Addicted to the Six Strings

My progress of mastering acoustic guitar songs

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What Is Fingerstyle Guitar?

Posted by Isaac on May 18, 2009

“Fingerstyle” refers to using each of the right hand fingers independently in order to play the multiple parts of a musical arrangement that would normally be played by several band members. Bass, harmonic accompaniment, melody, and percussion can all be played simultaneously when playing Fingerstyle. Fingerstyle guitar songs are often composed and played using steel string acoustic guitar.

Acoustic guitarClassical Guitar

There are three main categories of guitar: classical guitar, acoustic guitar and electric guitar. Classical guitar ( also known as nylon string guitar, as shown in picture on the right side) is evolved from lute, and it is used to play classical pieces, which is the rudiment of fingerstyle pieces. Electric guitar is widely used in most genres of music, mainly rock n roll and metal music, as well as pop and jazz music. It is frequently used to play solos in songs and also rhythm parts.

In contrast, acoustic guitar is limited to rhythm playing in the past; It can only prove it’s existence in a band or song by strumming or when it is played alone, as it has small volume and it’s tone doesn’t stand out like electric guitar or classical guitar.

Electric GuitarHowever, as time passes, more and more musicians realized that acoustic guitar has the potential to be used to play solo pieces, just like classical guitar, and surprisingly, some songs sound even better using an acoustic guitar. More musicians compose their pieces using acoustic guitar, and hence, the traditional fingerstyle is born. It’s playing style is similar to classical guitar, except the songs are played using acoustic guitar. The traditional fingerstyle guitarist includes Masaaki Kishibe, Isato Nakagawa and Chet Atkins.

Slowly, acoustic guitarists started to explore the possibilities of an acoustic guitar. More and more advanced techniques are brought in, such as tapping (originally an electric guitar’s technique, which is a technique of ringing a note by pressing on the string with right hand), popping, slapping (bass guitar’s techniques, produce groovy and funky sounds), slap harmonics, etc. They’ve also discovered that there is drum’s soul inside an acoustic guitar! Just like a drum set, different parts of guitar can be hit to produce sounds like snare drum, bass drum and hi-hat. Therefore, fingerstyle evolves to a higher level, which is called contemporary fingerstyle. Contemporary fingerstyle requires higher level of techniques, mainly right hand techniques. Some of the famous guitarists include Michael Hedges, Kotaro Oshio, Andy McKee, Tommy Emmanuel and Preston Reed.


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