Beginning Guitar Part 3 : Guitar Playing Techniques

Guitar Playing Techniques - Using A Plectrum Vs Fingerstyle

Playing With A Plectrum

Plectrums are used for strumming chords, and for playing single-note (when only one note is sounded at a time) riffs and solos. Players such as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani use plectrums, using various picking techniques to play very fast passages. Using a plectrum allows players to play very fast single note lines and play rhythm riffs, which is why most metal, rock and blues players use one. It is easier to produce a loud, clear sound, and less tiring to strum chords using a plectrum rather than the fingers. However, players are limited to strumming chords and playing either single note lines or playing chords in which the notes are on neighbouring strings. This means that it is not ideal for solo playing (i.e. as opposed to playing in an ensemble / band). Beginner guitarists should start with a reasonably heavy pick – it should have a very small amount of flex, but should not be totally unflexible, and definitely avoid the thinnest picks.
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Guitar Fingerstyle Playing

When the fingers and the thumb are used to sound the notes (or fingers and a thumbpick), it is often called ‘fingerstyle’ playing. This allows the player to play more than one note at the same time, and to play music that has more than one part (i.e. keep a bass line going whilst playing a lead line over the top). Using fingerstyle technique, it is much easier to play solo music, and also to make accompaniments that are more interesting than just strumming chords. This is why folk players such as Bert Jansch, solo jazz guitarists such as Martin Taylor, and all classical guitarists use this technique.

Many folk and rock guitarists develop both plectrum and finger-based styles, and use the best one for the situation. In classical guitar playing, notes are always sounded with the fingers.

Related Articles:

Beginning Guitar

Beginning Guitar Part 2 : Guitar Strings & Guitar Tuning

Beginning Guitar Part 3 : Guitar Playing Techniques

Beginning Guitar Part 4 : Guitar Music Notation

Beginning Guitar Part 5 : Guitar Amplifiers & Guitar Effects

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