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Fingerstyle and World Music

Fingerstyleexternal image pima.jpg

This style of guitar playing simply means that you pick or strum the guitar strings without any kind of pick. This can be done on all kinds of guitars, including electric and acoustic, steel or nylon strings. Strictly classical guitarists play always fingerstyle as do flamenco players. With a resurgence in the last couple decades of such artists as Don Ross (here with Calum Graham), Andy McKee, and newer musicians like Ewan Dobson fingerstyle is making a modern name for itself, however most early acoustic blues players of the Delta Style played that way. Legends of rock like Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, Ry Cooder and Lindsey Buckingham also have played fingerstyle, though the genre wasn't called that at the time.

The way fingerstyle is played is that the thumb (P = Pulgar = Thumb) generally hits the three bass strings while the I = Indice = Index finger, M = Medio = Middle finger and A = Anular = ring finger depress the melody strings. In blues fingerpicking, the bass line is played with the thumb, while the picking patterns or short licks are played with the fingers. In the early acoustic blues days (i.e. Robert Johnson) PIMA was the main technique, the plectrum wasn't used. Even after changing to an electric guitar many bluesmen stuck to fingerpicking (Muddy Waters).

Key to fingerstyle is knowing the scale you're playing in. We'll discuss scales and major/minor patterns in our next section.

Major scale patterns

[source of some pictures]

The beauty of the guitar is that all up and down the fretboard there are repeating patterns. Guitar magicians like SRV, Hendrix and Clapton practiced these patterns often enough that they became second nature. As you're about to see, the F scale can be played in first position at fret 3, and also at 2nd position at fret 8. Add to that the natural minor that hinges around 2nd position at fret 5 and you can effectively cover frets 1 through 11 knowing what are the sour notes to avoid in soloing.

When a scale pattern is played using fretted notes, the shape and the fingering can be moved up and down the fingerboard to other pitch levels using fret positions as the starting point for different keys. Thus one is learning scale POSITIONS in different keys without having to learn the note names in each series.

Look at the following major scale (below). The root note is 6th string 3rd fret. That means the starting note is G. This is a G scale. However, if we move it up to 5th fret the root note and thus the scale becomes A. We don't know the note names (without memorizing them) but we know the frets played in this pattern where the root note is on 6th string 5th fret will be an A major scale.
Root 6 major scale - G major scale

So when we move this pattern up and down the fretboard we get the different scales as long as the root is on 6th string.
Moving root 6 major scales

But what about when the root isn't on 6 it's on 5th. A second position scale is identical to a first position scale (root 6) in that the pattern is maintained to a degree. HOWEVER, remember how tuning the 2nd string is the one string that doesn't follow the pattern (using 5th fret to get the same tone as the note above)? We see the same shift on second string once more. This is because it's only 4 semitones higher than string 3 unlike all the other strings.
So our moveable scales would look like this up the fretboard

Moving root 5 major scales

Minor scale patterns

If you've memorized the major pattern, the minor patterns aren't any more difficult.
Movable minor pattern on root 6 and root 5