Learning Fingerstyle Guitar

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #26
I just experienced my best fingerpicking practice to date. While the actual closed door practice was good, what was even better was my mini-concert for my lady. Once I had played Wabash Cannonball for about a half hour with varying success, I went out into our living room and simply began plucking quietly next to her. She was telling me about something, so I played more quietly. Then she became quiet because the sounds of soft guitar strings are utterly beautiful. Then I began playing more loudly and I must say, the experience was wonderful. I rarely play for anyone and to have the opportunity to make hardly any mistakes in front of someone is magical. There's something special about learning how to play the guitar. If you can find your rhythm, it all just seems to work out. It really isn't until you begin to make music that you become interested in learning more. It's that whole music thing.

I did want to mention something else. I was actually thinking of this before I picked up my guitar today. It seems as though I may play slightly better when I play slightly faster. I wondered why this was and I think it has to do with the difficulty of being accurate at such slow speeds. For instance, I'll warm up at 80bpm or 100bpm, but it isn't until I reach 110-120bpm that I smooth out and stop buzzing my thumb against the string above it. At first, I thought I was playing better because I was finally warmed up, but I'll play faster and then when I begin playing more slowly again, I'll begin making mistakes. Simply put - it's tough to play slowly. I don't know why.

Today, I focused heavily on my chord changes. I now have very little difficulty with my right plucking hand. It's almost as if my fingers have a mind of their own. They just do their thing, which is nice because that gives me a chance to work on my left hand. The chords are easy enough, but what's tripping me up is the change. There's a split second in there that offers the smoothest of changes and that's what I'm working on.

I'm so happy I did so well tonight. Doing well truly invigorates me. To think, I almost quit learning how to play the guitar again. It's a tough instrument, but well worth it. My advice to myself is to stick with fingerpicking. I enjoy it too much to do anything else.
 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #27
I am officially finished with Wabash Cannonball. I was able to play well with Lisa after about a week and at 110bpm, but when she increased her tempo to about 150bpm, I had to bow out. I'm fine with that. She simply played too fast. There are other things I need to learn before I learn to play extremely quickly and those things are accuracy, keeping an even tempo, and clean plucking, meaning no nail buzzing on strings directly above. Just the fact that I can hang with the speed of 120bpm surprises me. I would have never thought I could do that. And now, I sometimes feel like my fingers have minds of their own. I no longer have issues with trying to land on the correct strings. What I'm now working on is trying to actually sound reasonable. for being only a few weeks into this, I'm fairly pleased with myself. No complaints here.

Here's today's video. Hopefully the next one I post will be even better. Up next, the same pattern but with some syncopation. That sounds fun. So instead of being so straightforward, a bit of flavor will be thrown in.

 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #28
Slant the Rhythm & Play it Folky

Acoustic Fingerpicking for Beginners 2 Lesson 2B

Some days I feel as though I'm doing extraordinarily well and some days not so much. One thing is for sure - if I repeat whatever it is I'm working on enough during one of my practices, I eventually get it. By the time my half hour is over, I want to head out into the living room to show off. Sometimes I even do that.

For the past few nights, I've been working on what Lisa calls, slanting the rhythm. Basically, this is akin to italicizing text. Instead of playing straight up eighth notes, it's a quarter note, eighth note, quarter note, eighth note, etc... Here, take a look at what I'm referring to. This is the practice exercise I've been working on.

folky-fingerpicking-lesson.jpg

When I first began playing this, I thought it was really easy. I said, "Oh, I'll simply do what I've been doing." Well, my success was merely a mirage. My second night working on this revealed my mistake. Getting the rhythm down is sort of tricky. I've got it now and I actually think I'm starting to sound good, but it's taken a lot of practice.

In the exercise, I go back and forth between D7 and A7. It's an easy chord change. I don't play these two chords much at all, so it did take a bit of practice, but now, since I've got it, I've expanded into a little loop that sounds very nice. I start off with G and then continue on with C to D to A7 to D7 and then back to G (or any variation of that). The exercise that I'm working on with Lisa calls for two measures of each chord, but after a little while, she'll jump to only what she calls one measure. What it actually is is a half measure of each, so it's kind of quick. But since it's such an easy chord change, it's doable. She increases the tempo throughout too, so the exercise gets very challenging.

Near the end of tonight's practice, I began doing my little chord circle, but not with the half measure. I'll see how far I can get with that tomorrow night. I'll start off at 80bpm and then move up in speed from there. I think this will be good to record on video once I get it because it'll be a huge leap from my last video. When I watch that now I feel so lame. But hey, I guess that's what it's all about. Feeling lame until the fame kicks in. I'm comfortable with learning at my slow pace for the rest of my life. What else have I got to do? I own an incredible guitar that plays beautifully. It's not like I've got shows booked. I honestly think that I'll be much better in a year's time though. Progress with fingerpicking comes fast. Until next time!
 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #29
Play it Jazzy

Acoustic Fingerpicking for Beginners 2 Lesson 2C

I finished up the previous exercise this evening and moved on to the jazzy version of the same thing. Instead of practicing with the D7 and the A7 chords, this exercise uses the Dm7 and the Am7, neither of which I've ever played wtih. Since these chords were so new to me, I had to crawl along at a snails pace. It's not that the chords are particularly difficult, it's just that my fingers aren't used to them. I'm still having issues with a hint of buzzing with this new slanted pattern, but I'm assuming I'll get past that soon. I was doing so well before I began playing with the new notes. It's sort of a downer. When this happens, I go back to 80bpm and start over. I swear, I have no idea how anyone ever gets good at playing this instrument. It's so damn challenging. I'll continue to plow though though. What I'm actually looking for are some cool riffs that I can chew on for a month or so each. Guitar Tricks has lots of these things, so once I get through these lessons, I'll tackle them to see what happens. That'll be fun. Until then though, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. Practice.

fingerpicking-lesson-2c.jpg
 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #30
Play it Bluesy

Acoustic Fingerpicking for Beginners 2 Lesson 2D

Okay, I'm back on the saddle again. After tonight's practice, I've realized why I was sort of down the last time I wrote. I'll tell you, those two previous chords were awful to play. Well, the AM7 wasn't bad, but someone should take the DM7 out in the back and shoot it. What a terrible chord. Not only does it sound terrible when played correctly, it sounds terrible when it's played incorrectly, which is most of the time. Hopefully I won't see that one again for a while. I do feel bad that I hate it so much and part of me feels as though I should practice until perfect, but I have to say, I played that thing exactly the way it was meant to be played and I'm not sure why that's included in this whole thing at all. It's ugly.

For the past few days now, I've been working on the most recent exercise, which is called "Play it Bluesy." I really enjoyed this one a lot. The three chords were E, A7, and B7. Take a look:

acoustic-fingerpicking-2d.jpg

If this is what blues fingerpicking is all about, I want more. Lisa McCormick actually has an entire other course dedicated to the blues and fingerpicking, so I'll take that one along the lines. It's not tough stuff. She sticks with the same pattern for almost everything I've seen her teach. It's good to get the fundamentals with something consistent like that, just to learn how to move your fingers.

I did well tonight. Partly because these chords went together so well. I did have difficulty with the chord change between A7 and B7 for a while last night and the night before, but I seem to have worked through that. Now it's pretty much smooth sailing. And believe it or not, the syncopation is coming along well too. When I play regularly now, it sounds so boring. I feel like I'm making progress.
 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #31
Build Your Speed: Practice Drill #5

Acoustic Fingerpicking for Beginners 2 Lesson 2F

I had another awesome practice last night. I'm telling ya, I can sit for hours running through that E, A7, B7 chord combo. It's so damn pretty. The low E is beautiful as it hums through the rest of the chords. And the B7 is lovely as well. I hated it just a few days ago, but since I've learned how to transition from the A7 to it, it's become my best friend. Out of the three chords, it's the B7 that sings the blues the most. What a great sound.

Last night I began a new exercise. Like two previous exercises, this one was all about speed building. When trying to learn guitar fingerpicking, it's important to isolate techniques that you're actually attempting to get better at. For instance, this was a right hand exercise. It's all about getting those fingers on the correct strings and working them as fast as they'll go. By this point, my fingers have gotten quite quick. I'm actually surprised how nicely they've come along. The trick with speed building exercises such as this one is to stick with easy chords. If you'll notice which two were chosen for this, they're identical. The E chord is directly above the Am chord. All you have to do is lift your fingers from one position and plop them down about a half inch away in another position. You don't even need to change their configuration at all.

Learning like this is a great idea because it isolates techniques. Far too often, new players take on way too much. They end up sounding horribly and then quitting. That's no good. If you keep the lessons isolated, each one is easy to succeed at. It's those small successes that keep the player coming back for more. I love that.

guitar-speed-drill-exercise.jpg
 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #32
Build Your Speed: Practice Drill #6

Acoustic Fingerpicking for Beginners 2 Lesson 2G

I get the feeling that I'm moving through these speed building exercises faster than I was just a week or two ago. Back then, I had a lot more difficulty keeping up, but now I can pretty much make it through to the end with Lisa the first try. I may mess up the first time because I'm not used to what things are going to sound like, but I get through. And then after just a few more tries, I'm good to go. Of course I hang around the exercise for a few more days and work with my metronome, but that's just simple practice. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think I may be getting better. Just slightly.

Tonight, I finished up the speed building exercise below. It was easy. I love the simple combo of the G, C, and D chords. They go well together. For the second half of my practice though, I merged the previous bluesy exercise with this one and practiced at 100, 110, and then 120bpm. Basically, it went like this: G, C, G, D, E, A7, and B7. And then I'd keep looping that. With the syncopation, it was a lot of fun. I think some of that syncopation disappeared at 120bpm though. It was too fast. To get it back, I had to do some hard focusing.

Up next, the final lesson in the module. I can't believe I got this far so successfully. What I'll be doing is playing a song called The Freight Train Blues. It's a beginners song, but I may just try to play it well so I can capture it on video. Who knows.



fingerpicking-lesson-2g.jpg
 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #33
Freight Train Blues

Well, I just finished up Acoustic Fingerpicking, Step-by-Step, Level 1A on Guitar Tricks with Lisa McCormick. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually feel like I got someplace. I actually learned something. The best part of this course was that she stuck with the same picking pattern throughout. I took a few previous courses on fingerpicking and because we changed patterns so much, I never quite felt like I understood or perfected the lessons. Granted, this one was slightly more advanced than this one, but I'm a slow learner. I guess I'm a fast learner when I want to be, but you know what I mean. Some things come naturally and some don't. I hope playing the guitar begins to come naturally. As it stands, I just played Freight Train Blues at 120bpm very well. It's an easy beginner song, but hey, what do you expect from beginner fingerpicking? Part of what I learned was moving the actual fingers and getting them used to touching the strings, as opposed to using a pick. I really do prefer fingerpicking so much more than using a pick. I wouldn't mind never touching another pick as long as I live.

Anyway, on to Acoustic Fingerpicking, Step-by-Step, Level 1B. And after this, there's so much more on Guitar Tricks. All sorts of lessons from many different instructors. I've even dabbled with the idea of trying out JamPlay if I get bored in a year or two. They've got tons of instructors too who teach fingerstyle too. We'll see what happens, but I can tell you that I'm thoroughly satisfied with my progress from this first module with Lisa.

guitar-freight-train-blues.jpg
 
Last edited:

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #34
Build Your Speed: 3-Chord Practice Drill

Lesson 3B: Super Great Variation #1

A few days ago, I began the Acoustic Fingerpicking Step-by-Step, Level 1B module with Lisa McCormick. I'd say it's pretty awesome. It's one of 11 modules that she offers. I'll work my way through them all and then move onto another instructor. In this module so far, we're working on a new pattern. Instead of picking all eighth notes, we're using a quarter note to begin with in each measure and then continue with all eighth notes for the remainder of the measure. It adds a bit of flair. Below is an example of the first lesson from the Guitar Tricks site. It's easy, but fun. For this lesson, we used only three chords. For the next one, we'll increase that to four. Also, in this lesson, we stick with all double measures that increase in speed as we go. In the next one, we play double measures with increasing speeds and then single measures with increasing speeds. For now though, I'm practicing this exercise with Lisa and then by myself with the metronome. I am so much better than I was just a few weeks ago. I can't believe my progress. Fingerpicking is so much fun. I actually look forward to more challenging exercises, as opposed to dreading them like I used to. Good times.

lesson-3b.jpg
 

JGaulard

Moderator
Staff member
  • #35
I have been having the best time playing guitar lately. I'm not even sure how much material I've covered since I left off above, but I do know that I've got four different fingerstyle patterns down pat, three of them with syncopation. They sound very good. I'm now working on a song called Star of the County Down and am using the fourth pattern I learned. This actually isn't my favorite one, but it's interesting nonetheless. I'd say the song flows along at around 90bpm, so it's not too bad. With this pattern though, it gets tricky at times. The chords I'm using are Asus, Am, F, C, and G. Everything is fairly straightforward.

I'll say this one more time. I'm so glad I moved on from the strumming I got stuck in for the past few years. It seems like I was going nowhere. With fingerpicking, I feel like I can now actually play music. The guitar has the ability to produce such pretty sound and I simply wasn't getting that from strumming. I know it's possible because I've heard it, but it would have taken years to make it work for me. Fingerpicking is easier in ways and the reward is much more front loaded.
 
Top