Is There a Fingerpicking Guitar?

What is a fingerpicking guitar? There has always been a division of acoustic guitars between “folk” and “classical” which mostly refers to whether the guitar is fitted with nylon or steel strings. A nylon string guitar is ideal for fingerpicking because it is easier on the finger nails. The steel string guitars are suited to flatpicking but some people do play fingerstyle on steel strings.

Some guitar makers have recently taken up the practice of calling certain guitars – like the Martin OM-2 – “fingerpicking guitars”. Is this label really accurate? Is one guitar really better for fingerpicking than another? Some people say that guitars best suited for fingerstyle measure one and three-quarter inches across the nut and guitars better for flatpicking measure one and eleven-sixteenth inches. That could be getting a little technical.

Of course Dreadnought size guitars, that many guitarists see as flatpicking guitars are a bit awkward for fingerpicking. This is not a universal opinion – some players prefer the larger size guitars for fingerstyle. There’s even evidence that Merle Travis played a Martin D28.

The Dreadnought guitar was specifically designed to project sound in a live, unplugged setting. As most of the live acoustic gigs of the time were oriented to bluegrass, this would suggest that the larger guitar was made for the flatpicker.

Indeed flatpicking sounds excellent on a Dreadnought or one of the larger style guitars because they produce a uniformly big sound. This contrasts with the smaller guitars that do not have such an overpowering bass but have wider nuts to accommodate fingerstyle players.

A guitar like the Martin D28 is ideally suited to bluegrass, gospel, country and rock. Everybody agrees that the guitar has a great bass response but some people actually find the treble a little on the thin side. Of course, the strings you choose to play on has some bearing on the sound.

A guitar that does not need to be picked with a great deal of force will always be better suited to fingerstyle players. The guitars with small bodies are thought by a lot of guitarists to be fingerstyle guitars because the treble notes are not overpowered by the bass as would be the case with Dreadnoughts.

This article has given you some of the opinions from all sides of the debate about whether particular guitars are for fingerstle or flatpicking. In the real world nobody takes any notice of rules or specifications. You find a guitar that you like to play and you stay with it.

No comments yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.