Playing fingerstyle guitar opens up your experience as a guitar player to many different approaches to playing the guitar and many musical genres. Two rather specialized areas of music for fingerstyle guitar players are Flamenco and classical guitar. Even though any fingerstyle guitarist is capable of playing simple classical pieces and using Flamenco scales and strumming techniques it is probably best just to look at the folk music based fingerstyle guitar playing.
Open tunings are very popular amongst fingerstyle guitar players. Just so we are clear, an OPEN tuning is a way of re-tuning your guitar so that it sounds a major chord when you strum the open strings. This makes it a cinch to play songs in the key you are tuned to but very difficult to play songs in other keys unless y are prepared to switch back to standard tuning or another open tuning. An ALTERNATE tuning is simply any variation from standard tuning which does not result in a major chord sounding on the open strings.
If you are interested in playing in open tunings your plan of attack should be to find some songs in one open tuning and learn them first. When you switch from standard to open tunings all the notes on the guitar appear in different positions so if you try to learn more than one tuning at a time, you will become confused very quickly. Of course once you have learnt and practice some songs, chords and scales in the open tunings you will be able to move from one to the other without any worries.
Open D tuning is about the easiest open tuning to start off with. Songs in Open D tuning include “Street Fighting Man” by The Rolling Stones and “She Talks to Angels ” by The Black Crowes. If you tune your guitar to D A D F# A D and strum the strings you get the D major chord. This tuning is great for fingerstyle guitar because you can play alternating bass notes on open strings and play tunes by fretting notes on the treble strings.
Another popular open tuning for fingerstyle guitar is Open G – D G D G B D. Songs in Open G tuning include “Can’t Be Satisfied” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” by Muddy Waters and “Love In Vain” by Robert Johnson
What do fingerstyle guitar players use to pluck the guitar strings? Some use metal fingerpicks, some use plastic. Some will use a thumbpick on the thumb for bass notes and play the treble strings with the nails. Of those who do not use any kind of finger or thumb picks many grow their right hand nails slightly longer to pluck the strings with. Some guitarists use just the flesh of their fingertips. All are valid ways of playing fingerstyle guitar and the final choice depends on your personal preference for feel and tone.
Maybe this brief look at a couple of open tunings and fingerstyle guitar playing techniques has shown you that this field of guitar playing is extremely interesting and rewarding.
Here is a video tutorial on Open D tuning . . .