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I'm a quite new guitar player actually. So I think this is some beginner question? Haha.

So recently, I began to learn finger-style guitar.

Knowing the basis like p for E A D strings, and i m a for G B e strings, respectively, I've been always confused on what to do if I have to pluck the same strings twice, or multiple times.

Let say I have to pluck B string 2 times, do I use my middle fingers to pluck it twice ? or do I use both index and middle to alternate the plucking ? Does it make any difference if I have to pluck it more than twice, like say 5 times ?

The thing confused me is that on Youtube videos some people pluck the same strings twice with the same finger, and while others pluck it with another finger to alternate. So I don't know what to do for myself...

Is there a secret to pluck the same string twice or multiple times ?

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3 Answers 3

There are a variety of techniques you can learn, and they are useful for different purposes. When choosing which one to use, let your ear guide you.

This is not a comprehensive list of techniques, but it covers the basics:

  • You can pluck repeatedly upwards with the same finger.
    • This is the easiest technique to learn.
    • It leaves your other fingers free to work with other strings.
    • It has a certain maximum speed; where you find that you can't get your finger back to the starting position in time to make the next pluck.
  • You can alternate between fingers
    • This requires more practice and coordination
    • It allows you to play notes at double the rate you can with one finger (or more, with more fingers)
    • It is what finger-style bassists usually do for fast patterns
    • It "uses up" a second finger, meaning you can't use it to pluck another string at that moment.
  • You can pluck the string with one finger in alternate directions
    • This is similar to "alternate picking" with a plectrum.
    • Because your finger is not symmetrical, notes picked in one direction tend to sound different to notes picking in the other direction. It's up to you whether you like the effect for a particular part.

... and of course, there are more techniques and you can change between them during a song.

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It probably depends somewhat on the rhythmic subdivisions in whatever you're trying to play. If it's a couple of quarter-notes on the same string, you may just want to use the same finger. If it's subdivided in 2s, you may want to alternate index and middle. If it's subdivided in 3s, you may want to cycle through ring -> middle -> index or index -> middle -> ring.

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In addition to using multiple fingers to match rhythms, as pointed out by @luser, the tempo of the piece may guide you. For a particularly fast sequence of notes on the same string, it may be simpler to use pima consecutively than to use i (for example) repeatedly.

If the piece is at a pace where you could use one finger or more, find out what works best for you - ideally, each finger should result in the same tone, but often an individual favours one finger more than another, so changing fingers may give tonal variation. Which may be what you want or not.

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