I always like to say that it’s the right, or “picking” hand that really commands the guitar. After all, we can always learn the right notes to play with our fretting hand (with a lot of technique thrown in, too!), but the right hand being the rhythmic driving force behind what we finally do is what determines how far we really can go with our instrument. I guess another way of saying it would be to call it the “means by which we get there”. It also, for finger-pickers, becomes like the left and right hands of the piano player….the thumb can become the left hand, while the remaining fingers are like the right hand of the pianist. This means that as guitar players, our fretting hand is now the “third” hand, so to speak, and we now face the task of coordinating all of this intricate work.
I am a big proponent of using the fingers, but I equally love using the pick, or a pick and finger “hybrid” approach. Perhaps the guitarists I am most envious of are the ones who can really wail with a thumb pick plus 3 fingers! These monster players, such as Scotty Anderson and Tommy Emmanuel bounce back and forth all the time from straight finger-style to full flat pick-style without missing a beat. Scotty can actually fly across the strings with all four fingers, and then suddenly grab that thumb pick between the index finger and thumb, and use it within a blindingly fast flat-pick approach! As if that’s not enough, he even can play a double-stop harmony to that picked string with the nail of his index finger! It’s as if he’s holding two flatpicks, side by side, playing harmony! Just an awesome technique, that leaves all of us in awe for sure!
Now, I have innovated certain things that the fretting hand does, such as my “pedal steel” string bending licks, and my slide guitar stylings, but these would be nowhere without a strong approach by the right hand keeping everything in its proper place musically as well as rhythmically.
So, I highly recommend that besides my Gibson lessons, you also check out YouTube for some amazing right-hand technique to pick up from. Players I highly recommend are folks such as Tuck Andress, Scotty Anderson, Tommy Emmanuel, Merle Travis and Chet Atkins. These are the players who have both the left and right hands really well-coordinated together, and who seem to possess the most accurate, and style-driving right-hand picking technique. Compare them, see how they are similar and how they differ, and most of all, try to take away a little bit of learning for your own style from these true greats! Best of luck with it all!