Pick, fingers, thumb... guitar/bass left hand techniques

I’ve been thinking about left hand technique.

On guitar and bass I just naturally want to use my fingers and not a pick. Granted, it might be because I’ve never really taken the time to be comfortable with one. But there’s something else, the pick seems so definite and mechanical from both a physical and aural perspective. Obviously considering how many people use this tool this aspect is considered as an asset.

Having said that, at this point I feel that it puts an unnecessary mechanical barrier between me and the instrument. Also I can see how can be a way to play faster but I’m not really interested in speed.

I need to know more about how classical guitar and flamenco players use their left hand.

There’s a great Spanish guitar player named Javier Pereira.

I saw him accompany Mariola Membrives who is this astounding singer who uses the conventions of Flamenco as a point from which to explore.

Pereira uses many left hand techniques from all the disciplines.

For the moment I’m going to focus on playing without a pick.

Me too. When I started out with guitar (not much over a year ago) I used a pick & pretty much expected to stay that way. When I started the IFR Chord Melody Workshop it happened to be about a month after I’d got a bass on which I was using fingers (as it’s ‘the usual thing’). Whilst I’m sure it’s possible to do the Chord Melody stuff with a pick, I decided to give finger picking a try.

I’m now a total convert. In addition to the flexibility & multi-string pluck opportunities I seem to prefer the tone (& range of tones) it provides.

Musical tastes vary of course, but a finger picker I admire is Justin Johnson. He’s much inspired by ‘roots’ & early Blues musicians & it shows in his playing. My favourite pieces by him are where he does solo arrangements of songs, using a range of techniques to provide the melody, harmony and rhythm, something that maps well onto the IFR ‘bass, choir & singer’ analogy for chord melody on guitar.

Edit to add: If you happen to search for Justin (he has many videos on youtube) you may land on one where he’s using a thumb pick. That’s not a fundamental part of his style, just something he uses on occasion if he wishes to give the bass line a bit more bite.

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Something too about skin being in direct contact that makes things much more varied and variable.

Still there’s lots of people that I respect like Bill Frisell that are hybrid players.

So much to explore.

Justin is awesome. He does some really good tutorials too.

Checking him out.

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@niborsilliw I forgot to ask if you’d noticed that David has done a video on 'Improvising with Right Hand Classical Fingering on the Guitar?

If not, you can find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kl-3EvpP08

No, but I’m checking it out now. Thanks.


Have you tried hybrid picking, where you hold and use a pick between thumb and index finger, but also use middle, ring and pinky on upper strings?

I can see advantages to being able to get a strong sound with the pick if needed.

Or you can try a thumb pick (or the hybrid ‘Sharktooth’ arrangement http://www.sharktoothpicks.com/).

As a beginner too I been trying out various things. For the present I’m happiest with just my fingers, but will probably continue to experiment. :slight_smile:

I’ve seen those picks. Pretty interesting. So many paths, so little time. :wink:

I’ll report back.

Have you seen ‘Alaska Piks’ https://alaskapik.com/ too? They look to be an interesting alternative to ‘cultivating’ perfect finger nails? I guess different things suit different people, but as you say so many possible paths!


you are all talking about right hand techniques, I suppose? Or do you all play left handed like Hendrix? :slight_smile:

Left handed… but play righty.

Unlike Mono Neon who’s left handed and plays it that way but with the strings flopped. :scream:

Interesting to compare using a plectrum to a bow. Never thought of it that way.