What’s The Difference Between Fingerstyle And Fingerpicking? (And Many More)

Guitar beginners are often full of questions. If you’re the one, you have maybe asked yourself the question from the headline.

Is Fingerstyle The Same As The Fingerpicking?

Well, yes. Those two words mean the same thing in 99 % of cases, although they are used in slightly different contexts.

Here’s detailed explanation:

Fingerstyle is the technique of playing the guitar by plucking the strings with your fingers. However, there are lot of different styles with which you can play the guitar with your fingers. For example, flamenco fingerpicking, jazz, Carter family style, Travis picking, and so on.

When you refer to the particular style, it’s more common you’ll hear the word fingerpicking.

“Fingerstyle” term is more often used as a term for plucking strings with fingers, in general.

Is It Hard To Learn Fingerstyle?

Everything is somewhat “hard” to learn when you try it for the first time. For a beginner, it is certainly not easy to learn fingerstyle. But same goes for an average guitar player who only plays with a pick.

So, the bottom line is this. It’s not that easy to learn fingerstyle, but it’s not hard either. The key is regular practice.

Is It Better To Learn Fingerstyle Before Using Guitar Pick?

There are mixed opinions on this one. As far as I’m concerned, it is better to learn fingerstyle first. At least basics of fingerstyle.


It feels more natural to learn using your fingers before holding a guitar pick. As the old saying goes, before you walk, you need to crawl first. I think this can be applied to the guitar playing, as well.

With fingerstyle, you’ll get to know chord structure better.

When you’re picking each string while playing a chord, you’ll naturally recognize the notes that make a regular minor or major chord. You’ll get to know the structure of the chord and harmony, unconsciously.

Of course, you can do alternate picking style, but with fingers it feels more natural at first.

Can You Play Fingerstyle On An Electric Guitar?

Of course you can. Mark Knopler of Dire Straits plays with his fingers. Chet Atkins, also. And many more.

Is it easier to play fingerstyle on an electric guitar? It depends. For some people it is, for some it’s not. For me, it is not. Here’s why.

Although electric guitar strings are lighter than acoustic or classical guitar strings, that doesn’t mean it’s easier to play fingerstyle on an electric guitar.

There’s not much sense to play fingerstyle on a distorted sound. So, you’ll play fingerstyle when your electric guitar is on a clean sound. But that clean sound is very different from the regular classical or acoustic guitar sound.

Guitar amp will collect more squeaking sounds from your strings as you fingerpick your guitar. An overall output sound will be not as good as it is on an acoustic or classical guitar.

Is Fingerstyle Guitar Classical?

Classical guitar is played mostly with fingers (fingerstyle), but every other guitar can be played fingerstyle. Fingerstyle means playing the string with your finger.

Any guitar can be played fingerstyle, although some guitars are more suitable to play it that way than others. For example, classical or flamenco guitar.

Is Fingerpicking Harder Than Strumming?

Fingerpicking is slightly more demanding than strumming. Fingerpicking requires more fingers to be active. When you strum, you don’t have to worry about the position of each finger.

On the other hand, strumming can become hard when you strum certain complex strum patterns. But in general (in my opinion), fingerpicking is harder.

How Do I Get Better At Fingerpicking?

If you want to learn fingerpicking, you’ll find a dozens of exercises everywhere. However, the most effective exercise to develop your fingerpicking skill is to just sit and play.

That’s right, just sit and casually play your guitar with your fingers. It doesn’t matter if you do it right or wrong. What matters is that after some time your fingers will adapt to that style of playing.

Our brain loves recognizing patterns. Naturally, over time, your fingers will start to “love” what you’re playing.

In my opinion, there’s no need to learn some advanced fingerstyle patterns on a guitar. You, alone, will develop your own fingerstyle patterns that will sound great.

Just sit and enjoy playing your guitar with your fingers. Trust me, very quickly you’ll be able to play a complex fingerstyle patterns with ease.

How Many Fingerpicking Patterns Are There?

It is impossible to know the exact number of fingerpicking patterns. There are dozens of them, that’s for sure.

You can even invent your own fingerpicking patterns. Anyway, here’s the cool video showing 25 different fingerpicking patterns played on the same chord progression.

What Does Flatpicking Mean?

Flatpicking means holding the guitar pick when you play. It is different from fingerpicking, since you use only your guitar pick to make the sound out of your guitar.

Should I Play Guitar With Pick Or Fingers?

You should do both. There’s no need to play your guitar exclusively one way or another.

If you really love to play your guitar, you’ll want to play it both with the pick and the fingers.

Flatpicking, fingerpicking – both ways are great, and it would be a shame to not know one way of playing. Moreover, the goal of learning an instrument is to learn how to play it differently, with many ways.

A lot of guitar players don’t know how to play fingerstyle, and that’s a shame. Imagine how much more creative you would get if you learn to play your guitar both ways.

What Guitar Is Best For Fingerstyle?

Since you can play fingerstyle on virtually any guitar, every guitar is good for fingerstyle. However, if you particularly like fingerstyle, maybe the best choice is a classical guitar.

Classical guitar have nylon strings that are soft and have softer sound.

Classical guitar is played fingerstyle most of the time, so yes, classical guitar is probably the best choice for a fingertsyle.

However, there are exceptions. For example, a famous guitar player, Chet Atkins often played electric guitar fingerstyle.

So, the bottom line is this: Do whatever you want. With regular practice, you’ll sound great on every guitar, no matter what style you play.

How Do You Strum A Guitar With Your Fingers?

There are many ways you can strum your guitar using only your fingers. For example, you can strum it with your thumb only.

When you do that, you’ll get a nice mellow, and not sharp, sound from your guitar. It’s suitable for a quiet, peaceful playing.

For example, if you’re alone in your room and you want to play your guitar silently, just by yourself. That works in situations when you don’t want to hear loud sounds from the guitar.

On the other hand, you can strum your guitar with all of your fingers. In that situation you’ll want your nails to be in contact with strings. That technique is used excessively in flamenco music. Rhythm guitars use that technique.

What Is Travis Picking?

Travis picking is the fingerpicking style that includes constatly moving thumb on treble strings.

Merle Travis was the pioneer of this technique. Anyway, if you’re up for learning this technique, check out this cool video showing basics of Travis fingerstyle picking.

This Course Helped Me Develop My Fingerstyle

I encourage you to check out Mike Dawes’ fingerstyle course on JamPlay – Fingerstyle Mastery for All Levels

The course has 40 video lessons (6+ hours of runtime). Mike Dawes is one of the best modern fingerstyle guitarists today. You can see why just by watching his videos.

Anyway, take a look at the course for more info.


There are also other fingerstyle courses on JamPlay. Here are my favorites:

All of these courses have high quality (4K) video lessons with multiple camera angles. Also, you get the JamTracks for playing along practice. You can also ask a question to your teacher anytime.

Final Words On Fingerstyle

Fingerstyle is the beautiful guitar technique every guitar player should use now and then.

I hope this article gave you some valuable information about fingerstyle and fingerpicking difference, tips on exercising fingerstyle, additional advice, and so on.

If you enjoy reading this, I’m more than happy about it.

Don’t forget to check out some other interesting articles I wrote on this site!

Cheers, and rock on!

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