Fingerstyle guitar is exactly what the name implies, playing your guitar with your fingers rather than a pick. The advantage to fingerstyle playing is that a guitarist can play more complex pieces that can including moving bass lines integrated with melodies. The style is used often when playing classical for just this reason, but folk songs and other genres, particularly when the performance relies on a solo guitarist, often use fingerstyle arrangements.
When fingerpicking, guitarist’s typically use all but the pinky finger. It isn’t unheard of to use the pinky on occasion, but it’s used so rarely there isn’t a specific way to designate it. The other fingers, however, are designated in fingerstyle sheet music by the acronym PIMA. These letters are derived from Spanish words for the fingers tell players which finger to use when playing specific notes in a piece of music.
E=pinky (rarely used)
You can play fingerstyle guitar using fingerpicks, you fingernails, or the tips of your fingers. There are no hard and fast rules about this. Playing with just your fingertips will give a softer, more mellow sound and you don’t have to worry about picks falling off. If you’re going to use your fingernails, you’ll want to avoid trimming them too low.
If you’ve taken fingerstyle guitar lessons, it’s possible you’ve run into a teacher who insisted you play the lower three strings of the guitar with your thumb and the higher three strings with your other fingers. This isn’t necessarily true. While you will most often use your thumb for bass notes and attack the high strings with your other fingers, there will be times when this isn’t the case. Let the needs of the song dictate which fingers you’ll use. The only real rule is that no single finger should play the same note two times in a row, and even this rule can be broken.
Fingerstyle guitar techniques can be played on any guitar, electric or acoustic, however, most musicians who play fingerstyle regularly will use classical guitars and nylon strings. This is a matter of preference and there are no hard and fast rules regarding the choice of instrument.
If you’re already a fairly proficient guitar player, chances are good you can teach yourself fingerstyle with little effort. If you’re a beginning guitarist, taking a few fingerstyle guitar lessons will no doubt be beneficial. Once you’ve gotten a handle on the basics, you can branch out on your own and let the music do the talking.