Plectrum Technique and Fingerstyle Technique
for Guitar Playing
There are two main methods of playing the guitar. Firstly the plectrum technique, with a plectrum (or pick).
Secondly the fingerstyle technique, (classical finger style) using the right hand fingers.
Here's a description of both guitar playing techniques and how they are used:
Plectrum technique (pick)
A plectrum, or pick is a small thin piece of, plastic, bone, quill, metal or similar material.
The plectrum is held in the player's right hand and is used to pluck or strum the strings of instruments such as the guitar, banjo or mandolin.
The plectrum technique is the oldest method of playing guitar-like instruments. Its history in the Western world extends right back to medieval times when the Moors occupied Spain (see History of the guitar). It is still used in this way in the Middle East and Asia.
In Europe the use of the plectrum died out in the 16th century and was replaced by the classical finger style method of playing. Its revival occurred in early 20th century America.
In present day guitar playing the plectrum technique is often used in bands such as Country & Western, Bluegrass and Rock.
In these bands, there may be three guitarists. One guitarist will play a single line melody or fast scale passages (lead guitar). One guitarist will strum chords (rhythm guitar) and the third guitarist will play a bass line (bass guitar).
Because the plectrum is very suited, but limited to, playing a single line of music (one note at a time) or for strumming chords, it is the method of choice for those who want to play electric guitar in a band.
Fingerstyle technique (classical finger style)
The method that I teach is the classical or finger style technique.
With this method, the thumb and the three largest fingers of the right hand are used to pluck the strings.
The classical technique enables you to play a melody and a plucked chordal accompaniment at the same time — or two, three or more lines of music at the same time. This is much the same as a pianist plays music.
The versatility of the classical finger style technique makes it ideal for solo instrumental playing of classical, blues, folk, Spanish and arrangements of popular ballads as well as song accompaniment.
The fingers of the right hand can also be used for strumming chords. For example Spanish Flamenco guitar players create many complex and exciting rhythms with this method.
The classical fingerstyle technique developed in Europe in the late 15th century and gradually replaced the plectrum technique. It has continued its development to the present day.
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