Fingerstyle guitar is the technique of playing the guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or picks attached to fingers, as opposed to flatpicking (picking individual notes with a single plectrum called a flatpick) or strumming all the strings of the instrument in chords. The term is often used synonymously with fingerpicking, although in recent years the two have frequently been considered as distinct or semi-distinct forms. Music arranged for fingerstyle playing can include chords, arpeggios and other elements such as artificial harmonics, hammering on and pulling off with the fretting hand, using the body of the guitar percussively, and many other techniques.
Because it refers both to a means of making music and the music thus produced, fingerstyle is best understood as both a technique and as a key element in musical genres.
Fingerstyle as technique
Because notes are struck by five units (individual digits) rather than the hand working as a single unit, fingerstyle playing allows the guitarist to perform several musical elements simultaneously. One definition of the technique has been put forward by the Toronto (Canada) Fingerstyle Guitar Association:
Physically, "Fingerstyle" refers to using each of the righthand fingers independently in order to play the multiple parts of a musical arrangement that would normally be played by several band members. Bass, harmonic accompaniment, melody, and percussion can all be played simultaneously when playing Fingerstyle.