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How do I start learning fingerstyle guitar? I am lookin for a good book with CD, or any video series that will help me to get started. Basically, I want have some direction about how to play like Sungha Jung. I have some previous plucking experience.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I don't know of anything that will target Sungha Jung's style specifically, but I don't see that as a problem. There are a few skills you need (in my opinion) to become a good fingerstyle guitarist, and if you master them you'll be able to mimic Sungha Jung or develop your own style:

  • Play bass and melody independently
  • Change quickly between chords
  • Learn various chord voicings

With that said, the only fingerstyle book I can recommend from personal experience is Beginning Fingerstyle Blues by Arnie Berle and Mark Galbo. While it's an excellent book, it is likely too bluesy to catch your interest (based only on the information in your question). In that case, you might try one of these book/CD combos:

All of those books are in my 'learning queue', and have come highly recommended. In particular, Mark Hanson has an excellent reputation for putting out solid books on fingerstyle guitar.

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The first thing you want to work is the independence between your thumb and fingers. There is a video of Tommy Emmanuel on Youtube explaining how to do this, and it's actually what got me started.

Back ago, I wrote some sort of thumbpicking tutorial, in Portuguese (with examples in a SoundCloud set), which tells you to do more or less the same things that Tommy says in that video.

I'll try to write a condensed version here:

Exercising the thumb

First thing to do is exercise your thumb a little bit, to get that "boom-chick" sound. So your first exercise is, with the open A minor chord, get your thumb alternating between the 5th-4th-6th-4th strings, while palm-muting the same strings. This may take a while to get it working well, but don't worry to get it perfect, with time and practice you get better at it.

So, for the first exercise (PDF and Audio available), you'll just fret a plain old A minor:

Am

And play with your thumb:

$A 0 $D 2 $E 0 $D 2 | $A 0 $D 2 $E 0 $D 2 | repeat... ||

Remember, you're training only your thumb for now! You may find helpful resting the other fingers on the body of the guitar, to make sure you won't use them while you get your thumb groovying.

Playing it with a chord

Now that your thumb is alternating fine, you want to bring the other fingers to the dance. You do that by pumping the A minor chord on the remaining strings (the 3 high strings) in the 1st beat, while keeping that "boom-chick" with your thumb. This can also take a while, until your thumb learns to do what you want it to do. PDF Audio

$A.0.$G.2.$B.1.$e.0 $D 2 $E 0 $D 2 | $A.0.$G.2.$B.1.$e.0 $D 2 $E 0 $D 2 | repeat... ||

Putting a little attack

When you think you have a little independence going on, try to put a little attack, pumping the chord in an up tempo like this: PDF Audio

$A.0.$G.2.$B.1.$e.0 $D 2 $G.2.$B.1.$e.0 $E 0 $D 2 | $A.0.$G.2.$B.1.$e.0 $D 2 $G.2.$B.1.$e.0 $E 0 $D 2 | repeat... ||

Changing between chords

Following that, it's time to change chords, while keeping the thumb going. Now you're going to alternate between A minor chords and E major chords. Notice that the 1st beat has to be on the chord root, so you'll have to change the pattern in your thumb to play the root of the chord you're playing on the first beat. PDF Audio

$A.0.$G.2.$B.1.$e.0 $D 2 $G.2.$B.1.$e.0 $E 0 $D 2 | $A.0.$G.2.$B.1.$e.0 $D 2 $G.2.$B.1.$e.0 $E 0 $D 2 | $E.0.$G.1.$B.0.$e.0 $D 2 $G.1.$B.0.$e.0 $A 2 $D 2 | $E.0.$G.1.$B.0.$e.0 $D 2 $G.1.$B.0.$e.0 $A 2 $D 2 | repeat... ||

Arpeggios and rhythmic patterns

When you have some or all that working, you may try to put more things on top of it. Maybe some sorts of arppeggios or rhythmic patterns with your fingers, while always keeping that thumb going. Example: PDF Audio

Playing on another key

Now, it's time to experiment with other keys. Here is an example with C major: PDF Audio

The work here is practically the same as before (keep the thumb going while you do some patterns in the chord with the other fingers), but other keys offer different soundings and options to use your thumb for the bass/rhythm part.

Chet Atkins made several arrangements which are so remarkable because how he had a way of doing this. Check out his arrangement of Borsalino for an example.

and you're free!

Finally, if you haven't already, you want to learn some songs and putting all this to good work. Here are some simple examples just to get you started: Aloha Oe and the classic Windy and Warm.

Another good one is Freight Train, which someone was kind enough to post a video explaining how to play it.

Anyway, I'd say that's the start! :)

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I started to learn fingerpicking with "la méthode de guitare à Dadi", Marcel Dadi was one of the best fingerpickers I know, he also played with Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed.

His book is very well done and covers a wide range of picking styles and techniques, with well chosen examples ranging from Doc Watson, Atkins, traditional blues, jazz or the Beatles. Though the reference i gave is in French, I believe it would be possible to find it in English, the book is more than 30 years old so obviously it doesn't cover Sungha Young, but it is still the best reference I know for learning fingerpicking guitar. and can be found in every good guitar shop, at least in France...

Marcel Dadi was also famous for giving out a booklet with full tablatures inside each of his records, I believe the cd reprints still include them, or you could search for his name in google and find plenty of it with youtube vids...

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As far as I know, fingerpicking and fingerstyle guitar is very different in nature. Am I wrong? –  iamcreasy Aug 20 '11 at 20:17
1  
I think they are in fact very similar in nature, fingerpicking could also refer to a special style of fingerstyle, while fingerstyle only refers to the playing technique. But I find it easier to simply consider those words are synonyms. see wikipedia –  Smugrik Aug 20 '11 at 20:42

Maybe try the instructional book by Rick Ruskin - http://www.liondogmusic.com Small sample on youtube -

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My guitar teacher recommended to me the following book/dvd once: Tipps, Tricks und Licks.

It's dual language (german and english). You can have a look at some example videos.

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