These days, and in many days past, too many guitar players have gotten all caught up in a “speed contest”. That’s all fine a good, and of course, we’d all love to be faster players, but I feel that the true “unsung hero” in your guitar playing will always be the right, or “picking” hand. This hand is always the true “vehicle” that gets you where you want to go, and even though we can learn all the notes we could ever dream of on the fret board, it still takes a dexterous right hand to make all those guitar dreams come true!
There’s no question that guitarists such as myself and other “advanced” players are usually most impressed by a player’s right hand. The ones I am most envious of are pickers like Scotty Anderson and Tommy Emmanuel, who use the thumb pick and finger combination to its absolute fullest extent. Not only do they have the most amazing fingerstyle approach, but at the drop of a hat, they can switch it over to a wonderful “flatpick” style by simply holding the thumb pick in a flat pick manner. Folks who can blazingly flat pick, like Bluegrass greats such as Doc Watson and Tony Rice, are equally impressive, and the precision with which they can pick is truly an amazing thing to behold. I have adapted myself to basically three right-hand approaches that serve me well; The all-flatpick “bluegrass” style, the semi-Classical thumb and three-finger approach, and the pick and finger “hybrid” style. The “hybrid” style is terrific, but it does force one to sacrifice the index finger so it can also hold the pick, as opposed to using the thumb and three-fingered approach, which really gives you the most freedom, and in many ways, the best tone.
A lot of major Rock-style players have also given in to the fingerstyle approach almost totally exclusively, such as Jeff Beck who now only plays with his fingers, as well as Mark Knopfler, who you can tell was a one-time “Folkie” who turned into a lead electric player, and who also has a wonderful right-hand technique. There are many others too, but I feel that most players, even whether they know it or not, utilize the “hybrid” style quite often. When you start to develop your technique to include more double-stops, triple-stops, constant basses, and split-string licks, you’ll see that the pick and finger approach will almost fall into place naturally for you. The main thing then is to concentrate more and more on getting it to be more of a “discipline” and a true pattern-oriented approach as opposed to just an occasional technique that you “throw in” now and then. It takes real dedication and desire to achieve the right sound for you to make this rather advanced technique really happen for you! Many of my Gibson lessons deal with this right hand issue, and hopefully you can go back and watch them, and try to absorb what is really going on with that hand. Remember, “it’s all in the fingers” as they say! Good luck!