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Are you looking to move beyond the basics? If you want to play more intricate and complex fingerstyle songs, here are the steps to do that. 

Classical guitarists have been playing what you could call "advanced fingerstyle" for a long time, since at least the early 19th century. In contemporary music, more advanced fingerstyle, including the use of advanced techniques emerged in Blues music with Blind Blake.

Later on, Country and Western music stars such as Merle Travis developed more complex fingerpicking patterns.

Guitarists such as Chet Atkins would create whole arrangements that eschew singing altogether, instead focusing all the attention on the brilliance of the arrangement.

Today, we have fingerstyle guitarists who don't sing at all (Eddie Van Der Meer), or who combine both complex singing and fingerstyle (Jon Gomm).

What Are Advanced Fingerstyle Techniques?

Some of the most likely advanced techniques that you will have to learn to play your chosen song or arrangement on fingerstyle guitar are:

  1. Percussion on the second beat: This technique involves using your picking hand to strike the guitar body or strings on the second beat.
  2. Palm muting: This technique involves using your picking hand to mute the strings near the bridge of the guitar. If you are doing Travis Picking, you will be muting the bass line while letting the melody notes ring out.
  3. Rasgueado: This is a technique that involves strumming the strings using the fingernails of your picking hand. Some rhythmic patterns, such as Rumba, must be performed in a rapid motion. 
  4. Harmonics: This technique involves lightly touching the strings at certain points along the fretboard called nodes.

What Do I Need To Know To Play Advanced Fingerstyle Guitar?

To learn advanced fingerstyle guitar, you will need to start by simple guitar arrangements before progressing to complicated songs.

Advanced fingerstyle guitar involves playing intricate fingerpicking patterns and melodic lines, while also incorporating techniques such as slapping, legato playing, and harmonics.  

As you can see, the techniques that you will need to learn really depend on the music, specifically the guitarist. Some guitarists require you to master a bunch of different guitar techniques and become an expert at complex tapping.

All of these techniques are covered in great detail in the online course, Play Fingerstyle Guitar Now!

Other guitarists, such as Sungha Jung, are much more rooted in chord melody playing.  Still others, like Tommy Emmanuel, require you to be familiar with thumb picking or hybrid picking if you want to learn all his pieces. Choose a guitarist and focus on their particular style of playing or genre of music, when you are starting out.

How To Start Learning Advanced Fingerstyle Guitar

To start playing advanced fingerstyle guitar, choose a guitarist whose style you appreciate and who you would like to imitate. Then, listen to and learn as many of her songs as you can to get a good idea of her playing style.  

This will give you a better idea of the techniques you need to focus on. Here are some general techniques you must master to play advanced fingerstyle guitar. 

1. Improve Your Finger Dexterity

To play advanced fingerstyle guitar, you will need to play more awkward chords with wider stretches. You will have to develop hand and finger strength, especially with the weaker fingers. As well, mastering the barre technique is essential to playing advanced fingerstyle guitar.

To improve your finger dexterity, you can do this by practicing finger exercises such as scales. Legato playing, such as hammer-on and pull-off, are also excellent for developing finger strength and placement.

2. Improve Your Fretting Hand Efficiency

You will also need to perform chord changes with less time. To speed up chord changes, use visualization techniques to "see" the next chord in your mind, or the hand position where you are going, before you start moving the hand.

As well, learn to isolate every finger movement transition, and “audit” each finger move to make sure you aren’t doing any extemporaneous movements.

3. Develop Right Hand Independence 

Advanced fingerstyle guitar requires that you have absolute right hand independence. This means that you must be able to play the arrangement without looking at the plucking hand. The only exception is when you are playing harmonics or tapping.

4. Start Memorizing Straight Away

I recommend starting to play the song by memory as soon as possible. This requires you to play without the tabs in order to fully concentrate on what your hands are doing.

Reduce the overall speed of the song when you are learning it in order to make it easier to play. Some passages, such as fast licks, will be difficult to play no matter how slow your overall tempo is.

I am a fan of the method of playing things extremely slowly in order to analyze all the movements.  It also helps with visualization and your finger placement.

5. Learn Basic Chord Harmony

It's very helpful to know a bare minimum of music theory to play advanced fingerstyle guitar. For instance, knowing what a dominant seventh chord is can help you identify and memorize them more quickly in an arrangement. Also, knowing why certain chords progress in a specific way (harmony) will help you understand the direction of the music.

By knowing music theory, you can also make your guitar music a little easier if you come across some chords that are impossible for you to play. You can simplify a guitar chord in an arrangement by removing some of the notes which are in the chords.

For example, instead of playing a full four note chord with a barre, instead isolate the top (melody) and bottom (bass) notes and play those instead. If you are really stuck with the finger dexterity, this can help at the beginning.

Why Is Advanced Fingerstyle Guitar So Hard To Play?

Advanced fingerstyle guitar players use a lot of different techniques in their arrangements, such as harmonics and percussion. On top of that, you must have excellent fretting hand technique and plucking hand technique,

If you want to play advanced fingerstyle guitar, the best way is with an online guitar course such as Play Fingerstyle Guitar Now!