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Thread: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

  1. #1

    Default No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    Hi there,

    I wonder if somebody could tell me if there are good sites, youtube channels etc. for playing mandolin without plectrum, just using your fingers.
    Thank you!

  2. #2
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    Have a look for Toomas Rannu on YouTube and also here in the Cafe. He plays a hybrid style of picking using both pick and fingers. He creates a fine sound.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

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    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    Kenny Hall played with his fingers. Great player, you can find many recordings of him.
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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Kenny Hall played with his fingers. Great player, you can find many recordings of him.
    The times I saw Kenny play his old bowl back mandolin, he specifically used his very large index fingernail as a pick, not so much fingerpicking like a guitar player would.
    I saw him play at very close range and could clearly see his unique approach.

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  7. #5

    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    That (index fingernail) is very effective - especially for a soft tremolo - good on charango too. Ive kept nails for 50 years, so I've used them on every instrument at one point or another..

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  9. #6
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    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    Fingerpicked mandolin is territory that has not been explored very deeply. I don't think you'll find very much about it in print or on video.
    But I believe it has loads of potential.
    A good place to start is to look up fingerstyle guitar and start adapting some of those techniques to mandolin. Just start exploring and see where the path leads.

    And I've always felt that a mandola would also respond well to fingerstyle techniques.

  10. #7
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    rcc56 mentions the mandola as a possible for fingerstyle and I often play my octave with my fingers rather than with a pick. Good for chordal and double stop playing. There is more room and an easier response on the longer scale length and wider fingerboard.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOldBores

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    Registered User Bob Buckingham's Avatar
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    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    The times I saw Kenny play his old bowl back mandolin, he specifically used his very large index fingernail as a pick, not so much fingerpicking like a guitar player would.
    I saw him play at very close range and could clearly see his unique approach.
    While stationed in the San Joaquin valley I met Kenny and played some with him. He sat his taterbug mandolin on his lap and used his index and middle fingers to play the mandolin, lending him a unique sound. Part of that was a kind of rolling attack where he'd fill the back beat with a syncopated shuffle by using those two fingers. You will hear it on his recordings. His laugh was as famous as his playing.

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  13. #9

    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    I'm a thumb style guitar player. I play pretty much like I have a pick. I back pick too. When I first took up mandolin as a pandemic project, I tried to play the mandolin like that but not enough room. Then a year or so later, I'm somehow able to play with the thumb. I'm better and faster with a pick but it's a mellow sound when it's just flesh.

  14. #10
    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    I recently saw a young musician (I forget his name) on YouTube doing a fingerpicked version of Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain" on the mandolin. I was very impressed.

    His syncopations, rhythm, feel and command of classic country blues licks was really astounding. And I'll tell you... to do this on the limited real estate of a mandolin is quite a challenge. He obviously put a lot of time working this arrangement...

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    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    The only time I ever saw anyone do this was in a Scots band called Alba in the seventies. They had a stringy thing going on with Sean O'Rourke (JSD Band) on bouzouki, Tony Cuffe (later in Ossian) on fingerstyle guitar and Mike Ward (Tannahill Weavers) on fingerpicked mandolin.
    Mike was principally known as a fiddle player, but he was also a classical guitarist and I think now has a music shop in Dundee, Scotland.
    The band sort of had two sounds: this quite delicate stringy sound and a much more driving sound with Alan MacLeod's bagpipes, Alan later became a member of the Tannahill Weavers.
    It was not a style that they pursued for very long, but I did like what they were doing.


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  18. #12
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    Thanks for the link to Alba, Dagger. Just been having a listen to some of their tracks on YouTube. Great recording quality as well as really fine playing. I really enjoyed the Drummond Castle/Paddy's Leather Breeches track.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

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    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    Posting this for a friend…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RQirZW085I

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  21. #14

    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    I can't find a video to back this up[, but I have seen Wayne Henderson finger pick a mando.

  22. #15

    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    Eva Holbrook, aka Lady Moon sometimes plays without a pick.

    https://youtu.be/vEjOfeWzO5Y

  23. #16
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: No plectrum but fingerpicking only

    Quote Originally Posted by Glassweb View Post
    I recently saw a young musician (I forget his name) on YouTube doing a fingerpicked version of Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain" on the mandolin. I was very impressed.

    His syncopations, rhythm, feel and command of classic country blues licks was really astounding. And I'll tell you... to do this on the limited real estate of a mandolin is quite a challenge. He obviously put a lot of time working this arrangement...
    Is this what you saw? I just googled the key words you posted and this popped up.



    If this is the guy, I must diagree with your assessment, just a bit. His playing is solid, but doesn't display a whole lot of variation. He does say he hadn't played mandolin for a while, and just had the notion to try this out, never having done so before. I think he just has mad skills on guitar and translated them to mandolin. In any event, there's a lot to like here. If anyone wants to study what he's done, keep in mind he tuned down a whole step, so he's in F.

    I've done a bit of fingerpicking myself, though I am much more likely to use crosspicking. I worked up this ragtime-y piece years ago. Apparently it's one of my most-viewed clips at my youtube channel. I apologize for the synchronization snafu - I don't know why that happened nor how to fix it. As it stands, it's not very useful as a learning example. One of these days I should re-record it. Meanwhile, enjoy!

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