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Fingerstyle guitar techniques are used in a variety of different musical genres including folk, jazz, classical, flamenco and country. Quite often, music that contains fingerstyle guitar can sound very alluring and complex.
But how difficult is it to learn this style of playing? How long does it take to learn fingerstyle on your own versus using a lesson resource like Guitar Tricks? We will answer these questions so you can have proper expectations when learning this technique.
What Is Fingerstyle Guitar?
Fingerstyle guitar is exactly what the name implies: playing the guitar with the fingers plucking the strings, as opposed to using a guitar pick. The application of the technique might differ depending on your skill, but for the most part, each finger will be in charge of playing notes that are on specific strings.
You might also hear the term used interchangeably with the term “fingerpicking,” which is pretty synonymous with fingerstyle, depending on who you ask.
Fingerstyle can be played with either the use of:
- Fingers and thumb, either with the skin on the tips of the fingers or the fingernails
- Thumb picks and fingerpicks, which attach to the tips of each appendage
- A combination of both fingers and thumb pick/fingerpicks
Is It Hard To Learn Fingerstyle Guitar?
Learning anything (including fingerstyle guitar) can be a bit of a challenge in the beginning, especially for those who are absolute beginners on the instrument. However, with time and consistent practice, what was initially hard becomes easy and second nature.
Much of this really depends on how you learn fingerstyle guitar. If you were to learn on your own (versus taking lessons from a resource like Guitar Tricks), you might have a more difficult time, especially if you’re not sure where to start.
Of course, taking lessons (whether it be from an in-person instructor or from Guitar Tricks) will make your journey much easier. With this route, you will be given building blocks that will allow you to build your technique in a more efficient manner.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Fingerstyle?
How long it takes you to learn something new on the guitar depends on a couple of different factors:
- Method of learning
- Amount of time dedicated to consistent practice
- Any prior experience on the guitar
Depending on your skill level and the amount of time and effort you put into consistent practice, it shouldn’t take too long to learn fingerstyle guitar. In fact, an absolute beginner that is new to the guitar could become proficient in the style in about 6 months.
If you’re an intermediate player, you’ll likely have an easier time with learning fingerstyle. This is partially due to being familiar with the instrument and understanding the process of how to learn new things on the guitar.
For this reason, an intermediate player could become proficient in fingerstyle guitar within 3 months. This timetable is with consistent practice and dedicated focus.
Similarly, an advanced player could adapt the fingerstyle playing techniques within a month or two, depending on how much time is dedicated to practicing.
What Is The Best Way To Learn Fingerstyle?
Learning on your own is always going to be more difficult and take more time to fully integrate a new technique or concept. There are a few reasons for this.
The first reason is that, quite often, self-taught guitarists do not know exactly where to start with their studies. In today’s world of instant information, it has become increasingly difficult to map out a worthwhile journey of lessons without being overwhelmed by the amount of information available.
Another reason is that the self-taught guitarist often has to learn and find out the finer nuances of each technique on their own in order to properly execute the new technique. Sometimes, this process can take years.
Taking lessons, whether it be from an in-person instructor or a resource like Guitar Tricks will give you a serious advantage over learning on your own. With this method, you will be taught concepts in a linear order while being aided by years of someone else’s experiences.
This method is often preferred, as it can not only speed up the learning process of the guitar overall but can prevent any bad playing habits from forming. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that bad habits are harder to break than forming the right ones the first time.
It’s true, and it often takes far longer to break those habits and replace them with a new habit. This type of learning is very inefficient, so do yourself a favor and get some help. You won’t be disappointed with your progress.
Should A Beginner Start With Fingerstyle?
Whether or not a beginner should start with fingerstyle is somewhat debatable. Starting with fingerstyle can be very beneficial, but it is crucial to have some other skills under your belt first.
The most important thing to learn before learning fingerstyle is learning your open chords and ensuring that your chord transitions are smooth. This will help you immensely, as you will only have to focus on your picking hand, as opposed to both of your hands.
The importance of being able to strum rhythms with chords cannot be understated, as this is a fundamental aspect of modern music. If you have these fundamental skills down, it might be worth looking at fingerstyle guitar if it aligns with your personal goals.
Benefits Of Learning Fingerstyle Guitar
Fingerstyle guitar techniques will give you an intimate understanding of how chords are built. You will become very familiar with arpeggios and how certain note sequences sound.
This melodic understanding can be a great bonus to have when you transition to using a guitar pick. This knowledge can significantly decrease the amount of time it takes to play melodic leads with a pick.
The reason for this is that, when using a pick for anything besides strumming, it is often a struggle for guitarists to utilize the pick without having a melodic understanding of the fretboard. With the knowledge intact, you can dedicate your focus to proper picking techniques instead of dividing your focus to different things within a practice session.
Similarly, because fingerstyle guitar utilizes different fingers for different strings, your brain will have been properly trained in focusing on multiple aspects during your playing. This type of focus can then be applied elsewhere when learning new techniques and playing styles.
What Can Help With Fingerstyle Guitar?
Aside from lessons from an in-person instructor or through Guitar Tricks, there is something that can greatly help you to learn the technique and keep you inspired to continue to learn.
This helpful thing is to learn your favorite songs that have fingerstyle guitar actively employed throughout the song. Learning your favorite songs will give you an understanding of how the fingerstyle technique is used.
It will also motivate you to continue learning as you’re far more likely to enjoy learning your favorite songs as opposed to a bland practice exercise. Because you are already emotionally connected to the song, you are more likely to follow through and integrate the techniques with your own playing.
Plus, learning your favorite songs not only adds to your list of playable songs but allows your influences to shine and morph your playing into something that is uniquely you.
Can A Beginner Learn Fingerstyle Guitar Eventually?
There is no defined path that a guitarist must follow to become the guitarist of their dreams. In fact, that is perhaps one of the best things about being a guitarist.
Once you have a fundamental understanding of how the guitar works and how to play the basics, you can learn anything you wish. With time and dedication, you will have added many different aspects from your favorite styles of music into your own playing.
This is what makes you unique as a guitarist, rather than being a carbon copy of another person. Being a great musician means that you can express yourself freely, while also being inspired by those who have come before you.
Your musical tastes will often define the path you take but do not be discouraged if it feels like your own path is all over the place. Your own personal path might not make sense initially, but after some time, you will see (and hear) where certain influences have come into play within your own playing.
If you want to learn fingerstyle guitar, then, by all means, go for it. The only one holding you back is you.
If you feel you’re not ready yet and need to learn other things first to make your fingerstyle journey easier, then by all means go that route. Trust in yourself.
Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced guitarist, you can always learn fingerstyle whenever you feel the time is right. Learning new things on the guitar is a life journey, with the guitarist being a lifetime student.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Fingerstyle Guitar? Final Thoughts
You should now have a better idea of how long it takes to learn fingerstyle guitar.
Anyone can learn fingerstyle guitar. Depending on your skill level and amount of dedication, it could take you 6 months or less to become proficient. Taking fingerstyle lessons could decrease the amount of time it takes to learn overall.
As always, when learning something new, don’t forget to be patient. Most importantly, do not forget to be kind to yourself. You deserve it.
Last Updated on February 2, 2022.
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