Finger Picking

author: UG Team date: 07/31/2003 category: guitar techniques
rating: 8.8 / votes: 76 
Being the lazy, spur of the moment kind of guy that I am, I waited until today to decide what today's the lesson would be about and type it up. Just like every week. Only this week I had a bit of trouble deciding what to do. We've done pick sweeping, we've done alternate picking, we've done tapping and we've done legato. I had some ideas but wasn't really keen on doing them this week. So I did what I do every day and grabbed my guitar and started jamming. I began practicing my sight reading out of my fiance's classical conservatory books and that's when it hit me. I've had some people ask me about this technique casually over the last little while and I've seen some posts here on UG about this as well. This week we're going to do a technique that has it's roots in classical music but is commonly used in rock and other genres as well. This week we're going to cover finger picking. If I were to ask you "Hey you. When we finger pick, how many picks are we using?" Your first thought might be to say "None dufus.. we're using our fingers, remember?" That's when I would say wrong. We're using 5 picks, and that's the advantage of finger picking. We can manipulate our strings with great speed, accuracy and most importantly as many strings simultaneously as we want. To teach finger picking, classical music assigns each finger (including the thumb) a letter. The letters are P I'm A and C. P is your thumb, I is your index finger, M is your middle finger, A is your fore finger and C is your pinky. Though your pinky is assigned a letter it's actually very rarely used. The most common fingers you will use are just P, I, M, and A. It's important to remember the letters for the excersises because I'm going to be using them to indicate what fingers to use for your picking. Just remember, Poor Idiots Memories Are Crap. The most common convention in finger picking is to have P play the bass notes and I, M, A and occasionally C to play the high notes. Let's get to an excersise. The following is an arpeggio of C and G major and is to get your fingers used to moving.
E|-------------------------------------|
B|-------1----------1------------------|
G|-----0---------0----0------0---------|
D|---2---------0--------2------0-------|
A|-3---------2------------3------2-----|
E|---------3-----------------------3---|
   p i m a p i m a  a m i p  a m i p
Now we'll do a similar excersie but we'll throw in 2 string plucking.
E|----------------------------------|
B|-1-----1---------1-----1-3-----3--|
G|-----0---0-----0-----0-------0----|
D|---2---------0-----2-------0------|
A|-3---------2-----3-------2--------|
E|---------3------------------------|
   a i m a a p i m a i m a a i m a
   p       p       p       p
Notice that when we play the G followed by the B on the low E string and A string we restrict the picking to our thumbs to play the two bass notes. The next excersise is going to focus on bass notes and is a preparation for the one after it.
E|-----------------------------------------------------------------|
B|-----------------------------------------------------------------|
G|---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0---0-| 
D|-----2-------2-------3-------3-------2-------2-------0-------3---| 
A|-3-------3-------3-------3-------3-------3-------2-------2-------|
E|-----------------------------------------------------------------|
   p m i m p m i m .....
Practice this until you get the pattern at a very comfortable level. In other words where you can play it very rapidly while remaining crisp clean. The next examples I've actually recorded at their appropriate speeds. Don't try to play them as fast as the recordings right away, unless of course it comes very easy to you and you can do it clean. These are just meant to be examples of what you should aim for and to make sure they sound right. But do them at whatever speed is comfortable for you. I've included all the examples in a single zip file wich you can extract and play. If you don't have Windows XP or can't extract zip files then you will need to download WinZIP or a similar program to extract them for you. You can download them here (971k). The excersise above is intro.mp3. Now we get a little tricky. We're still arpeggiating the same chords but we'll do something that sounds fun and familiar. This is the beginning to "Ode To Joy" by Beethoven. You can use the excersise above as an intro to this.
E|-0----0-----1-----3-----3----1--0-----------------------------0--0----------|
B|--------------------------------------3-----1-----1-----3----------0----3-3-|
G|---0-----0-----0-----0----0--------0-----0-----0-----0-----0---------0------|
D|------2-----------2----------0--------0-----------2-----------2-------------|
A|-3----------3-----------2-------2-----------3-----------3-----------------2-|
E|-----------------------------------------------------------------3------3---|
   a i  p  i  a  i  a ......            m  i  m  i .....
   p          p     p                   p     p
For the last example we'll do a complete song. This song is called Allegretto and is by a composer named Fernando Sor (1778-1839). This song is in 2/4 and should be played at a tempo of 120bbm
E|-------------0----------------0--------1------0-----------0--------|
B|--------1-------1----------1-----1-------3------1---0-3-1---3-0----|
G|---0-------0----------0------0-------0------0-------------------0--|
D|------2------------------2-----------------------------------------|
A|-3------------------3----------------2------3----------------------|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------------|
   p i  m    i a  m                                   i m i m i m i 

E|-----------0---------------0-------1-------0-------------------|
B|-------1-----1--------1------1-------3-------1----3---0--1-----|
G|---0------0-------0------0-------0-------0----------0------0---|
D|------2-------------2---------------------------3--------2-----|
A|-3--------------3----------------2-------3-------------------3-|
E|---------------------------------------------------------------|
                                                  p m p i  m i p
                                                           p
E|-------------------------------------------0-----------------------|
B|---0--------1------0--------1------0---3-----1------1--------------|
G|-0-----0--2------0-----0--2------0-------------2------2----0-------|
D|-----0--------0------0--------0-------------------0-----4----------|
A|-------------------------------------2---3---------------------2-3-|
E|-------------------------------------------------------------3-----|
   p i p m  p i p                          p a m i  p a m i  m p p p 

E|-----------0---------------0-------1-------0----------0-----------|
B|-------1-----1--------1------1-------3-------1--0-3-1---3-0-------|
G|---0------0-------0------0-------0-------0------------------0-----|
D|------2-------------2---------------------------------------------|
A|-3--------------3----------------2-------3------------------------|
E|------------------------------------------------------------------|

E|-----------0---------------0-------1-------0-------------------|
B|-------1-----1--------1------1-------3-------1----3---0--1-----|
G|---0------0-------0------0-------0-------0----------0------0---|
D|------2-------------2---------------------------3--------2-----|
A|-3--------------3----------------2-------3-------------------3-|
E|---------------------------------------------------------------|
And that concludes this week's lesson. From here I hope you'll be able to apply finger picking techniques to any style of music and to any chord progession. - Garett Spencley (http://www.mp3.com/garett_spencley).
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+ How To Read Tabs For Beginners 10/18/2013
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