When I first started out playing the guitar I always assumed that using a guitar pick was just the standard thing for a guitarist to do. It was only when I watched the Eric Clapton unplugged DVD for the first time did I realize that picking the strings with your fingers is also normal.
Not only did Eric Clapton’s unplugged DVD make me realize that finger picking was ok but that as a guitar player you can use both a guitar pick and you can use your fingers. This was a revelation for me. As a guitar student I was so bound by the rules and wanted to stick to the “right way” that it sometimes affected my growth as a guitar player.
Luckily this was just a teenage phase. Since that revelation I have been using picks and my fingers. I’ve even started practicing using my fingers and my pick at the same time. This has been challenging to say the least but so rewarding at the same time. Using your extra fingers and using a guitar pick opens up a whole world of new notes you can play that weren’t possible before.
Not only are the amount of notes available using a guitar pick and fingers but the unique sound you get combining the two at the same time is like nothing like one can explain. The plectrum gives a smooth sound while the fingers give more of a character sound. It is very hard to explain but using both is very effective for creating music.
At a few points in my life I have gone to the guitar store and bought myself finger picks. They are the ones that attach to your strumming fingers. Each time I tried these picks I never succeeded. I always reverted to my natural finger on string style which always felt more comfortable. It must be the contact between finger and string that draws me towards playing without the finger plectrums. I find the sound of them too superficial sounding hence the reason I love using a blend between the two techniques at the same time.
This technique of combining the two picking styles is great but in my opinion only suits certain styles of music. For example it would be great for country and blues picking but would not necessarily go well with punk music. With that in mind, I try throw this technique in once every while instead of using it as my go to picking style. That way it allows little variations and nuances in the sound of the guitar which are pleasing to the ear and keeps the song or piece of music interesting for the listener as well as the guitar player.
I’m currently not aware of any famous players that use this technique but I’m almost certain enough to say that I’m sure there are plenty out there. It’s a great little tool for the guitar arsenal so to speak.
The conversation between cool guitar picks and finger picking will always be present but the truth is that both sides of the party are right. The more boundaries and barriers you create around yourself regarding the instrument, the more you will limit yourself to things that you never knew were possible on the guitar.