The guitar technique called ‘fingerstyle’ involves the use of the right-hand fingers to pinch the strings.
It is a way of playing the guitar as an alternative to using the plectrum (flat) from which the term ‘flat-style’ derives.
Although we frequently associate the term with the acoustic guitar, it is more correct to link ‘fingerstyle’ to the musical genre played with the fingers of the right hand, like for example classic fingerstyle, blues fingerstyle, fingerstyle jazz. In fact, these are different musical genres, often interpreted with different guitars.
In more technical-musical terms, we can say that fingerstyle means a guitar playing in counterpoint.
We can produce the counterpoint by performing two different lines at the same time: the melody line with trebles and the accompaniment line with basses. Both lines play independently. This procedure allows the guitarist to complete and self-sufficient performances.
The term ‘fingerpicking’ instead, regards the technique originated on the acoustic guitar with American music, mainly the blues and the country.
More precisely, it refers to “primitive fingerstyle techniques” introduced by the pioneers of blues and American folk. Therefore this term is linked to a specific musical genre.
Finally, we can say that a bluesman, pioneer of the blues, played fingerpicking, but a guitarist of our days playing blues, plays fingerstyle blues.