as flat-pick style at the same time. Kind of like the way I encourage students to work on both acoustic as well as electric guitar simultaneously. The earlier you start to expand your language on the guitar, the sooner you will be expressing yourself in as many ways as possible on the instrument, and the broader your horizons will be!
So try to make it all work together…I have many lessons on Gibson.com that help teach fingerstyle for both regular as well as slide guitar, and if you pay close attention, you’ll really see just how important it is to play finger-style, and to get that guitar of yours “under control!”