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Playing guitar: Flat-picking

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For those not in the (musical) know, flat-picking is a distinct method for playing the guitar. The musician uses a guitar pick or plectrum held between two or three fingers to strike the guitar strings. It is an alternative playing style to finger style picking which is of course using individual fingers with or even without finger-picks.

While this word may be used in reference to other musical genres and other musical instruments, it is perhaps most commonly used when discussing the playing of an acoustic guitar with steel strings, especially in bluegrass music as well as old-time country music. Some sources believe this term came into use about 1930. This was about the time that flatpicking was developed by guitarists who were first arranging old-time American fiddle pieces on the guitar which expanded the instrument’s previous position of rhythm accompaniment with an occasional go at the bass strings as well.

In order to understand the importance of flatpicking one must first remember that bluegrass music has a melodic style that is both dynamic and fast. It often includes hammer-ons, powerful, rapid strumming, pull-offs, slides quick crosspicking. Bluegrass guitarists who are flatpickers generally prefer guitars that have flat tops instead of arched tops.

They also prefer steel strings as opposed to nylon. The typical flat-picking guitar is made by the C.F. Martin & Company. It is called the Dreadnought.

Recently, guitarists such as Tim Stafford, Bryan Sutton and David Grier have brought flat-picking into the new millennium. Other younger artists such as John Chapman, Chris Eldridge, Andy Falco, Cody Kilby and Sean Watkins carry on the tradition of flat-picking by exploring new uses for this particular style of guitar playing. Audiences are regularly exposed to the noteworthy style of flat-picking to this day. Flatpicking is an an especially advantageous method in certain musical genres/

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