Fingerstyle Vs Strumming

If you’re a guitarist, you’ve probably encountered the age-old debate: Fingerstyle vs strumming. Both techniques have their unique sound and style, and each has its benefits and drawbacks. 

In this blog post, I’ll dive deep into the world of Fingerstyle and strumming, exploring the differences between the two and helping you decide which technique is proper for you. 

Whether you’re a beginner just starting or an experienced player looking to expand your skills, this blog will provide valuable insights to help you master both Fingerstyle and strumming techniques. So grab your instrument, and let’s begin!

fingerstyle-vs-strumming

Should You Learn Strumming or Fingerstyle First?

No, it is far more advantageous to begin by learning to strum with a pick. Fingerpicking, let alone Fingerstyle, should be learned later. There are numerous explanations for this. For starters, basic rhythmic skills must be mastered before learning how to fingerpick accurately and successfully. 

Learning rhythmic ideas with a pick is a lot easier than splitting your brain out into three, four, or five different areas to tell each particular finger what to do. When you were a kid, did you ever try to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time? Yeah, fingerpicking is a lot worse than that.

The left hand (which is the fretting hand for most players) must also be developed. With fingerpicking, you’ll need to focus a lot of attention on your right hand. There may be better ways to proceed when you first start because knowing chords and how to fret the notes properly is so important in the beginning.

After you’ve learned a bunch of chords and can play a few songs at ordinary speed, you can start exploring with fingerpicking. It takes little time to reach the mile sign.

What's The Difference Between Strumming, Fingerpicking, and Fingerstyle?

First, we need to agree on the language. Strings can be strung together with the fingers, but let’s say that a pick is used. Fingerpicking is just playing without a pick and using the picks that God gave you. Fingerstyle is a way to play the acoustic guitar that uses the tips of the fingers, the fingernails, and sometimes a thumb pick. It’s really turned into its genre.

Fingerstyle music is a mix of classical, flamenco, jazz, and folk styles. It can be a lot rougher than, say, James Taylor’s normal fingerpicking. To get more bite and volume, a lot of fingerstyle artists either grow their nails out or use fake nails. This is one of the harder guitar styles, so you should learn normal fingerpicking before you start playing this style, which is becoming more and more popular.

Strumming

For strumming the guitar, most people hold the pick between their thumb and middle finger. This keeps the pick in place without having to grip it too tightly. Rhythms are made by combining different sets of down and up strokes. What kind of pick and how dense it is affect the tone, as does how hard the player strums.

The person who has a pick can use a number of different methods. Flat-picking is a way to play the acoustic guitar to pick out single notes in a tune or to make a chord arpeggiate. Bluegrass music is an excellent example of flat-picking done well.

The aggressive strumming of the Spanish guitar is a big hit, and the triplet beats are so fast they’ll shave a cat’s fur off. People who play nylon-string guitars in Flamenco music often use this style of playing. However, steel-string strummers like Shane Bernard of Shane & Shane have been using it in more modern music.

Electric guitar players also use the pick for many other things, like pinched harmonics, tapping, sliding, and annoyingly scraping the pick across the strings to make a sound that sounds like car tires screaming. But strums will still be the main idea with electric guitars, even when palm muting is used.

Fingerstyle

People often use the words “fingerpicking” and “fingerstyle” interchangeably, but they mean different things. Fingerstyle is just a style, while fingerpicking is just a method. A bunch of techniques put together makes for a very different way to play the guitar.

Fingerstyle music really took off in the early 2000s, with singers like Don Ross and Andy McKee getting a lot of views on YouTube. Because of this, Candyrat Records is well-known in the fingerstyle world and has signed other acts such as Antoine Dufour, Calum Graham, and Marcin Patrzalek.

Fingerstyle is like fingerpicking but stronger. Fingerstyle guitar players either grow and shape their fingernails like Dracula, or they use fake nails. Because the thumb is so close to the strings, a thumb pick is often added as well. Some of the other things that make this style unique are the heavy use of harmonies, hammer-ons played with the right hand, and playing the guitar body like a drum. Also, the guitar is almost always tuned differently.

Fingerpicking

Fingerpicking makes a sound that is more special and softer because the picks are the fleshy parts of the fingers. This is used most by classical musicians, who will use all five numbers. These days, musicians don’t have to use all of their fingers, but it can be helpful to do so. Fingerstyle lets you play with just your fingers or your fingers and a thumb pick. Fingerpicking, on the other hand, only lets you use your fingers to pluck one or more strings.

One finger, the pinkie, is all you need to play each string separately. Unlike strumming, you play the melody instead of the beat. You don’t make beats like you do with Fingerstyle, either.

There are a lot of different rhythms you can use with fingerpicking, even though it sounds simpler than Fingerstyle. You’re playing different combinations of several guitar strings.

You can also tell the difference between fingerpicking and the other two based on the sound. When you play with your fingers instead of your nails or picks, the sound is softer.

On the other hand, you can use both strumming and fingerpicking when you use the fingerstyle method.

Is Fingerpicking Harder Than Strumming?

Fingerpicking is more complex to learn than basic strumming because you need to work on your rhythm, your timing, and your dexterity. Nonetheless, fingerpicking is barely more difficult than playing in the big picture, and these three things shouldn’t stop you from learning it:

Finger Dexterity

Fingerstyle is more challenging because you have to use both hands and be good at moving your fingers together and over each other. But strumming is a lot easier because all you have to do is hold a chord and pick all the notes by moving the pick down and up. 

You don’t have to play each string separately or use different slaps and beats. Although you can work on your strokes while playing without having to stop and think about your other hand too much.

You will need to work on building muscle memory on your picking hand for Fingerstyle, though, since you can only keep your eyes on one. That being said, each method is easier or harder for different people, so picking each note separately might come more “naturally” to some of you. But most newbies would feel more at ease with strumming.

Finger Strength

Individual note-playing necessitates not just precision but also strength. This strength will not come to you overnight but rather with practice. I’m not just talking about physical strength here, but also mental toughness. As a beginner, I was terrified of my guitar’s steel strings and the finger agony that came with employing the fingerstyle approach.

It did hurt, but that was because I wasn’t used to the string acrobatics I had to do. I acquired enough calluses over time to no longer feel the discomfort, and my fingers as a whole became stronger, more confident, and well-adjusted.

While I had the same initial concerns about strumming, the unified action of my hand across numerous strings felt easier and less daunting. In other words, using three fingers against many strings at the same time felt less intimidating. Furthermore, if you wish to play a 12-string guitar utilizing the fingerstyle technique, you will undoubtedly require additional finger strength!

Timing

Another reason strumming is easier than Fingerstyle is timing. When strumming, all strings are struck at the same time, so you don’t have to move your left hand as much. This allows you to concentrate on your strumming hand and the pattern you’re following. After all, your job is to ensure that a song has the proper rhythm.

Strumming presents its own set of challenges, depending on how sophisticated the pattern you’re following is. With this approach, you must work on your arm and hand motion, which begins at your elbow and ends at your fingers, which must strum the proper strings at the right moment in a downward and upward motion.

The fingerstyle technique, on the other hand, requires several hand movements and greater caution when picking each string. Plucking numerous notes at once is undoubtedly a more difficult talent to acquire than strumming, which involves playing all or most of the notes at once.

Another area for improvement is the difficulty in memorizing the note sequence and which string is which. Furthermore, you must be conscious of any other sounds you may have to make at the same time, such as percussion, slap thumbing, and harmonics. As a result, most beginners or guitarists transferring from strumming to Fingerstyle find Fingerstyle more challenging to learn.

Polyphonic Rhythms

Polyphonic instruments, such as the guitar, are capable of playing numerous independent melody lines at the same time. As you may expect, if playing more than one note at a time is tough, then playing numerous notes in various rhythms will be even more difficult.

Polyphonic rhythms consist of playing notes on the upbeats and downbeats as well as the beats in the midst. Polyrhythms have their origins in African musical traditions. While you may hear polyrhythms in mainstream music genres like hip-hop and metal, I think that for novices, it’s simpler to distinguish these nuanced rhythms in genres like Jazz, Afro-Cuban music, and Indian music.

Returning to the guitar, I’d like to demonstrate why Fingerstyle is more complex than strumming. Consider Travis picking, a polyrhythmic pattern in which you sustain a steady beat by switching between two separate bass notes with your thumb while concurrently playing treble notes with your index and middle finger.

You can listen to Merle Travis to have a better understanding of this pattern. This was his own distinct guitar style, and this compilation demonstrates the complexities of this fingerstyle method.

Which Guitar Is Perfect For Fingerstyle, and Which For Strumming?

The nylon string classical guitar was explicitly created for fingerstyle music. It features a more expansive space between the strings, which enables plucking the strings easier with the fingertips.

Strumming on steel string acoustic and electric guitar sounds better. Strumming on a classical guitar is possible, as is Fingerstyle on steel string acoustic and electric guitars.

What A Beginner Should Learn Between Fingerstyle and Strumming?

Guitar is a complex instrument to learn. It takes a lot of determination and effort to overcome the lack of finger strength and flexibility needed to grasp the guitar strings and feel at ease with the fretting hand.

 As a result, it is preferable to begin with more straightforward tasks and gradually increase your confidence. Fingerstyle playing is significantly more complex than basic strumming techniques. 

You may acquire the fundamentals of guitar strumming in about 3-4 days of practice. Once you’ve mastered strumming, you can sing some beginner-friendly songs with simple guitar chords. This is far more enjoyable, and you will undoubtedly appreciate it.

Why Is Fingerstyle So Hard? Tips on How to Make It Easier.

Fingerstyle lets you play parts of more than one instrument at the same time. You should always know which string to play with the finger of the plucked hand and which note to grab with the finger of the fretting hand. 

Once more, you may need to play more than one string and pay close attention to hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides. You should also pay attention to the percussion, which changes based on the song.

This makes the idea of playing fingerstyle guitar very hard to understand. But there is always something simple to look up to start learning. Here are some ideas for you:

  • Start with easy designs for fingerpicking.
  • Use the finger plucking techniques with a progression of chords.
  • Flow and get into the groove.
  • Learn how to play hard chord forms.
  • Take your time, and don’t rush.
  • Play bits of classical music.

How Long Does It Take To Learn Fingerstyle Guitar?

The length of time it takes to learn Fingerstyle depends on several things, including your previous expertise on the guitar and how frequently you practice. If you are a complete beginner, you should be able to master the technique after six months of consistent practice.

If you are an intermediate guitarist who knows how to play barre chords, you can achieve a level where you can apply the majority of the components of fingerstyle guitar music in six months of practice.

Here is a famous classical music composition called “Romanza” (Spanish romance). It seems highly lovely and easy to learn. An absolute beginner can learn this piece in a couple of months with the appropriate approach.

Can you Learn Fingerstyle by yourself?

Fingerstyle guitar might sound hard, but you can learn it on your own. On the other hand, you need to agree that learning Fingerstyle on your own will work better than taking lessons from pros.

Pick a goal that you want to reach by a specific date. You can make yourself a teacher, and if you practice often, you’ll get there. You can find a lot of videos on YouTube that will help you learn Fingerstyle. Check out a few of them and choose the one you like best.

How To Start Learning To Fingerpick?

Learn a simple rhythm like a banjo player. Begin with a single chord and then move on to a stretch of chords. When you play a different chord, you may need to change which strings you pluck but keep the same rhythm. When reading fingerpicking-specific sheet music or tablature, look for small letters in italics next to the note head:

  • p = thumb
  • i = index finger
  • m = middle finger
  • a = ring finger
  • c = pinky

You can begin by using your thumb, index finger, and middle finger. That could be all that far you need to travel. It’s fine for most guitar players to play with just three fingers. Other fingers will be required to perform more advanced fingerpicking, such as that found in classical music. Learn a song or two that uses fingerpicking as quickly as possible.

How Hard Strumming Guitar Can Be?

Several strumming techniques are more challenging than Fingerstyle if we’re talking about levels of difficulty. All the different strumming patterns can’t be presented in a straightforward song with a relatively simple rhythm.

Some contemporary artists like Tim Henson from Polyphia or Manuel Gardner Fernandez from Unprocessed play some badass strumming.

Final Words On Fingerstyle vs Strumming

Whether you choose Fingerstyle or strumming, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the style of music you enjoy playing. Fingerstyle offers a more intricate and melodic approach, allowing you to create beautiful harmonies and intricate patterns. On the other hand, strumming is perfect for creating a rhythmic foundation and adding energy to your playing. 

Ultimately, the best technique for you is the one that resonates with your musical style and brings you joy when playing. So, experiment with both techniques, have fun exploring their nuances, and find the one that speaks to your musical soul.

FAQs

Is it better to play bass with fingers or pick?

The harder touch of the pick on the strings adds a percussion sound that improves the music’s general groove. In the end, personal taste and the song you’re playing determine whether you use a pick or your fingers when playing bass.

Should I play Fingerstyle or with a pick?

It is different for each style. There is no need for a pick for classical, some folk, and even some jazz finger styles. Both are good for my beginning students to try. Because the fingers on your left and right hands do different things, a beginner should start with a pick.

Can you learn guitar without a pick?

One great and simple way to start playing without a pick is to strum with your thumb. In Example 1, a popular pattern is used to show how to strum with the thumb. Make sure your thumb is at the right angle when you try this.

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