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Watch the Guitar Talk online guitar lesson by John Knowles, C.G.P. from Fingerstyle Journals

For some time now, I've been camped out on the bridge between fingerstyle and classical guitar. My roots include a thumb pick, a Gretsch 6120 guitar, and a stack of Chet Atkins albums. Later, as an adult, I studied classical guitar.

These days, I'm playing a nylon-string guitar that was made for me by Kirk Sand in Laguna Beach, California. It's modeled after my favorite Kohno classical guitar. We made the neck a little more comfortable and added a cutaway. Kirk installed a pickup made by Rich Barbera and he made me an ebony armrest so that I wouldn't mute the top. You'll notice that my right hand looks a little more classical than fingerstyle. I'll be sure to point out a few things you may want to adapt if you play an acoustic guitar with a thumb pick. And I'll also point out a few things that I do differently than most classical players.

Folks tell me that I tend to play with my eyes closed. Maybe that's because there was nothing to see when I was learning from vinyl. But since you'll be looking, it helps to know that my neck joins the body at the twelfth fret...which Kirk marked with my signature. And recently, I asked Kirk to install a marker at the seventh fret, to help you see where my left hand is. I remember loaning my classical to Chet and he returned it with a small piece of tape at the seventh fret. I took the hint.

My left-hand approach is a little more classical, too. The biggest difference is that I don't fret the bass strings with my thumb. Even though my thumb is out of sight, I trust it as an anchor and a guide...on the back of the neck. Be prepared to adapt my approach to your instrument and technique. Let's get to work.