Country Blues > Country Blues Licks and Lessons

Fingerpicking problem

(1/2) > >>

I don't know if anyone can help but I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask.
As some of you know I just started learning this style last summer right before PT. The problem I'm having: I can play a great shuffle and alternating bass rhythm with the thumb and I can play a decent melody with one or two fingers, now heres the difficulty, when I put them together something shorts out and the melody ends up on top of the rhythm. Having the fingers playing at "odds" against the thumb feels unnatural, when I played bass the index and middle felt natural alternating but admittedly most times it was rhythmic
Any ideas on a practice method to get more separation in my right hand?
Or is this one of those famous "it will come with time" encounters in life?
Thanks again,

Hey Not Rev,

I solved a similar problem some time back by learning pieces from tab, one note at a time. Learning that way, which means playing each note slowly and separately, broke me of the reflexive playing which interfered with getting it right. I'm now quite able to maintain a bass line while playing a synchopated melody and I don't need to learn it from tab anymore.

Whatever you do, good luck.


I agree with Mike - that is the way I got my fingers out of the 'reflex mode' too.  For me, the first two years was very slow going - I'd often have to learn pieces twice, once, just to get my fingers to do what they did not want to do (muscle memory), and a second time to put the piece in proper time and synchopation.

uncle bud:
Gary, what are some of the tunes you are playing where you run into this problem? Some songs, especially when you're still pretty new to the style, pose more of this kind of problem than others, at least that's what I found. Even some playing positions, when I was starting. A and E position tunes were more problematic for me than C or G positions.

It also helps to start simple melodically. Get it one bit at a time. When one syncopated part is working for you, play it over and over and over and over. It'll help in moving on to the next bit: one less thing to think about plus you've moved one step further in your "flexibility" with melodic syncopation.

Concentrate on the melody. If you miss the alternation in the bass or forget to switch from, say, a C to a G in the bass, don't worry about it, keep banging away at the melody. It doesn't matter much what notes you're actually hitting in the bass since what you're trying to do is develop a kind of rhythmic independence between your thumb and your finger(s). You can fix up the actual bass notes later. In fact, you can even leave out the melody notes. Just play the rhythms of the bass and melody on open strings to get comfortable with the movements. I've seen John Miller suggest this a couple times when he's showing some tricky bit or some unusual roll. Add the fretting in later.

Play slow. Always bears repeating. It's not as fun but it will shorten then amount of time you need to spend working on something.

I'm sure tab has worked nicely for many people in solving this - it can be a good visual aid for how the melody falls in relation to the bass. But I'd toss in a word of caution that it can sometimes lead to a kind of playing where you can almost hear the player's brain going "OK, now the C and the E together, then a high G on the offbeat, G in the bass, with a high E, then C, E bass fourth fret.... etc etc". Let's call it co-dependence. ;) What you're ultimately going for is closer to independence between bass line and melody (converging at will), and I find tab can focus the brain too much on the overall sequence of notes and strings through all the registers.

It's the old pat your head and rub your stomach trick. Which I still can't do...


One other thing that works for me:  get away from your guitar to some place quiet and just think about what you're trying to play.  Work at it until you can hear the distinct bass and the melody notes together in your mind at the same time.  I did this more or less by accident riding on a train from New York to Toronto long ago, and it was the big breakthrough in my learning to fingerpick.  It's a technique I used a lot and still use today as I'm relearning the guitar.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version