Should You Learn Fingerstyle First [Guitar Teacher Explains]

close up of woman playing a classical guitar using the fingerstyle technique

Fingerstyle guitar involves using all the fingers on your right hand to play the strings. Whereas, with strumming, you only need to use your thumb and first finger. Therefore, you may be wondering if one is better to start with over the other, based on my extensive experience playing and teaching guitar I thought I’d explain if it’s a good idea to learn fingerstyle first.

You should learn fingerstyle first. Learning fingerstyle first will improve your hand-eye coordination on the guitar, this makes learning other skills on the guitar easier. Starting with a pick and strumming is OK but fingerstyle gives you a wider selection of songs you can play.

The reason is that songs that can be played with a pick can be played fingerstyle as well. But, playing a fingerstyle song such as a classical song generally can’t be played with a pick, and involves at least some of your fingers. Also, you don’t necessarily need long nails to play using the fingerstyle technique.

Below, I will go more into the reasons why you should start with fingerstyle, so that you can make the best decision about whether it’s best to start with fingerstyle or strumming.

Should I Start with Strumming or Fingerstyle?

There are two broad ways to play guitar these are strumming and fingerstyle. Fingerstyle is exclusively used in flamenco, and classical guitar but many people use fingerstyle to play other musical genres. So, which is the best way of playing guitar to start with?

Start with strumming if you’re learning rock or pop songs because you’ll get used to using a pick otherwise you should start with fingerstyle. Most pop songs use a lot of strumming, but classical, and flamenco only use fingerstyle. Rock only uses a pick, but jazz can use a pick or fingerstyle.

Here’s a helpful table that summarizes this info to make it easy to see what to start with:

Music genre you want to learnStart with pick (strumming) or fingerstyle?
RockPick (strumming)
JazzPick (strumming) or fingerstyle, either is fine
PopPick (strumming) or fingerstyle, either is fine

As you can see whether you should learn strumming or fingerstyle first depends on what style of guitar you want to learn. In the beginning, you may want to get a feel for a few different styles of guitar to see what you like doing.

When I first started learning guitar I started learning songs from the iconic band Metallica. Just because they sound so cool on the guitar. But, later on, I took a liking to classical and flamenco styles. And I developed quite a wide repertoire of songs from different styles. 

The thing with rock music is that the intros to songs or certain parts can be easy. But, to play a whole song through from start to finish takes A LOT of practice. And generally takes a year or two of consistent practice to be able to play. 

Because of that, it’s generally better to start with some very easy rock songs to get some quick wins and develop the basic skills of holding the pick, and playing each string independently, as well as learning some simple strumming patterns, like up-down, up-down. Before moving on to more complex songs.

Hardest to easiest guitar genres – fingerstyle or pick

Some genres of music, also called styles or types of music are harder than others. I recently did a poll where I asked 111 guitarists which is the hardest style of guitar to play. Here’s a table that shows the results:

Style of GuitarPercent of people who voted it was the HARDESTPick (strumming) or fingerstyle?
Rock15.32%Strumming (pick)

In the last column, I’ve put whether the style involves using a pick or fingerstyle. You can see that jazz is by far the hardest. But, this is because of the music theory aspect. From the result, you can see that pop and rock are the easiest. However, it’s important to note that all genres have very hard songs. With that said, these results are overall.

I went into more detail about why each genre of guitar is as hard as it is with some examples in this article about the easiest to hardest guitar genre.

Types of picks to use for strumming and playing solos

Strumming can be done with a pick. But, can also be done with just your hand. Some people play by strumming with their hand and then playing the runs of notes with their fingers.

The best pick for strumming is a soft pick. Soft picks are different from hard, rigid picks because they’re much thinner. This makes them give and bend which makes them far easier to strum with. A rigid pick by comparison is about two to three times as thick.

These are ideal for playing power chords and doing fast guitar solos. Power chords are different from regular chords. Most chords involve strumming all 6 strings, but sometimes 4 strings. Power chords only involve strumming two to three strings. This makes them easy to play with a rigid pick or a soft pick.

Can You Learn Fingerstyle First?

When you first start learning guitar you won’t have much experience and need a bit of guidance about the different ways of playing guitar. A common beginner question is whether it’s possible to learn fingerstyle first or if you need to start by learning something else. Here’s a summary of whether you can learn fingerstyle first.

It’s possible to learn fingerstyle first. Some styles of guitar namely, classical and flamenco learning fingerstyle first is required. These styles exclusively use fingerstyle. It’s common for people to learn fingerstyle first, and is about as hard as starting with a pick/strumming.

Fingerstyle seems more complicated but it requires about the same practice as using a pick. Once, you develop coordination with the fingers after a bit of struggle in the beginning it becomes very easy. I explained what to expect when learning fingerstyle, and how long it takes in this article about whether fingerstyle guitar is hard.

Is Fingerstyle and Fingerpicking the Same?

In guitar lingo, there are a few different terms that are used for the same thing. For example, a downstroke can mean a down strum or picking a single string. Fingerstyle and fingerpicking are often a bit mixed up, so here’s whether they’re the same thing.

Fingerstyle and fingerpicking are the same. They both refer to the same method of playing the guitar with the fingers. Fingerstyle can sometimes be used to refer to a genre of music that is a mix of classical, rock, and jazz music played on the guitar with the fingers.

Usually, fingerstyle or fingerpicking means playing a steel-string acoustic guitar with the fingers. Generally, songs are quite mellow and don’t really fall into any specific genre such as rock, pop, or classical. Here’s a video that shows some examples of this type of music.

Other times it can mean the way the hand is used to play the guitar. To distinguish it from playing with a pick.

Wanna learn some more?

Recent Posts

Legal Disclaimer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Additionally, also participates in other affiliate and advertising programs, such as AdSense, ShareASale, Awin, Etsy, and CJ among others, and is compensated for referring traffic and business to them.

Beginner Guitar Gear