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History of Fingerstyle Technique

Fingerstyle guitar is often thought of as a style rather than a technique of playing the guitar. Here at Fingerstyle Guitar, we do not consider it a specific style; but rather, a technique that covers any and all musical genres. For our purposes, fingerstyle is the plucking of the strings with the right hand fingers, not a pick. (It would be playing with the left hand, if you play left-handed.) Variations, such as angle of the wrist and playing with fingernails do occur; as opposed to all flesh and a thumb-pick or bare thumb. There are also variations in the sitting position and the instrument of choice, steel string, nylon or electric.

The technique of plucking the strings with the fingers came from the lute and vihuela, guitar's distant cousins. The vihuela was a guitar-like instrument that was commonly found in Spain, Portugal and Italy and dates back to the 15th century. It's interesting to note that the tuning is the same as the modern guitar with the exception of the third string being tuned down a half-step from G to F#. It is also interesting to note that the scale technique of alternating between the thumb and index fingers, in the Chet Atkins style, is the same as lute technique. Strumming technique was used by lute and vihuela players. The lute was played throughout Europe. It's not known how far back it dates; at least to the 12th century.

Elvis Presley and the Beatles sold more guitars than anyone in history. Chet Atkins and Andres Segovia, showed the world the true level of music from a skilled guitarist. Each generation benefits from those who came before it. Fingerstyle Guitar's mission is to honor the legends of the fingerstyle guitar style of playing and to give exposure to the top players of past, present and future generations.

The following list represents an overview of fingerstyle guitar music and its players, in the last seventy years. This is not meant to be a complete historic documentation.

The categories list many of the most important names in the history of fingerstyle guitar playing. This is an overview and not a complete list of the many talented players. We strongly recommend you investigate each of the names listed and we encourage you to dig into it with greater depth. It's important to note that many players cross into multiple categories; however, for our purpose, they are listed in only one.

Traditional Thumb-Style:

Steel-String Greats:

Classical Greats:

Latin Guitarists:



Ragtime and Folk:


Important Authors and Arrangers:

Winfield International Fingerstyle Champions:

David Russell - Sonidas Latinos LA Guitar Quartet – Interchange