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Best electric guitars to play with fingers

Pluck and snap. Snap and pluck. Repeat.

As I continue on with my guitar journey, I've started to play more with just fingers. A lot. From that, I've come to know there are two very specific electric guitar types suited best for finger-only play.

What I found that doesn't work

I'll divide this between the Stratocaster and Les Paul side since those are the guitars people are most familiar with.


Only 60% of the positions work for finger-only, that being 2, 3 and 4. The bridge-only position is too thin and doesn't have enough punch, and the neck-only position has too much midrange. But when staying near the middle with the 1+2, 3 and 4+5 pickup positions, that works out a whole lot better for finger-only play.

The problem here is that you only get one no-quack middle position which works but isn't anything to write home about.

Les Paul:

This only works for finger play if a very specific pickup is used, that being a PAF style set with alnico II magnets in them. The reason? Brightness. Using pickups with stronger magnets ends up in things "mudding" right out. Works a treat if you play with a pick, but with fingers only, not-so much.

Having split-coil alnico V humbuckers doesn't help because splitting to single throws out way too much treble through a 500K volume potentiometer. And while one would think having P90's might work, going with those means you lose the articulation of the humbuckers. You just can't win here when going fingers-only.

What I found that does work

Same two brands, different models.


All 3 positions work great for finger-only play, whether it's a pair of two singles or a single + humbucker in the neck. On the bridge side, the punch is there. On the neck side the midrange response is much easier to work with. And the middle has far better articulation for better expression.


Many, many fingers-only players go straight for the ES-335 first and I can totally understand why. It's basically the ultimate for having total control with just your fingers. Snappier, brighter, and you literally feel the notes from vibration due to the semi-acoustic construction. When using fingers-only, you don't fight with this guitar at all like you would with a Les Paul. And like the Telecaster, all positions work great for finger-only play.

Which is better?

Neither is better than the other. The answer for which to get depends on whether you prefer solid-body twang or semi-hollow ring. Telecaster has the twang and ES-335 has the ring.

Some would argue that the answer to everything is to get the ES-335 with the Vari-Tone six position switch circuitry. I disagree with this. While true a couple of positions on a Gibson ES-335 Vari-Tone do get twangy, the only way to get that bridge pickup Telecaster twang is to get a Telecaster.

In other words, if you want it all, you need both guitars.

Do you need Fender and Gibson specifically?

Well, that's what we all want, isn't it? Of course. But few of use can afford both. To get both guitars in American flavor you're going to spend over $6,500. I'm not kidding. And that's not even Custom Shop prices.

Fortunately, you can get Tele copies and ES-335 copies for real cheap. You'll find Telecaster type guitars for under $150 and a generic search for semi-hollow guitar quickly brings up ES-335 style guitars for the same price. This literally means you can get both a Tele and ES-335 guitar for around $300. That's certainly better than $6,500.

My suggestion is that if you've been playing nothing but Strats and Les Pauls and want to try Tele and ES-335 type guitars, purposely go cheap just to see what they're all about. One or both may be your go-to for playing with just your fingers, and if so, then you can consider putting some more cash towards more expensive guitars later.

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