Paul Smith Music  Why Finger Picking? - How to Learn!
 

               
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          free audio clip about finger picking  ( 5.5min.1600KB.)     
                    
Introduction to TablatureRight Hand Position                           
   Picking Patterns #1-4
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WHY learn finger picking guitar?  And HOW to learn!



Starting January 1st 2013 - CD's will no longer be sold in Jewel cases. Only discs!

I'm going to help you learn finger picking guitar, and it's absolutely free of charge.
            
I'm not even going to ask you for your email address like other web sites do! 
                                
What's the catch?  Why am I doing this? 

                                                                  
BECAUSE
   
I believe there are good people out there who will SHOW their appreciation by purchasing my CDs!
     That's my REAL motive - I want people to show their appreciation and to thank me by purchasing my CD's.
         I want them to listen to and enjoy my music - I've put my heart into it.   
               
That's my pitch!   That's my gimmick!    I'm being right up front! 
                       All I ask is  - "Please SHOW your appreciation" for what I'm provided you FREE by purchasing my CDs.
                                      

However, it is going to cost you something very valuable --  your time and lots of effort. 
Now I know you are anxious to get started and want to learn how to finger pick guitar right 
away.  However, please don't "get the cart before the horse."  Finger style guitar is not
the easiest thing to learn.  Please be patient and  read this page first.  You will need to be
motivated
to stick with it.  So I'll discuss WHY you should learn to finger pick guitar first.  Also keep 
in mind that if you rush things and jump right in, you may "learn" some bad habits that may be very difficult
 to "unlearn."  So to help with this I will discuss HOW to learn finger picking.  By reading this page first you
will find out some things you hadn't thought of before.  Remember, I've done this before!   
I've been finger picking since the early 1970's.  As you can understand, I've learned a few
things along the way.  Many of
these things I will be passing on to you on this web site.  
                                                                     ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!    
                            
 
Reading this page (or should I say this book) before you begin will help you the most.  
 It's like "you need to read the instructions first!"


   
Content on this page is arranged by the subtitles links below for quick reference. 

Who Is Paul Smith  
What Is Finger Picking or Finger style Guitar
Why Learn To Finger Pick Guitar
 
Why I Prefer Finger Style Guitar
Reasons to Finger Pick Guitar 
Another Reason to Finger Pick Guitar
Using Finger Picks  
Bare Fingers and Nails 
Pros and Cons of Nails and Plastic Finger Picks
Learn Different Ways of Finger Style
It's BEST to Learn Using Plastic Finger Picks
 
Using A Flat Pick?
Hybrid Picking

Travis Finger Picking
The Obstacle With Plastic Finger Picks
Plastic
Finger Picks
Fitting Plastic Finger Picks
How To Measure Your Finger for Finger Pick
My Customized Plastic Finger Picks
What To Expect With Plastic Picks
Some Things About Tablature
How To Learn To Finger Pick
The First Step  to Learning How to Finger Pick
How To Learn Using Picking Patterns
Rules for HOW to Learn to Finger Pick Guitar
Remember and Practice These 4 Rules
when Learning HOW 
A Little About Why I'm Helping You
More Help For You

                                      

                              Who Is Paul Smith?
Let me introduce myself.  You probably know several people with this name, Paul Smith.  Sometimes it makes it difficult for me at the bank, but that's my name!  I have no claim to fame, no desire for stardom and I'm not interested in that sort of thing in the least bit!  However, all my life (born in 1952) I have loved music.  I began to play the guitar shortly after my father died when I was a young teenager.  He was a musician too, playing the trumpet in the "Big Band" days, and he passed on to me his love for music by teaching me to play the trumpet.  After his death, it was very difficult for me to continue with it, so I transferred my musical expressions to the guitar in my high school days.  I went to college at Indiana State University where I got a teaching degree in secondary education.  I graduated in 1975 and began to work on my masters degree, while coaching the Gymnastics team at Indiana State University as an Assistant Coach under Coach Roger Counsel in 1976.  Before completing my masters, I began to teach high school Gymnastics and Industrial Arts in Indianapolis Indiana at North Central High School.  Shortly after that I stopped teaching and did something daring.  It was something that I always wanted to do.  I became a professional musician!  

It was in my college years while on the gymnastics team that I really developed my finger picking skills along with my teaching skills.  I sincerely hope you benefit from them both while using this web site.  Please keep in mind however, that I am not a computer "geek" nor am I a web site "Master" or "designer" as you will probable soon realize as you begin to use this site.  You may find that some links do not work.  You may also have to use your 'Back' button on your "Browser" to get off a page or two, and you might need to scroll a mile or two down this page.  I've been told that these are not good things on a web site, by people who know better than I.  So I want to apologize for all those inconveniences right now.  Please understand that all I am is a struggling musician trying to have a web. presence and I make no claim to good web design.  However, you will soon find that the finger picking instruction is here. (more so than any other site that I've yet seen, because trust me I've been looking!) and you will most definitely learn something from this site if you keep with it.  So, I also want to thank you for your patience with me and my computer ignorance. 

                                     THANK YOU for that!   
        

    What Is Finger Picking or Finger style Guitar

First, let me define, what type of guitar playing it is that I'm talking about and that I'm going to be teaching you.  It is known as "Finger picking" or "finger style" guitar.  The article (or book) on this page will be discussing RIGHT HAND SKILLS of guitar playing. (Assuming that you are right handed.  If you're left handed you can learn these skills too, but obviously  it will be with the other hand.) When I say "finger picking guitar," I'm talking about using the individual fingers of your right hand to pluck or "pick" the different strings of the guitar.  Finger picking (according to my computer is sometimes misspelled fingerpicking) is also referred to as finger style guitar playing.  I will be using these terms interchangeably because in my mind they mean one and the same thing.

To just use the word "pick" or "picking" can also refer to using a flat pick with some styles of guitar playing.  For example with blue grass music when someone says "picking and grinning" they are not talking about finger picking, or finger style guitar playing like I'll be teaching you here.  Traditionally, Blue Grass is done with a flat pick.  Generally speaking, when used by me on the pages of this site, I will be referring to finger picking guitar or finger style guitar playing when I say "pick" or "picking."  This is what I will be teaching you.  However, to help you understand why I teach the style of finger picking that I do I will be talking about other styles of guitar playing as well.  This will help you to compare. 

When I teach students, and they are just starting to learn finger picking, I encourage them to begin using plastic finger picks right from the start.  I personally believe that finger picking an acoustic guitar with plastic finger picks is the BEST (BUT certainly not the easiest) way to learn.  I will discuss the reasons for this later down the page.  So if you don't have plastic finger picks you will need to get them.  There are many types to choose from these days.  I've tried just about all of them.  I'm not promoting any particular brand or type because I believe it's basically a matter of preference and a matter of getting used to them.  So it doesn't really matter much what style pick you use.  However, you will need to get PLASTIC finger picks, not metal.  Later I will discuss the reasons for this too.  If you can't find plastic finger picks at your local music store you can get some Dunlop finger picks here on this site.  If you're just beginning to learn finger picking, I would highly recommend that you get my Custom picks because as I'll explain, they are helpful to new students.  You CAN NOT get these "custom" picks anywhere else but only from this web site because I do them myself, personally.  I do this customizing because I want to help new ones in there effort to learn finger picking. 

These pages will help you learn how to finger pick your guitar and they are not intended for  people just beginning to play.  It is best to learn finger picking guitar or to play finger style guitar by students who already have some "left hand skills."  If guitar is your instrument of choice (as it is mine), and you have already committed yourself to it by learning some basic left hand skills (different chord progressions, perhaps some scales), then I can help you learn how to finger pick your guitar.  This will help your guitar playing to take on new heights and dimensions.  It will enhance your sound tremendously!  So please remember that  I will be assuming that you already have some basic guitar skills.  Please don't misunderstand me.  This doesn't mean that you have to be an advanced guitarist to learn finger picking guitar.  Finger style guitar can be learned very early on.  Nor does it depend on your age.  This video shows exceptional young man that is ALREADY very accomplished with finger style guitar using plastic finger picks. 



If you can play even a few chords and you feel comfortable with your chord changes and you feel like it's time to start learning some right hand skills, then this web site is THE place for you to start. 

The purpose of the information here is to get you started off with the basics.  I don't intended to teach you everything you can learn about finger picking guitar.  Actually that would be impossible! In fact I'm not even going to attempt to teach you everything that I know about finger picking either.  What I hope to do, is to teach you enough about finger picking to get you "hooked" on this beautiful art form of guitar to the point that you will stay with it the rest of your guitar playing life.
 

Check out these deals

Paul's latest CD, Alone With Integrity
also his new site at www.fingerpick.net
###############################################################

   The best deal on this web site  - you save $14.68

Three CD's Relax And Reminisce, Eastern Shore + Goose Lake +
                         
TWO sets of customized finger picks
                                  
Free shipping in U.S.A  *  
                                          Total price
$44
             If you need MEDIUM finger picks or LEFT HAND thumb pick 
                            please include an email stating so.
                    Otherwise you will be sent LARGE RIGHT HAND picks.  
                                       To measure click hear.

                                        
                 With velvet pick bag >  $46.50
                                                   

* Red Asterisk means this only applies to shipping in lower 48 United States.    Outside the United States please click shipping cost.  (New Window)
                                     
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   The most popular buy on this site
- you save $6.30
                         
One CD Relax And Reminisce with                       
                       TWO sets
of customized finger picks
                                   Free shipping
in U.S.A
*    

                                        
Total price  $25.80
              
If you need MEDIUM finger picks or LEFT HAND thumb pick 
                            please include an email stating so.
                    Otherwise you will be sent LARGE RIGHT HAND picks.

                                           To measure click here.

                                                   

                        With velvet pick bag > $28.30

                       

* Red Asterisk means this only applies to shipping in lower 48 United States.   
 
Outside the United States please click shipping cost.  (New Window)
                                     

###############################################################

                   Why Learn To Finger Pick Guitar
Now I want to spend some time talking about WHY you should learn how to finger pick guitar.  The simple answer to why you should learn can be summed up with these two short answers: 

(1)  You will benefit.  When you learn finger picking guitar it will open a whole new world of skills to you.  It is a great challenge to learn finger picking and it will bring you much satisfaction for years and years to come!  

(2)  Your audience, will enjoy your talents even more.   Those who listen to you, that is your family, friends, or  if your a professional, your audience of devoted fans will like your music even more than they do now if you learn how to finger pick guitar.

I realize that likely you're already wanting to learn finger picking.  That's why you're here at this site....RIGTHT?  However, I want you to REALLY WANT it.  The above answers are simple and have been put in a nut shell.  For you to fully benefit you will likely need to be motivated to learn finger picking more then you already are now.  So it will be good to consider in more detail the reasons WHY you should learn finger picking.  So please be patient and read on as I discuss more about WHY you should learn how to finger pick guitar.  

There are probably as many styles of guitar playing as there are guitar players. It is a beautiful thing that each one of us can develop our own style of musical expression.  So WHY should you learn finger picking?  Or WHY should you learn finger style guitar? Does it really matter?  You might be thinking - 'Well, when you get right down to it,  it’s really a matter of 'personal taste' and 'personal preference
'.  This is true!  However, there is more to it than just your "personal preference" and this is what I want you to see!!!

Are you are someone that tells others that you play guitar "only for yourself" or only for your "own enjoyment" or as some say, "I'm a closet musician"?  If so then please think about this....  Actually, I don't believe people really mean that when they say those kinds of things.  Rather I believe it's because they lack confidence in their playing abilities and that they are just being modest.  Modesty.... now hat's a good thing! That's understandable too! 

However, playing the guitar should be more than just about you.  Music is an expression of your feelings! It is an expression of yourself!  An Expression of your heart! Isn't it only natural to want others to hear your expressions.  Ask yourself.... Are you in the habit of going in a room or your closet and talking to yourself?  If your answer is YES, then I can understand why you might do the same when you play your guitar.  For the rest of us "more normal" people we would like others to "hear" us when we express ourselves from the heart.  If you are honest with yourself, I think that you would admit that you would REALLY like people to listen to your music and enjoy it too.  Isn't that so?  Of course it is!

So then, I believe the REAL problem is related to your playing abilities.  The truth is that your not really too confident in your playing skills and you're afraid that others will not accept it or appreciate your guitar playing.  Now that IS normal! NO ONE wants that!  However, wouldn't it be great to feel confident enough in your guitar playing that you enjoyed playing for others?  Wouldn't it be great that when you poured your heart out through your guitar that others would say things like "hay man.... that was great" or "I love it when you play the guitar" or "that was just beautiful"!  Isn't that what you would really like?  Again... Of course it is!
         
I know that's certainly true of me.  As I stated at the outset, that is the main reason I want people to come to this web site.  I want them to listen to and appreciate my music.  I think that should be true of any musician and I'm sure that is true of you too.  If it isn't....well at least I think it should be!   Now you may not be interested in playing professionally.  That I can understand!  You may not care to play publicly at all.  I can get that too!  Even if this is true, I'm certain you would at lease like your friends and family to be hearing you.  Even if you're very timid or shy, I'm sure that deep down inside, you would like others to appreciate and enjoy your music.  Secretly, you would like some kind of recognition of your musical expressions!  Isn't that so?  If your honest with yourself, I believe you will be saying YES!!!  If you are then please don't be shy about it because that's the way it should be.  That's NORMAL!

The point I'm getting to is this!  Music should not be just about you.  There are others to consider!  It should also be about your audience!  I'll be talking more about this later but for now please just REMEMBER THIS - If you learn finger picking guitar, then those who hear you are going to appreciate your guitar playing much more.  I guarantee that!

Right now though, you may be just wandering if you should even attempt to learn to play finger style guitar, because you may feel it would be too difficult to learn.  I would like to help you decide about this too!  Please read on!

One thing to help you decide to learn how to finger pick guitar is to listen closely to accomplished musicians who play
finger style.  Likely, if you're like most people, finger picking guitar music will appeal to you. That is probably why you're here at this web site in the first place.  It may be just the thing that you want to learn to do.  However, even if it doesn't really appeal you, you should still make the effort to learn finger picking guitar.  Why?  Because you'll be happy you did in the long run.  This is especially true if you're a professional musician who needs to appeal to large numbers of the general public.  This is because finger picking guitar music does just that, it APPEALS to the general public.  

More than likely though, you're not a professional.  You probably just play the guitar as a source of enjoyment, perhaps with a friends or two or maybe just your family.  It may be like a hobby for you.  Even so, you should still learn how to finger pick guitar.  Why?  Again, because in the end you'll be happy you did.  If you learn finger picking, you will find that your hobby has taken on new dimensions.  It will give you much more satisfaction then before, when you didn't play finger style.  It will do this just because the very nature of the art of finger picking guitar is challenging.  In my opinion, it is close to the most challenging style of guitar playing there is.  Classical guitar being the most challenging which is itself finger style guitar.  Because it is so challenging, when you do make progress, it is so much more rewarding.  You will find that the music that comes rolling out of your own fingers is even impressing YOURSELF!  "Wow...I can't believe that I just played that", is the kind of thoughts and feelings you will be having.  You will find that you can't wait to the next time you can pick up your guitar to start playing it again. 

By now I hope you're starting to get the idea that I'm trying to convince you to learn finger picking.  I hope so because that's exactly what I'm trying to do.  You may feel "but I already want to learn finger picking".  That's GREAT!!!  I'm happy you do, however, as I said earlier, I want you to REALLY WANT to learn finger picking.  As in REALLY HAVE THAT DESIRE  to learn.  Why?  This is not just because it' brought me so much satisfaction and enjoyment.  It has done that for me but it's because your going to need lots of motivation.  I'm certain that finger picking will bring you lots of enjoyment just like it has for me, but it's also going to take a lot of hard work to get there.  Determination on your part is what will get you there.  You are going to need it to do what I'm going to be teaching you.  The thing is you will be doing this through the marvel of the internet.  So I'm not going to be right there with you to "hold your hand."  The drive to learn, has to come from within you.  It's been my experience that many who start out to learn finger picking using plastic finger picks end up giving up and doing something else that they feel is easier.  I don't want that to happen to you.  So if finger picking does appeal to you, and you would like to learn it but you feel you could never play that way because it's just too difficult.  Please be assured that I want to help you.  I CAN and WILL help you.  This web site can and will do just that  - but only if you REALLY WANT it.

Finger picking certainly does appeal to me!  Of  course, I first started to play the guitar in the 60’s when folk music was entering its prime and that may have something (probable a lot) to do with my preference.  However, I believe there is much more to WHY you should learn
how to finger pick guitar than just because it's my personal preference.  First, let me tell you why I prefer playing finger style, because you might see that you feel the same way.  

                     Why I Prefer Finger Style Guitar
For me personally, I can hear a popular song performed by many different talented artists and many times my favorite version is by the artist that used finger picking in their arrangement.  Finger style guitar is just very attractive to me.  I'm not sure exactly why it is, but it just is!  Like every red blooded boy in my early days, I loved the Beatles and tried to learn as many of their songs as I could.  However, the songs that had the most appeal to me or really stood out were those that employed finger picking. For example the first time I heard Black Bird, I just had to learn how to finger pick that song.  Other artists that I was personally ‘drawn to’ were Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Gordon Lightfoot, John Denver, Jim Croce, Paul Simon, James Taylor and others that often use finger style guitar work.  If you are like me, and you find yourself ‘drawn to that kind of sound', and you really want to learn finger picking too, please believe me when I say, you can learn to do it tooJust realize this - they had to learn to finger pick when they started,  so you can learn just like those artists did.  Just like I did!  Trust me, if I can learn finger picking, so can you.  I say this because in all honesty, my abilities at finger picking are more the result of shear determination rather then natural raw talent.  So I know that you can learn finger picking too!  BUT you are going to need to be determined enough to do so.  So please... really put that in your mind!  

Lets summarize what we've covered so fare.  There are two things that I want to help you to realize.  
1. - If you learn how to finger pick your guitar, it will certainly be worth the effort it takes to do so.  2 - I can help you to learn finger picking your guitar and it won't cost you anything but your time and effort.  That is, I can help you but only if you really want to learn.  You have to really want it.  I mean you really have to have that desire to learn how to finger pick.  Finger picking guitar is more complicated, and therefore, much more difficult and challenging to learn than just strumming or simply using a flat pick.  Many people begin to learn but end up giving up, especially when learning to finger pick when using plastic finger picks.  As I explained before this has been my experience over the years.  So you are going to need that motivation and I'm trying to help give that to you.  I don't want you to give up like those others.  This is why I want to impress upon you WHY you should learn finger picking guitar.   I'm trying to give you "reasons" to want to learn finger style.  So before we get into HOW to learn, let me give you some more reasons WHY you should learn finger style.  

                       Reasons to Finger Pick Guitar
I've been saying I'll get to this so now here we are.  Consider, for an example, the Gordon Lightfoot song Early Morning Rain.  It is truly a classic song.  That is the song that got Lightfoot's career off the ground.  It's popularity has made for many arrangements by many artists.  When Lightfoot first recorded Early Morning Rain, he strummed it on his12 string guitar.  Now please understand that one of the things that Lightfoot is known for is his very smooth and talented strumming abilities.  His early recording of Early Morning Rain is an excellent example of his skill in that area.  In my opinion, though, it is not Lightfoot's strumming but his finger picking style that makes his guitar work stand out above the crowd. Of course, I would never go so far as to say that his finger picking is what made him what he is, because that simply isn't true.  Just like any artist, it is a combination of things that makes them what they are.  Lightfoot is first and foremost an outstanding song writer, as well as a performer.  He is also an award winning vocalist.  My only point is that it is his finger picking that helps expand his appeal on the acoustic guitar work. That is, finger picking adds "size" or  "dimension" to his overall musical sound.  Finger picking also raises him up above the general flood of "folk singers, and  songwriters" in this world who do not finger pick their guitar.  That's something any professional artist should be interested in doing, including YOU!

Although Lightfoot was the writer and had an excellent original strumming version of the song Early Morning Rain, it was Peter, Paul & Mary's version that made that song popular, not Gordon Lightfoot's.  Peter, Paul & Mary's arrangement was one of beautiful finger picking guitar work as well as outstanding vocal harmonies.  This style of playing and singing is true of many of Peter, Paul and Mary's masterful arrangements. Check out this video of one of Peter, Paul and Mary's performances of Early Morning Rain in the year 1966.
 
 

In this video both Peter and Paul are using Travis Style finger picking which is one style of patterns I will be teaching you on this site.  Compare this to Gordon Lightfoot's original strumming version of this great song in 1979



Here Lightfoot explains that Peter Paul and Mary's arrangement of this song catapulted his career into the 'next level of show business' or "gave him a hand up the ladder".  In Lightfoot's video you can see there is a lot going on in his song.  Gordon is using his talented strumming techniques and his back up is using only a flat pick.  No one is finger picking except the steel guitarists which gives this song its country sound.  I love this song and I love this arrangement but it was Peter Paul and Mary's version that got the publics approval as it was a hit song for them. 

Peter Paul and Mary's arrangement of Early Morning Rain was very simple in comparison to Lightfoot's original song.  Their finger picking was quiet, relaxing, and peaceful with no attempt to be grand, showy, or pretentious.  Although soft and simple, their arrangement was  clear and powerfully moving.  Peter Paul and Mary made many other artists songs popular with their style too.  It has been said that they were the "Model" that many other "folk singers" would attempt to imitate for years and years to come. 

Here is a video of me on my 12 string finger picking Early Morning Rain.  You may like to compare!  Please leave a YouTube rating and comment!!!



Gordon Lightfoot’s first big hit was - Read My Mind - it too was a finger picking song. See this video of Lighfoot doing this hit song, Read My Mind.

 There are many other examples like this.  Jim Croce’s first hits,
Time In A Bottle
, and Operator both had finger style guitar work. 
 

James Taylor’s first hits, Sweet Baby James and Fire And Rain, both incorporate his unique style of finger picking guitar along with some strumming too.

 

Also, one of James Taylor's biggest hits was You’ve Got A Friend.  Although this song was not actually written by James Taylor but by Carol King, the general public still preferred his arrangement over hers.  Why? I believe finger style guitar work had something to do with this. 



These are just a few examples.  There are many, many more.  I'm sure you can think of some yourself.  What I'm getting to is this - it's not just my personal opinion about finger picking.  There is something about
finger style guitar work that is very attractive to people in general.  

This is not to say that if you learn to finger pick a song then it will have a better chance of having a hit!  That isn't my point.  Neither am I suggesting that finger picking is just for folk music, acoustical or classical guitar.  That is not the case either.  Folk music just happens to be a type of music that I like.  Eric Clapton is certainly not a "folk singer" but one of the finest "Rock" and "Blues" musicians there has ever been.  An excellent, master at outstanding guitar work with a flat pick!  Some consider him the BEST in the world!  It's not surprising that some of his most beloved songs employ finger style guitar.  Note that in this video he is playing an electric guitar and not an acoustic in this Blues number.  Finger style is not just for acoustic guitar!  See this example of some Eric Clapton jamming Blues with finger picking. 

 

Chet Atkins, or otherwise known as "Mr. Guitar" was a master at his art of finger style guitar.  He is well known in the world of "Country" music.  Many, many artists still love to imitate his finger style guitar.  Below he does a beautiful finger style instrumental of Don McLean's song - Vincent.  



Bonnie Rait is an outstanding "Blues" artist who sometimes uses finger picks in her unique finger picking guitar arrangements.

 

There are many, many examples of those who use finger picking guitar in their composition of songs.  Here is the thing - they do finger picking not because they are "folk" singers, or classical guitarists.  They do this because of the "appeal" that finger style guitar work brings to their music.  By employing finger style guitar, these professional masters have added that extra "dimension," that I've been talking about.  They have done it with good taste and  good results!!!  That is why they use finger picking and that is just another reason WHY you should learn to finger pick your guitar too.  There are more reasons so please keep reading!

Personally, I think it's a crying shame how many artists playing the guitar today have limited themselves solely to a flat pick.  It's understandable in Blue Grass music because that is a style that traditionally uses only a flat pick.  However, in Blue Grass there is usually others in a group of musicians who are all playing together and the overall sound is filled with lots of individual parts.  When done skillfully Blue Grass can be some of the greatest music that can be produced.  It too, is some of my most favorite music personally.  But when it's just one person performing and he is only using a flat pick and mostly if not always strumming their guitar that is a totally different story.  It seems to me that this has been a dominating trend now for many years.  Not that strumming doesn't take talent, because it does!  However, it's a talent that many artists have.  This is another reason why I'm offering finger picking lessons free of charge to help you learn how to finger pick your guitar.  I would very much like to see and hear more young, up-coming artists incorporate finger style guitar or finger picking guitar work into their music. 

If you're already an accomplished guitarist and/or a professional guitarist of many years, and you still don't do finger picking and do it well, then please LISTEN UP to what I'm about to tell you.  Your musical expressions have been limited and it says something about your talent!  I'm not trying to offend you.  Nor am I trying to hurt your feelings.  I'm trying to WAKE YOU UP!  Why not broaden out your talents?  I suggest that you add this appealing "dimension" of finger style guitar work to your many already accomplished guitar skills.  I'm certain that if you do learn how to finger pick guitar and incorporate it with your already unique style of playing, you will have a positive response from your audience and devoted fans.  Others have!  So will you!!!  
            
            I GUARANTEE THAT!

                  Another Reason to Finger Pick Guitar 
Guitar is an instrument that has traditionally been used to accompany story telling and singing.  It's hard to put a finger on exactly why this is true but IT IS TRUE and it's been going on and on, going back for generations of time.  Guitar and voice just go together like a hand in a glove .  They have always been a natural combination.  There is something about playing guitar that just invites singing just like peanut butter invites jelly.  Perhaps you feel a little timid when it comes to singing.  You need not be!  (At first, singing was a concern of mine, perhaps it is of yours too).  I'm of the opinion that just about anyone who can talk can also sing - that is, if they really put their mind to it (of course, there are always exceptions).  Singing is simply a verbal way of  expression feelings, that most anyone can do.  Keep in mind that there are many styles of singing just as there are many styles of guitar playing.  It's true, some people's voices may be more pleasing than others.  Of course personal taste comes in here too.  However, I believe that people in general are more tolerant of a person's singing style and vocal abilities if they see in the artist real talent.  This brings us around to finger picking your guitar. 

For example, singing has never been Bob Dylan's strong point, but in no way has that ever hindered his talented expressions.  His talent, is not only in the performing but especially in the writing of the songs themselves.  His lyrics and poems are considered by many to be masterpieces of a very high order, and rightly so, because that's just what some of them are.  He is like a "king of the hill" in contemporary song writing.  I believe that the public in general are more accepting of his singing style, because they can see in him and admire his outstanding creativity and lyrical genius.  Here is the point I'm getting to - When you stand out as a talented musician, you don't have to shy away from singing. 

It is similar with finger picking guitar.  Learning finger picking, and learning to do it well, will quickly lift your guitar work above the rest of the crowd and show off your musical talents.  Your finger style guitar work will enhance and add variety to your overall sound, and it will also impress people very much with your abilities.  Also your voice will never have sounded so good, because it will be backed up with beautiful finger picking guitar.  Talent is what is appealing to people, it is what people love to see and hear..  If you learn finger picking guitar, you will have added to your over all talents and so you will have added to your appeal.  

Most people who begin to play the guitar concentrate mostly on the left hand (assuming they are right handed) learning to play chords and scales and things like that. Very little time is spent on the right hand skills.  More than likely that's true of you too.  When I first started, I know it was true for me. All through my high school years, I played only with a flat pick. Occasionally, I would attempt to pick a song or two with bare fingers (like Black Bird) but very awkwardly.  However, when I began to really concentrate on the “other hand,” that is, my "right hand," a whole new world of guitar playing opened up to me.  Once I entered that "world" I’ve never looked back.  I continued to work on finger style guitar playing not just because of the challenge, but because I love it.  If you learn how to finger pick your guitar you will learn to love it too.  Of that I'm certain!  
 


                                Using Finger Picks

Now I would like to discuss a little bit about what I think about metal picks! Basically I feel plastic picks are better suited for guitar and metal picks are better suited for banjo.  I know people say that is just my opinion and of course that is true.... On the up side, metal picks are easier to find in music stores.  They are also easier to fit to your fingers then plastic picks.  When you're playing the guitar metal picks do feel less bulky then plastic picks.  However the down side for me is they also produce a SOUND that I DO NOT like.  Metal picks in my "opinion" produce a "tinny" and almost "harsh like" sound. They also have a tendency to produce an annoying "scraping" sound as the metal moves across the wound strings on an acoustic guitar.  Plastic picks help eliminate these problems.  This is why flat picks are usually made with plastic and NOT METAL.  A plastic pick delivers a warm, clear, crisp sound.  A sound that is more mellow then you will ever get with a metal pick and yet they still deliver plenty of volume. To me, I don't mind putting up with the disadvantages inherent in the plastic. I guess you could say I'm more concerned about the sound quality then in taking the easy way when it comes to using finger picks.

Recently I have been listening to a CD of a very accomplished finger style guitarist who calls himself Arkansas Red. His real name is Michael and he is one of the best finger style guitarist I've had the pleasure of knowing personally. However, he uses metal picks and not plastic. He also plays banjo and this no-doubt contributes to why he uses metal picks on his guitar.  People have told me that plastic picks feel "clunky" compared to metal picks.  I agree with them because that is true!  This is especially true if you're used to wearing the metal picks when playing the banjo.  Anyway, the stuff Mike does on his CD is fantastic but it is obvious to me that he used metal picks.  That "tinny" sound is throughout his music tracks. That "cutting" of the metal against metal... to me it's distracting, annoying and takes away from the overall quality of the music.

To me plastic picks just have a way of mellowing the sound out and yet they still give that clear, clean, crisp delivery with plenty of volume. To me the sound quality you get with plastic is worth "getting used to the clunky".  As I explained earlier, this is why I teach my students right from the start to finger pick guitar using plastic finger picks rather than metal picks.  I do this so as to avoid the problems inherent with the metal picks and yet you will still get the clean, crisp clarity and precision with plastic picks.   

Download free audio clip
about finger picking using plastic finger picks.

When you begin to learn finger style guitar, I believe it is BEST (but not the easiest) to learn using plastic finger picks right from the start.  This is what I have been recommending to my students for years.  Let me explain more about why I do this now!  Many times I have had guitarists who already play finger style, come to me with comments on the superior clean sound quality, clarity, speed and consistency that I am able to get with plastic finger picks.  They compare that to what they may be doing without picks.  So they say that they would like to learn to use finger picks too.  That's understandable!  (This has happened to me many many times) and so I'll offer to help them.  I would even go so far as to shape some of my special custom finger picks for them (I discuss these custom picks later on down the page, and how they can make it a little easier to learn with.) and still many of them don't stay with it.  Why is that?  Good question!!!  Let me answer that now!  

Well, I've asked them that very question.  They tell me the reason they stopped using the picks so quickly is that the picks, "slow me down", "get in the way", or "they make me feel clumsy", "They're frustrating" or something else along those lines. (There is more about this too, under the section "Pros and Cons of Nails and Plastic Finger Picks")  Sad to say... they stopped using the plastic picks!  However, I have found through experience that when the student learns finger style guitar while using plastic finger picks right from the start, he (or she) is more likely to succeed in using the picks permanently.  I believe this is because when beginning, it's ALL NEW to the student and the using of picks is just part of the learning process.  Since they're is so many advantages to using plastic picks it's a shame that so many never actually persevere long enough and actually learn to use them.  So this is why I teach my students to get over that "using plastic finger picks hurdle" right from the start.   

When you learn how to finger pick your guitar using plastic finger picks, you will be entering that new world of guitar playing.  You will be adding a lot of that "dimension" and "appeal" to your guitar work that I've been talking about.  Finger picking that moves along rapidly comes at you so quickly that it makes it difficult for the mind of the listener to keep up with all of what was just heard.  It’s like “what was that!” Still, despite the speed, the mind is able to comprehend that this music is orderly, very clear and very, very clean -- More than any other style of guitar playing, finger style guitar, when done with plastic finger picks is clean and captivating.  When you learn finger picking guitar, using finger picks, you will be able to do arrangements that really stand out as different; arrangements that will grab the attention of people and truly impress them! That is true for these two very simple reasons.
  

1.
- Few people play finger style guitar using plastic finger picks and even fewer do it well.
 
2.
- The very nature of finger picking with plastic finger picks -- Stands out as different and it is captivating.  


For example consider the song, Bob Dylan’s Dream.   It has been performed by many outstanding artists.  It too is truly a classic song and also one of my favorites. That’s why I included it on my first CD, Relax and Reminisce.  It's track #13. Listen to my finger picking version, with its finger picking guitar work that moves right along, and see if you do not agree that it can make a difference in a song.  All 14 songs in this album has finger picking guitar work somewhere in each arrangement and all the finger picking was done using plastic finger picks.  In some songs the finger picking was used as a back up for strumming.  In others, finger picking guitar is the main stay of the song. 

I thank you for helping me when you purchase my CDs.  You see..... I need encouragement too!  Please  purchase CD  by clicking here or on it's title.  It's one way you can SHOW your appreciation for what I'm offering you free of charge!  I explain later the benefits that come simply by listening to others play.  Especially will you benefit from this particular CD because the different songs on the album Relax And Reminisce incorporate the picking patterns that you can learn to play and are taught right here free of charge on this website.  If you master just a few of the basic "Travis" style patterns taught here you can learn to finger pick most of the songs on this CD.  Also most of the songs on this CD are cover songs and familiar to many people.  By using this CD along with the lyrics and chords page of this site you can learn to play them similar to the way I do. 

You can order the CD along with TWO sets of custom finger picks for only $22.   You save on the reduced combo prices, no shipping cost 
 
         Please REMEMBER I would love you to buy and listen to my CD's.

Back to the point I was making here!  There is a huge difference between finger picking guitar using finger picks, compared to just using bare fingers and nails or relying solely on a flat pick.  I'll discuss using bare fingers and nails in the next sections below, but for right now as far as the flat pick goes, let me just say this.  There is simply no way in the world that even the best guitarist can play with a flat pick what can be done with finger picks.  It just cannot be done!!! 
Using a flat pick can produce some awesome sounds and any good guitarist should know how to use one well.  The fact is though - those who finger pick guitar using plastic finger picks can duplicate just about anything done with a flat pick. They can also do much, much more than those limited to just a flat pick, and they can do it much, much faster and much cleaner too.  Why?  Because they have more picks on their hand -- four picks as compared to one flat pick (this is the way I teach finger style guitar - with the use of one thumb pick, and three clear plastic finger picks).  

Do the math - one flat pick just doesn't add up to four finger picks!  

                            Bare Fingers and Nails
It is true however, that there are times when you may prefer not to use finger picks for some particular songs.  Sometimes bare fingers and nails are preferred over using picks, because of wanting that particular unique sound. Especially is this true on classical or concert type guitars (with nylon strings). 
However, there are some who always use only their bare fingers and finger nails, and there are certain genre of finger style guitar that uses only bare fingers and nails.  Spanish, Flamingo, and Classical guitar are of that school of training.  There are some awesome musicians out there that play these styles of guitar.  However, there are some who play contemporary guitar and say they prefer finger picking only with bare fingers and nails.  They say this even though they play a Dreadnought style guitar with steel strings.  I believe they say this because they don't really know how to use finger picks.  So next I want to say some things about the pros and cons of using finger picks and using finger nails.

            
Pros and Cons of Nails and Plastic Finger Picks
Let me start his section by saying - There may be times when nails are preferred over picks. (even with steel string guitars)  However, if you have learned to use finger picks and use them well, you will find that in most cases using plastic finger picks is the best way to go because picks are better suited in most situations.  Let me explain why I say this.

Using only fingers and nails can be a beautiful thing but there are several problems. First of all, the finger nails on your fingers are growing in the wrong direction as compared to the finger picks.  Because of this the nails will tend to want to 'bite' or 'grab' the strings making it difficult to get consistent sounds. To demonstrate what I mean. Try this with your guitar - Coming up on the strings - strum your finger across the strings so that it is the nail that is playing the strings.  Now strum the strings going down - again, using your nails.  Which was easier to do?  YES!  Going down!  Why? Because the way your finger nails are growing.  This is what makes it more difficult to pick the strings fast, smoothly and consistently too.  To overcome this problem a classical guitarist must completely change his hand position in order to sweep his fingers across the strings for faster consistent sounds. In contrast the plastic finger picks are designed with the curve of the pick tongue going the desired way.  That is it's in a way that the strings just simply roll off the tip of the pick creating a clean, clear sound. 

Another problem with using nails is the nails themselves. You will need to have them be a certain length and in a certain condition. (how long is a personnel matter of taste, style and feel). The problem is that these things are always changing.  Not just the growing of the nails and the need to have them trimmed and filed but also if you wash your hands it affects their stiffness and strength of the nails.  What you eat and drink affects them, and even the weather can change their condition too.  Again, finger picks eliminate all those problems and worries while playing
finger style guitar.  Especially if you're a professional who performs before audiences on a regular basis then you know how important constancy can be.  Again, for this, finger picks wins over nails hands down.

Another problem is you cannot get the same amount of volume from nails that you can with finger picks, because nails are just not strong enough. Even with finger nail enhancements (explained in next few paragraphs). This factor is especially important if you are a professional performer. When you are performing, it seems like there is always a need for more volume. That’s why people break their nails while performing
finger style guitar, because their nails just can’t deliver the volume they need and still hold up.  Braking a nail - now that is not a good thing when playing live! 

I had a student email me one time that had been doing some of the exercises that I recommended in learning new picking patterns and he was using his new custom finger picks I had made for him.  He said that he was exaggerating the exercise and picked the strings with so much force that one of the pegs came flying out of the bridge on his guitar.  I thought to my self..."no way you could do that with nails".  Now I know... he couldn't have had the peg in correctly or that just couldn't have happened.  Still you wouldn't be able to do that with just nails because of their inherent problems.   Just the same, there are reasons to want to use only finger and nails at times.

To over come the weakness issues of the natural nails there are things that some guitarist do to enhance or improve the strength of the nails of their picking hand.  You can use acrylics and or even false nails for this purpose.  This can greatly improve the durability and strength of the nail but even doing this it will never equal a plastic pick.  On the plus side if you choose to use this option, you will always have your nails with you. On the down side, sometimes those false nails and acrylics come popping off right in the middle of a performance and there is no way of knowing when that is going to happen.  Suddenly they give way and it happens... that's it!  NOT GOOD!  In contrast if a plastic finger pick is used in aggressive, forceful, hard playing and starts to slip you can feel it starting to happen and you just can make a needed adjustment.  At least the whole performance isn't lost. 

Another down side with the enhancements of the nails is this only last a couple of weeks or at best three weeks and then you have to remove the old remnants of the last nails and reconstruct a new set.  This reconstruction project is quite time consuming and can be very frustrating.  You see you're using your left hand to work on your right which, if you're like me, can be a real challenge.  However, once you have the new set of finished nails they are new!  They are never exactly like the last nails you just had so you'll need to get used to them but you're good to go until you need to do it again in a few weeks or so.  A lot of people do this but honestly I've never seen anyone playing a steel string guitar (Dreadnought) who can pick as smoothly, consistently, loudly and as fast using nails as people do with finger picks.  Itís been my experience that it just doesnít happen!
 
Don't get me wrong.  One of my favorite sounds is when using nails.  It is when the finger tip and the nail are both touching the string just before it's played. This is a sweet sound, especially on a classical or Concert type (nylon strings) guitar. You just cannot get ‘that sound’ using plastic or any other kind of finger picks for that matter. It is unique only to fingers and nails. However, to get ‘that sound’ consistently, you have to get your finger placement just right, just when you need it, and that means you must slow down. Even then, for me it has always been a hit or miss proposition.  Sometimes you get "that sound", other times you miss! Still bare nails and fingers does have it's appeal in certain situations and so it's something that should be learned too.   

In my experience I have found that finger picks are much more forgiving when it comes to consistent sound quality.  Also picks allow some margin for error in finger placement upon the strings before the strings are plucked as compared to getting the bare finger and nails just right on the string. (for that particular desired sound)
  
For beginners one of the appealing advantages of using bare fingers is that you can actually "feel the strings" as you play.  This can certainly be a desirable thing especially when you are first starting to learn how to finger pick your guitar because you can "feel" your way around, as you go.  This can allow you to "know" by "feel" if you're on the string correctly or not.  This is not true with finger picks because with finger picks it is the pick that touches the string and not any part of your finger, and you are not actually "touching" the strings. (There are some new types of picks out now that allows you to "touch" the strings as you play, but the ones I've seen are metal picks and therefore I don't recommend them because of the metal against metal issues.)

However, even with the picks you can "know" where you are.  This is because  finger picks are simply a tool.  Just like a carpenter "knows" or "feels" that he has hit the nail with his hammer (a tool) so too the guitarist can "feel" or "know" when he's properly on the strings of the guitar.  However, you must learn to use the tool! When using plastic finger picks you will learn to depend on your anchor for "knowing" where you are in relation to strings for finger placement.  This can very effectively be done, but it does take some practice. (I explain about use of the anchor in the finger picking patterns and lessons pages as well as in the "Right Hand Position" page)  

Another apparent advantage of bare fingers for beginners is this - if you're not attempting to get that "desired sound" we talked about earlier, then you may think you don't have to be quite as precise with your finger placement as when wearing picks.  This is another reason why  beginners many times prefer not to wear picks and then they fall into a sloppy picking technique that needs to be "unlearned" later.  What happens is they kind of just haphazardly put their fingers in there anywhere and just play anything that happens to be there at the time.  It's like "what happens...happens" kind of thing.  For these reasons many beginners feel that they can learn finger picking quicker without finger picks, or that it is easier for them to learn this way!  Please do not fall into this thinking.  This approach to learning to finger pick your guitar is sad and definitely has it's down falls.  Namely poor finger picking technique and you'll never play a song the same way twice.  Please don't cut corners!  Instead think in terms of appling yourself to learn to finger pick your guitar using plastic finger picks.  You'll be happier if you do.

Do you still say WHY should I learn to finger pick using finger picks?  Consider this fact!

This will demonstrate how the above things I've explained are true. 

Put finger picks on someone who has already learned finger picking without wearing plastic finger picks.  If he has played that way for some time and gotten used to it, you will find the same thing that I have found.  That all of a sudden they can't finger pick anymore!  I have done this many, many times, and it's always the same!  Try it yourself sometime.  I'm sure you'll find the same thing.  Why does this happen?  Well it's because they haven't really "learned the basic techniques" necessary for proper finger picking the way they should have.  They have done what was explained in the previous paragraphs.  They did what was "EASY' at first or what was "FAST" when learning and  as a result they have now developed bad habits! They now have a sloppy style that in the long run will actually hinder there music rather than improve it.  That's why when they put the picks on they complain that they don't like them or that the picks just get in the way.  Well yeah....they "get in the way" all right.  They "get in the way" because their playing technique is poor and they don't know how to use the finger picks.  

Can you see from these things that the solution to the problem is very simple.  The solution is THIS. Learn finger picking right from the start while using plastic finger picks.  This is just another reason why I teach my students that you should learn to finger pick, using plastic finger picks right from the start.  

Another reason, or advantage to using plastic finger picks when beginning is related to the above things too.  Finger picks will "quickly bring to your attention" where you need to make improvements in your hand and finger placement, your finger movements and your overall style of playing.  Basic techniques are always better learned while wearing finger picks because those wrong things have to be correct right away when using the picks.  Without the picks you can "get away" with being sloppy.  Not so when wearing finger picks.  Also the sound quality will be better when using the plastic finger picks and this makes for better and more motivation to keep trying to learn to finger pick using the picks. 

Finally you should remember this - if you learn how to finger pick guitar using finger picks you will have no problem at all with finger picking your guitar when you take the picks off.  So for those special songs when you want that "desired sound" that only bare fingers and nails delivers, just take your picks off and use bare fingers and nails!  It's that's SIMPLE!

                  Learn Different Ways of Finger Style 
I have offered to help many guitarist to learn to use plastic finger picks when playing finger style guitar.  I've been told by many of them that when they are finger picking guitar they prefer not to use picks but to use only bare fingers and nails.  I think I've heard just about every possible reason why they don't like plastic picks.  However, I believe that contemporary guitarists who prefer to use only fingers and nails are the ones who have never overcome those first awkward feelings of using plastic finger picks.  Certainly the clear, crisp sound that finger picks produce COULD NOT be the objection!  Nor is it the volume that those picks produce a reason not to use them! 

Think about this - you know it's possible to strum the guitar using just bare fingers and nails too.  Why is it that those same guitarists who object to using finger picks don't object to using a flat pick when strumming their guitar.   Instead of a flat pick why not always use just bare fingers and nails to strum their guitar?  You can get some great sounds strumming with just bare fingers and nails.  Flamingo guitarists can blow you away with their bare fingered strumming.  Some of those sounds they get are awesome and you could never even get close to that with a flat pick.  So why do those people who object to using finger picks not object to using a flat pick? Why is that?  I'll tell you what I think.  I think the real reason they don't object to using a flat pick is that a flat pick is relatively easy to use.  So they have "no complaints about using a flat pick."  And so... I believe the real reason they don’t like finger picks is because finger picks are TOO DIFFICULT FOR THEM to use. 

Finger picks are too difficult for them only for one reason.  They have never done what it takes to use them.  Don't let that be true of you!  Don't let that hurdle cause you to be missing out on all the good that can come from using plastic finger picks!  

Yes, it is true that there are disadvantages to finger picks, but there are also disadvantages to nails as well. There are also advantages to finger picks over nails and there are advantages unique only to nails. So then why should you limit yourself to just only one way of finger picking? Why not learn to play both ways? "Variety is the spice of life and it also adds life to music."  (Hay, I like that!  I just made that up!  Cool!  It's true too!  You can quote me on that if you like!)  Variation is the key point I've been stressing here.  Variety is a beautiful thing in music.  It is good to learn to do both.  Make it your goal then to learn to play the guitar using a variety of styles.  When learning finger style guitar, learn to use plastic finger picks right from the start and also learn to use bare fingers and nails.  I'm speaking solely from experience now.  I don't believe that using plastic finger picks is just a good idea for some people.  Rather, I believe it's the BEST way to learn for everyone interested in finger picking guitar.  I believe it is a must for any serious guitarist.  Especially professionals.  

         It's BEST to Learn Using Plastic Finger Picks
As I explained in the section above, (if you haven't read it yet, please do) when you first begin finger picking guitar, you will be better off  to learn while using plastic picks.  Summarizing some of the reasons for you again;  Generally speaking, the crispness, clarity and volume of plastic finger picks will be preferred over the bare fingers and nails.  Also, using finger picks will have a natural way of bringing to your attention the areas in your technique where you need to improve. 
You need to realize though, that there is the matter of - you have to get use to using them.  Plastic finger picks feel awkward at first.  Wearing them may make you feel "clumsy" in your attempt at learning to finger pick.  It takes time, work and determination to overcome those initial awkward feelings.  But it can be done and I believe it to be the BEST course to take! 

As I explained, most people don't give it the necessary time and effort required to play with finger picks.  They don't have the desire necessary to work at it and they give up too quickly.  So if you learn to finger pick using plastic picks you will have already reached out far above those other guys (or girls) that didn't give it that necessary effort.  Also, as I said before, for those who do master this art, the end result is a BETTER guitarist that has more variation in their music and therefore a more overall appeal.  

I remember while in college I went to a coffee house (common in the 70's) to hear some folk singers and acoustic guitar music.  There was a guy there (can't remember his name) that played "The Boxer" by Paul Simon on a 12 string Martin D35.  He was outstanding at picking and strumming while using finger picks.  He would change from finger picking to strumming and back again to finger picking, without missing a note and blending the two with smooth transitions in-between, and he did it with outstanding skill. That performance simply blew me away!  I've forgotten his name, but I have never forgotten his guitar playing.  I was convinced right then and there that I needed to learn to play like that.  That helped me!  That experience had such a profound and powerful influence on me that shortly after that I went out and bought a Martin D35.  (I still have that guitar to this day)  Hearing that performance helped me to have the desire necessary to learn to finger pick.  I made up my mind that night, right then and there, that nothing was going to stop me from learning to finger pick like that.   I wish I could just give that determination to you!  I wish I could just click my fingers and ...WHAMMOOO...you have that desire!  Unfortunately it just doesn't work like that.  Even in this high tech age of the internet the best I can hope for is to write these things down.  Make them available to you and hope that you get the point of what I'm trying to tell you.  

As a final note to encourage you - I’ve been using plastic finger picks since the early 70's.  At first, it was awkward for me too.  I was able to get over those initial feels of using plastic finger picks and for the most part, now I prefer to have them on.  I was able to do it and I did it without the help of any web site... free or otherwise!.  The internet didn't exist back then.  Can you imagine?  If I could do it without that help, I know you can do it too.  Especially will you be able to with my the help of this site!  But AGAIN -  to do it you will have to have that desire to do it.  That's what I had.  I had a lot of desire!  You have to want to learn to finger pick using plastic finger picks.  I hope that some of the things I have told you will help you want to do it and be determined to give it your best.  Please do!!!

                                      
Using A Flat Pick?
It is true that there are things that can be done with a flat pick that finger picks seem to hinder.  Strumming the guitar for example.  It is generally much smoother to strum with a flat pick than with finger picks but again, strumming can be done very effectively with finger picks too.  The experience mentioned above about the man at the coffee house who was finger picking and strumming the Martin D35, 12 string, is a good example of this.  REMEMBER that variation is good!  So learn to strum with finger picks as well as with a flat pick.  Again you should learn to do both.  But learn to use a flat pick for other guitar work too.   

For example, in addition to scales and other lead guitar composition, you can also do "Travis picking" using a flat pick.  This will also help add variation to your flat pick guitar work.  Basically this is done this way.  When you're hitting the bass notes, you're using a downward motion of the pick, and when hitting the treble notes you're coming up on the strings.  You alternate back and forth between the bass and treble notes, with the up and down motion - going back and forth, up and down.  Your effort here is to do the same "Travis" picking patterns found on this site.  
I'll be discussing this style later down the page.  

For example when playing "Now is Now", (download 2 minute mp3 sample @ 80kbps; 1,180KB) the last track on my Goose Lake CD, you will hear the12 string guitar being played like this in the background of the chorus.  It is repeated twice in the above download.  This style comes easily to those who already know how to finger pick using finger picks, because it's an easy transfer to the flat pick from finger picks.  However, it is very difficult to learn this if you haven't any finger picking skills at all.  The problem with this method, even for a skilled player is accuracy in pick placement, especially in faster tempos.  With this method you have no "picking anchor," because you need to be moving your hand back and forth.  With all the picking hand movement, even the best guitarists tend to be sloppy as speed builds.  Using a 12 string and playing open chords, it can sound fairly good as a back up.  In slow tempo songs this can be done very effectively on a six string too, but this style simply has natural limits.

Ask yourself - how much talent does it really take to strum the guitar with a flat pick anyway?  It seems like everyone can do that!  Of course some artists are outstanding at strumming and that is great!  However, it's sad to say, too many people simply strum the guitar using a flat pick and
that's ALL THEY DO!  To me that is boring!  I believe they do this because that's how to do.  That doesn't have to be true of you.  Not with this web site available to you!  Remember, what we said earlier;  "Variety is the spice of life and it also adds life to music."   Please remember that!  Please learn how to finger pick!  And learn to finger pick well!  It will add LIFE to your music.

                                         Hybrid Picking
There is also a "kind" of finger picking that is done using a flat pick that I've heard referred to as "Hybrid" picking.  This is when the guitarist holds the flat pick between the1st finger (forefinger) and thumb, and uses the 2nd and 3rd fingers (and sometimes even the little finger) to do the finger picking of the other strings.  This style is usually done as an "added feature" or "variation" to the predominant flat pick guitar work of lead guitarists.  People who use this style of picking usually always use bare fingers and tend to shy away form wearing finger picks on the 2nd and 3rd fingers.  This is because the guitarist must move his hand around quickly with the flat pick lead work, and with all the strumming going on, the fast moving right hand wrist action could cause the finger picks to get caught up in the strings and pull them off.  You don't want your picks to come flying off or something like that right in the middle of you performance.  Obviously that is NOT A GOOD THING!  So no finger picks with this style of picking.  For and example of this style of Hybrid Picking see Eric Clapton doing his famous blues guitar work.

 

I personally have never had much need to develop this type of playing because I usually just use finger picks when I want to do finger picking in a song.  So I'm not very good at it at all. (To be honest, I'm horrible)   However, there are those who are quite skilled at it.  I just met a guy named Steve Duke, who's 63 years old and lives in Virginia.  He has played the guitar since he was 10 and is one of the best lead guitarists I've ever had the privilege to play with.  He uses this kind of "hybrid" picking a lot because he has always used just a flat pick.  Like Steve, some are very skilled at this style and can do some amazing stuff.  I couldn't possibly do those things with a flat pick because I have never worked at developing that method.  Also, this style of guitar playing is usually done by "lead" guitar players who are backed up by a band or other players.  Many times this style is done with electric guitars, although it's done on acoustic guitars as well.  Steve and I played together for about 12 hours straight, all acoustic, and the two styles although quite different, were HOT together.  Many times in that "jam" session  both of us would be raising our eyebrows saying "YEAH....now I like that"!!! 

The obvious advantage to this kind of "hybrid picking" is you have the flat pick ready in hand to do the things that flat picks stand out in.  Like flat pick lead work (with individual notes and scales) or of course "Strumming."  If you're doing a song that requires a lot of strumming or lead guitar work and very little picking, this may be a good option.  If you play in a group, and you want to "add" to the overall sound of the band with variation as a lead guitarist, I would recommend learning this style.  However, if you want your "finger picking" to be equal in quality to your flat pick work, this style will simply never measure up.  It just can't because of it's "cramped" properties! (discussed in the next paragraph)  Again, you simply cannot beat the plastic finger picks for a consistent, clear, clean, sound with lots of volume.  So if you do solo guitar playing, or your playing guitar for the purpose of accompanying your singing of songs, I wouldn't bother with this style.  I'd concentrate instead on finger picking with plastic finger picks.  That's the approach I take. 

Also another problem I noticed with this "hybrid" style is your picking hand is always busy being "occupied" with trying to "hold" the flat pick between the finger and thumb.  This makes for "tightness" in the picking hand and tends to "hinder" the freedom of movement of the "picking fingers". In a short time that can make for fatigue that can limit your playing time. In many cases the finger picking sections of songs may be limited in time so this may not be that big of a concern. In an attempt to get away from this "problem", some just put the flat pick down and just use their bare fingers to do the finger picking parts of a song, then they grab the pick again to do the other parts of the song.  The problem with that maneuver should be obvious!  This would be totally unacceptable for me because with my guitar work, I'm usually by myself, and the guitar is accompanying my singing of lyrics.  I can't afford to stop in order to pick up a pick.  So I tend to focus on the finger picking using finger picks.  For this reason I wear finger picks in "picking songs", and when it comes to the strumming parts in those songs, I use the finger picks to strum with.  In songs that are predominantly strumming, I take off the finger picks and just use a flat pick.  In these songs I may use some "Travis picking" using the flat pick, or isolate different notes needed to bring out the melody in an interlude or something like that but that's all.

Incidentally I did ask Steve if he had ever tried to use finger picks.  I bet you know the answer I got. You guessed it!  "I don't like them".... he said. That's okay!  We still had a blast playing together.
         
                         Travis Finger Picking
When doing Travis picking (named after Merle Travis) some guitarists use only a thumb pick and one finger.  Usually the first finger. .  Merle Travis, was born in 1917, and basically thought himself how to play the guitar.  His father played the banjo and that was all he had to give him any direction.  So he incorporated the banjo techniques of his father in his guitar playing.  He learned how to play on a home made guitar built by his brother.  Is that cool.... or WHAT!  He later used an old wind-up phonograph to help him learn songs. [click here to learn more about Merle Travis (new window)].  Now there was a man who was determined.  The man was truly a wonder and a legend of his own time and he has been a wonderful influence on musicians even to this day.  Self included!  He even has a style of guitar playing named after him.  People often refer to "Travis picking."  That's Cool!  

The picking that Merle Travis did is called by many people - "finger picking." However, I personally hesitate to class this "Travis style picking" (the way Merle Travis really did it) as
being truly "finger picking" your guitar, because you're only really using but just the one finger.  However, the alternating of thumb to finger and the changing of strings as you go is what has become known as "Travis picking."  So this is what many people mean when they refer to "Travis picking" or "Travis style" guitar.  So on this web site when your learning "Travis" picking patterns, I will not be teaching it exactly like Merle Travis did it.  Rather it will be the style of finger picking guitar that has become known as "Travis picking."  Actually, like most things, his style has been developed and improved over the years by others.  What I'm offering on this site is the use of all three fingers and thumb in learning your picking patterns.  The little finger is used as an "anchor".  I'll discuss this in detail later.

Finger picking guitar the way Merle Travis actually did it, does have appeal for guitarists because of its freedoms.  However, it has some drawbacks and limitations too.  These are are the things I like to try to avoid by teaching finger picking with three fingers.  Let me explain about this. Usually Travis picking (done as Merle Travis did with his thumb and forefinger) is not as clean because the artist tends to be sloppy with all his 'freedom.' This is because the guitarist lacks precision in pick placement and the result is that he 'accidentally' hits strings (notes) he didn't intend to hit from time to time.  This is a very common problem with people doing Travis picking because it's not just the thumb but also the one finger that has to be alternating between the different strings.  This makes for mistakes that can be very distracting, strange sounding, and downright embarrassing at times.

The advantage of using the method of finger picking that I use is that your three fingers are "assigned" each to an individual string and so you have no need to "think" about finger placement so you are hitting each string each string correctly.  You "know" that it's going to be there because your hand isn't moving around but rather it's anchored in one spot.   So with my method all you have to concentrate on is what you're picking with the Thumb ( the base strings).  The fingers just naturally follow with little or no thought.  So the rest of the picking pattern just comes rolling off your hand naturally without having to concentrate on it.  This is true however, only because of practice and repetition as I discus in greater detail starting in the section, "HOW to Learn To Finger Pick." The end result is that you can concentrate more on your singing (singing mistakes are more obvious to people because that's what they are concentrating on) and less on your guitar work.  To my way of thinking that's a real plus. 

Perhaps you've heard some who are concentrating so much on their guitar work that their singing suffers.  It happens to the best of them!  Don McLean is one of my favorite artists and has written some of the best songs I know.  He is truly a lyricist.  Don McLean's "And I Love You So" is one of my favorite songs, but look and listen to this of him singing this beautiful song in his younger years.  You'll hear him go flat on his sustained notes. 



No doubt this is in part because it's his first song before this audience (you can tell because he is getting ready to play by putting his finger picks on) and he is nervous.  Notice too, that he also uses two fingers in his Travis style, which is better then one, but not as good as three.  You can see in this example that his singing suffers somewhat as he is shifts his concentration to his guitar work.  Notice that when he looks down at his guitar and he goes flat.  Nervousness can be a real problem especially when starting out but as the song goes on he improves.  The lesson to be learned is this; Keep your guitar work as mindless as you possibly can and concentrate on singing.  Three fingers are better then two.  Two are better then one.  It's simple math.

Another disadvantage in using just one finger when doing Travis picking is it usually needs to be slower in tempo. It has to be!  This is because when using only the one finger the guitarist must slow down because he is moving his finger back and forth between strings, sometimes even his whole hand has to move up and down to hit the correct strings.  In contrast to this, when your three fingers, are "assigned" or "dedicated" to just one string, this allows the hand position to be more or less "stationary".  Only the fingers assigned to the string needs to move directly to that string.  That's simple... and it's much easier to do once it's learned!  The result can be a much cleaner, consistent and precise sound that can be picked at a much, much faster tempo and all with less concentration.  The guitarist can do this because he has better control now with his hand being stationary. 

Another advantage to learning to pick with three fingers is that with this better control comes the ability to accent particular notes more clearly and precisely then with the other styles of picking.  This is possible because all the guitarist has to think about  is  the "accent" an not about "finding" the string.  This ability to accent notes will make the over all sound of the music a more pleasing experience for everyone involved.  You and your audience.  With the method that I will teach you then, you are actually still playing the same notes as with the "one finger" Merle Travis picking style, but it will be much easier to do, it will be without out as many mistakes, it can be faster, and much cleaner.  Keep it clean!


               The Obstacle With Plastic Finger Picks 
Now lets talk about the problem with plastic finger picks.  The problem is this - learning to finger pick your guitar using plastic finger picks is not easy!  NOT BY A LONG SHOT!!!  This is the REAL REASON why so many guitarists have not learned to do it and do it well.  This difficulty proves to be an obstacle for many guitarists and they never get past it.  However, to my way of thinking, and what I've tried to convey to you is, this is just another one of the reasons WHY it's worth the effort to learn how to finger pick using plastic picks.  If you become accomplished at finger style guitar using plastic finger picks you will have risen above all those who haven't taken the time, or didn't have what it takes to master this art.  With patience, persistence and practice, practice, practice, you too can master this fine art of finger picking guitar.  However, it will take determination and stick-to-itiveness.  You have to WANT to learn how to finger pick, using plastic finger picks.  As I've explained above, you will need to have that "desire" to do it.  That is one reason why I've have spent so much time and effort writing all of this.  I'm trying to help you understand WHY you should learn to finger pick guitar, using plastic finger picks, because you are going to need that motivation to keep up with it.
 
                               Plastic Finger Picks
Years ago you could go in almost any music store an by plastic finger picks.  Not so anymore! There is no problem finding plastic thumb picks but it's hard to find plastic finger picks.  Of course in the days when many big name artists used finger picks they were more in demand and so easier to find.  John Denver for example used plastic finger picks and you can see he puts them on in this video of him singing "Follow Me" on the Tonight Show.  In this clip there is some talking with Johnny Carson but starting at about 2 minutes and 30 seconds into this video you'll see John Denver put on his plastic picks before he plays.  (You can click on player, then click pause to let it load while you read on. Once it's loaded, come back and click on about 2 1/2 min.)

 


A few words about types of plastic finger picks.  Not only are there different brands of plastic finger picks, there are different types of picks as well.  You can experiment around like I have to find the picks that work best for you, if you like.  I've used a number of the picks out there but I keep coming back to the Dunlop finger picks.  For example; Personally I think Alaska finger picks are ugly to look at but hay... I'm the kind of guy who likes clear plastic so the picks don't "show up" as much.  I was willing to by pass the appearance of them and give them a try.  So I bought some.  It may be a matter of what a person gets accustom too but I paid $10 for one set of the Alaska picks hoping to find a great new type of finger pick and I was totally disappointed with them.  On the up side they did produce a nice bright sound but besides that I have little else that is good to say about them.  Not only did they feel uncomfortable on my fingers but the actual picking of the strings was more difficult to do.  I didn't like the way the pick tended to "bite" the strings and pull the pick off my finger.  Although the quality of the sound was good it was not very loud.  I just couldn't get the volume with the Alaska picks the way that I can with Dunlop picks.  When I tried to increase volume with more pressure on the strings the picks started coming off my fingers.  NOT good!  However, to be fair I know there are those who love them.   As for me I like the Dunlop finger picks better!

A problem has been that anymore it has become difficult to just find plastic finger picks in music stores.  That alone is certainly an indication of the trend I've been talking about!  Wouldn't you say?  Some stores do carry them but many don't because so few people use them anymore.  You can find them for sure on the internet, but once you pay the shipping costs you may feel it becomes cost prohibitive.  For this reason people have requested that I sell finger picks.  So after several of these requests I have started to offer "sets" of the Dunlop picks on my web site.  The brand you use doesn't really matter though.  I prefer the clear type plastic finger picks only because of appearance.  That doesn't really matter either.  I use a turtle shell thumb pick but that too, makes no real difference.  Those things are just personal taste.  In my opinion the important thing, no matter which brand you settle on, is that they be PLASTIC finger picks and not metal.  Metal picks are better on banjo, and steal guitar.  They are not good for acoustic guitars with wound strings.   

If you go to buy picks from me, please keep in mind that I actually make very little money selling picks because I'm not in the retail business.  I DO NOT HAVE A LICENSE for that!  I buy finger picks from my local music store just like you would do. (If you could)  As I said at the very top of this page, what I really want is for people to do is to BUY, hear and like my music.  I suppose that's true of every musician.  Isn't it?.  That is my real motive for this web site in the first place.  So I will simply ask that you please purchase the picks along with one of my CD and finger picks combo offers.  This way you will have SHOWN your appreciation to me and gotten the picks you'll need.  You'll also get instructions on how to fit and wear the new picks.  Plus you'll get some finger picking music to listen to that uses the very patterns you will be learning on this web site.  At the same time, I'll make a little money and have the satisfaction that I need to keep encouraged too.  The satisfaction that someone out there is listening to my music is something that helps me.  That will make it all worth will for me.   

          I want to THANK YOU for doing that for me!  
                 You see...I need encouragement too!   

As I said above, I recommend that you
do not use metal finger picks on acoustical guitar strings because the metal pick against the metal wound strings makes for a bad mix.  (
Download free audio clip  to hear the problem).  I know that some people do use metal picks on acoustical guitars.  Jim Croce for example used two metal finger picks, one on his 1st and one on his 2nd fingers and a plastic thumb pick.  He was one of my favorite artists too and no question about it, he certainly had a distinctive sound.  When he used an Ovation guitar and metal picks the result was a very bright finger picking style of guitar and an almost "tinny, sometimes harsh sound" with that combination.  However, using this approach to finger picking with metal picks tends to limit you because you'll tend to use the metal picks only on the B and E strings. (they're not wound like the E, A, D, and G strings)  Personally, I use metal picks only for banjo.  They can also be used on Steel Guitar (Which I don't play).  They have there place but just not with the acoustic guitars.  Please!  

The reason I use three plastic finger picks is because that way you can be more versatile.  You can move your "hand position" up and down on the strings as you play and still have your individual fingers "assigned" to one string.  (This is discussed on the RIGHT HAND POSITION page) With the plastic picks, the problem of the wound strings is greatly reduced.  Also with plastic picks you still get a crisp clean sound with plenty of good volume and clarity.  Personally I feel the plastic picks produce a more even, warmer, naturally mellower and more pleasing sound then with metal picks.  That makes for a more relaxing appealing combination. 

                           Fitting Plastic Finger Picks
Another big reason why many don't use plastic picks is because they have trouble getting them to fit correctly and to be comfortable on their finger tips.  I believe this is main reason why some tend to use the metal finger picks instead of plastic because they can bend them to fit the fingers so easily.  The plastic picks need to be fitted correctly to your fingers and again it will take some effort to do this.  However, I will help you to get them fitted properly.  The picks should be snug enough that they don't come flying off while playing.  At the same time they should not be so tight that they cut off circulation or start to hurt after playing for a while.  You should be able to play for long periods (an hour or more) of time and not feel as if they are hurting your fingers.  If done properly they will be comfortable even when wearing them for long playing sessions, and work like a charm.  Buy finger picks from Paul Smith Music .net and I'll send you easy to follow detailed instructions with the picks about how to fit and how to wear the picks correctly.  I've done this many many times and if you follow my instructions that I'll send you, the picks will be molded correctly to each finger, feel and work great and they will be “your personalized fitted picks.”  Also if you buy picks from this site I will send you my personal email address so you can ask any questions you might have about the picks and this process.  I promise to handle these questions personally.  You will not get that kind of service else ware on the net.  Anywhere!
    To order finger picks.    DON'T FORGET ---  > Please get CDs too!   

Thank you!  

When I see Public TV and the new artists coming up, it saddens me that so few people finger pick their guitar using finger picks anymore.  As I mentioned, I have been playing finger style guitar using plastic finger picks since 1971.  Obviously, I'm fond of that style of playing.  So I want to help you learn to play that way too and to learn how to use plastic finger picks the way I do.  I'm passing on my experience to you.  In fact, many have told me they can't even find plastic finger picks for any price anymore at their local music stores.  So for your convenience, I've made clear Dunlop plastic finger picks and Turtle shell thumb picks, along with the fitting and wearing  instructions available on this site.  Large picks are what most adults (including some women) will wear.  Medium picks are very small in size and are mostly for children or women with small hands.  Very few adult men will ever wear Medium picks.  To give you an idea, my wife is small boned, 5 foot 2 and weighs 125 lbs., she also wears size 6 ring on her right hand.  She would need Medium picks.  One of my customers said this "Just wanted to let you know I got the finger picks this afternoon. You're right about the large picks. I'm 5'6" and about 140 lbs. with small hands and fingers and the picks fit perfect. They aren't tight at all and they stay on without getting loose. I think I might "size" one of the finger picks for my third finger, its just a little bit loose but doesn't move around or fall off, it just isn't a perfect fit like the thumb pick and the 2 other finger picks."  Some women however, can use the large picks.  So I hope this will help you decide.
  
Are you still undecided about the size, because you're in a "gray area"?

You can measure your finger and find out for sure which picks to order.
                                          READ BELOW  


            How To Measure Your Finger for Finger Picks
What you will be measuring is how big around your fingers are at the place where you will be wearing the picks.  This measurement is similar to sizing for a ring except you will be measuring around your finger tips where you will be wearing the picks.  When you put the finger picks on, the "band" part of the pick slides up over the finger tip and the finger nail.  The split in the pick band is usually worn just about where the nail cuticle is.  This is where you want to measure.  You may not  need to measure all your fingers as you will see, because just measuring the smallest one might be all you'll need to do.  On most people that will be your ring finger on your right hand (that is if you are a right handed guitar player.  If you are a left hand guitar player then of course you'll measure your left hand ring finger). 

You'll be measuring your picking hand "ring" finger or 3rd finger.  To do the measuring, use a white wire garbage bag "tie."  Wrap the "tie" around your finger at the finger nail cuticle and mark both ends of the "tie" in the one spot where they overlap.  (You may need to have someone to help you to do the marking. I find that a fine felt pen works great).  Make sure the "tie" is not too tight, just snug enough that it will not slide up and down on your finger.  Once it's marked, open up the "tie" until it is perfectly straight and measure the length from mark to mark.  

Here is what to do with the four different possibilities of your "tie" measurement:  
1.  If it is 1 + 7/8 inches, or larger, then you should get Large Picks.  

2. 
If it is less then or even exactly 1+ 7/8", you might want to measure the 
     other two fingers too.  If the other two are larger than 1+ 7/8", get the 
     Large Picks.  
     
3. 
If all your fingers are  smaller than 1+ 7/8" you need Medium Picks. 

4.  If only your ring finger is smaller than 1+ 7/8" but the other two are exactly 
    1+ 7/8" then you could get the Medium Picks.  However, with this case you 
    can also get the large picks and just cut the band part of the pick down a 
    little on one pick of each set.  This will make it so that the band will wrap 
    around your finger and not touch on the ends.  This way it will keep it 
    gripping your finger.  

If you find that you need medium picks, I do have them for you.  Just send me a note with your order to let me know that you want Medium picks and I will send them to you.  If you do note send an email asking for Medium I will be sending Large.    I also have LEFT hand picks to both in Large and Medium sizes.  To purchase finger picks use this link.  

If you're in that 'gray area' and you're not sure if you need Medium or Large picks, it's best to measure as described above. Then you will KNOW!!!  I don't want to send the wrong size.  Sorry, but
I cannot guarantee that you pick the correct sizeIt has to be your call.  Generally, I recommend getting the large picks because that's what most people use.  After you receive the picks, keep in touch with me through email and let me know how they do.  I have some tricks up my sleeve to help fit Large picks even if your hands are too small for the them.  You can always remove material from the larger picks to make them smaller, but you cannot make a Medium picks grow bigger.  

You will not find this kind of information anywhere else on the internet or at a music stores either.  That's because the other guys don't really care about helping you.  They just what to sell you something.  I do care!  What I want is for you to learn how to finger pick using plastic finger picks, because I believe it's the best way.  Also, I believe that if I help you, you will be inclined to help me by purchasing my CDs and listening to my music.  I believe that Jesus hit the nail on the head when he said something like "to the measure you measure out, it will be measured to you in return." (Matthew 7:2)  In other words, if you give of yourself to people, they will respond by doing things for you.  I believe that is true!  That's my motive!  That's why I say, "that's all I ask,"- please SHOW your appreciation. So... if you purchase finger picks from Paul Smith Music .net , I promise that I will help you to get them fitting properly.  If not, just send the picks back and 
I guarantee that I will give your money back

                  My Customized Plastic Finger Picks
To help beginners to learn to use plastic finger picks I offer something you will not get anywhere else.  I will "customize" your picks for you.  These customized
picks are something that I learned to do by myself and for myself, many years ago when I first started to use plastic picks.  Now I have found that these customized picks help new ones to learn too.  I have done this for hundreds of guitarist, and many say  (New window) they have been helped by using this web site and these custom finger picks.  The customizing I do is not a "fitting" of the picks.  Rather, what I do is I actually reshape the tongue of each pick itself.  I do each pick personally by hand, using only hand tools. Then I polish the tongue when I'm through so that they're as smooth as when coming from the factory. What the customized pick makes it a little easier to play the guitar because the picks are shaped in such a way that you can get them between the guitar strings a little easier.  This makes the customized picks a little more forgiving and less cumbersome or awkward feeling then those that come from Dunlop.   

These customized picks are just something that I've learned over the years and I'm passing it on to you to try to help you to learn to use plastic finger picks.  Again, I make very little money for the time I spend doing these picks.  I only ask  $1 per pick to do this tedious work.  I could do much better working at McDonald's.  I know that but I do it anyway because this is a labor of love.  I view it as a service that I can provide to help new students on their way to learn how to finger pick their guitar.  I also will offer this guarantee - that if your not completely satisfied with these custom picks I will give your money back no questions asked.  No problem!  (Well I take that back - I might ask some questions, but I promise I will not try to get out of giving the money back.  I just might want to know what you didn't like about them...... that's all).  My confidence is that you will be very happy you got them.  

To read about what others have said of the picks that I have done for them click on Finger Pick comments (New window)  I want to emphasize again that I'm not in the retail business.  I buy these picks from my local music store just like you would.  So I'm obviously not doing this for the money!  As I said, I'm offering this as a service to you because I want to help you learn how to finger pick guitar using plastic finger picks.  I believe it's the BEST way to learn.  I've also tried to keep shipping prices as low as possible too, to keep the overall cost down for you.  
   To read about shipping costs. (New window)

To order  Jim Dunlop finger picks from Paul Smith Music .net    
click on Finger Pick

To check out other Jim Dunlop finger picks from their website 
click on Jim Dunlop Finger Pick 
 (New Window)

                  Check out these deals

Paul's latest CD, Alone With Integrity
also his new site at www.fingerpick.net

Comment from Dorothy

"Hi Paul,
I can't stop playing your CD,
Alone with Integrity, I play it in the car, then move it back in the house! Back and forth again and again. The songs are so full of heartfelt messages and as usual your beautiful musical compositions..... God Bless you for sharing your music and special teaching talents."
Dorothy Beasley



 
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   The best deal on this web site  - you save $14.68

Three CD's Relax And Reminisce, Eastern Shore + Goose Lake +
                         
TWO sets of customized finger picks
                                  
Free shipping in U.S.A  *  
                                          Total price
$44
            
If you need MEDIUM finger picks or LEFT HAND thumb pick 
                            please include an email stating so.
                    Otherwise you will be sent LARGE RIGHT HAND picks.  
                                       To measure click hear.

                                        
                 With velvet pick bag >  $46.50
                                                   

* Red Asterisk means this only applies to shipping in lower 48 United States.    Outside the United States please click shipping cost.  (New Window)
                                     
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   The most popular buy on this site
- you save $6.30
                         
One CD Relax And Reminisce   
                       TWO sets
of customized finger picks
                                   Free shipping
in U.S.A
*    

                                        
Total price  $25.80
              
If you need MEDIUM finger picks or LEFT HAND thumb pick 
                            please include an email stating so.
                    Otherwise you will be sent LARGE RIGHT HAND picks.
                                           To measure click here.

                                                   

                        With velvet pick bag > $28.30

                       

* Red Asterisk means this only applies to shipping in lower 48 United States.   
  Outside the United States please click
shipping cost.  (New Window)
                                     

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What To Expect With Plastic Picks

Despite the fitting of the picks, when you first start to use them, many people comment that they seem to make playing the guitar "clumsy" or "cumbersome."  Please remember - this is normal!!!   As I've explained above, it's another reason why many people don't use plastic finger picks.  Please remember that those other guys didn't take the time necessary to get over that initial "awkward feeling."  I know that you can do it and use finger picks on a regular basis because I did.  If I did it, then so can you!. Also, other students of mine have, have gotten use to plastic finger picks too.  So I know you can!!!  I promise you that if you stick with it you will be happy that you did in the end. Note this too... "Cumbersome" as they seem at first, you will immediately find that the volume and clarity of the sound has improved greatly over simply using bare fingers and nails. Let this improved sound be part of your motivation for pressing on in this frustrating endeavor.  If you stay with it, you will find that the time will come for you as it did for me, that  you will prefer to use the finger picks instead of just going with the bare fingers and nails.  Please stick with it!


                            Some Things About Tablature
What you will find on this site is the easiest to read Tablature that I know how to make using a word processor.  As I explained at the start, I'm not a computer type guy and I don't use Tablature. software.  I know that's not a good thing but it is what it is for now.  Anyway, I've noticed that when it comes to Tablature, it seems like just about anyone who writes it can make up his own thing and put his own little twist on what he calls "HIS TAB." in order to be unique.  Learning to finger pick guitar using finger picks is hard enough without having to learn unnecessary things like how to read Tablature.  So I promise to keep Tablature as simple as possible so you can concentrate on picking and not what the tablature means.  

For example, some of the other guys right hand Tab. is based on what has traditionally been used in classical guitar.  With this kind of Tab. the fingers of the right hand are assigned different letters.  Thumb =  p;  1st or index finger = i; 2nd or middle finger = m;  3rd or ring finger = a.    

Sorry folks- but that's too complicated for me!  I'm just a regular guy -
simple minded I guess, and I don't speak a foreign language.  Some of those letters don't mean a thing to me!  (It's CLASSICAL guitar so I'm assuming that those letters come from a language that I don't speak at all.)  Please!!!  Give me a brake!  KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) sounds like a good rule of thumb when it come to Tab.!   
Others Tablatures that I've seen try to put their little twist on it by even assigning colors to the fingers. 
Sorry - but that's too confusing too!!!  It's interesting to me because when they explain what the colors mean they say for example "this color" = 1st finger, "that color" = 2nd finger" and so on.  So why not just Keep It Simple Stupid and just use a "1" for the first finger and a "2" for the second, instead of further complicating the learning process with unnecessary stuff.  (Don't get me wrong!  I understand why they use colors, and it has it's place with some applications, but it's just not necessary in order to learn to finger pick guitar.)  What you want to be trying to do here is to learn finger picking.  Your mental energies should be going toward that task and not toward trying to figure out and decipher what the Tablature means. 

On my site what you will find for the right hand is this;
T = Thumb;  1 = 1st finger;  2 = 2nd finger;  3 = 3rd finger.
To me.....that's simple!  I can understand that pretty quick!  Little thought!

                     How To Learn To Finger Pick
Henry F. Osborn said “The human brain is the most marvelous and mysterious 
object in the whole universe.”  Truer words have never been spoken.  It is without question the most outstanding marvel of creation.  It is interesting and surprising that there is little known about how the brain is actually able to do what it does.  It seems that the more they learn about what the brain does, the more they realize how little they really know about it.  However, there are some things we do know as to it's abilities and "how the mind learns" things.  I'm told that those who understand HOW a computer works, are actually better at using one.  (I wouldn't actually know about that, but it makes scene to me)  So I want to help you understand a little about HOW the brain learns. 

We now know that there are Billions of neurons (nerve, or brain cells) in each of our brains.  As you do things like, read books, watch things, or PLAY THE GUITAR, connections are  being made between your brain cells to form a type of electrical circuitry.  (Which by the way is much more complicated then any computer)   It's these connections (called synapses) of individual neurons to other neurons that makes for the memory and recall.  Without those connections you couldn't recall what you read, what you saw, or how to PLAY the guitar.  The more connections there are and the "stronger" and "thicker" those connections become, the better the memory and easier the recall.  It is staggering to think about because there are more connections of these neurons in the human brain then there are stars in the known universe.  Now THAT'S AWESOME!!!

This means that for you to learn finger picking, you must make those necessary and appropriate connections that make for good finger picking.  You are going to need lots of those connections and they are going to have to be very strong, thick connection too.  I fact what I want you to do is to develop those connections so well that you have to give it very little conscious thought as you play your guitar. 

So HOW do you do go about doing that?  Actually there isn't just one thing that makes for those synapses (connection) or for learning.  There are many things in the human experience that helps us to learn.  There are also things that hinder learning and things that can actually cause us to forget too.  So then what you will want to do in your finger picking endeavors is to CAPITALIZE on the things that will help you build more and more, stronger and thicker memory connections.  In other words you will want to take advantage of those particular things that help you learn. You will also need to AVOID those things that will hurt your learning progress.  I'm going to help you on this web site to know what those things are as you go through the lessons.  So be thinking in terms of what to capitalize on and want to avoid in the learning process.  This way you will make the fastest possible progress as you learn to finger pick guitar.  Guaranteed!  So, with this in mind, lets start with the 1st step.

         The First Step to Learning How to Finger Pick
Think about this; A young child can learn the extremely complicated sound patterns of speech and grammar and do it all - simply by listening to others talk.  If exposed to two languages, a child can learn to speak both languages - and do it all without a lick of an accent.  There have been cases where some were exposed to up to seven different languages while growing up, and they can now speak all seven tongues, fluently - all without any accent.  Is that not incredible?  Yes, it's 'MIND BOGGLING!  Isn't it?  This shows us that the human brain has an incredible ability 
to learn very complicated things and to learn them simply by listening.  

Never underestimate the importance of your needing to "listen" to finger picking guitar music.  This is what I would say would be the FIRST STEP to learn finger picking guitar.  You will be greatly helped in your finger picking endeavors if you start LISTENING to others as soon as you can, as much as you can and as often as you can.  The more you listen, the better.  What you will be doing is starting to make those connections in your brain that will help you to learn to finger pick.  

So listen to finger picking music when you get up. While you eat.  Take a portable player with you (an IPOD or a Mp3 or CD player... whatever) and listen throughout the day.  You will be pleasantly surprised how much this will help you.  Of course you can start by buying my CDs.  This will SHOW your appreciation to me for all of my hard work in provide you with this FREE web site about finger picking.  (By the way, I thank you for that!)  You will also benefit from listening to the finger picking music on those CDs.  But please don't stop there.  Please, buy other artist too.  In fact I recommend that you get as many CDs as you can, and start listening to them as soon as you can, and listen to them as much as you can.  (Of course I understand that you need to be reasonable, because there are other things in life too) The reason for this is because learning is done by making those connectionsAs you listen to music being played, as easy as that is to do, some of those important connections are actually being made.  They're being made even though you don't consciously realize it.  The more you listen to finger picking music, the stronger those connections will become.  This is exactly what you want to do.  The stronger those connections are, the better your memory will be and the easier it will be for you to actually pick up the guitar to attempt to play that way.  Please remember this - Your mind has an incredible ability to learn just by listening.  Just like a child learns complicated languages simply by listening.  The beautiful thing about this is it's so easy and enjoyable to do.

Please don't misunderstand me! 
I'm not suggesting that it's possible to completely learn how to finger pick guitar simply by listening to others play.  (At least I have never heard of anyone doing that)  But do not underestimate the many benefits that can come to you by simply listening to finger style guitar work.  For example, you can "learn" the way changes in guitar chords can be made while finger picking.  How other notes can be added while picking, to make progressions sound appealing.  Also how to put emphases and accents on particular notes of picking patterns and much, much, much more.
 
Actually you couldn't possible list all the benefits you will get by simply by listening.  Even things you don't consciously realize are happening, will be "recorded" in your marvelous brain.  It's for these reasons I strongly recommend that you spend as much time as you can just listening to finger style guitar work.  That's the first and easiest step!  Why not start now?

Of course you realize that I want to sell my CD's ... that's true!  However, what's particularly nice about my CDs is they incorporate the very picking patterns you will be learning on this web site.   As I explained above, if you listening to them, you will benefit because you will be "hearing the sounds" of these finger picking patterns incorporated in song.  This will greatly improve your abilities to learn them on your own guitar.  The more you listen to them the easier it will be when you actually begin to learn the patterns yourself.  Of course CDs by other artists may not have the exactly same patterns but you will still indeed benefit by listen to them as well. 

What you will naturally do is "pick out" what appeals to you and then when you begin the process of using your guitar, you will naturally incorporate those things that you have heard and like.   As you learn the picking patterns on this site you will want to "hear yourself play" what you liked when you heard others playing.  You will be trying to imitating those things that appealed to you.  A beautiful thing about this "learning by listening" is that it takes next to NO CONSCIOUS EFFORT!  It's just something that will naturally happen without giving it much thought.  You will simply be getting used to hearing finger picking rhythmus, accents, the picking pace that appeals to you and other things that you like.  Also what appeals to you, may be different then what appeals to me or to someoneelse.  Whatever those things are that you think are "cool", your mind will naturally "imprint" them in your brain.  Then when you start to master the finger picking patterns and really begin to get a handle on them you will, without much thought, begin to imitate and incorporate those appealing things that you heard others do.    

                 So please SHOW your appreciation and order my CDs.
                 Order CD's                       Order CD's and finger picks  
                To check out  others who do finger picking (new window)

                   How To Learn Using Picking Patterns
Now with all this in mind, let's now talk a little bit about HOW to use finger picking patterns to help you learn finger picking.  There are many, many finger picking patterns that can be learned and you can make them up yourself as well.  So it would be impossible to list them all on any web site. What you will need to do is to learn as many of these finger picking patterns as you possibly can so as to give variety to your music.  I've known some artists who use the same finger picking pattern (Travis) for every song.  Please don't do that!  That's down right annoying!  What we're after here is MORE DIMENSION AND MORE VARIATION!!!  Of course you have to start somewhere.  Learning one picking pattern at a time is how it's done.  Make it your goal that in time you will learn a large variety of picking patterns.  

What will happen is that once you have mastered a number of patterns, over time you will be able to call those picking patterns up at will, as you vary your approach to different chord progressions and guitar licks.  As you improve in the art of finger picking guitar, you will be able to do this and give very little thought to what you are actually doing or what exact pattern you used at the time you play them. You will actually "feel" the need to change to a certain picking pattern to make it flow correctly through a section of music.  In time your finger picking will become not just a mechanical exercise but second nature and most importantly, it will become a musical expression.  Your finger style guitar work should and will become a way you give of yourself - giving of your feelings - give of your heart. 

        That's what MUSIC is! 
 GIVING OF YOUR HEART!

This can all be accomplished by making those connections in the brain.  This is how it's possible for an artist to concentrate on singing and lyrics as they're finger picking guitar.  Those complicated picking pattern connections must become so deeply "burned" into your brain that you will be able to play them and sing your song at the same time.  Please remember this very important point!  When you're singing, it is more important to be concentrating on the lyrics and the feelings expressed in those lyrics than on the guitar work itself.  The guitar work should only be in the background in your mind, so to speak.  Here is where the skill comes in.  Those connections need to be very strong so that it just happens with very little thought.  So this is where the practice comes in.  Through repetition and practice those connections will become stronger and stronger.  If you don't practice you can actually loose those connections you once had.  Gordon Lightfoot once said that if he doesn't practice at least a half hour a day he begins to 'lose it.'  

If you want your music to become an expression of feelings rather than just a mechanical exercise then your going to have to work at it.  You are going to have to practice and your going to have to be serious about it. After all, that’s what music is all about!  Music is an expression of emotion and feelings.  It takes practice to get to that level and to 'KEEP it there.'  Once you can play the guitar and concentrate on the singing and not solely on the finger picking guitar work, then you will have made it to that level.  Those connections will be so strong that they will be able to almost "take over" with very little "thinking" on your part.  You will have LEARNED to finger pick guitar the way I would like to see you do it.  And you can do it!  You can learn how to finger pick as well as the masters if you put your mind to it, AND I want to help you do that.  

          Rules for HOW to Learn to Finger Pick Guitar
Rules for HOW to learn.  It will help if you keep these 4 rules in mind as you learn how to finger pick guitar.  I recommend that you write them down, or copy & print them and keep them in your guitar case.  Before each practice session read these rules again, think about them and then start your session.  Then make sure you practice using them as you learn new finger picking patterns.  This will help you to make those important memory connections between those neurons in your brain sure, thick and strong.   Following these "four rules" you will make the fastest and best progress while learning the difficult art of finger style guitar.

               Remember and practice these 4 rules 
                          when Learning HOW to finger pick. 

    
#1.  Repetition -  This is the key.  If you repeat a finger picking pattern over and over, enough times, you will learn it.  I like to tell my students that you want to "burn" that pattern into your brain.  Sheer repetition is what will make those connections (Synapses) between the neurons in your brain stronger and stronger.  You want them to be thick and strong.  Repetition is the key to memory!  Repeat over and over!!!
                                                           

#2.  Start slowly -  Start slowly and gradually increase speed.  It’s important not to make mistakes. If you do -
STOP!  DO NOT PRACTICE IT WRONG! When you make a mistake, Stop immediately!  Start again but this time slow way down again and get it right.  Then gradually increase speed again.  Remember that doing  it right is far more important than speed.  You will find that speed will come in time. Each time you practice a pattern you will be able to increase speed.  I strongly recommend  using an electric metronome, rhythm guide or drum machine for this purpose. Using the machine as you increase speed will help tremendously and you will "see" your progress.  This will also help encourage you!
                             .                        
                                     

#3.  Keep Learning sessions short - When learning a new picking pattern make sure you do not over do it.  Work on it for only about fifteen minutes and that is all.  Then go on to something else you already ‘know.’  If you want to practice one hour a day on learning a new picking pattern, then make it four fifteen minute sessions.  This is because the mind learns best when it's fresh.  Think in terms of making progress in the long run rather than doing it all right now.  Measure your progress on a monthly basis. Anytime it becomes too difficult and you start to make mistakes, and slowing down doesn't seem to help -
STOP your learning session completely!    DO NOT PRACTICE IT WRONG!  Your done for now! 

You will find that the next time you practice, your speed will
have improved.   REMEMBER - 
                           With the drum machine, you will "see" your progress!


                 AGAIN....... I'll repeat;
   I recommend that you copy these rules and put them in your guitar  
   case.  Each time you begin a LEARNING session with the picking -
   First read the RULES  and then do your  practice session using them.

For me personally, the worship of and service to my God is ABSOLUTELY without question the most important thing in my life.  So understand me when I say this - "use these RULES for learning "RELIGIOUSLY"!!!!   If you do, then your learning abilities will be at their peak performance, and you'll improve rapidly.   
 
   There are many other suggestions that will help you too.  But that's for later!  
        You will see these on the finger picking patterns pages.

                          
               A Little About Why I'm Helping You
As I've said before, I've been finger picking guitar since the early 1970's and I'm passing some things I've learned on to you.  When I first started to take finger picking guitar seriously it was because I was given TWO measures of crude Tablature on a napkin (From a fellow gymnastics team mate, Doug Taylor, no relation to James.) back at Indiana State University in 1971.  The song was Kathy's Song by Paul Simon.  I finally did learn to play that song almost identically to Paul Simon.  It was a lot of hard work, and it took a long, long time.  I did it simply by listing many many times to Paul Simon doing it and from studying that piece of crude Tablature and a lot of trial and error.  It wasn't easy, but I was determined to learn to finger pick that song.  I'm happy I persevered because I have been able to play that song for many people and for many years.  I honestly want it to be easier for you to learn because I know how hard it was for me.  I want to hear more new upcoming musicians incorporate finger picking guitar in their music, because I love finger picking.  If you use these methods I've outlined on this web site, especially keeping the "RULES FOR LEARNING" in mind, you will make the fastest possible progress with the best possible results.   
   
I promise!

Please remember that all I ask is for you to SHOW your appreciation by purchasing my CD's.  Now... I thank you for your helping me! 

Soon you too will be a finger picking pro.   The only thing that stands 
in the way now is time and a lot of hard work on your part.  The rest is 
available free of charge on this website.  I hope that what you've 
read here will help motivate you to give it your best.  PLEASE DO!  

I know you can learn how to finger pick guitar.  Others have, you CAN do it too!

                      More Help For You

If you have purchased finger picks, downloads, and or CD's from Paul Smith Music 
then please feel free to contact me by email with any questions or problems you might have about finger picking.  Please send these to my personal email address that you will receive with my "thank you" response to your purchase.  I don't claim to know everything, but what I do know is free for the asking to my customers. 
 
             I will teach you how to finger pick
guitar free of charge.
  
Please understand that it is incredibly time consuming to write out Tablature (25 picking patterns), record, and upload all the files (52 so far) and much more, to help you to learn finger picking.   
   
I want to
thank you for helping me and for showing your appreciation by purchasing my CD's!!!
  
 
Check out these deals

Paul's latest CD, Alone With Integrity
also his new site at www.fingerpick.net

Comment from Dorothy
"Hi Paul,
I can't stop playing your CD,
Alone with Integrity, I play it in the car, then move it back in the house! Back and forth again and again. The songs are so full of heartfelt messages and as usual your beautiful musical compositions..... God Bless you for sharing your music and special teaching talents."
Dorothy Beasley
 

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Three CD's Relax And Reminisce, Eastern Shore + Goose Lake +
                         
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Free shipping in U.S.A  *  
                                          Total price
$44
             If you need MEDIUM finger picks or LEFT HAND thumb pick 
                            please include an email stating so.
                    Otherwise you will be sent LARGE RIGHT HAND picks.  
                                       To measure click hear.

                                        
                 With velvet pick bag >  $46.50
                                                   

* Red Asterisk means this only applies to shipping in lower 48 United States.    Outside the United States please click shipping cost.  (New Window)
                                     
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   The most popular buy on this site
- you save $6.30
                         
One CD Relax And Reminisce with                       
                       TWO sets
of customized finger picks
                                   Free shipping
in U.S.A
*    

                                        
Total price  $25.80
              
If you need MEDIUM finger picks or LEFT HAND thumb pick 
                            please include an email stating so.
                    Otherwise you will be sent LARGE RIGHT HAND picks.

                                           To measure click here.

                                                   

                        With velvet pick bag > $28.30

                       

* Red Asterisk means this only applies to shipping in lower 48 United States.   
 
Outside the United States please click shipping cost.  (New Window)
                                     

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                                   Oh Yes, I Didn't Forget!
 
      
RULE #4.  Have fun!   Very important RULE!    
That's why we do this!

Practice sessions should be enjoyable.  If you're not having fun then go do something else and come back to finger picking at another time. 
 

                 DONATIONS are appreciated!

                          

      
                              

                            
       
Comments from users

Ready to learn how to finger pick guitar?  YES!  Now I know you are, so let’s start! 
   
To begin just click on Introduction to Tablature or
choose the picking patterns you would like to work on listed below.


Picking Patterns # 1-4
  / Picking Patterns # 5-9 /  /  
Picking Patterns #10-13
  /  Picking Patterns #14-20  /
Patterns #21-25