FRETS.COM Illustrated Glossary

In the '60s, we just said "finger picking"
© Frank Ford, 10/13/98 Photos by FF

Fingerstyle refers to a method of playing guitar using individual fingers, instead of struming or using a flat pick. You can use finger and thumbpicks, or just your fingers.

The thing is, though, that fingerstyle guitar is distinct from classical guitar even though both are played with fingers. Generally, the guitars that are most preferred for fingerstyle playing have small to intermediate body sizes to emphasize clarity in the treble range. Dreadnought and jumbo size guitars are not usually considered fingerstyle instruments.

Here's a fingerstyle player with a guitar that most of us would describe as a fingerstyle guitar:

It's hard to see, but Tom is using a thumbpick for extra strength in the bass register, but is using just his fingers on the treble strings to avoid the metallic, brassy sound of finger picks.

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