Can you Play Fingerstyle on Electric Guitar? (Here is Why)

There are many techniques that are available to guitar players, and every technique opens new tonal opportunities on the instrument. However, some techniques are guitar-type-specific and only possible on certain guitars. Is fingerstyle playing one of those particular techniques, or can you play fingerstyle on electric guitar?

You can play fingerstyle on the electric guitar. Some electric guitars are designed for fingerstyle, and others have dimensions and tones that make them ideal for this playing method. Fingerstyle can be easier on electric guitars and unlock the instrument’s full potential.

Learning to play fingerstyle on the guitar is a monumental challenge, and only a few guitarists have mastered this skill in the modern musical age. With that in mind, many guitarists are beginning to learn this technique again and wonder if it is possible to master fingerstyle guitar playing on the electric guitar. Let’s find out!

Can you Play Fingerstyle on an Electric Guitar?

Learning to play guitar with fingerstyle technique means learning to play without a pick and relying on the dexterity of your plucking hand to utilize the strings of the guitar fully.

Most guitar players, especially those who prefer playing electric guitars, tend to use a pick when playing. This provides a more aggressive, crisp, tight tone that playing with fingers cannot achieve. Many acoustic guitar players prefer playing with their fingers. The tone and techniques that this provides better suit the instrument in many instances.

However, there are those guitar players who seek to branch out into new playing methods, which leads many electric guitar players to wonder if fingerstyle techniques are possible on the electric guitar or if fingerstyle can only be used on the acoustic guitar.

The truth is that you can play fingerstyle on electric guitars. Fingerstyle playing techniques are not limited to the type of guitar they are used on, and this technique can sound fantastic when used well on the electric guitar.

There are many examples of legendary guitarists who play fingerstyle on electric guitars. Using these techniques provides these guitar players with more versatility than other guitarists, and they develop a unique tone that cannot be replicated by using any other techniques.

Some say that fingerstyle is the best way to play an electric guitar, as this playing method unlocks the full potential of the instrument and allows guitarists to play in ways that using a pick or other applying techniques do not.

If you play the electric guitar, consider learning to use fingerstyle techniques and incorporate them into your arsenal of guitar skills. You will quickly find fingerstyle a great asset when playing the electric guitar.

Man playing electric guitar

What does Electric Guitar Fingerstyle Sound Like?

Among the many reasons why some guitar players assume that fingerstyle techniques are only for acoustic guitars is because they sound so good on acoustic guitars, but what does it sound like to play fingerstyle on electric guitar? Is it worthwhile learning?

Fingerstyle playing can sound great on the electric guitar. Learning this skill requires more time and effort than learning to play with a pick, and it does take some practice to produce a good tone when playing with your fingers, but after you put in the necessary work, fingerstyle can sound truly special on this instrument.

The sound of playing with fingers is more mellow and less crisp than playing with a pick, but the guitarist has much more dynamic control over the strings themselves when using fingerstyle. This means that using fingerstyle on the electric guitar allows the player to draw more feel, tone, and diversity from the instrument than is possible with a plectrum.

Using various techniques within the fingerstyle playing method enables the guitarist to find ways of making the guitar sound bright or mellow, harsh or gentle, heavy or quiet, nuanced or intense, and taking the time to master the instrument allows electric guitarists to develop a unique tone altogether.

Plucking the strings from underneath makes them sound crisp and poppy while strumming down on the strings with a fingertip produces a gentle tone. Play hard, and the guitar will sound loud, play softly, and the guitar will sound sweet. There is far more control and many more options that come along with playing fingerstyle on electric guitar.

All of this means that fingerstyle on electric guitar has the potential to sound far better than any other playing techniques or methods if the guitarist is willing to put in the time, energy, practice, and effort into mastering how to use fingerstyle on the instrument.

Is Fingerstyle Easier on Electric Guitar?

The guitar is difficult to play on its own, as it is such a versatile instrument that there are many, many techniques and methods to learn in order to master the instrument. It is challenging to get the guitar to sound good, and all of the versatility and many techniques only compound the difficulty of this instrument.

With that being said, fingerstyle is among the most challenging of all guitar techniques to master, and it is far more challenging than simply learning to play well with a pick.

Some guitar players state that learning to play fingerstyle techniques on the electric guitar makes the process easier than teaching these techniques on the acoustic guitar, and those who learn these techniques on the electric guitar have an advantage over those who do not.

There is some truth to this statement, simply because electric guitar strings are typically a lighter gauge than acoustic guitar strings, which means that they are less thick and less hard to play.

However, the origins of fingerstyle playing techniques come from guitarists who play classical instruments. The classical guitar is the original fingerstyle guitar, and this instrument is far easier to play with fingerstyle than other guitars.

The electric guitar does make learning fingerstyle somewhat easier, as the strings can be very light, but other than the lighter strings, there is no real benefit or difference when learning these techniques on the electric guitar compared to the acoustic guitar.

In fact, some guitarists find learning fingerstyle on the electric guitar more challenging, as most electric guitars have narrower string spacing than acoustic guitars, which can make playing with this technique far more challenging for guitarists with bigger hands or longer fingers.

Which Electric Guitars are Best for Fingerstyle?

Now that we have established that fingerstyle techniques can be more difficult on some electric guitars than others let’s identify some of the best electric guitars to use for fingerstyle playing.

There are some electric guitar types and models that make fingerstyle easier than others, and if you happen to own one of them, your fingerstyle journey will be a little easier.

Among the very best electric guitars for fingerstyle playing are:

  • The Fender Stratocaster – the Strat is among the best guitars for fingerstyle techniques and has been used by many great guitarists who use this style, such as Mark Knopfler and Jimi Hendrix. This guitar is ideal for fingerstyle due to its sparking, rich tone, its versatility, and its playability.
  • The PRS Silver Sky – the Silver Sky is a signature model guitar made by PRS for John Meyer, who happens to be a master of fingerstyle on the electric guitar. This guitar is designed with fingerstyle in mind and has many features that make it the ideal instrument for this playing technique.
  • The Gibson Les Paul – the Les Paul was designed before guitar picks became the standard for electric guitars and so is among the original electric guitars used for fingerstyle techniques. This guitar has a wider neck and nut than most guitars, which means that it has a wider string spacing, making it ideal for fingerstyle.
  • The Gibson SG – great blues guitarists who use fingerstyle techniques, such as Derek Trucks, use the Gibson SG for this style due to its versatility, comfortable neck, and wide string spacing. The SG is another original fingerstyle electric guitar used by many greats.
  • The Fender Telecaster – the telecaster is a guitar that is famous for fingerstyle techniques. This guitar is a favorite among country guitarists who are masters of fingerstyle. This guitar has a naturally bright and vivid tone that is ideal for playing with fingers, as it makes playing with fingers sound brighter and clearer.
  • The Gretsch Streamliner Hollow Body – this guitar is based on an old Gretsch guitar design that was made famous by fingerstyle greats such as Chet Atkins, but it has all modern hardware, wiring, and tone woods. This makes the Streamliner ideal for fingerstyle as it was designed for this technique but carries a modern tone that makes it a very versatile instrument.

There are many electric guitars that are designed for fingerstyle playing techniques and many others that are simply well made and sound great for these playing techniques.

Explore the different guitar options out there to find the best electric guitar for your fingerstyle learning process.

Conclusion

It is possible to play fingerstyle on the electric guitar. Not only is it possible to do so, but there are also many electric guitars designed for this style, and many guitarists prefer playing fingerstyle on electric guitars to any other variety.

Fingerstyle on an electric guitar produces a unique and versatile tone that suits the instrument well and unlocks the full potential of the instrument if you take the time to learn how to use it well. Every electric guitar player should learn some fingerstyle techniques.