fingerstyling the blues

Today I’m sharing two more interesting emails I have got lately.

Firstly, here’s just a quick heads-up about the Acoustic Asylum podcast.


Thanks for the kind words so far. There’s much more coming soon, but for now, I’ve created a quick page on the website with links to where you can listen to it. You can check that out HERE. I hope you enjoy it.

As for today, we have a great question about blues fingerstyle and an epic email I think everyone should read…

Email #1

“What are your thoughts on playing 12-bar blues shuffle style (including improvising over the blues scale) without a plectrum – i.e. ‘fingerstyle’?

Can it be just as effective as when using a plectrum? Can the effect of palm-muting (or some other muting technique) still be achieved? Interested to hear your thoughts on this aspect of playing.”



Playing the blues fingerstyle?


Doing so can sound pretty awesome.

Just listen to Eric Clapton on his Unplugged record (especially on songs such as the stunning “Hey, Hey”).

Some prefer to use a thumb pick for this style as this can make getting the palm muted sound easier/stronger.

Fingerstyle gives us loads more options than just using a pick, but more options can be more confusing.


Using a pick can simplify things a little, but once you can play a solid blues (or anything with a pick) it’s a lot of fun to train yourself to play the same thing with your fingers.

Then, as the great and sadly recently departed Jeff Beck talked about, you have more options available to you.

That’s because you can play the same parts as before, but add in a ‘pinch’ with a spare picking hand finger here and there.

And those little moments can jazz up any piece in a really cool way.

As always, when learning or re-learning something, you could play one way (i.e., with a pick) be very patient when trying to train yourself to play it another way (i.e., with your fingers).

Transferring things like this doesn’t happen immediately.

Still, it’s a lot of fun!



Email #2

“Hey Dan, 

I’ve recently started your Fingerstyle 101 book and want to tell you how much I appreciate both the book and your emails! I’m 69. I started playing at 30 but quit in my early 60s because of basal thumb arthritis—which I’m sure got out of hand (unintended pun) because of bad guitar-playing technique.

But at 69 I suddenly became interested again. I researched as best I could (through Amazon) all the beginning fingerstyle instruction books– I’m now your devotee! I taught myself 30 years ago with books that NEVER mentioned proper right and left-hand technique as you emphasize. 

Because of your book, this is what I’m working on now:

1) less pressure on my fretting hand.

2) less pressure on my left thumb.

3) using three (rather than two) right fingers to pick; and

4) using a strap to correct bad playing posture. Switching to the classical is very difficult (because I need to move around) but I hear the tonal difference and there’s no question I have less tension in my right shoulder when playing, with at the very least, a strap.

And not crossing my legs to hold up the guitar is absolutely helping with lumbar pain. I’m now dependent on you as my guitar teacher. (To my spouse, I refer to you as Dan, my guitar teacher!)   

I wanted to say one thing about coming back to the guitar as an older person. As it happens, there seems to be a revolution in guitar manufacturing with the popularity of smaller guitars and shorter scale lengths for easier playing. I did a lot of research and ended up with a Taylor GS mini which has superb sound, volume, and tone, and is much easier to play than my Martin 0018. The Taylor minis have solid tops and high-quality laminated back and sides and sound terrific. I’m inspired to play it every day.

Oh, and with your books and focus on basic technique, I don’t have any need for a capo. In no way am I advocating Taylor guitars because I’m sure others are just as good. But thought you’d be interested.”




That’s a great email, so thanks to Annie for writing in.

This email hits many important points I talk about a lot.

Things such as:

The importance of good technique, getting a guitar that suits you, learning from resources that are proven to work, the huge usefulness of the classical position, remembering it’s never too late to come back or start learning guitar, and more…

Honestly, I don’t think I could have written a better email than the one Annie did if I tried.


So, keep all the above in mind, and if you want more help and to learn like Annie did, don’t forget to check out the Fingerstyle 101 book and course below.

Some people prefer the book, others prefer the video course, but some like both.

Either way, you can check it out below if you like…

Fingerstyle 101 – a step-by-step guide to beautiful fingerpicking guitar playing


Keep enjoying your playing! 

Dan Thorpe

Guitar Domination


P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.

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