The Role of Fingerpicking in Creating a Groove in Country Music

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Have you ever wondered how some country songs have such a catchy rhythm and groove? It’s all in the fingerpicking! Fingerpicking is a unique guitar-playing technique that allows you to create a rhythmic and melodic sound by using your fingers instead of a pick. In this article, we will explore the art of fingerpicking in country music, including its definition, benefits, and techniques. We’ll also showcase some country music classics that feature fingerpicking and provide tips for beginners looking to start their fingerpicking journey. So, grab your guitar and let’s dive into the world of fingerpicking in country music!

What is Fingerpicking?

What Is Fingerpicking?
Have you ever wondered how some guitarists are able to create such a rich, textured sound with just their fingertips? The answer lies in the technique of fingerpicking, a style of guitar playing that has been used in multiple genres, including country music. Fingerpicking involves plucking the strings of the guitar with the fingers instead of using a pick, resulting in a unique sound that can vary based on the technique used. In this section, we will explore the definition and benefits of fingerpicking, and how it contributes to creating a groove in country music. For a deeper dive into fingerpicking, check out our article on the history of fingerpicking in country music or the various techniques used in country fingerpicking.

Basic Definition

When it comes to country music, fingerpicking is a technique that adds dynamic texture and a groove that strumming simply can’t replicate. Let’s start with the basic definition of fingerpicking. Fingerpicking, also known as fingerstyle guitar, is a style of playing where the fingers of the right hand are used to pluck the strings instead of a pick. This allows for the player to create a more complex sound that is impossible to achieve through strumming alone.

One major benefit of fingerpicking is the ability to play more than one part of the song simultaneously. While strumming requires the player to play the same rhythm part and same melody, fingerpicking can incorporate multiple rhythms and melodies, creating a more full and layered sound.

Fingerpicking also provides the player with greater control over the sound produced. Different techniques and finger movements can produce variations in the sound quality, allowing the player to create a more nuanced and expressive performance.

For those looking to incorporate fingerpicking into their country music playing, it is important to develop a solid foundation in the basics of fingerstyle guitar. Some useful resources for learning fingerpicking exercises can be found here. Another key aspect of fingerpicking is speed and accuracy, which can be developed through practice and exercises like those found here.

It’s worth noting that there are different approaches to fingerstyle guitar, such as the debate between fingerstyle and flatpicking. For more information on the pros and cons of these two techniques, check out our article here.

Now that we have a basic understanding of what fingerpicking is and its benefits, let’s dive into how fingerpicking can create a groove in country music.

Benefits of Fingerpicking

Fingerpicking, also known as fingerstyle guitar playing, is a playing technique where the player plucks the guitar strings with their fingers rather than using a guitar pick. This style of playing has many benefits. Below are some of the key advantages of fingerpicking:

Benefits Description
More Control With fingerpicking, a player has greater control over the dynamics and nuances of their playing compared to using a pick. This allows players to create more complex and intricate sounds.
Better Rhythm Playing Fingerpicking improves a player’s rhythm playing by allowing them to play different rhythms and patterns with ease. This opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to creating grooves and beats.
Improved Finger Strength Fingerpicking also improves the strength and dexterity of a player’s fingers. This is especially important for guitarists who wish to play more complex songs later on.
Enhanced Musicality Playing with fingers allows for greater expression and emotion in the music. This is because fingers provide a more natural and organic sound compared to a plastic pick.

Indeed, for many guitarists, fingerpicking is a preferred style of playing. Some famous country guitarists have used fingerpicking to create their unique sounds. You can learn about their fingerpicking secrets by following this link to our article. Additionally, learning classic country fingerpicking patterns is a great way to improve your fingerpicking skills. Check out our list of patterns to get started.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, fingerpicking can open up new doors when it comes to playing the guitar. By improving your finger strength and musicality, fingerpicking will enable you to create greater dynamics and complexity in your playing. So, start practicing some ACR country fingerpicking or exploring some country chords fingerpicking to develop this amazing guitar technique.

How Fingerpicking Creates a Groove in Country Music

How Fingerpicking Creates A Groove In Country Music
Fingerpicking is a technique that has been used in various music genres for many years. In country music, fingerpicking creates a distinctive and rhythmic sound that is essential for creating a groove. With fingerpicking, each finger plays a different melody, bassline, or rhythm, making it a perfect technique for solo playing or accompanying a singer. So how exactly does fingerpicking create a groove in country music? Let’s delve deeper into this topic and discover the secrets behind this unique technique. If you’re interested in learning more about the basics of fingerpicking, make sure you check out our guide to fingerpicking chords in country music.

Rhythm and Timing

Fingerpicking is an essential technique in creating a groove in country music. One of the main aspects where fingerpicking shines is in rhythm and timing. Playing a song with proper rhythm and timing is crucial in creating a steady foundation for the melody and the groove of a song.

Here are some fingerpicking techniques in country music that can help you improve your rhythm and timing:

  • Travis Picking: This technique involves alternating the bass note and the melody notes using the thumb, index, and middle fingers. It is a great way to create a syncopated rhythm in country music.
  • Carter Style: Developed by Maybelle Carter, this technique is characterized by playing the melody notes with the thumb and the bass notes with the index and middle fingers. This creates a rolling and percussive effect that adds texture to the rhythm.
  • Merle Travis Fingerpicking: This technique involves playing the bass notes with the thumb while simultaneously playing the melody notes with the index and middle fingers. It creates a syncopated and steady rhythm that drives the song forward.

Using these fingerpicking techniques, you can create a unique rhythm and timing in your country music that will make it sound more authentic and groovy. By playing around with different combinations of bass notes and melody notes with your fingers, you can create a steady and consistent rhythm that allows the song to flow naturally.

If you’re interested in learning more about fingerpicking chords in country music to enhance your rhythm and timing, you can check out our article on country chord fingerpicking techniques.

Dynamic Technique

A crucial aspect of fingerpicking in country music is the use of dynamic technique. This refers to the ability to control the volume and intensity of individual notes by applying varying degrees of pressure to the strings. Dynamic technique is vital for creating a groove, as it allows for a more expressive and emotive performance.

Here are some dynamic techniques commonly used in fingerpicking:

Technique Description
Palm Muting A technique where the palm of the strumming hand is lightly pressed against the strings near the bridge to produce a muted, percussive sound. This technique can add rhythmic complexity to a fingerpicking pattern.
Thumb Slapping A technique where the thumb of the picking hand is used to slap and pull the bass strings, creating a distinct percussive sound. This technique is common in Travis picking and can add a driving rhythm to a fingerpicking pattern.
Pinch Harmonics A technique where the thumb and index finger of the picking hand are used to simultaneously play a note and touch the string lightly, creating a high-pitched harmonic overtone. This technique adds complexity and interest to a fingerpicking pattern.

By incorporating dynamic techniques like palm muting, thumb slapping, and pinch harmonics into fingerpicking patterns, a player can create a rich and nuanced groove that keeps the listener engaged. These techniques require practice and patience, but with perseverance, even beginners can develop the skills necessary to achieve a dynamic and expressive sound.

Melodic Bassline

When it comes to fingerpicking in country music, creating a groove is not just about keeping a steady rhythm or playing a melody. A crucial element in achieving a smooth and cohesive sound is the melodic bassline. This refers to the bass notes that are played in between the melody notes, giving the overall sound depth and texture.

To create a melodic bassline, you need to be able to play both the bass and melody parts simultaneously. This is typically done by fingerpicking the strings in a specific pattern, where the thumb is responsible for playing the bass notes on the lower strings, while the fingers play the melody notes on the higher strings.

To help you get started, here are some tips for developing a melodic bassline in your fingerpicking:

  • Focus on the bass notes: When practicing, start by focusing solely on the bass notes. Pay attention to the timing and try to keep a steady rhythm. Once you are comfortable with the bass pattern, you can start adding in the melody notes.
  • Keep the bassline interesting: A good melodic bassline is not just repetitive, but adds variation and interest to the overall sound. Experiment with different patterns and note combinations to keep things fresh.
  • Try different fingerpicking styles: Different fingerpicking styles, such as Travis picking or Carter style, can allow for more complex and interesting melodic basslines. Experiment with different styles to find what works best for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to improvise: Fingerpicking is all about creativity, and improvising a unique melodic bassline can add a personal touch to your playing. Use the knowledge you have gained from practicing and experimenting to create new basslines that fit the sound you are going for.

By incorporating a melodic bassline into your fingerpicking, you can take your country music playing to the next level, enhancing the groove and creating a more dynamic sound.

Fingerpicking Techniques in Country Music

Fingerpicking Techniques In Country Music
Exploring the world of fingerpicking in country music wouldn’t be complete without delving into the various techniques used by skilled musicians. From the Travis Picking style to the Carter Style and Merle Travis Fingerpicking, there are a multitude of techniques that combine intricate melody lines with percussive rhythms. Each technique is unique and adds a distinct flavor to the music, making it an exciting challenge for any budding guitarist. Let’s take a closer look at each technique and what sets them apart.

Travis Picking

Travis Picking is a fingerpicking technique that originated in the 1940s and was popularized by Merle Travis, after whom it was named. This technique involves the thumb playing a steady bassline on the lower strings, while the other fingers play melody and harmony on the higher strings.

Travis Picking Description
Thumb The thumb plays a steady bassline on the lower strings
Index Finger This finger is responsible for playing the melody notes on the high strings
Middle Finger This finger is typically used to play the harmony notes on the high strings
Ring Finger This finger is rarely used in Travis picking, but can be used to add extra harmonies and embellishments

Travis Picking is a versatile technique that can be used to create a variety of different rhythms and grooves. It is commonly used in country music, but can also be found in other genres such as folk and blues. To master this technique, it is important to practice playing the bass and melody parts separately at first, before gradually combining them together. Additionally, incorporating hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides can add extra texture and interest to Travis picking patterns.

Carter Style

One popular fingerpicking technique in Country Music is the Carter Style. It was developed by Maybelle Carter, who was the lead guitarist and singer of the Carter Family band. This style involves using a combination of the thumb and fingers to play the melody, harmony, and bass lines of a song simultaneously, creating a rich and full sound.

Thumb – In Carter Style, the thumb is responsible for playing the bass notes, usually on the lower strings. It alternates between two or three bass strings and creates a steady rhythm that supports the melody and harmony.

Fingers – The fingers are used to play the melody and the harmony. Typically, the index, middle, and ring fingers are used to pick the melody notes on the higher strings. The melody and harmony notes are played alternatively and create a unique flowing sound.

To further illustrate the Carter Style, consider the following table of chord changes in the key of C:

Chord Thumb Pattern Finger Pattern
G7 T M

In this example, P stands for thumb playing the bass note, T for the index finger, I for the middle finger, and M for the ring finger. The letter R denotes a rest, meaning no finger is playing anything.

As you can see, the thumb plays a steady bass line (P) while the fingers pick the melody and harmony. This creates a full sound that simulates the sound of an entire band playing the song.

The Carter Style is widely used in Country Music and is a great technique to learn for any beginner aspiring to play like a pro. With practice, you can master the Carter Style and easily create a groove that will impress and captivate any audience.

Merle Travis Fingerpicking

One of the most iconic fingerpicking techniques used in country music is the Merle Travis Fingerpicking style, named after the late legendary guitar player Merle Travis. Known for his intricate picking patterns and melodic basslines, this technique has become a foundational element in the genre.

To start with Merle Travis Fingerpicking, you’ll first need to get comfortable with fingerpicking in general. This technique involves using your thumb to pick a steady bassline while your other fingers pick out the melody and additional notes.

Here are some key features and tips for learning this technique:

  • Thumb Independence: One of the most important aspects of Merle Travis Fingerpicking is developing your thumb’s independence. It should be able to pick out the bassline rhythmically and accurately without getting tripped up by the other finger movements.
  • Chord Shapes: Travis picking often involves using specific chord shapes that allow for easier finger movements and a clearer sound. A common example is the C-shaped chord, where your thumb plays the 5th and 6th strings while your fingers pick the top three strings.
  • Syncopation: Merle Travis’ Fingerpicking style often utilized syncopation, or accenting off-beats in the rhythm. This helps to create an upbeat, swinging groove that can be heard in many classic country songs.
  • Flatpicking: Another element of Travis picking is incorporating flatpicking techniques, which involve using a pick to play specific strings while your fingers handle the rest of the melody.

Merle Travis Fingerpicking requires a lot of practice and patience, but it can add a unique and lively groove to your country guitar playing. Try incorporating some of these tips and techniques into your practice routine and see how they can enhance your music.

Examples of Fingerpicking in Country Music

Examples Of Fingerpicking In Country Music
As you learn about fingerpicking, it’s helpful to listen to how it’s used in country music. Country music has a long history of incorporating fingerpicking into its sound, with many iconic songs relying on this technique to create a unique groove. In this section, we’ll explore examples of fingerpicking in country music, analyzing the different techniques used and how they contribute to the overall feel of the song. Get your headphones ready and let’s dive in!

Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’

One iconic example of fingerpicking in country music is Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. The song, which was released in 1955, features Cash’s distinct baritone voice and his plucky guitar picking style that has captivated audiences for decades. Let’s break down how Cash’s fingerpicking technique adds to the groove of the song.

Rhythm: The main rhythm of the song is provided by Cash’s percussive strumming pattern. He uses a combination of palm-muted strums and quick upstrokes to create a driving rhythm that propels the song forward. The fingerpicking technique adds a level of complexity to the rhythm, giving it a distinctive sound that sets it apart from other country songs of the time.

Chord Progression: The song follows a classic I-IV-V progression, which provides a solid foundation for Cash’s fingerpicking technique. He uses a mixture of open and barre chords to create a full and rich sound that complements the lyrics.

Melodic Bassline: One of the unique elements of Cash’s fingerpicking style is his use of a melodic bassline. While he strums the chords with his right hand, he uses his thumb to pluck out a walking bass line on the sixth string. This creates a sense of movement in the song and adds to the overall groove.

Rhythm The main rhythm of the song is provided by Cash’s percussive strumming pattern. He uses a combination of palm-muted strums and quick upstrokes to create a driving rhythm that propels the song forward.
Chord Progression The song follows a classic I-IV-V progression, which provides a solid foundation for Cash’s fingerpicking technique. He uses a mixture of open and barre chords to create a full and rich sound that complements the lyrics.
Melodic Bassline One of the unique elements of Cash’s fingerpicking style is his use of a melodic bassline. While he strums the chords with his right hand, he uses his thumb to pluck out a walking bass line on the sixth string. This creates a sense of movement in the song and adds to the overall groove.

Johnny Cash’s fingerpicking style in ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ is a prime example of how this technique can create a groove in country music. The combination of rhythm, chord progression, and melodic bassline all work together to create a memorable and timeless song that has influenced countless musicians in the genre.

Chet Atkins’ ‘Mr. Sandman’

Chet Atkins’ “Mr. Sandman” is one of the most famous examples of fingerpicking in country music. The song features a unique chord progression that provides a great foundation for fingerstyle playing. Here are some details on this iconic tune:

Aspect Description
Chord Progression The song uses a simple chord progression in the key of C major: C, Am, Dm, G7. This progression repeats throughout the verses and chorus, providing a solid groundwork for the fingerpicking patterns.
Fingerpicking Pattern The song uses a fingerpicking pattern known as “Travis picking,” which is a classic country fingerstyle technique that involves alternating bass notes with melody strings. Atkins’ version of “Mr. Sandman” incorporates several variations on this basic pattern, including some intricate syncopations that add drive and energy to the song.
Melodic Elements One of the most striking aspects of “Mr. Sandman” is its use of melodic embellishments. Atkins weaves in intricate lines and licks between the chord changes, creating a rich and complex texture. He also uses harmonics (where the string is played with a light touch at a specific fret) to add shimmer and sparkle to the sound.
Overall Impact “Mr. Sandman” showcases the technical wizardry of Chet Atkins’ fingerstyle playing, but it’s also a great example of how fingerpicking can create a distinct groove in country music. The driving bass notes and syncopated rhythms make the song feel energetic and upbeat, even though the overall tempo is relatively slow.

If you’re interested in learning to play “Mr. Sandman” or other fingerpicking tunes, it’s important to start with the basics and work your way up gradually. As with any new technique, taking things slow and focusing on accuracy is key. With practice, you can develop your own unique fingerstyle sound and start creating grooves of your own.

Dire Straits’ ‘Romeo and Juliet’

One of the most popular examples of fingerpicking in country music is Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet”. This classic song features fingerpicking throughout the entire piece, creating a beautiful and intricate groove.

The fingerpicking technique used in this song is a hybrid of Travis picking and fingerstyle techniques. The song starts with a simple arpeggio pattern, but as it progresses, more complex fingerpicking patterns are introduced. Mark Knopfler’s unique style of fingerpicking relies heavily on his right-hand technique, which creates a smooth and melodic sound.

The song’s tempo is relatively slow, allowing for a lot of space and time in between each note. This creates a sense of tension that builds throughout the song, making the chorus and other sections even more powerful. The fingerpicking technique creates a dynamic range of sound that ebbs and flows with emotion.

Another interesting aspect of the fingerpicking in this song is the use of harmonics. Knopfler blends harmonics into his fingerpicking patterns, adding a unique and ethereal dimension to the song. This technique is particularly noticeable in the instrumental sections of the song, where the harmonics provide a distinct and otherworldly quality.

Overall, “Romeo and Juliet” is a prime example of the incredible groove that fingerpicking can create in country music. The delicate balance of rhythm and melody, the intricate fingerpicking patterns, and the use of space and harmonics all contribute to the unmistakable sound of this classic song.

Fingerpicking Tips for Beginners

It’s understandable that jumping into the world of fingerpicking can be intimidating for beginners. While it may seem daunting at first, with consistent practice and the right tips, anyone can become a skilled fingerpicker. In this section, we’ll cover helpful tips and techniques for beginners to develop their fingerpicking abilities and get on the path to creating beautiful country music grooves. Let’s dive in!

Start Slow

Starting slow is essential when learning fingerpicking techniques. This allows you to develop muscle memory and accuracy while avoiding frustration.

Why Start Slow? How to Start Slow
Develop Muscle Memory: By starting slow, you give your fingers a chance to develop muscle memory for the fingerpicking pattern. This makes it easier to pick up speed later on. Use a Metronome: Start by practicing at a slow tempo with a metronome. This will help you maintain a steady rhythm and gradually increase speed over time.
Focus on Accuracy: Starting slow allows you to focus on accuracy and ensure that each note sounds clear and distinct. Break it Down: If a particular section of the fingerpicking pattern is difficult, break it down into smaller pieces and practice that part slowly before putting it all together.
Build Confidence: Starting slow and gradually building speed can help build confidence in your fingerpicking abilities. Be Patient: It’s important to be patient and not rush the learning process. Take your time and focus on getting it right, even if it means starting slow.

Remember, the goal is not to be the fastest fingerpicker but to perform with accuracy, rhythm and timing. So, start slow and gradually build up to your desired speed.

Practice Consistently

One of the most important things when it comes to learning fingerpicking is to practice consistently. Consistency is key if you want to develop a solid foundation and become proficient in this style of playing. In fact, it is better to practice for a shorter amount of time every day than to have one long practice session once a week.

To help you stay on track with your practice, here are some tips:

Set a Schedule Decide on a specific time of day when you will practice and stick to it. Consistency is key, so try to practice at the same time every day if possible.
Start with Simple Exercises When you first start practicing fingerpicking, don’t jump into complex songs right away. Start with simple exercises and gradually work your way up to more difficult pieces. This will help you build a strong foundation and develop the necessary finger strength and dexterity.
Monitor Your Progress Keep track of your progress by recording yourself playing and listening back to see where you need to improve. This will help you stay motivated and show you how far you’ve come.
Mix It Up Don’t play the same exercises or songs every day. Mix it up to keep things interesting and to challenge yourself. This will also help you develop your skills more quickly.
Stay Committed Learning fingerpicking takes time and commitment. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see progress right away. Keep practicing consistently and you’ll eventually see improvement.

By practicing consistently, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of fingerpicking and creating a groove in your country music playing.

Focus on Accuracy

When it comes to fingerpicking in country music, one of the most important things to keep in mind is accuracy. Without a focus on accuracy, your playing can quickly become sloppy and difficult to follow. Here are some tips to help you improve your accuracy:

  • Use a metronome: A metronome is a valuable tool for any musician, but especially for fingerpickers. Set the metronome to a slow tempo and practice playing along with it. Gradually increase the tempo as you improve
  • Practice individual patterns: Break down the fingerpicking patterns into individual parts and practice each one separately. This will help you identify areas that need improvement and allow you to focus on accuracy in each part
  • Slow down: When you are first starting out, it can be tempting to try to play at a fast tempo right away. However, it’s important to start with a slow tempo so that you can focus on accuracy. As you improve, gradually increase the tempo
  • Pay attention to finger placement: Make sure that your fingers are in the correct position on the strings. A small mistake in finger placement can throw off the entire pattern
  • Record yourself: Recording yourself playing can be a valuable tool for identifying areas that need improvement. Listen back to the recording and pay attention to any areas where your accuracy could be improved

By focusing on accuracy in your fingerpicking, you can create a groove that is not only pleasant to listen to, but also easy to follow. So, take your time, practice regularly, and don’t be afraid to slow down when needed. With patience and persistence, you’ll be fingerpicking like a pro in no time!

Fingerpicking: For the Groove Lovers

If you’re a lover of groove, then fingerpicking is definitely for you. Fingerpicking in country music hinges on bringing out the rhythm, keeping it in time and giving it a unique and dynamic sound – all things that contribute to creating an irresistible groove.

This style of playing is incredibly dynamic, and by utilizing intricate techniques, the player can bring out a wide range of sounds and tones from their instrument. Fingerpicking players can create rhythms that blur the line between lead and rhythm, and by adding in melody lines and basslines, can truly create a groove that’s impossible not to bounce along to.

But if you’re new to fingerpicking, don’t worry. It’s a style that can be learned with time and patience. Starting slow and focusing on accuracy is key, but with consistent practice, you’ll be playing like a pro in no time. And the feeling of locking in a steady and infectious groove with your fingers is an unparalleled feeling that’s sure to get your toes tapping and head nodding along.

So, whether you’re an experienced guitarist or a beginner, fingerpicking in country music is definitely worth exploring if you’re a lover of groove. By incorporating this technique into your playing and focusing on the rhythm, dynamic technique, and melodic bass-line, you’ll be able to create soulful and irresistible grooves that are sure to get audiences moving. So, get your fingers ready, and prepare to take your playing to the next level with fingerpicking.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of guitar works best for fingerpicking?

Acoustic guitars with a slightly wider string spacing and a lower action are ideal for fingerstyle playing.

Can fingerpicking be used in other genres besides country?

Absolutely. Fingerpicking can be used in a variety of genres, including folk, blues, and even rock.

Do I need long nails to fingerpick?

Long nails are not necessary for fingerpicking, but they can provide added tone and volume to your playing.

Is fingerpicking difficult to learn?

Like any new skill, fingerpicking takes time and practice to master, but with consistent practice, anyone can learn to fingerpick.

What is the difference between Travis picking and Merle Travis Fingerpicking?

Travis picking is a fingerpicking technique that involves alternating thumb and finger patterns, while Merle Travis Fingerpicking involves a thumb-picking style that involves bass notes and strumming.

What is Carter Style fingerpicking?

Carter Style fingerpicking involves using the thumb to play a bass line while the fingers play melody or rhythm patterns on the high strings.

Can fingerpicking be used in solo guitar performance?

Absolutely. Fingerpicking can be a stunning and impressive way to play solo guitar, allowing for a full and dynamic sound.

Are there any famous female fingerpickers in country music?

Absolutely. Guitarists like Mary Chapin Carpenter, Elizabeth Cotten, and June Carter Cash are all known for their fingerpicking skills in country music.

What is dynamic technique in fingerpicking?

Dynamic technique involves using different degrees of volume and attack in your fingerpicking to add texture and variation to your playing.

How much time should I dedicate to practicing fingerpicking?

It is recommended to practice consistently for at least 20-30 minutes a day, but the more you practice, the better you will become.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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