Finger Picking is a captivating guitar technique that provides a unique timbre, melody, and rhythm for any song or solo piece. If you have ever caught wind and heard of a famous finger stylist like this, you may feel a bit intimidated to start to learn to fingerpick. I’m here to tell you; you… can… do it!
With just a bit of practice and creativity, you soon will be creating your fingerstyle songs! Today is going to be another foundational step forward with these simple fingerpicking techniques for beginners. The pattern demonstrated here will highlight a specific fingerstyle technique and musical foundation. Feel free to use this pattern and technique in your next song, interpretation, or free play.
Let’s Learn to ‘Shick’
The first pattern we will tackle is called the Roll and Shick. If you’re unfamiliar with what a ‘Shick‘ is, then let’s go over that technique now. The Shick is not a note but a percussive beat created by striking the strings without letting them ‘ring’. This muted striking of the strings creates a versatile sound and helps embellish the rhythm of a piece.
(video of shick)
Getting the ‘Shick’ down will take a bit of practice. Start in a position to play; begin the ‘strum’ motion through the strings with your fingers but stop just before actually creating notes. What you’re doing is delivering energy to the strings and immediately muting them before they emit a distinguishable note. If you are having trouble creating this muting effect with your fingers, try using the palm of your hand.
The Palm Shick is a go-to for many guitarists because it’s easily applicable to almost any song and is versatile enough to throw into almost any situation. Place your palm on the strings where it connects to the saddle and strike the string. This is very similar to the palm mute, just more applied to the rhythm of the song. If you don’t get your Shick correct today, that’s alright!
Let me tell you; it took me a tremendous amount of time to figure this out. Once I did, I couldn’t believe how easy it is and how I had so much difficulty figuring it out. So don’t fret (guitar pun), with a bit of practice you be Shicking right along. If you are having trouble, post a comment down below and I’ll post a more in-depth technique analysis.
(palm Shick Video)
Time to Learn How to Count… Again
A big part of what gives a piece it’s unique auditory experience is its timing. If you clap your hands in time; there is an equal amount of time in between each clap, right? If you want to clap out a 4/4 timing (4 beats for 4 measures), you would clap 4 times counting up ‘one two three four’ where each word is a beat and each clap is a measure. After reaching four, you restart your count at ‘one’ and go again.
This is the typical counting scheme of most music. So if you understand this concept, well done! You’re ready to count and play to 99% of music. If not, it’s okay! With patience and practice, It will soon make sense. Feel free to leave a message down below and I will dedicate an entire article to help you understand timing.
Counting Exercise | 1 2 3 4
For this exercise, we will only be counting so let’s dive into the basics of a 4/4! You’ve now heard of music timing typically being in 4/4. It’s known as standard timing due to how frequently it is used. If you were to count just the whole notes, it would go like this:
1 2 3 4
That notates 1 beat per 1 measure. After the 4th beat and 4th measure, the count starts over.
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 . . . . .
If we want to include 1/2 beats to our count, we include ‘and’ in between our beats. We will use the ‘&’ in place for ‘and’. It will look like this:
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & . . . . .
Go ahead and count this to yourself, you are counting eighth notes! If you count everything in between the ‘1’ and the ‘&’ after 4 you get 8 characters. Each one represents a place in time where you may put notes or pause. Your choice of notes, pause, and timing is what creates melody! Now we are going to count 16th notes. It will sound like 1-e-and-a-2-e-and-a-3-e-and-a-4-e-and-a
The video below sums up everything from this counting section.
(video of counting)
The Roll and Shick
So now you understand how to ‘Shick‘ and how to count! These two techniques are essential to the pattern being taught today. This pattern is very versatile and easy to modify and make your own. Practicing the Roll and Schick pattern will greatly help your finger dexterity, timing, and percussive skills. I highly suggest practicing this pattern till you have it down and are comfortable playing it smoothly.
The first part of the ‘Roll’ for this pattern will consist of striking the bass string of your chord with your Thumb. Next, you will play string from lowest to highest with your Index, Middle, and Ring. So, if we’re playing a G-chord, the thumb will play the top-most E string while the Index plays the D-string; the Middle plays the G-string, and the Ring finger plays the B-string. Each of these are eighth notes so it would count like this:
- 1 & 2 &
- Thumb Index Middle Ring
If you notice, that roll only takes up 2 measures of our 4/4. This is where the ‘Shick’ comes in. The next part of the ‘Roll’ will use the Shick technique followed by your Index, Middle, and Ring. You should play the same strings you played before except substitute the Thumb strike for a Shick. It will look like this:
- 3 & 4 &
- Shick Index Middle Ring
Notice, these ‘Rolls’ are using the Index, Middle, and Ring fingers to play the strings one subsequently after another. The first part of the 4/4 starts with the Thumb note followed by a ‘roll’ of the fingers then a Shick halfway through followed by another ‘roll’ of the fingers. Put them together and it should look like this
- 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
- Thumb Index Middle Ring Shick Index Middle Ring
And this is what it sounds like muted. (No chords being played)
(Video of Roll and Shick)
Once you get comfortable and fluid with this pattern, try applying it to different chord progressions and timings to really master the technique and pattern. If you really want to give yourself a challenge, try this pattern in the dark!
(video of interesting chord progression using pattern)
Fingerstyling Takes Practice and Creativity
You’re well on your way to becoming a finger stylist! Well done so far!
When practicing, remember to focus on punctuality and sound rather than speed. Part of progressing in guitar is finding something worth practicing rather than practicing things you’re already proficient in. Always push to give yourself a challenge!
If you have any questions on this lesson or have recommendations for future lessons, feel free to leave a comment down below!