I LOVE fingerpicking! There's something about getting to touch the strings with both hands that helps me feel very "in touch" with the instrument. And I love the gentle, mellow sound that comes with fingerpicking (especially bare finger style).
I'm not entirely sure what you mean by the "handle longer notes". If you mean how to fill in the "spaces" (that otherwise would be filled with strums), what you can do is alternate in picking the different notes of the last chord (this is called playing an arpeggiated chord).
I posted a bit on fingerpicking in response to a similar question last month, and will copy it below.
Postby zanetti » Thu Aug 20, 2009 7:12 pm
First, I'll mention a couple of ideas that I always present when teaching workshops on fingerpicking, and then a couple of references for resources at the end of the post.
Issues relating to fingerpicking:
There are several different styles or approaches to this style of playing dulcimer. Some of the differences in style (and therefore some of the decisions to be made as you find your own style) include:
1- Which RH fingers to use?
2- Use of fingerpicks vs. nails vs. bare fingers?
3- Whether to anchor the RH or not, and if so, on which side of the fretboard?
4- how to approach the string (RH): pluck or "rub" the string?
My own approach is (1) for RH use thumb on the melody string, index on the middle string, middle finger on the bass string; (2) bare fingers; (3) anchor RH by placing the pinky (LIGHTLY) against the side of the fretboard closest to the bass string; (4) "rub" or sweep the string, rather than an upward pluck.
But, some VERY fine fingerpickers use a different approach on some or all of these issues.
Next: some things that I believe are always important in fingerpicking :
1- Learning to read and interpret tab with arpeggiated (broken) chords. Tab for fingerstyle arrangements often appears very confusing at first, because there are so many notes. If you can learn to see that the notes really outline familiar chords, where the notes of the chords are simply spread out over time, then learning the arrangement becomes much easier.
2- Bringing out the melody notes. Fingerstyle arrangements often contain many "filler" notes, in addition to the notes of the melody itself. IF we play all these notes at equal volume, the effect can be rather like a machine gun, and listeners may complain that fingerstyle arrangements have "too many notes". The way to make a fingerstyle arrangement sound fluid but not "notey" is to always be sure that the melody line stands out. We can do this by making the melody notes louder, but it works even better to make the "filler" notes quieter!
3- Silence is golden, at least once in a while. That is, if you are working out a fingerpicked arrangement, it is good to occasionally stop the filler notes, to leave a little "space" in the music.
Anyway, these are the things that help me with fingerpicking.
For an excellent how-to book on fingerpicking, see Sue Carpenter's "Patchwork and Patterns", athttp://www.suecarpenter.net/
Linda Brockinton also has some good tips in many of her books. http://www.lindabrockinton.com/
I've got some tips in my "Softer Side of Dulcimer" book, or feel free to PM with questions.
Hope this all helps