I’m just starting to learn finger picking. Trying several different ways I have seen. But a simple question, I place my fingers in position, but after playing the first group of notes, it’s next to impossible for fingers to return to original placement for the next chord? Is that simply a matter of muscle memory and practice, or are the fingers always hovering close to the strings? Maybe playing open chords was harder than I remember cause I can pretty well do that now without looking.
There is a technique in classical guitar called planting. It really works for everything, I teach it for flat picking too. The idea is to "plant" the fingers where they need to be just before playing. In the case of the classical there is also a slight pushing downward on the strings as this produces the correct initial vibration (correct physics for the optimal string performance). This makes for very robotic sounding playing but it's a learning method. In time you will develop a haptic connection to the strings, like walking down the stairs without looking. You can add to the exercise by immediately touching the strings you just plucked to stop them (producing a strong staccato). If you don't try to develop this haptic connection you will always have a floppy hand disconnected from the guitar. If you don't try you may develop a sense of where things are over a long period of time, but the planting technique will sharpen you skills up very quickly.
Finger style take quite awhile to devlop, but when it dose the progression is neverening if you keep at it. Just start with a 8th note picking pattern on you favorite progession. Concentrate and keep at it. The hand hovering is just another technique. Also On a steel string guitar, the american style is called finger pickin (folk). One technique would be called old time pickin. You can check out John mississippi hurt live footage and watch his hands. He uses his index finger as a brace on the pick guard an plays an alternating bass with his thumb. He then pick out a melody line and sings with the guitar. This style is popular in folk and is great or singer songwriters, because it allows you to Sing along with the guitar. You can also check out Merle Travis and Skip James and watch footage such for lessons. On a nylon you can go so many ways for technique. There classical style(PIMA) which employs the overhand way you playing, but you can also use rest stroke with the thumb and fingers. When you play a note with your thumb you rest it on the next string after. Same gose for you middle,index and ring you can rest on the next string giving you more control(rest strokes). You can have picado which is from flamenco which is a form of rest stroke, but you playing lighting fast scale. Goole paco de lucia and youll see how to play a nylon guitar. You can also play chord by pinching the string togerther in stead of strumming this is very important in fingerstyle, is to play chords without strumming, so pinch some chords instead of strumming and grab the string. Fingerstyles devlops way more than using a pick.
When I learn a finger picking pattern, I play it very slowly at first. When it starts to become reflex (muscle memory), I speed it up.
I hover over the strings and find that return comes naturally. It will come in time. :)