What is percussive fingerstyle guitar?

Percussive fingerstyle guitar is a genre of acoustic guitar playing that emerged in the 90s and has gained more and more popularity ever since. While guitarists have been using the body of the guitar for percussive effects (flamenco music is the obvious candidate) for centuries, the modern percussive fingerstyle genre evolved when the forerunner, Michael Hedges, began playing guitar in unusual ways. He would use percussive techniques on the guitar body and began writing songs in "altered" tunings. Hedges is credited as giving birth to the genre. His well-known, monumental composition: Aerial Boundaries is the hallmark tune

 

Percussive fingerstyle guitarists are always looking to push the limits of what is humanly possible to perform on an acoustic guitar. They are constantly inventing new techniques to incorporate into their compositions. The hallmark of this style is that one guitarist can sound like an entire band is playing. A typical song will have 3 or 4 simultaneous musical ideas going on at the same time, all being played by one person. The most obvious technique of percussive guitarists is to emulate a drum kit by using various parts of the hand, combined with guitar body, to obtain kick, snare, tom and other percussive sounds. This is often done while simultaneously weaving a melodic and harmonic fabric with the guitar strings. Another common practice is to use "altered" tunings which retune one or all of the guitar strings from their "standard" pitches. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the genre is the boundary pushing composition that happens. Anything that can be dreamed and physically done to the guitar to create new sounds is the holy grail that percussive fingerstyle composers seek. So far techniques like prepared guitar, inverted-left-hand playing and using the tuning pegs in part of the song, to name just a few, have blazed a trail into uncharted territory.