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Michael Watts - "Can You Play Fingerstyle On A Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar?"


BluesKing777
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BK,

Thanks for posting that.  It's hard to argue with what he says, unless you have BK-style fingers of steel that don't require "synthetic augmentation" in the form of fingerpicks or a flatpick.

If I really want to fingerpick with bare fingers, I pick up the L-00 or more recently, the 000-28 EC. Both have a wide nut and wide string spacing at the bridge, by the way.

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Merle uses a thumbpick, doesn’t he?

Motoring analogy: I was watching videos of new car reviews........the reviewer had a new supercar twin turbo etc out for paid weekender laps at the famous Nurburgring. He was scared of denting it, but it was way too powerful for that twisty track. But we were watching from onboard and an old VW Beetle went belting past him and up through the S.  Apparently, this driving instructor preferred to teach drivers to drive flatout in underpowered cars.......

 

BluesKing777.

 

 

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This seems like a strange conversation.  Obviously you can play any size guitar fingerstyle.  How loud that is and how functional that is in any particular situation depends on other characteristic besides size and on the abilities of the player.  The one property that most dreads have compared to small size guitars is more bass -- other than that all bets are off. 

The build properties of the instrument is very important.  Very lightly built and braced instruments can be very responsive, but if you over-string them to get more volume you may well damage the instrument.  The most dramatic example of this that I own in an antique (1895?) Almcrantz I got from Norman Blake.  Even though this is a BRW guitar, it is creditably lightly built.  When I got it from Norman, he had really light steel string on it, but he only played slide on it because there was no why the action could ever be low enough with steel to play Spanish.  (It appears on a couple of recordings, and sound spectacular!). The guitar was built for gut of course.  Later I had Randy Wood repair it so it could be played Spanish, but for the guitar's safety I now have Nylgut on it.  It is not hard to overplay it bare fingered even so.  It is a bit larger that a D-28.

On the other hand I have know bare finger pickers whose style is so powerful that they can take a dread set up for bluegrass and stand in effectively even in a traditional power bluegrass session.  My favorite example was the late great Robbie Smith (Naming the Twins).  He use a prehensile thumbnail which was forever being doctored.  Even with a lowish end dread, he could create a power acoustic session.

I myself attempt a number of finger styles with and without fingerpicks -- for bare finger I use lightly braced and strung guitars, and when I need to be loud -- guitars with heavy setups (same as I would use for flatpicking bluegrass)- finger picks.  Here is an bare finger example with a lightly set up 67 D-35 -- folk style is generally not so loud, You can certainly hear the extra bass, which I think is nice for backing up folk materials.

 

Here is an example with a banner J-45, medium set up, and finger picks -- a bit less bass than the Martin, but augmented by the 1/4 Kay bass. 

Listen to the bass on my late wife's simple folk revival finger style on her 68 pimped up D-35.  Just a nice touch.

 

Just for contrast, her is a medium sized (65 F-25 Gibson) -- a really powerful 60s Gibson (not too many of them) bare fingered.  Note the lack of bass.

 

So in my opinion, everything works -- but not for every situation and style.

Let's pick,

-Tom

 

 

 

 

Edited by tpbiii
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The question may have baffled scholars but players knew the answer f or the day the first dreads and jumbos appeared.   It ain't got nothing to do with the style of guitar, the build or whatever.  It has everything to do with Rev. Davis once called having a sporting right hand.  You got that the rest if gravy. 

 

Edited by zombywoof
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2 hours ago, zombywoof said:

The question may have baffled scholars but players knew the answer f or the day the first dreads and jumbos appeared.   It ain't got nothing to do with the style of guitar, the build or whatever.  It has everything to do with Rev. Davis once called having a sporting right hand.  You got that the rest if gravy. 

 

How true.

What is also true is some are unable to understand that marketing of certain guitars is just marketing stuff.

I’ve been a finger picker guitarist since I was 10 years old.  Finger picking can be used on any style of guitar.

 

QM aka “Jazzman” Jeff

 

 

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In my town when I was a teen, you had a choice of .... not much..... at the local guitar type shop.

Sort of Strat copies, sort of Martin dread copies!

Specialist fingerstyle guitar? ha ha ha ha ha.....>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>🙃

And years later, in another town, there was a glow coming from a guitar shop........1997 or 1998 - they had just got in a new Martin 000-28 Eric Clapton which at the time was about 5 times the value of my car, guitar, amp...everything.

But earlier this year, I picked one up at a secondhand instrument shop. Just had it setup properly and while it may be a bit ‘out of fashion’ now, it is a fabulous fingerpicker! 1 3/4” nut and 2 1/4” bridge space. I wonder if I had bought that first one on layby or time payment, if I would have some of the weirdo guitars I have bought? Probably not!

 

P.S. .......Most forum people say a 000 guitar is an ‘allrounder’ these days.

BluesKing777.

 

 

 

Edited by BluesKing777
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I’ve played fingerstyle with bare fingers on dreads and jumbos forever. Perhaps I have the “sporting right hand” that Rev. Gary Davis spoke of! 
 

For me, I want to be able to get a strong and strident bass response from whatever I’m picking, otherwise (the way I play at least) it can all sound a bit “singing nun” as Mark Knopfler put it. For me, that’s digging in a bit with the thumb and using the fingers for melodic exploration. I enjoy playing fingerstyle on smaller instruments, but for my style it needs to be at the very minimum a 000 size guitar to make fingerstyle really pop. I love playing 00s and so forth but I’m more likely to use that size of guitar for blues hybrid picking or similar. 
 

I always come back to my favourite songwriters, the likes of John Prine, Townes and Guy Clark…all of them fingerpicked dreads, although admittedly most of them had a thumbpick in the mix at some juncture. 
 

Volume isn’t an issue for me when picking a Dread or Jumbo with bare fingers. If I need something that projects a little more, I’ll fire up my Maple AJ, but in general my Dove, SJ200 or J45 are more than enough firepower to get the point across.

Certainly in the studio in my experience, I’ve found few instances where I’ve chosen to pick a small bodied guitar over a dread or jumbo for fingerstyle. Of the twelve albums I’ve made, only two songs have been led by a fingerstyle part played on a parlour or other small bodied instrument.
 

Different strokes for different folks though, it all depends what inspires you as a player!

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15 hours ago, BluesKing777 said:

But earlier this year, I picked one up at a secondhand instrument shop. Just had it setup properly and while it may be a bit ‘out of fashion’ now, it is a fabulous fingerpicker! 1 3/4” nut and 2 1/4” bridge space. I wonder if I had bought that first one on layby or time payment, if I would have some of the weirdo guitars I have bought? Probably not!

 

P.S. .......Most forum people say a 000 guitar is an ‘allrounder’ these days.

BluesKing777.

 

 

 

My first "good" guitar was a used Harmony Sovereign H1260 with a 1 3/4" nut and 2 1/4" string spacing at the bridge.  I am still playing those things.

When it comes to string spacing down south though it is a 2 3/8"  spread at the bridge which feels like coming home.  My pre-War Gibsons and the Fairbanks Smeck have this spec.  The most comfy guitar though is the 1920 L3 which combines a 1 7/8" nut with the generous string spacing at the bridge.    

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"The instrument we love tends to reward a maverick-approach" - 1 golden acorn from this passionate and well skilled player.

"The dreadnought design gets its name from the battleship HMS Dreadnought, which was a 14 fret battleship with a tortoise pickguard" , , , and therefore the canon-like roar.

And sure, of course you can fingerpick a dread - you can also strum a 12-fret, , , , just adjust the touch a little - then go ahead, be a maverick. . 

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9 hours ago, zombywoof said:

My first "good" guitar was a used Harmony Sovereign H1260 with a 1 3/4" nut and 2 1/4" string spacing at the bridge.  I am still playing those things.

When it comes to string spacing down south though it is a 2 3/8"  spread at the bridge which feels like coming home.  My pre-War Gibsons and the Fairbanks Smeck have this spec.  The most comfy guitar though is the 1920 L3 which combines a 1 7/8" nut with the generous string spacing at the bridge.    

 

Yes, my preferred spec is 1 3/4” nut and 2 3/8” bridge spacing with a chunk of V neck, but it took many, many years and a few guitars to arrive at that spec! These days, it involves getting some kind of custom as most makers now have standard ‘Thins’. I did get a custom made Cargill deep body 00 with my specs. Perfect! Just packed it up, matter of fact.

But I read the forums and magazines and like trying various famous models and have bought dreads, probably with the tone most would ditch....no boom, enemy of my style of fingerplucking. But I like them with a decent pickup, which levels the playing field. My J50 has the Anthem pickup and I often grab that and plug in when the weather gets humid or the  neighbours are screaming, mowing, hoeing, banging, crashing. Tune OUT with a beast J50 plugged!

I played in electric blues bands with Strat and Tele for years and years. I also kept up going to various lessons and one teacher said he could show me some bottleneck. “Huh?”  🤤

So I learned fingerpicking on a Strat and Tele! But one day, a shop I went in had a 1928 wood body Dobro I bought to hone my new slide skills. Later, I traded that for a 1976 metal body Dobro....cooking now!  Cooking! And the Dobro neck was as wide as the Strat and Tele put together! Tendon stretcher!

I often did an acoustic blues set at gigs to break up the electric blues night. And one day I woke up to find I was sick of electrics, band members had left and I decided to go Full Acoustic Blues Fingerpicker!

 

BluesKing777.

 

 

Edited by BluesKing777
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