Proper technique can get you a louder volume when playing guitar

Are you wondering why your fingerpicking is so quiet? Let's look at some tips and tricks for improving your fingerstyle guitar volume and get a louder fingerpicking sound from your acoustic guitar, even if you can't grow nails.

Fingerpicking techniques generally produce a quieter sound compared to aggressive playing, especially if you play guitar with a pick.

Although fingerpicking technique produces a gentler sound than other styles of playing, you can get a louder fingerstyle sound by using proper finger picking technique, using nails and using an instrument with a louder sound.

You don`t have to do all of these things for a louder sound, however. Sometimes a simple fix in your plucking hand technique will suffice.

Why Is My Fingerstyle Guitar So Quiet?

Factors that influence the volume of your fingerstyle playing are your playing style, your guitar, fingernails and plucking hand technique.

If you are looking to improve your fingerstyle guitar volume, first consider where your hand is located on the guitar. It should be slightly over the sound hole, half covering it. Your hand should also be closer to the bridge. If your hand is too close to the bridge of the guitar or if it's overtop the fretboard, your fingerpicking volume will be less.

Right hand position for louder sound
Place your right hand almost, but not quite, over the sound hole for the best sound.

How To Get A Louder Fingerpicking Sound

Before focusing on the other factors that go into a louder fingerpicking sound, the first thing you should change in order to finger pick louder is your plucking hand technique. 

Your plucking hand finger movement should come from the knuckle. If your wrist is too flat and you attempt to increase your volume by plucking harder, you may end up pulling on the string and producing a twangy sound.

To avoid this, raise your wrist and ensure the finger movement comes from the knuckle. The fingertip should pass through the string and finish underneath the palm of your hand.

The online fingerstyle guitar course Play Fingerstyle Guitar Now! has an entire module on proper plucking hand technique.

What Makes An Acoustic Guitar Sound Louder?

When we pluck a guitar string, we set the string in motion. This vibrating string causes the air around it to move, which creates the sound we hear. The amplitude (size) of the waving string determines the volume of our guitar sound.

Simply by plucking the string more aggressively, we can create a louder sound because we have put more energy into our vibrating string. In more technical terms, we have increased the amplitude of the wave hence, producing a louder sound.

Why Do Some Guitars Sound Louder Than Others?

The construction of your guitar can influence the volume of your fingerstyle guitar playing. When we pluck a string and set it in motion, the vibrations get transferred to the guitar body.

The top of a guitar, which is where the sound hole is located, is constructed with a softer wood specially selected to enhance the vibration of the string. The sound also escapes through the sound hole.

Girl playing fingerstyle guitar outside
Choose a guitar with a larger body if you want a louder sound.

The braces, which are pieces of wood glued inside the guitar body, are also constructed to transfer the vibrations of the string into the guitar body and thus, increase the guitar's volume.

As you can see, the construction of an acoustic guitar, as well as the size and shape of the guitar body can affect the volume it produces. A guitar with a smaller body size tends to produce a softer sound compared to larger dreadnought or jumbo guitars.

How to Get A More Aggressive Guitar Sound

To use a more aggressive playing style on your guitar, use techniques such as percussion, nail attack or rasgueado. This type of playing will automatically produce a louder sound compared to regular finger picking.

Strumming chords with a pick will generally always produce a louder sound than fingerstyle guitar, simply due to the fact that we can put more energy into the string with this playing style. This isn't the only way to increase the volume of our guitar, however.

Do I Need to Grow Fingernails To Get A Louder Guitar Sound?

No, not necessarily. You can adjust your playing style to play more aggressively without nails. Because the nail isn't there to "snap" the string into the fretboard of the guitar, you can usually pluck deeper into the guitar. This means that you can engage more of the finger with the string without necessarily getting a twangy sound. 

How To Play Louder Fingerpicking Without Nails

If you prefer to play fingerstyle guitar with flesh, try using a thumb pick to improve the sound of your bass notes. The thumb pick attaches to the thumb sideways, not on the fingertip like other fingerpicks.

If you can't grow nails, using artificial nails will improve the attack on your fingerstyle guitar, and increase the volume of your guitar when fingerpicking. You can use temporary artificial nails that attach to your fingertips, or permanent acrylic nails.

You can also consider growing only your thumbnail and leaving your other fingernails short. I often find that my thumb nail naturally grows longer than my other fingernails and is more resistant to breaking.

Do Higher Gauge Strings Make My Acoustic Guitar Louder?

Just because higher gauge strings are thicker and heavier than thinner strings with a lower gauge, this doesn't necessarily translate into getting a louder volume with fingerstyle guitar. A gentle playing style will sound quiet on any guitar, regardless of the string gauge. In fact, light playing will sound at a lower volume on a guitar with thicker strings than, say, a classical guitar with lighter strings.

Higher or heavier gauge strings on fingerstyle guitar are a good choice if you want to achieve a louder volume through more aggressive playing and you aren't concerned about wear on your fingernails. Furthermore, you must be willing to play through the pain that thicker strings will cause in your fingertips.

Also, if you are fond of using alternate tunings that are significantly lower than standard tuning, thicker gauge strings will help in improving the timbre of your instrument.

Increase Your Volume : Become a Better Guitarist

It's important to remember that playing louder doesn't mean sacrificing quality. By following the tips and techniques outlined in the program Play Fingerstyle Guitar Now!, you can become a better guitarist while improving your finger picking volume.