How Long Does It Take To Learn Fingerstyle Guitar?


acoustic guitar | Sandy Music Lab

Some beginner guitarists shy away when they hear the word “fingerstyle.” But playing fingerstyle guitar doesn’t have to be as difficult—or take as long—as it sounds!

How long it will take to learn fingerstyle on guitar depends on your personal skill level and guitar-playing history. For most guitar players, it takes 3-6 months to learn basic fingerstyle techniques.

This article will discuss the factors that affect how long it will take you to learn fingerstyle guitar. Read on to learn more about the technique itself and what you can do to speed up the learning process.

How Long Does It Take To Learn Fingerstyle?

When it comes to music and playing instruments, everyone’s experience is different. The learning process might take longer for one technique than another, so the best way to find out how long it will take to learn finger style is to give it a try yourself!

For players with a lot of guitar experience, it may only take a month or two to master the foundations of fingerstyle guitar. However, if you’re still working on learning chords and playing the right strings, it may take you a little longer to learn how to play fingerstyle thoroughly.

Don’t worry if learning to play fingerstyle is more difficult at first than you expected. With practice, you’ll be playing fingerstyle in no time. And in reality, there’s always progress to be made when it comes to a single musical technique!

What Is Fingerstyle?

Fingerstyle is a guitar-playing technique in which the player picks each string individually with their fingertips instead of strumming entire chords. The fingerstyle technique frequently allows guitarists to play the melody of a song and the background notes—all on one guitar! 

How Is Fingerstyle Different From Other Techniques?

Your right hand, or your picking hand, is the most significant change when switching to fingerstyle from another technique. As I mentioned earlier, each note is played individually in the fingerstyle technique, which is very different from strumming. 

Playing individual notes engages new muscles and ways of thinking. Rather than thinking about each chord and the strumming pattern you’re using with it, you’re thinking about which finger will play each note of the song. All of those individual notes put together will create a beautifully complete song.

How Difficult Is Fingerstyle?

Compared to basic strumming and picking techniques, fingerstyle can be pretty challenging. However, like any technique, the difficulty of fingerstyle guitar depends almost entirely on the player. 

Some players find it much more intuitive than playing with a pick, while others need more time to grasp the complexity of the technique.

Reading Tablature

It is technically possible to play fingerstyle by ear. However, learning to read tablature opens the door to countless songs along your fingerstyle journey.

What Is Tablature?

Guitar tablature is a form of music notation that players can use to play a song exactly as the music’s writer intended. In a way, tablature is a language of its own! 

Using a guitar tab, a player can quickly determine which frets to play on which strings. On top of finding the right notes to play, they can also find the correct rhythm they should play each note.

Why Is Fingerstyle Easier for Some People?

Some fingerstyle novices tend to grow frustrated when their peers seem to be learning the technique much faster than they are. However, there are a few reasons one player might be progressing more quickly with the fingerstyle technique than another.

Musical Experience

In many cases, it’s easier to grasp the concept of fingerstyle guitar if you have previous experience with instruments like the piano. Experience with these instruments gives you a better understanding of how single notes can work together to create a complex song. In the long run, this makes it easier to adapt your fingers and mind to playing complicated passages of fingerstyle guitar.

Experience With Other Guitar Techniques

Someone with picking experience might find it easier to learn fingerstyle than someone solely accustomed to strumming. When you strum a whole chord, you don’t have to pay much attention to what is happening with each string. 

But when you’re using a pick to play notes, it’s crucial to pick the correct string at the right time to achieve your desired effect. Having experience with this technique will make the fingerstyle learning process much more straightforward.

However, those accustomed to playing with a physical guitar pick might need a little more time to master the fingerstyle technique. It can be challenging to unlearn the techniques and muscle memory associated with using a pick. However, once you get used to picking with each finger separately, it will be much easier to master the fingerstyle technique.

Tips for Learning Fingerstyle Guitar

Fingerstyle can be intimidating at first. But luckily, there are a few things you can do to make the learning process fly by! Here are five tips for learning fingerstyle guitar:

  1. Assign Each String to a Finger
  2. Don’t Stick to Sight-Reading
  3. Learn Songs You Like
  4. Don’t Stop Learning
  5. Be Patient

Assign String to a Finger

One of the most effective things you can do to simplify the fingerstyle learning process is to figure out where exactly each of your fingers should be. With the fingerstyle method, you should assign each string to a picking finger

Most commonly, your thumb will be responsible for picking the fifth and sixth strings. Using your thumb in this way leaves your index finger to pick the third string, your middle finger to manage the second string, and the ring finger to take care of the first string. 

Now, you might be asking: What about my pinky finger? When it comes to fingerstyle, your pinky finger is not responsible for picking a string. Some players prefer to brace their pinky fingers against the guitar beneath the strings to keep their picking hand steady. Others allow for it to hover near the rest of the fingers.

Don’t Stick To Sight-Reading

Sight-reading is when you choose songs that are easy enough to play just by looking at the tablature. Instead of selecting songs simple enough to sight-read, it’s helpful to find a few more challenging pieces to work on perfecting over time. Playing the same song over an extended period will help you fully grasp the fingerstyle technique and understand all of the nuances of the playing style.

Learn Songs You Like

As you may know, it’s much more challenging to learn a song if you’ve never heard it before. And, it’s even more challenging to find the discipline to practice a song that you don’t even like! Making the learning process fun is vital to speeding up your master of fingerstyle guitar. Start by finding tabs for songs you love, and the time will fly by as you get used to the new technique.

Working on songs you’re already familiar with will also improve your accuracy and rhythm. One of the most common struggles for fingerstyle beginners is being unable to keep a consistent rhythm. If you already know the song, the rhythm will come naturally, and it will be much easier for you to focus on the notes.

Don’t Stop Learning

Once you master fingerstyle guitar at a basic level, you may feel inclined to move on to a new technique. However, you will be much happier with your progress if you continue to push yourself with fingerstyle songs. There are so many techniques and songs to master when it comes to fingerstyle guitar that you’ll never truly finish learning unless you choose to give up.

Be Patient

As I mentioned early, some people have an easier time learning finger style than others. If you’re struggling to master the technique, it might be easy to get frustrated. However, patience is an essential factor when it comes to finding success with fingerstyle. Give yourself the time to learn the technique, and don’t get too frustrated when something doesn’t come as easy as you’d hoped.

When it comes to learning individual songs, patience is crucial. If you’re excited to start learning a piece, chances are you will want to play it at full speed. Although playing at the right tempo is a positive skill to focus on, it takes time to work up to playing a song at full speed. 

Before trying to speed up your playing, make sure you have a good feel for the notes and the song’s rhythm. Start slow—it will reduce mistakes and help the music sound much cleaner when it’s time to speed it up. 

One way to hold yourself accountable for your speed is to use a metronome. A metronome keeps a steady beat. Setting it to a slower tempo can serve as a helpful reminder to slow down and prioritize the song’s rhythm.

Helpful Tools for Playing Fingerstyle

Some guitarists worry that using their fingertips to pick each string will lead to breakage in their fingernails. Luckily, there’s a solution for people with sensitive nails: acrylic fingertip picks! Fingertip picks wrap around your fingertips to protect your nail and improve the clarity of your playing.

If you’re interested in trying out fingertip picks, check out this pack of National’s Stainless Steel Finger Picks from Amazon.com.

Final Thoughts

Although learning fingerstyle guitar can be a long process, it’s also extremely rewarding. With the information and tips explained above, I hope you’ll be well on your way to mastering the fingerstyle technique.

David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others. Check out my recommended guitar gear!

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