Whether you consider yourself as a more systematic or intuitive person there is a safe option that in my experience is the best way to learn a fingerstyle guitar and it has three pillars:
This way of seeing learning process is open-minded even if you are an acoustic, classical or electric guitarist because the principles of moving your fingers and learning a part in any given piece are the same as any life skill.
Do not get discouraged if It feels unattainable at first because fingerstyle is all about muscle memory so if you follow what I wrote below you are going to make it while enjoying the process and the results.
Movement- Master the fingerpicking
This is the stage where you acquire the basic physical skill of moving your fingers and getting accustomed to the position of strings.
If you are already playing the guitar or you are just starting out, at this stage, you become a friend of the fine motor skills of the fingerpicking.
It may seem strange to you at first like most of my students, and you can find yourself straining certain
parts of your brain that previously didn’t bother them to stay dormant, but I assure you that your improvement graph will skyrocket at this initial stage.
I would like to point out that the older you are, the more you will need to invest in acquiring this motor skill.
Why is it?
What I discovered is that this elder student who is already having his unique skills well implemented, find the process of acquiring a new intelligence- playing guitar and the development of new fine motor skills of each finger, takes more time than a student.
This is not scientific proof but rather my observation after a lot of guitar students and years of teaching.
( By the way, it is known, especially as you get older, that it is beneficial to the quality of life and our brain to acquire new abilities and less of the same kind of intelligence).
Playing in context- Start Making Some Music!
Now it’s time for you to apply your mechanical ability in the musical context.
I suggest you choose easy and short songs and/or fingerstyle guitar arrangements.
Songs like ‘Blackbird,’ ‘Shape of My Heart,’ ‘Everybody Hurts,’ ‘Dust In The Wind,’ ‘Tenerife Sea’ and more.
Practicing them will help you put the foundation of a proper technique and strong rhythmic sense.
In most musical pieces, whether it’s accompaniment of chords or more advanced fingerstyle guitar arrangement, you’ll need to alternate between different types of fingerpicking patterns because each piece of music,
like life itself, is not a straight line but curved.
( Otherwise, the music would be monotonous, boring and lacks the driving force of change, development, tension, and relaxation, on the musical timeline.)
Implementing- the longest way round is the shortest way home.
To assimilate a sequence of techniques, we must at this stage identify the “weak points.”
that exist in almost every piece we learn.
These are the same places that are more challenging to us, for example, a change point between two fingerpicking patterns, meter changes, changing the musical texture, coordination with what you do with your fretting hand, etc.
How should you refine those technically challenging music parts?
So to save frustration and time, isolate these parts and “iron this wrinkle until it disappears.”
by playing only those segments in their context, about a second or a bar before and a second or a bar after where they appear.
Working on a challenging guitar part only is more effective than playing the whole piece, reaching the same point and making a mistake again while what goes through your mind is:
“Am I going to go through it this time successfully?”.
1+1 little guitar practice tips that will make a big difference for you:
The best way to make the fastest progress is to practice SLOWLY with full attention on each finger and playing rhythmically.
It may not sound logical to you at first but it’s the right way, and this is what you’ll discover once you are on the path.
During your practice routine, and you should have one, spend 20% of your time on the mechanism- learning new fingerpicking patterns and the rest of the time on the technique.
When you get into this habit, you’ll skyrocket your fingerstyle playing.
I hope you found this valuable and that you’ll base your fingerpicking journey on those three principles as for my years of experience are the best way to learn fingerstyle guitar.
Feel free to comment or ask any guitar related question.
Keep Playing. Enjoy Life.