Fingerstyle Guitar

Important Guitar Discovery

After spending a lot of time researching and purchasing several different types of costly finger picks and thumb picks, and after spending several short sessions trying to play a few simple notes as best I could figure out from a beginning fingerstyle book, I have made a very important discovery.

I was interrupted recently during a practice session here in Japan. I tried to continue the fingerstyle exercises in the book while we spoke, even though I wasn’t sure if I was really doing what was intended by the author.

Stunned Satisfaction!
On a whim because of my distraction, I decided to pop off the finger picks and thumb pick I was wearing and I made an attempt to play the same exercises with my finger tips. The result was stunningly satisfying.

It was not a ‘quality of play’ stunned satisfaction I felt; It was just a much more pleasurable and emotionally gratifying experience.

I instantly realized how much more I love being able to touch the strings with my right hand instead of touching them through plastic finger picks.

Of course, it makes it easier as a beginner to find the strings if I can feel them, but this felt so good I knew I could not let this sensation go anytime soon. I have not put the finger picks back on since that day.

Perhaps in the future I will try finger picks again when I have some guitar dexterity. With some modification and trimming, Alaska Piks (no ‘c’), which I didn’t like the fit of as much as the Freedom Picks I was attempting to use, have the potential to provide a finger pad contact point while still simulating the effect of having longer nails.

Fingerstyle is for Fingers
But for now, I HAVE to play fingerstyle with my fingers. It feels so much better and I feel so much more connected to the guitar.

I had been avoiding starting my fingerstyle study efforts with bare fingers because I thought it would involve maintaining unpleasantly long and manicured nails.

Now that I realized I wanted to play with no picks, I was left with uncertainty about how I would proceed. Could I just use the pads of my fingers or would I really need to grow out super long nails?

Perfect Timing
Already on my calendar for a day just a few days after my ‘touching the strings is good’ epiphany, I was scheduled to meet for the first time and have a lesson with internationally renowned champion fingerstyle player Shohei Toyada who has taken up residence in Kyoto.

In my next post, I will write more about my first meetings with Shohei, but what I wanted to add here is how perfect the timing of this first meeting was. I discovered that though Shohei has long nails, they are not super long like I have seen on some other guitarists. He says he plays using the nail as an accent to his fingers’ contact with the guitar strings and not as the primary plucking surface.

It turns out that it may indeed be possible to be an accomplished fingerstyle guitarist without freakishly long, ‘burdensome to all other aspects of life’ fingernails. Eureka!