The world of country music is filled with legendary guitarists who have left an indelible mark on the genre. Among these talented musicians are famous flatpicking guitarists who have created unique signature styles that have become iconic in their own right. But what exactly is flatpicking, and how did it emerge in country music? In this article, we’ll dive into the beginnings of flatpicking, explore some influential guitarists of early country music, and highlight the techniques and styles that have made Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton, and Molly Tuttle some of the most well-known flatpicking guitarists of all time. We’ll also look at what makes a great flatpicking guitarist, offer tips for developing your own style, and explore the challenges and tools of the trade that come with this dynamic and exciting playing technique. So grab your guitar, settle in, and get ready to dive into the timeless art of flatpicking!
The Beginnings of Flatpicking in Country Music
As one of the most influential and recognizable guitar styles in country music, flatpicking has come a long way since its early beginnings. Historically, flatpicking emerged in the early 20th century as players incorporated the use of a pick, or plectrum, rather than their fingers to play the guitar. Over the years, numerous influential musicians have helped to shape and develop this signature style. Understanding the history and evolution of flatpicking can be beneficial to anyone looking to learn, practice, and master this incredible technique. To delve further into the history of flatpicking, check out our article on the origins of flatpicking in country music.
The Emergence of Flatpicking
The emergence of flatpicking marked a turning point in country music, allowing guitarists to play lead roles in bands and ensembles. Flatpicking, as the name suggests, refers to the use of a flat pick to strike the strings of a guitar. Prior to the rise of flatpicking, guitarists primarily used their fingers to play the instrument. However, with the advent of electrification and other musical innovations in the 20th century, the need for a more percussive, defined sound arose. Flatpicking became the solution to this problem.
The use of flatpicking in country music can be traced back to the early 20th century, when guitarists began experimenting with different techniques to produce a more prominent sound. Maybelle Carter, a member of the Carter Family band, is often credited with popularizing the flatpicking style in the 1920s with her use of a thumbpick and fingerpicks to play lead guitar on songs like “Wildwood Flower.” Her influence was soon felt by other guitarists in the genre, who began incorporating flatpicking into their own playing styles.
As flatpicking gained popularity, new techniques and patterns were developed to create a signature sound. Many of these patterns were influenced by other instruments, such as fiddle and banjo, which were commonly heard in country music at the time. The use of arpeggios, for example, mimicked the sound of a banjo, while crosspicking patterns were adapted from fiddle playing.
Over time, flatpicking became an essential component of the country music sound, and a variety of famous flatpickers emerged, each with their own unique style and technique. Due to the popularity of the flatpicking style, it has become a technique widely taught among musicians, both in online tutorials and in-person lessons. If you’re interested in learning flatpicking, check out our article on learning flatpicking country music, which offers tips and resources for getting started.
Influential Guitarists of Early Country Music
During the early years of country music, the guitar was generally used as a rhythm instrument, with a few notable exceptions. However, there were several influential guitarists who helped push the instrument to the forefront of the genre.
Jimmie Rodgers is considered one of the first country music superstars and was known for his unique style of singing and yodeling. However, his guitar playing was also important, and he often used the instrument to provide a driving rhythm for his songs.
Maybelle Carter of the Carter Family was another early pioneer of country guitar playing. She developed a style of playing melody on the lower strings while keeping a steady rhythm with her thumb on the higher strings. This technique later became known as “Carter picking” and is still widely used in country and folk music today.
Another influential guitarist of the era was Merle Travis, who developed a complex fingerpicking style that became known as “Travis picking.” This technique involved alternating bass notes with melodies played on the high strings, creating a highly rhythmic and intricate sound. Travis’s influence can be heard in the playing of many modern fingerstyle guitarists.
Chet Atkins took Travis’s fingerpicking technique to new heights, developing a highly sophisticated style that incorporated elements of jazz and pop music. Atkins became one of the most sought-after session guitarists in Nashville and was instrumental in bringing the guitar to the forefront of popular music.
These early pioneers of country guitar paved the way for the flatpickers who would come later, demonstrating the potential of the instrument as a lead instrument as well as a rhythm instrument.
If you want to learn more about the different techniques used in flatpicking, check out our article on technical, speed and accuracy exercises for flatpicking and our guide to flatpicking patterns in country songs. To avoid common mistakes when learning acoustic guitar and flatpicking, read our article on common mistakes in acoustic guitar flat picking. If you are looking for exercises to improve your flatpicking fingers, read our article on flatpicking finger exercises. And if you want to explore the difference between flatpicking in bluegrass and traditional country, check out our article on the difference between flatpicking in bluegrass and traditional country.
Legendary Flatpicking Guitarists
When it comes to flatpicking guitarists, there are a few names that immediately come to mind. These trailblazers have not only paved the way for future generations, but they continue to inspire and influence musicians today. From the Appalachian mountains to the stages of Nashville, these musical icons have left an indelible mark on the world of flatpicking. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most legendary flatpickers of all time. If you’re interested, you can also read about the difference between flatpicking bluegrass and traditional country music.
Doc Watson, born Arthel Lane Watson, is one of the most renowned and influential flatpicking guitarists in history. Born in 1923 in Deep Gap, North Carolina, Doc lost his eyesight at an early age due to an eye infection, but that did not stop him from pursuing his love for music.
|Birth name:||Arthel Lane Watson|
|Hometown:||Deep Gap, North Carolina|
|Famous for:||Reviving and popularizing the acoustic guitar|
|Influences:||Blind Blake, Clarence Ashley, Jimmy Rodgers|
Doc Watson was known for his unique style of playing, which was a blend of traditional Appalachian music, blues, and country. He was also an expert in crosspicking, a technique that involves playing a series of notes on different strings using a flat pick in a repetitive pattern.
Throughout his career, Doc Watson recorded numerous albums, won multiple Grammy Awards, and was recognized for his contribution to American music with a National Medal of Arts in 1997. Sadly, he passed away in 2012 at the age of 89, but his legacy as a flatpicking guitar icon lives on.
Doc Watson’s influence can be heard in the playing of many contemporary acoustic guitarists, and his innovative fingerstyle techniques continue to inspire musicians today.
Few flatpicking guitarists have had as much of an impact on the bluegrass genre as Tony Rice. Born in Virginia in 1951, Rice began his music career at the age of nine, playing music with his brothers. He was a founding member of the David Grisman Quintet and is a former member of the Bluegrass Album Band, which included other legends such as J.D. Crowe and Doyle Lawson.
Known for his jazz-influenced style, Rice pushed the boundaries of bluegrass guitar playing, incorporating complex harmonic progressions and rhythmic variations in his playing. He was skilled at both lead and rhythm playing, and his dynamic solos were a hallmark of his signature style. Rice’s playing has been described as “bluesy,” “soulful,” and “virtuosic.”
In addition to his instrumental prowess, Rice was also a talented vocalist, with a smooth, clean voice that complemented his guitar playing. His version of the traditional song “Man of Constant Sorrow” is a classic example of his vocal abilities.
Rice’s contributions to the bluegrass genre have been immeasurable, earning him numerous honors and awards, including a Grammy for his album “Native American.” He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
The Tony Rice Unit, which Rice formed in the late 1970s, was known for its innovative approach to traditional bluegrass music. The band incorporated electric instruments and complex arrangements into their music, expanding the boundaries of the bluegrass genre. Their album “Manzanita” is considered a classic of the genre.
Rice’s style continues to influence countless guitarists in the bluegrass and acoustic music worlds. His use of double stops, crosspicking, and syncopated rhythms have become staples of modern bluegrass guitar playing. Despite his retirement from performing in 2013 due to health issues, Rice’s legacy remains strong, and his music continues to inspire new generations of musicians.
|Associated Acts||David Grisman Quintet, Bluegrass Album Band, Tony Rice Unit|
|Awards||Grammy Award, International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame|
|Style||Jazz-influenced, bluesy, soulful|
Tony Rice is a true legend of the flatpicking guitar world, and his innovative approach to bluegrass music has left a profound mark on the genre. His unique style, technical ability, and musical creativity continue to inspire generations of musicians today.
Bryan Sutton is an American bluegrass musician born in 1973. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest flatpick guitarists of all time. Sutton has won numerous awards, including several Grammy Awards, and has worked with many famous musicians, including Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, and Jerry Douglas.
| Style | Characteristics |
| Flatpicking | Bryan Sutton is known for his precise, fluid flatpicking technique. He has a clean, clear sound that is heavily influenced by bluegrass music. He often uses alternate picking to play fast, complex runs. |
| Rhythm Guitar | In addition to lead guitar, Sutton is also an accomplished rhythm guitarist. He has a keen sense of timing and is able to play complex rhythm patterns that are both supportive and engaging. |
| Versatility | Sutton is known for his versatility as a musician. He can play many different styles of music, including bluegrass, country, and folk. He is also comfortable playing different instruments, including mandolin and banjo. |
| Songwriting and Producing | Sutton is an accomplished songwriter and producer. He has written many of his own songs, as well as songs for other musicians. He has also produced albums for several other artists, helping to shape their sound and style. |
Sutton’s signature style is marked by his precision and technical skill, as well as his ability to adapt to different musical settings. He is known for his ability to seamlessly transition from rhythm guitar to lead guitar, creating a dynamic and engaging sound. Sutton is also an innovator, constantly pushing the boundaries of traditional bluegrass music and exploring new sounds and styles.
In addition to his contributions to the world of music, Sutton is also a sought-after teacher and clinician. He has taught at many music camps and schools, and offers online lessons through his website. He is known for his patient and supportive teaching style, and for his ability to break down complex musical concepts into easy-to-understand terms.
Bryan Sutton is a true master of the flatpick guitar. His technical skill, versatility, and creativity have helped to shape the sound of modern bluegrass music, and his influence can be felt in the work of countless other musicians.
Molly Tuttle is a rising star in the world of bluegrass flatpicking, known for her innovative use of clawhammer technique. Tuttle was raised in a musical family in California and began playing guitar at a young age, quickly developing a love for flatpicking. She has won several prestigious awards, including the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year in 2017.
One of the things that sets Tuttle apart is her willingness to take risks and push the boundaries of traditional flatpicking technique. She is known for her use of percussive hammer-ons and pull-offs, as well as her ability to seamlessly blend flatpicking and fingerstyle playing. Her style is marked by a sense of fluidity and improvisation, making each performance a unique experience.
Tuttle has cited a wide range of influences on her playing, from traditional bluegrass greats like Tony Rice to more contemporary artists like Radiohead and The Beatles. She has also collaborated with musicians from diverse genres, including indie rock and Americana, further expanding her musical vocabulary.
Here is a table summarizing some key information about Molly Tuttle’s background and style:
|Born:||1993 in Santa Clara County, California|
|Musical Influences:||Tony Rice, John Hartford, Doc Watson, Radiohead, The Beatles|
|Notable Awards:||2017 International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year|
|Signature Techniques:||Clawhammer, percussive hammer-ons and pull-offs|
|Collaborations:||Jason Isbell, Sierra Hull, The Goodbye Girls|
Molly Tuttle represents the future of flatpicking guitar, combining technical mastery with bold experimentation and a deep appreciation for the rich history of the genre.
Discover Top 3 Guitar Bestsellers
No products found.
Signature Flatpicking Styles of Famous Guitarists
When it comes to the world of flatpicking guitar, each famous guitarist brings their own unique style to the instrument. From the intricate rhythms of Doc Watson to the jazz-inspired licks of Tony Rice, each musician has carved out their own path and expressive voice on the guitar. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the signature flatpicking styles of some of the most renowned guitarists to have ever graced the stage. So grab your guitar and prepare to be inspired!
Doc Watson’s Crosspicking
If there is one name that is synonymous with flatpicking guitar, it is Doc Watson. Born Arthel Lane Watson in Deep Gap, North Carolina in 1923, Doc Watson rose to fame in the 1960s thanks to his incredible guitar playing and soulful vocals.
One of the signature techniques that set Doc Watson apart from other guitarists was his crosspicking. This intricate style involves playing intricate patterns using a combination of crosspicking and flatpicking techniques.
Here are the key elements of Doc Watson’s crosspicking:
- Using a thumbpick and fingerpicks to achieve a bright, crisp tone
- Using a steady alternating bass line to establish a percussive rhythm
- Adding intricate melodic lines and syncopated rhythms using a combination of crosspicking and flatpicking techniques.
Doc Watson’s crosspicking style was heavily influenced by the traditional fiddle tunes he grew up hearing in the Appalachian Mountains. He used his guitar to recreate the intricate melodies and driving rhythms of these tunes, all while maintaining a strong sense of individuality and expression.
While Doc Watson passed away in 2012, his legacy lives on. His unique blend of traditional mountain music and innovative guitar technique continues to inspire musicians of all genres. If you want to learn more about crosspicking and other flatpicking techniques, studying Doc Watson’s recordings is an excellent place to start.
Tony Rice’s Jazz-Inspired Technique
Tony Rice is widely regarded as one of the greatest flatpicking guitarists of all time, famous for his unique and innovative jazz-inspired technique that revolutionized bluegrass music. Here are some key elements of Tony Rice’s playing style:
- Chordal movement: Rice incorporated jazz chord voicings and progressions into his music, moving away from the more traditional bluegrass sound. He was known for his use of complex chord changes, creating a more sophisticated and nuanced sound.
- Smooth crosspicking: Rice’s crosspicking was incredibly fluid and smooth, allowing him to play intricate melodies at high speeds. He used a combination of alternate picking and sweep picking to achieve this, creating a sound that was both virtuosic and musical.
- Incorporation of jazz licks: Rice was deeply influenced by jazz guitarists such as Django Reinhardt and Wes Montgomery, and incorporated their licks and phrasing into his playing. This gave his music a more sophisticated and improvisational feel, and set him apart from other bluegrass guitarists.
- Dynamic range: Rice was a master of dynamics, able to shift seamlessly between quiet, gentle playing and explosive, high-energy solos. He used alternate tunings and capos to create a wide range of sounds and textures, and was always experimenting with new techniques and approaches.
Tony Rice’s innovative approach to flatpicking guitar has had a lasting impact on the genre, and his influence can still be heard today in the playing of countless guitarists around the world. He was a true innovator, constantly pushing the boundaries of what was possible on the instrument, and his music continues to inspire and captivate audiences to this day.
Bryan Sutton’s Bluegrass Mastery
Bryan Sutton is a renowned flatpicking guitarist known for his impressive bluegrass mastery. He has won multiple awards including the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year award nine times. Sutton’s distinctive style is rooted in traditional bluegrass music but also incorporates elements of jazz, rock, and folk.
One of Sutton’s signature techniques is his use of string bending, which adds a unique touch to his bluegrass solos. He also utilizes crosspicking and alternate picking techniques to achieve a fast and intricate sound.
|Bending||Sutton utilizes string bending to add a bluesy feel to his bluegrass solos.|
|Crosspicking||Sutton uses crosspicking to create a syncopated style with melodies played across multiple strings.|
|Alternate picking||He frequently uses alternate picking to achieve a fast and consistent sound during solos.|
Sutton’s bluegrass mastery is not limited to his technical abilities. He is also a master of tone, effortlessly blending rhythm and lead playing to create a cohesive sound. His accompaniment work is just as impressive as his solos, showcasing his ability to play melodically while providing a solid foundation for his fellow musicians.
Bryan Sutton’s bluegrass mastery is unparalleled in the world of flatpicking guitar. His technical abilities, tone, and musicality have earned him a well-deserved place among the legends of the genre.
Molly Tuttle’s Innovative Use of Clawhammer
Molly Tuttle is a rising star in the acoustic guitar world, known for her incredible flatpicking skills and innovative use of techniques like clawhammer. Her approach to clawhammer involves using her index and middle fingers to create a percussive thump on the bass strings while simultaneously producing melody with her thumb and remaining fingers.
Here are some examples of Molly Tuttle’s clawhammer techniques:
- Bass-Note Hammer-Ons: Instead of playing a bass note with one pick stroke and then playing a melody note with the next pick stroke, Tuttle plays the bass note with a hammer-on before picking the melody note. This creates a smoother, more fluid sound.
- Open-String Pull-Offs: Tuttle also uses open-string pull-offs to add a unique flavor to her playing. She plays a melody note and then pulls off to an open string, allowing the string to resonate and creating a ringing, shimmering effect.
- Alternate Picking: In addition to her clawhammer techniques, Tuttle also employs a combination of traditional alternate picking and hybrid picking. This allows her to play fast and intricate runs while maintaining a percussive rhythm.
What makes Tuttle’s playing so impressive is the seamless integration of these different techniques, creating a complex and dynamic sound that is uniquely her own. Her clawhammer technique adds a rhythmic texture to her playing that sets her apart from other flatpicking guitarists.
If you’re interested in incorporating clawhammer into your own playing, take a page from Molly Tuttle’s book and experiment with combining different techniques. By finding your own unique approach to playing, you can develop a distinctive voice on the guitar and make your playing stand out in a crowded field.
What Makes a Great Flatpicking Guitarist?
A great flatpicking guitarist possesses a mixture of technical skill, creativity, and musicality that sets them apart from the rest. They not only have an impressive command of their instrument, but they also have the ability to bring out the emotional depth and beauty of a song through their playing.
Technical Skill: A skilled flatpicker must have excellent fingerpicking and strumming abilities. They should be able to play cleanly and precisely at high speeds without compromising accuracy. Articulate note separation and clarity in playing is a must-have, as it allows the player to maintain great musical intervals and melody with the rhythm. This can only be achieved through dedicated practice and a willingness to push boundaries and explore new techniques.
Creativity: A great flatpicker is not afraid to take risks and experiment with new sounds, even if it means deviating from traditional playing styles. Innovation keeps up the guitarist’s learning curve and provides greater opportunities to attract a unique listener base. They are always looking for ways to evolve and grow as a player, and they are constantly challenging themselves to explore new styles, genres, and techniques.
Musicality: A great flatpicker is always in tune with the underlying emotions and message of the song. They have the ability to convey the meaning and mood of the music through their playing, making the listener feel the passion and energy of the song. This musicality is a result of deepening the understanding of the music theory, familiarity with the melody, and experimenting with new rhythms.
A great flatpicking guitarist also has a strong sense of passion and dedication for their craft. They are fully committed to their music, and they demonstrate this through discipline, persistence, and a willingness to learn from others. They have a strong sense of respect for the rich history and tradition of flatpicking, and they endeavor to honor this heritage through their playing.
Ultimately, a great flatpicking guitarist is someone who brings their own unique voice to the music. They are not afraid to break free from the constraints of traditional playing to create a style that is entirely their own. They are committed to the pursuit of musical excellence and are always looking for ways to push their skills and abilities to new heights.
Learning Flatpicking from the Legends
If you want to learn how to flatpick like the legendary guitarists, study their recordings and take note of their technique. Watch their hand movements, their pick angle, and their overall playing style. Thankfully, many of these flatpicking guitar legends have produced instructional materials that can help aspiring guitar players. Many instructional books and videos exist that showcase their techniques, tips, and tricks for flatpicking mastery.
In addition to studying these materials, it’s also helpful to attend workshops and camps led by famous flatpicking guitarists. This is a great opportunity to learn from the masters up close and personal, and to observe their playing style in real-time. Many of these workshops also provide the opportunity to jam with others, which can help you fine-tune your flatpicking skills in a supportive and collaborative environment.
Another effective way to learn from the legends is to transcribe their music. Find a recording of a song that you love and try to replicate it by ear. Pay attention to the melody, rhythm, and chord progressions. Transcribing music not only helps you improve your flatpicking skills, but it also develops your musical ear, which is a valuable skill for any musician.
Finally, seek out opportunities to play with other musicians to learn and practice flatpicking skills. This could be in the form of a regular jam session, joining a band, or even just playing with friends who play different instruments. Playing with others will challenge you to keep time, stay in tune, and adapt to different styles and genres.
Remember, learning flatpicking from the legends takes time and effort, but with dedication and practice, you can develop your own style and become a great flatpicking guitarist in your own right.
Tips for Developing Your Own Flatpicking Style
Unleashing your creativity and developing a unique flatpicking style can be a challenging but rewarding journey for any guitarist. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to crafting your own voice, there are a few tips and tricks you can follow to develop your own signature sound. As you embark on this exciting endeavor, it is important to embrace your own musical identity, experiment with different techniques, and seek inspiration from the legendary flatpickers who paved the way before you. So, let’s dive in and explore some practical advice for developing your own flatpicking style.
Developing an excellent flatpicking technique requires consistent practice. Here are some tips for staying on top of your practice:
- Schedule Your Practice Time: It’s essential to schedule a regular time for practice and make it a priority. Treat your practice like any other appointment that cannot be missed.
- Start Slowly and Build Up: It’s important to begin with easy exercises and gradually increase the difficulty level. This approach will help you build your skill and technique gradually.
- Keep a Practice Log: Tracking your progress is helpful, so keep a practice log. Write down the date, duration of practice session, and the exercises you worked on. This log can help you chart your progress and make necessary adjustments to your routine.
- Focus on Technique: In addition to developing speed, pay close attention to your technique. Practice proper hand positions, correct finger movements, and smooth transitions between chords.
- Use a Metronome: Using a metronome as you practice can help you stay in rhythm and develop your timing. Start with a slower pace and gradually increase the speed as you become comfortable.
- Set Realistic Goals: Set clear, achievable goals for each practice session, and track your progress. Celebrate small victories along the way to keep yourself motivated.
Remember, consistent practice over a long period is the key to becoming a proficient flatpicking guitarist. It’s important to balance your learning process with patience and persistence. By following these tips and remaining dedicated, you’ll achieve your goals and develop your unique style in no time.
Listen to Different Styles
To truly develop your flatpicking style, it’s important to listen to and learn from a variety of different styles. By immersing yourself in different sounds and techniques, you can discover new approaches that can help you create your own unique voice. Here are some genres and artists that you can listen to for inspiration:
|Bluegrass||Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Del McCoury, Rhonda Vincent|
|Country||Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban|
|Folk||Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell|
|Jazz||Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian|
|Rock||Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix|
By exposing yourself to different styles, you can begin to incorporate elements from each into your own playing. For example, you may discover a blues lick that sounds great when incorporated into a bluegrass song, or a jazz chord progression that adds a new dimension to your country picking. It’s important to keep an open mind and constantly seek out new sounds and techniques to incorporate into your playing.
In addition to listening to different styles, it’s also helpful to study the work of specific guitarists that you admire. Look for interviews, instructional videos, and live performances to hear them talk about their techniques and learn from their playing. By breaking down their style and figuring out what makes them sound unique, you can begin to incorporate their ideas into your own playing.
Just remember that while it’s important to listen to and learn from others, it’s equally important to cultivate your own unique voice. By incorporating a variety of different sounds into your playing and experimenting with new techniques, you can begin to develop a style that is truly your own.
Find a Mentor
One of the best ways to develop your flatpicking style is to find a mentor who can guide you along the way. Having an experienced guitar player by your side can help you avoid common mistakes, gain clarity on your strengths and weaknesses, and learn new techniques more quickly.
Here are some steps to finding a mentor to help you improve your flatpicking skills:
- Attend workshops and festivals: Flatpicking workshops and festivals are a great place to meet experienced guitar players who may be willing to mentor you. Listen to the performances and try to connect with artists whose styles and techniques you admire. Don’t be afraid to approach them and ask if they would be willing to give you a lesson or two.
- Join a flatpicking community: Look for online forums, social media groups or local guitar clubs that focus on flatpicking. Engage with other members, ask for advice, and see if there are any experienced players who are willing to mentor you.
- Reach out to local music stores: Some music stores offer lessons or may have connections to local guitar players who could mentor you. They may also host events like jam sessions or open mics, which are great opportunities to meet other musicians in your area.
- Consider online lessons: If you can’t find a mentor in your area, there are many experienced guitar players who offer online lessons. Look for reviews and choose someone who has a style that aligns with your goals and interests.
Remember, finding a mentor is not just about improving your flatpicking skills. It’s also about building a relationship with someone who can encourage you, teach you valuable lessons, and share their passion for music with you. Be respectful of your mentor’s time and expertise, and be open to feedback and critique. With dedication and guidance, you can become the flatpicking guitarist you’ve always wanted to be!
Create Your Unique Voice
When it comes to becoming a great flatpicking guitarist, it’s important to not only learn from the legends but also to create your own unique style. Below are some tips on how to find your own voice as a flatpicker:
- Experiment with different techniques and styles: Don’t be afraid to try out different techniques and styles of playing. This will help you discover what works best for you and allow you to develop your own sound.
- Write your own music: Composing your own music is a great way to showcase your individual style. You can draw inspiration from the greats, but put your own spin on things to make the music truly your own.
- Explore non-guitar influences: Whether it’s drawing inspiration from other instruments or genres of music, exploring outside of the standard flatpicking repertoire can help you stand out and make your music more unique.
- Take risks: Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things. This could mean experimenting with new chord progressions or adding unexpected twists to familiar songs.
- Find your own rhythm: While it’s important to master the rhythms of flatpicking, it’s also important to develop your own sense of rhythm. This can help make your playing more distinctive and memorable.
- Don’t try to be someone else: It’s great to be inspired by the legends, but don’t try to copy them. Instead, use their techniques and styles as a base to build upon and make your own.
By taking these steps, you can develop a unique voice as a flatpicking guitarist that will set you apart from the rest. Remember, the most important thing is to stay true to yourself and your music.
Common Challenges in Flatpicking and How to Overcome Them
Flatpicking, like any skill, comes with its own set of challenges that can be frustrating for beginners and experienced players alike. If you’re struggling to overcome some of these common obstacles, here are a few tips to help you improve your flatpicking:
Finger Strength and Dexterity
One of the biggest challenges for flatpicking guitarists is developing the strength and dexterity necessary to play complicated patterns and chord progressions. To overcome this challenge, start with simple finger exercises that focus on building strength in your fretting hand and increasing your picking speed. Gradually increase the difficulty of these exercises as you become more comfortable with them.
Timing and Rhythm
Maintaining a steady rhythm and timing is critical for any flatpicking guitarist. If you’re struggling with timing and rhythm, try practicing with a metronome or backing track to help you stay on beat. Pay attention to the accents in each measure and how they relate to the melody you’re playing.
Memorization and Retention
Learning and memorizing new songs can be a challenge for flatpicking guitarists, especially if you’re new to the genre. To overcome this obstacle, break each song down into smaller sections and practice each section until you’re comfortable with it. Then gradually piece the sections together until you can play the entire song. Repetition is key here, so don’t be afraid to practice each section multiple times.
Hand Tension and Fatigue
Flatpicking can be physically demanding, and many guitarists experience hand tension and fatigue after prolonged playing sessions. To overcome this challenge, try practicing hand stretches before and after playing to help loosen up your muscles. Additionally, make sure your posture and hand placement are correct to avoid unnecessary strain on your hands and fingers.
Remember, mastering any skill takes time and dedication. Don’t get discouraged if you experience some of these common challenges in flatpicking. With consistent practice and the right techniques, you can overcome these obstacles and become a great flatpicking guitarist.
Tools of the Trade: Essential Flatpicking Gear
As a flatpicking guitarist, having the right equipment can make all the difference in the clarity and precision of your playing. From the guitar itself to the smallest accessory, each piece of gear plays an important role in crafting your sound. In this section of the article, we will explore some of the essential tools of the trade for flatpickers, including guitars, picks, strings, and other accessories. So, let’s dive in and discover what gear you need to take your flatpicking skills to the next level.
One of the most important tools for a flatpicking guitarist is, of course, the guitar itself. When it comes to choosing the right guitar, there are several factors to consider, including the player’s style, experience level, and budget. Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a guitar for flatpicking:
|Body Style||Flatpicking is most commonly associated with dreadnought-style guitars, which tend to have a big, booming sound that can cut through a mix. However, other body styles, such as OM or concert, may also work well depending on the player’s preferences.|
|Topwood||The choice of topwood can significantly impact the guitar’s sound. Spruce is a popular choice for flatpicking, as it tends to produce a bright, punchy tone. Cedar, on the other hand, can produce a warmer, more mellow sound.|
|Back and Sides||The choice of back and side woods can also impact the guitar’s overall tone. Mahogany is a common choice, as it tends to produce a well-balanced sound with plenty of midrange punch. Rosewood can produce a warmer, fuller sound.|
|Neck||When it comes to the neck, some players prefer a thinner profile that allows for faster playing, while others prefer a thicker profile that offers more resistance and support. The choice of neck material can also impact the guitar’s overall feel and tone.|
|Action and Setup||The action refers to the distance between the strings and the fretboard. For flatpicking, a lower action is generally preferred, as it allows for faster, cleaner playing. It’s also important to ensure the guitar is properly set up, with no buzzing or intonation issues.|
|Budget||Finally, it’s important to consider your budget when choosing a guitar. While there are certainly high-end instruments that offer the best possible tone and playability, there are also plenty of more affordable options that can get the job done.|
Ultimately, the right guitar for flatpicking will depend on the individual player’s preferences and needs. It may be helpful to try out several different guitars before making a final decision, and to consult with a knowledgeable guitar dealer or teacher to ensure that you find the right instrument for your playing style and budget.
When it comes to flatpicking, the kind of pick you use can make a huge difference in the sound you produce. Here are the different types of picks you need to consider:
- Material: Picks can be made of various materials, including plastic, nylon, tortoiseshell, and metal. Each material has a different sound and feel, so it’s worth experimenting to find what works best for you.
- Thickness: Picks come in different thicknesses, ranging from thin (0.38-0.73mm) to thick (1.5mm or more). Thicker picks tend to produce a louder, more precise sound, whereas thinner picks can be better for intricate lead playing.
- Shape: Picks can have different shapes, including standard teardrop, jazz, and triangle. Each shape affects the way you hold the pick and the sound it produces.
- Grip: Some picks have textured or grooved surfaces to help with grip, while others may have a glossy or polished surface that can be slippery.
Ultimately, the best pick for you is a matter of personal preference, but it’s important to experiment with different options to find what works best. Don’t be afraid to try out a variety of picks, even ones that might seem unconventional. As with any aspect of flatpicking, the key is to find what feels comfortable and allows you to play your best.
When it comes to flatpicking, choosing the right strings is crucial for achieving a great sound. There are various types of strings available, each with its own unique sound and feel. Acoustic guitar strings are typically made from either bronze or phosphor bronze, with the latter providing a warmer tone. Electric guitar strings are typically made from nickel-plated steel or pure nickel.
To help you choose the best strings for your flatpicking needs, we’ve put together a table comparing different types of strings:
|Bronze||Phosphor Bronze||Nickel-Plated Steel||Pure Nickel|
|Volume||Low to Medium||Medium||High||Medium|
|Durability||Low to Medium||High||High||Low to Medium|
Remember that personal preference also plays a role in choosing strings, and it’s important to experiment with different types until you find the one that feels and sounds the best for your playing style. Additionally, changing strings regularly and keeping them clean can help prolong their lifespan and maintain their tone.
When it comes to flatpicking gear, guitar accessories play a crucial role in helping guitarists achieve their signature sound. Here are some essential accessories that every flatpicker should have:
|Capo||A capo is a device that clamps onto the guitar neck and raises the pitch of the strings. This is essential for players who want to play in different keys without having to retune their guitar.|
|Strap||A comfortable and reliable guitar strap is important for both sitting and standing playing positions. Some guitarists prefer a wider strap for added comfort during long playing sessions.|
|Tuner||Keeping your guitar in tune is crucial for any flatpicker. A chromatic tuner allows players to quickly and easily check their tuning on stage or during practice.|
|Fingerpicks||Many flatpickers prefer to use fingerpicks to achieve a brighter and more aggressive tone. These small metal picks fit over the fingertips and are perfect for fast picking and strumming styles.|
|Humidifier||Wooden guitars are prone to cracking and warping in dry climates. A humidifier can help regulate the moisture in the guitar and prevent damage to the instrument.|
|Cleaning Supplies||Cleanliness is key when it comes to maintaining your guitar’s appearance and longevity. Guitar polish, microfiber cloths, and fretboard cleaners are essential for keeping your instrument in top shape.|
Having these accessories is essential for any serious flatpicker. Each accessory plays a crucial role in helping guitarists achieve their unique sound and protecting the longevity of their instrument. Make sure to invest in high-quality accessories to ensure that you can focus on the music and not the equipment.
The Future of Flatpicking in Country Music
As the country music genre continues to evolve and expand its boundaries, it raises the question of what the future holds for flatpicking guitarists. The popularity of traditional bluegrass music, which heavily features flatpicking guitar solos, has waxed and waned over the years. However, flatpicking guitarists have also found success in other genres, such as folk and Americana.
The Rise of New Generation Flatpickers
As the torch is passed from the legendary flatpickers to the new generation, we’re seeing more young guitarists who are not only carrying on the traditions of the past, but also introducing their own fresh ideas and influences.
Artists like Molly Tuttle, Billy Strings, and Sierra Hull are all under 30 and demonstrate exceptional mastery of their instruments in both an innovative and traditional way.
Expanding Flatpicking Techniques
Flatpicking guitarists have always been mindful of incorporating new techniques and sounds into their music. In the future, we may see the emergence of new techniques and sounds that are a departure from the traditional bluegrass roots of flatpicking. For example, with the advent of loop pedals and other modern technologies, players have been able to create completely different sounds and effects.
Collaborations with Other Genres
With country music continuing to cross-pollinate with other genres, flatpicking guitarists will have even more opportunities to explore and bring in new influences. We may see collaborations between flatpickers and artists in other genres such as rock, blues, and jazz, leading to new and exciting musical hybrids.
Challenges and Opportunities
While the future of flatpicking guitar in country music is bright, there may be challenges to overcome as well. One such challenge is that the genre may become increasingly saturated, making it more difficult for new artists to stand out. On the other hand, with the rise of social media and streaming platforms, there are now more avenues for exposure and discovery than ever before.
The future of flatpicking in country music is exciting and full of potential. As long as artists continue to push the boundaries of the genre and incorporate new sounds and techniques, the tradition of flatpicking will continue to thrive and endure.
The Enduring Influence of Famous Flatpicking Guitarists
The contributions of famous flatpicking guitarists have left an indelible mark on the musical landscape, transcending generations and genres. Their enduring influence continues to inspire aspiring musicians to push boundaries, break barriers and create new genres.
Doc Watson was an influential musician who brought traditional music to the forefront of popular culture. His virtuosity on the guitar and his unique style of crosspicking continues to be a source of inspiration for guitarists all over the world today.
Tony Rice’s jazz-inspired technique revolutionized the way flatpicking guitar is played. Considered a trailblazer in the world of bluegrass music, his influence can be heard on countless recordings and live performances.
Bryan Sutton’s mastery of bluegrass music has set the standard for generations of musicians who followed in his footsteps. As a sought-after session musician, Sutton’s fluid and seamless style continues to be a benchmark for perfection.
Molly Tuttle’s innovative use of clawhammer techniques has earned her the distinction of being one of the most talented guitarists of her generation. Her music is a blend of traditional bluegrass and contemporary folk, creating a unique sound that is both fresh and authentic.
The contributions of these and other famous flatpicking guitarists have transcended time and continue to influence new generations of musicians. In addition to their virtuosity on the guitar, these musicians have also inspired a community of artists who are deeply committed to preserving and advancing the art of flatpicking.
Their contributions have created a lasting impact on the musical world, inspiring thousands of people to pick up a guitar and create music. As a result, the influence of these famous flatpicking guitarists will undoubtedly continue to shape the future of music for years to come, paving the way for new styles and genres that will push the boundaries of creativity and innovation.
After exploring the world of famous flatpicking guitarists and their unique signature styles, it’s clear that this genre of music holds a special place in the hearts of many. From the emergence of flatpicking in country music to the influential guitarists of early days, and the ever-evolving styles of legendary guitarists like Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton, and Molly Tuttle, it’s clear that this style of music has staying power.
What sets a great flatpicking guitarist apart from the rest is their ability to innovate and push the boundaries of the genre. Each artist has their unique sound and style and draws inspiration from a range of musical influences. While some may focus on technical proficiency, others prioritize storytelling through their music.
But what makes flatpicking truly special is the community around it. From mentors to fellow musicians, flatpicking creates a sense of camaraderie and shared passion.
For those looking to learn flatpicking, the tips and tricks outlined in this article can serve as a guide to hone your craft and develop your unique voice. With consistent practice, open ears to different styles, mentorship, and individuality, anyone can become a great flatpicking guitarist.
As we look to the future of flatpicking in country music, it’s exciting to think about where this genre will go next. With each new generation of guitarists and musicians, there’s a chance for new innovations and sounds to emerge, solidifying the enduring influence of the famous flatpicking guitarists who paved the way.
So, whether you’re an aspiring flatpicking guitarist or a longtime fan, the world of flatpicking offers a wealth of inspiration, community, and creativity. And as Doc Watson once said, “If you’re not having fun, it’s your own damn fault.” So, pick up your guitar, find your own unique style, and have fun with flatpicking!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is flatpicking?
Flatpicking is a style of guitar playing where the player uses a pick to strike the strings in a downward motion. It is commonly used in country, bluegrass, and folk music.
When did flatpicking become popular in country music?
Flatpicking began to gain popularity in the 1930s and 1940s as country music began to take on a more modern sound.
Who are some of the most famous flatpickers?
Some of the most famous flatpickers include Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton, and Molly Tuttle.
What is crosspicking?
Crosspicking is a technique used by flatpickers where they alternate between different groups of strings to create a rolling, arpeggiated sound.
What makes a great flatpicking guitarist?
A great flatpicking guitarist has a strong sense of rhythm, a mastery of different techniques, and the ability to improvise and create their unique voice.
What are some common challenges in flatpicking?
Common challenges in flatpicking include maintaining consistent timing, developing speed and accuracy, and avoiding excessive tension in the muscles.
What types of guitars are best for flatpicking?
Dreadnought and OM-style guitars are popular choices for flatpicking because of their clarity and projection.
What are some essential accessories for flatpicking?
Essential accessories for flatpicking include a guitar strap, capo, tuner, and humidifier to protect the guitar from changes in temperature and humidity.
What is clawhammer technique?
Clawhammer is a technique commonly used in banjo playing, but Molly Tuttle has incorporated elements of it into her flatpicking style. It involves striking the strings with a downward motion using the back of the fingernails.
What does the future hold for flatpicking in country music?
As long as country music continues to evolve and incorporate different styles and influences, flatpicking will likely continue to be a popular technique among guitarists.