I'm trying to fingerpick with the pad of my fingertips (ie no nails), I'm struggling to get a nice tone.

My thumb & ring finger sound okay, but my forefinger and middle finger tend to produce thin, tinnny, or scraping sounds on the attack. I've tried varying the angle, shape, and pressure of the stroke in various ways, but all it seems to do is make it sound different kinds of wrong.

I'm very new to guitar; about a month into self-teaching steel-stringed acoustic with a Hal Leonard book. I believe I'm putting my first three fingers in the right places (G, B, and E strings respectively).

Can someone advise me on this, or point me to a good animation or video that can show it?

  • 2
    It's virtually impossible to help you, as we have no idea what you are actually doing with those fingers. One month of playing, with no teacher, means you have so little experience of what you are doing or can do, it's better that you keep on playing. There are so many subtle factors involved that after only a few weeks you would find difficulty in understanding anyway - with due respect. Just keep playing, and your own style and method of producing the sound you want will develop. It may even be the guitar or its strings. Or - find a teacher!
    – Tim
    Nov 16 '18 at 8:24
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    It's not visual it's haptic. You cannot learn touch from a video. A teacher (a real teacher) is a good idea but even then you will go through a period where you are not doing it exactly right, or it feels weird. The teacher will be able to keep you on the right track if you go off track. These things are learnt by feel.
    – user50691
    Nov 16 '18 at 12:28

The finger pad will always likely produce a dull tone. The important thing is to be able to control the tone and reliably reproduce the same sound, tone and volume, each time you attack. I use a technique where I touch the edge of my finger pad to the string and let the string glide off the pad, onto the nail and then launch off the nail like a slide (I may not be describing this very well). I also push the string in towards the top a little (this produces a very loud free stroke sound). But I play classical rather than steel string acoustic. I have used finger picking techniques on electric but I use my classical approach there as well.

I would recommend taking the time to explore the attack, angle, pressure, and other variables on the open strings. This is what it takes to develop good tone on classical. Once you get the sound just right try to remember what you are dong and drill it over and over. Once you can play a finger picking sequence on the open strings then start applying it to chords. If you lose the tone it may not be your right hand but a lack of coordination with the left (e.g. releasing the left hand fingers too soon and making a dead sound).

As for placement it is true that in the beginning most technique books place (i, m, a) on the (G, B, E) strings, and use the thumb for the three bass strings. But that is not set on stone. Many finger pickers use the fingers on the bass and thumb the treble on occasion, it really depends on the sequence of notes and what is easy to grad, play smoothly, and produce a good tone.


"nice" is a bit subjective. Some like soft attack, others like a sharp attack...

But if you like the sound your thumb and ring finger make look at what you do with them that is different. Are you picking or strumming at a different angle, are you using less or more pressure, is the speed the same, etc? Try changing these factors.


This may help, Flamenco guitar tech right hand Technic (a little different than classic guitar) requires to have all fingers perpendicular to the strings. The strings have to be "pushed" in and when released the finger has to rest on the next string. As the string is pushed in you can have a louder sound if wanted. It is important to rest the finger on the next string to minimize the movement and be ready for the next note. If the fingers are not perpendicular, the movement will be less controlled.

Regarding the fingers i, m, a fingers on the G, B, E strings, rather than pulling each fingers you can pull you hand, using more strength and having a louder sound (this also from flamenco). You can create a quick arpeggio by changing the angle of your hand which will pull the G string first or the E string first depending on the effect you want to create.

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