Mayos Music
Guitar Lessons and Instrument Repair

Fingerpicking Technique

At MayosMusic we offer Private, Semi-Private and Group guitar, bass, ukulele, banjo, fretted instrument and auto-harp lessons. Plus, we are a complete luthier service that includes guitar and amplifier repairs/restorations. Through the years we have been asked numerous "Guitar Lesson" and "Guitar Repair" related questions (many repeatedly) by new/current/old and prospective students and customers. Here is our answer to: What is fingerpicking and what are some of its styles and techniques?

"Fingerpicking" is the technique of playing a stringed instrument with the thumb and fingers using your nails, or with finger picks.

When fingerpicking the guitar, there are three preferred pick-hand styles regarding picks and nails:
  1. Thumb Pick & Finger Picks (index, middle, and ring finger)
  2. Thumb Pick & Finger Nails (index middle, and ring finger)
  3. All Nails (thumb and fingers)

*Note* Players almost never use finger picks and thumb nail combination.

The three styles each have their advantages & disadvantages.
1. Thumb Pick & Finger Picks
Advantages – Loud, never worry about broken nails, mute bass notes easily.
Disadvantages – Players feel disconnected from the instrument and strings.
2. Thumb Pick & Finger Nails
Advantages – Stronger bass notes and easily muted, more tonal range with the nails.
Disadvantages – Care of nails.
3. All Nails
Advantages – More tonal range.
Disadvantages – Less volume, harder to mute bass notes, care and maintainance of nails.

As a teacher/instructor, I recommend to all players and students that you try all three techniques and become proficient with all.  Then choose the one that best fits your style of playing and music, based on sound and feel.  However, maintain periodic practice on the other two styles in case you loose a pick, break a nail, or the music you learn necessitates it. 

Picks – There are several styles/makes/models of finger and thumb picks, and you should find a store with a good selection and give them all a try until you find the ones that work for you, your style of playing and your instruments. 

Fingernails – Proper care and maintenance of your nails is critical for good fingerpicking guitar playing.  Eating a healthy balanced diet helps build the strongest fingernails possible.  Keep your nails trimmed and filled to the desired length and don’t let them get too long and always be careful and cautious with your picking hand, as a broken nail can be more than painful, but musically debilitating.  If you should happen to break a nail, super glue is a great quick fix for holding it together.  If need be, make a patch brace for it with some thin cloth or even a piece of napkin or tissue, and glue that in place much like fiberglass and resin make a fiberglass panel. 

Instructors hot tip:
Always wear protective gloves (leather) when moving (loading and unloading) your equipment to protect your hands and nails.

Experience since 1968
Providing Guitar, Electric Bass & Ukulele lessons and Guitar/Amp Repair in the Greater Phoenix Valley area of Arizona including Maricopa County and The Salt River Valley.

Mayos Music will continue to provide Guitar/Amp Repairs in Southern California's South Bay cities and Greater Los Angeles Area.
Originally located in Manhattan Beach and Torrance, California.

Now located in:
Gilbert, AZ 85298
Torrance, CA 90505

(310) 955 - 0246