Guitar lessons in Edinburgh

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Welcome to the guitar lessons in Edinburgh blog! Here we've got some lesson material mixed in with some musings on learning music in general. Feel free to join in!


Pick or fingers?

By Guitar lessons in Edinburgh, Dec 20 2018 11:49PM

So at Guitar lessons in Edinburgh at we've talked about relying on either the right hand or left hand when it comes to doing a lot of picking or slurring, but how about not using a pick at all? Edinburgh guitar classes will often unquestionably begin with using a pick, when it comes to popular music styles; in this post we're going to talk about using the fingers and thumb of the right hand instead of a pick. The choice of any technique is obviously going to have advantages, disadvantages and limitations, and it's my natural instinct to assume that thumb-based playing will have limitations in terms of speed. This is certainly true for the most part, however if you listen to players like George Benson and Wes Montgomery using their thumb (and playing fast by anyone's standards) then this claim starts to appear false. Phenom's like this aside, one could also take the legato approach to playing with the thumb/fingers and in many ways it's no less efficient than using a pick (legato player Brent Garsed does a version of this). Then there's the question of how fast do you really need to play? If using the thumb or fingers doesn't prevent you from playing in time then does it really matter if you can shred or not? Some great examples are John Abercrombie (there's a distinct improvement in his playing after he switched from pick to thumb), Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, Derek Trucks and even players who are exceptionally competent using a plectrum like Joe Bonamassa and the aforementioned George Benson choose to use their thumb at times for the sake of getting a particular tone. Any good guitar teacher in Edinburgh should be asking the question: what is it that they are trying to accomplish with their students? If sounding good is truly the primary goal (seems obvious but a lot of players don't think objectively about this), and 'sounding good' can mean tone, rhythm, feel, note choice etc. then perhaps the thumb is the path of least resistance to getting a cool sound, given how many hours of practice it takes to sound smooth using a pick. For an example of some finger-style slide playing, check out my video at As always for any questions don't hesitate to get in touch at

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