Learning to fingerpick an acoustic guitar is a rewarding experience. Finger-picking takes more skill than strumming regular guitar chords. Here are some tips to help you with your fingerstyle guitar.
One of the most important things that you can do is to use lighter guitar strings. Many acoustic guitars have medium gauge strings. While these are fine for strumming chord progressions. They are harder on your fingers, and this can be detrimental to your fingerstyle guitar.
Try to use a light gauge set of strings or a custom light gauge. These strings and make it easier on your fingertips for learning fingerstyle guitar. Once your fingertips have developed enough and you've gained calluses, you can always switch to heavier strings if you prefer them. You can also switch to a nylon string guitar to try some fingerstyle as these strings want to dig into your fingers as regular steel strings do.
Take Care of Your Fingernails
Try to take care of the fingernails on your strumming hand. You want nails that are long, but not too long. It's important to look after your nails if you want to improve your fingerstyle guitar. The nails should be at a consistent length. You don't want one finger to have a nail that is too long and the other finger to have a nail that is too short.
Make sure you file them on a regular basis so that they are rounded and that you take care and not to break them. I wouldn't rely on false fingernails as these won't work as well as your regular nails do for fingerstyle guitar. You should keep the nails on your fretting hand short because this makes it easier for you to fret chords or play single notes. It's the nails on your strumming hand that need to be longer.
When playing bass notes, you want to ensure that these are ringing out nice and clear. It's the bass notes that are going to give you the nice melodies. When using your thumb to pluck these the notes should be ringing out nice and cleanly. Your thumb will play the bass notes and your other fingers are playing the treble strings. It's the bass note that will move the melody along so these notes are the most important part of the fingerstyle piece that you are playing.
The bass notes are more often than not the root of the chord. You want the listener to hear those root notes as you are playing. Play a simple chord progression and concentrate on making sure that the root note is ringing out during the finger-picking progression. Put more of an accent on the bass note so that it rings cleanly and moves the progression along.
You should practice your fingerpicking pieces at a slow pace. It takes time to develop any sort of speed with fingerpicking. You cannot rush the process of learning a finger-picking guitar. It's a good idea to get yourself a good metronome as you can use this to increase your speed.
Once you can play something at a slow pace without making any mistakes, then you can begin to speed it up. It's far better to play something slowly without making those mistakes and it is to try to speed through something and make a lot of mistakes. You will keep making the same mistakes if you don't go back and correct the issue. Consistent and diligent practice at a slow pace will make it easier for you to master complex fingerstyle arrangements.
Break It Down
Whenever you play a fingerstyle piece there will be different sections of music. You should break it down and play music into small sections. You can work through each individual section and master them one at a time. Try to look for patterns in the music and how the chords are changing.
In some cases, you might only need to make small adjustments with your fingers to get to the next chord. If you run into a section that gives you difficulty, analyze it, and figure out what exactly is giving you the problem. You should focus your efforts on this section until you can master it.
Listen to Fingerstyle Players
To get proficient at fingerstyle guitar you should listen to all of the fingerstyle masters. This will give you inspiration in your own playing. Have a look at how they play chords and see if you can mimic what they are doing.
Try to learn one or two songs from your favourite singer style guitar players even if the music is really complex. Take the time and effort to learn those pieces as they will be valuable learning tools for you. You'll get great satisfaction from learning a complex fingerstyle piece from one of your favourite artists.
It will take a lot of time to gain finger independence for both your fretting hand and your picking hand. Fingerstyle guitar requires you to concentrate more as you're not just strumming through a chord progression. You will be picking individual notes and it's easier to make mistakes.
You'll have to sit down with your guitar and do a lot of consistent practice. You should start with simple chord progressions and then work your way up. Once you can play through simple chord progressions, you can try songs. Start with songs that are easy and work towards ones that are complex. The more time you put into fingerstyle, the more reward you will get in the end.
Fingerstyle guitar is fun, but it is challenging. You have to sit down and do a lot of consistent practice. You should take care of your nails and use lighter guitar strings. Listen to your favourite artists for inspiration. Break down sections that you don't understand into easy and manageable chunks. Talk to your guitar teacher about fingerstyle guitar as they can help you what areas that are giving you difficulties.