In this article, we’ll talk about the time and effort that need to be invested in learning fingerstyle guitar, and we’ll do so while focusing on different levels of expertise. To some, fingerstyle guitar may seem overwhelming initially, but nothing is impossible with disciple and good learning habits.
Every guitar technique comes with unique challenges to master it. For example, in the case of fingerstyle, the ability to play both melody and accompaniment simultaneously may result harder than when playing a keyboard, considering you play everything with one hand on the guitar.
Today we’ll go through the basics for learning this technique and share some tips and insights to help you create a practice routine and develop a good technique to be a good fingerstyle player.
How long does it take to learn Fingerstyle Guitar?
For beginners, it should take about four to six months to master the fundamentals and about nine months to a year to become a solid player. However, in an experienced player’s case, two to three months should be enough to pick up the foundations and about six to eight months to become a solid player.
We break down the answer according to the level of experience because an experienced player should already have a good left-hand technique and a knack for picking up techniques more easily.
The key to learning fingerstyle guitar is good learning habits and a well-thought-out practice routine in which you cover all the aspects you wish to learn. That pretty much applies to every task you want to accomplish
Furthermore, we should consider if it’s necessary to learn how to read music. Most fingerstyle players know how to read music, be it tablature or music notation. Which one you should learn will be determined by your style and which one you find more effective. Both methods work perfectly, and each of them has its advantages.
Now, music reading is not necessary per se, but it really helps during the learning process and saves time in the long run as you’ll only need the tablature or music notation sheet to start practicing a song you want to start practicing.
In the case of deciding to learn how to read music, it’s advisable to practice it separately from playing guitar in the beginning until you get used to it. It’s always good to focus on small individual tasks rather than try to do them all at the same time.
How much should you practice on a daily basis?
The duration of your practice sessions should be based on your goals, how quickly you wish to progress, and your daily schedule since we only have so many hours in a day. Nonetheless, as a rule of thumb, you should practice at least 30 to 40 minutes daily.
Learning to play a musical instrument requires a fair amount of hours, no matter which one you’re learning. But the key to learning how to play, in this case, fingerstyle guitar, is not to spend a lot of hours daily practicing as many people think but to develop a good learning method and practice routine that focuses on the goals we want to achieve. So it’s not about time quantity but time quality.
On the other hand, your practice goals shouldn’t be focused on results like “I’ll learn this song by the end of the month,” but on practicing consistently. The reason for this is that submitting ourselves to specific results based on time is a double-edged knife as we usually impose unrealistic goals on ourselves, which has a detrimental effect on our mental state and negatively affects our ability to advance.
The amount of time we spend practicing should be based, too, on our current level. Beginners, have yet to get used to playing as their fingers get sore after playing after a few minutes, so 30 minutes should be fine as a starting point.
Furthermore, for an intermediate level, a time lapse between 40 minutes and an hour works wonders, as it’s time enough to review the last progress made and start practicing something new. Finally, 20-30 minutes for experts should suffice since it’s only practicing what’s already mastered.
Is it difficult to learn Fingerstyle Guitar?
Compared to strumming and basic picking techniques, it’s definitely more challenging. However, like everything in life, for some people learn fast while others may find it more difficult. We’re all different and learn at our own pace.
The difficulty of learning fingerstyle is also pretty much determined by your goals and the level you wish to reach. Of course, we all want to be experts, but there are different levels of expertise, and also different ways to play fingerstyle.
Regarding the technical aspects of fingerstyle, some people struggle a lot with accentuating the melody over the chords and having a plain sound. That is one of the most important elements when playing solo or playing the main melody, and also probably the hardest.
Some people may find some playstyles easier than others. For example, some might find it more difficult to play classical while other people have a harder time playing the voicings in jazz.
Something you should consider is your mental state when learning fingerstyle. Our emotional state is always the most important factor during the learning process and marks the difference between a smooth and easy experience and a difficult one with struggle.
Another thing that negatively affects our process is comparing ourselves to others. Of course, learning from others and analyzing how they play is always important. However, nothing good comes from comparing progress; some people will take longer to learn, and others will start later and learn faster, which is perfectly normal. So don’t fret over unnecessary things.
How does Fingerstyle playing differentiate from other techniques?
Well, this might come out as a surprise, but the biggest difference between fingerstyle playing and other techniques is that you play with your fingers instead of a pick. Also, you don’t strum but pluck the strings when playing several at the same time.
While it may result in difficulty, you can play melody and accompaniment with a pick, although fingerstyle is the playstyle of preference since it differentiates from picking for offering more clarity when accentuating the melody over the chords.
Playing with a pick is more oriented towards playing single melodies or chords with a strumming pattern, while fingerstyle is focused on playing several lines (melody, chords, and bass) with single notes, or sometimes several notes, but by plucking them instead of strumming.
This playstyle requires more coordination by engaging new muscles and creates a different approach. You don’t think about strumming patterns but the chord structure, the phrasing, and how you play each note with your fingers.
In that regard, fingerstyle guitar is quite similar to playing the piano. But, of course, with a piano, we usually play the melody with the right hand and the accompaniment with the left. But fingerstyle is more difficult in that aspect as it requires playing several lines with one hand.
What is the best way to learn Fingerstyle Guitar?
Self-teaching is always difficult and it takes longer to assimilate a new concept or technique. Unfortunately, it’s also more likely that someone develops a bad habit or technique that could be potentially harmful.
One reason is that self-taught players don’t know where to start. There’s a lot of information online about techniques and whatnot, which may be overwhelming and difficult to organize a learning method.
Another reason is that self-taught players rarely have the criteria to discern if a new technique is being played correctly if the fingering is efficiently related to what they’re playing if the form and finger pressure is adequate, and so on.
The preferred method is to rely on an expert, whether in in-person classes or an online course. This helps greatly to increase the speed of your process and prevents you from bad habits and harmful practices.
It’s always necessary to practice on our own, but also to count on the guidance of someone with years of experience that can help us prevent bad habits, give us insight, and help us develop the criteria we need to grow on our own.
What should you focus on when learning Fingerstyle Guitar?
The greatest challenge when learning to play fingerstyle is emphasizing the melody over the accompaniment since you’re playing both with the same hand. In the beginning, you should concentrate on good hand positioning and getting used to playing with your fingers.
Later, you can focus on the clarity of the melody, which is the most important aspect of fingerstyle when playing solo. You can concentrate on this early on, but your main focus when starting should be the dexterity of the fingers.
Something common in jazz music is adding voicings to the main melody. Since harmony is an essential aspect of jazz, musicians tend to focus more on the chords they form with the voicings than to create complicated accompaniments.
In a lot of folk music, we see guitar players create percussive hits along with their playing by hitting the pickguard or hitting mute the strings. We can also find those elements in recent music [that’s not folk] where players are this one-person band by playing the melody, the chords, and the rhythm simultaneously.
In short, the main focus when practicing fingerstyle is developing the coordination to do several tasks with the right hand (or left if you play left-handed). The clarity of the melody, the complexity of the accompaniment, and the voicings and percussive hits we add are the elements that conform to fingerstyle playing.
To learn fingerstyle guitar, you must practice consistently and be patient and driven by passion. Learning to play a musical instrument always requires that we surpass our limits to accomplish our goals, and it is a long process. It’s always difficult when you’re beginning, but it gets easier as we go.
There are many styles of music that apply this technique. It’s always a must for classical music and has become more popular and present in jazz in recent years; also, many rock and folk musicians play their songs fingerstyle. So this is a versatile and cool technique with many applications.
A good routine for practicing and being consistent is key master any technique. Anything in life. It’s also important to incorporate the music we like in our practice to get in the mood for playing and stay motivated. But the most important thing to do, as cheesy as it sounds, is to have fun.
What’s the point in learning something or making music if we don’t enjoy it? Not only should we enjoy when playing our favorite songs or making our original music. We also must learn to enjoy learning and growing as musicians.
So remember always to have fun when you play and share your music. The best part of being a musician is sharing what we do with others, and even more so to make music with others. That will help you grow as a musician by learning from others and creating valuable connections.