How Fingerpicking Is Like Handwriting
Musical fingerpicking patterns are similar to handwriting: to an extent, you can teach someone to pick specific patterns on a guitar, ukulele, et cetera, but at some point, so much of fingerpicking is personal and natural. Comparably, you can teach a child how to shape their ABCs on a page, but no two kids' ABCs look exactly the same. Everybody has a unique form to their handwriting. It's intimate. It's personal. This element wasn't learned, it's simply THERE. Handwriting is a part of a person.
Fingerpicking is much the same way. You can teach someone to pluck the strings, you can give them the basics to get them going in the right direction, and you can even show them specific patterns. But beyond that, anyone who wants to continue picking, on any number of songs, will develop a sort of flow and won't need specific patterns anymore. Or, what I find to be even more likely, artists are using specific patterns, but they're fingerpicking patterns that feel comfortable and habitual. I've tried to imitate the guitar part in a certain song before and not been able to get the exact sound. My best guess as to why is that the pattern in that song was unique to the artist. It had a lilt and smoothness to it that their fingers adopted and created, and there's a chance someone else will be able to figureit out, but there's also forever the factor of individuality in art - including fingerpicking.
Fingerpicking can become like an old friend. Over time, a person's style comes out in the way they play; every artist has a personal flare that flavors their art, and avid fans of the artist even recognize the flare as belonging to that artist when it's seen or heard in their work, like a Norman Rockwell look or like Marcus Mumford's voice. Nobody else in the world paints like Rockwell or sings like Mumford. These are the fingerprints every artist stamps on their work.
So keep playing! Practice other artist's specific patterns, and experiment with your own. Before you know it, you won't have to think about how to pluck the strings any more than you think about writing your own name, which is a very cool feeling.
And I'm no expert on painting, writing, or cooking, but I'm guessing this idea applies to many other areas of art, as well.
What do you think? What is your art, and how do you see this (or not see it) in your process? Have you noticed any of your own unique fingerprints throughout what you make?