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Finger-Style & Percussive Guitar Playing

Hello all!

Lately, I've been getting feedback from some of you asking about my finger-style guitar techniques, and perhaps the best song to use as an example would be Change My Mind. I humbly write this post, knowing that there are about a million things I have left to learn on guitar and as a musician in general.

The process of writing Change My Mind really inspired me to start using my acoustic guitar in more creative ways. I always aim to write songs that are interesting to as many people as possible. As pop artists, we want our work to have relatable, original lyrical content, a catchy melody or hook, and of course good dynamic. When it comes to creating dynamic in songwriting or in performances, using the guitar as a percussive instrument and playing with rhythm can go a long way. Of course, there are many ways to go about doing that. The first and most common is by using the palm of your right hand, resting it against the bridge of the guitar and muffling the strings as you strum. This is normally done when using a pick. That way, you hear the sound of your pick attack as much as you do the notes. But this is almost impossible to do when you're doing finger-style.

Finger picking is the first style that I learned on guitar, and to this day it's what I feel most comfortable doing, but it can be frustrating to put energy into a technique that is so detail oriented. The first thing that worked for me was a flamenco method called abanico or “fan”. This involves flicking down on the strings rather than using a pick or your index finger. In Change My Mind, I do something similar to that, holding my right hand close enough to the strings to where I can strike and mute the lower strings with the fleshy part of my hand, and still let the higher strings ring out by flicking down on them with my nails. A little added bonus: since I no longer need a pick in my hand to get the same tension, I now have an easier transition from strumming into fingerpicking. Then if you really want to have fun you can do a combination of both - which is what happens in the chorus of Change My Mind. 

Experimenting with rhythm in general is huge too, and there's a lot of different genres to study that give a good idea as to how to do that. Progressive Rock has done that for me. Watching, learning and playing songs from genres and bands that are completely different from our own is humbling but almost always worth while - especially when it comes to playing guitar!