Fingerpicking

A lot of beginners ask questions on how to fingerpick, however it isn't a hard technique once you get used to it. This lesson tell you how to fingerpick and also give you examples

20
First off, fingerpicking is when your not using a pick to play your guitar, and instead you use your fingers, mostly your thumb, index, and middle fingers(all at the same time). Now here's and example:
|-----|
|-2---|
|-2---|
|-----|
|-----|
|-2---|
Here you would use your thumb to play low E, your index finger for G, and you middle finger for B. Once you feel comfortable playing this chord, try playing this simple rhythm:
|-------------------|
|-2---2---2---2-----|
|-2---2---2---2-----|
|-------------------|
|-------------------|
|---2---2---2---2---|
You can also try a simple scale with fingerpicking:
Use your thumb and index finger
|-3--5--7--8--10--12--14--15--|
|-----------------------------|
|-----------------------------|
|-----------------------------|
|-----------------------------|
|-3--5--7--8--10--12--14--15--|
With enough practice, you can then try to play Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" and I'll just give you the intro from the tab on the site and a video of me playing the first bit of the song, here it is:
|--------------------|-----------------------------|
|--------------------|--------2h3p2----5-----5--2--|
|--------------------|-----2--------2--4-----4--2--|
|--------------------|-----------------------------|
|--------------------|--0--------------------------|
|----------------0h2-|-----------------4--4-----2--|
 
  F#m        A(onE)         D(onF#)     E7sus4E7    
-------------------------|-------------------------|
-------2-----2-----2-----|--3-----3-----3-----3----|
-------2-----2-----2-----|--2-----2-----2-----1----|
-------------------------|-------------------------|
-------------------------|-------------------------|
----2-----2--0--0-----0--|--2--2-----2--0--0--0----|
 
  A                           
------------------------|
--2-----2-----2-----2---|
--2-----2-----2-----2---|
------------------------|
--0--0-----0--0--0--0---|
------------------------|
I hope that helped.

40 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Enslaved666
    Good lesson for some simple fingerpicking, read on for more advanced methods. In a classical sense, the index, middle and ring fingers should all be used (based on classical textbooks and my own experience). For the majority of playing: Ring finger plays 1st string Middle finger plays 2nd string Index finger plays 3rd string Thumb plays the 4th, 5th and 6th string. The best way to play your example on the 1st and 6th strings is to use your thumb and ring finger (not your index finger). If you are playing a pattern on four strings (eg. the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th) it is ok to use your thumb on 6th, and a finger on each of the others. The pinky finger is only used for rapid strums where all four fingers will strum the strings one after the other (more of a classical/flamenco technique). If you want to play advanced fingerpicking songs, the pinky shouldn't be used to anchor your hand. This restricts you switching back and forth between strumming chords and fingerpicking. Metallica's Fade to Black is a good example of a song you'll feel restricted if anchored. Nothing Else Matters is very good fingerpicking practice, especially the verse riff.
    denimdol46
    Enslaved666 wrote: Good lesson for some simple fingerpicking, read on for more advanced methods. In a classical sense, the index, middle and ring fingers should all be used (based on classical textbooks and my own experience). For the majority of playing: Ring finger plays 1st string Middle finger plays 2nd string Index finger plays 3rd string Thumb plays the 4th, 5th and 6th string. The best way to play your example on the 1st and 6th strings is to use your thumb and ring finger (not your index finger). If you are playing a pattern on four strings (eg. the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th) it is ok to use your thumb on 6th, and a finger on each of the others. The pinky finger is only used for rapid strums where all four fingers will strum the strings one after the other (more of a classical/flamenco technique). If you want to play advanced fingerpicking songs, the pinky shouldn't be used to anchor your hand. This restricts you switching back and forth between strumming chords and fingerpicking. Metallica's Fade to Black is a good example of a song you'll feel restricted if anchored. Nothing Else Matters is very good fingerpicking practice, especially the verse riff.
    denimdol46
    The way you literally discribed what fingers should play each string worked very well for me. Saved me confusion and helped me gain better control of my picking. Thank You
    Guns&Rosesman49
    Johnny North wrote: The one thing Guns&Rosesman49 forgot was hybrid finger picking which is actually quite useful interms of playing a finger picking intro and just sliding into a smooth chugging riff lol.
    lol yeah i didn't put that in but thats a different concept
    Johnny North
    The one thing Guns&Rosesman49 forgot was hybrid finger picking which is actually quite useful interms of playing a finger picking intro and just sliding into a smooth chugging riff lol.
    Dakkir
    Thanks a bunch =) Maybe more examples could have helped a bit more. But besides that good lesson!
    Rigo 44
    Thanks 4 the help everytime I saw something like that I didin't know what to do *bigginer*
    faye666
    |-----| |-2---2---2---2-----| |-2---2---2---2-----| |---- -| |-----| |---2---2---2---2---| i dont get this the numbers symbolizes the fret right? then what do u strum? do u strum all the strings? sorry i dont really get it.. im new in guitar..
    Guns&Rosesman49
    faye666 wrote: |-----| |-2---2---2---2-----| |-2---2---2---2--- --| |---- -| |-----| |---2---2---2---2---| i dont get this the numbers symbolizes the fret right? then what do u strum? do u strum all the strings? sorry i dont really get it.. im new in guitar..
    No, you would use your index and middle fingers to play the notes on G and B, and then use your thumb to play the note on low E, you wouldn't hit any other strings. Index and Middle ^ E|-2- B|-2- G|--- D|--- A|--- E|--- E|--- B|--- G|--- D|--- A|--- E|-2- ^ Thumb Hope that helped. Good Luck.
    Catsbitemyface
    ACH ma friend. You must start out with basics. Tell them where their firgers are going. It's a good lesson for people who kinda know how to play but for pure beginners, they're just gonna read it and be confused as hell. Good Lesson though
    faye666
    what do you mean by this A(onE)?? and this |-----| |-2---2---2---2-----| |-2---2---2---2----- | |-----| |-----| |---2---2---2---2---| what string should you hold? to play that??
    faye666
    what do you mean by this A(onE)?? and this |-----| |-2---2---2---2-----| |-2---2---2---2-----| |---- -| |-----| |---2---2---2---2---| what string should you hold? to play that??
    FrankZappa09
    Looks interesting.... I can only fingerpick the intro to Metallica's 'nothing else matters' which is sooooo easy. Hopefully this will help.
    Guns&Rosesman49
    SpellItWrong wrote: generally the little finger isn't involved in picking the strings, its help to use as an anchor agains you scratch plate, so it keeps your other fingers in a good position. I use my thumb for the 1st three strings (bass strings). Then my three remaining fingers on the three remaing strings. Your thumbs genereally faster than your other fingers, it will have no problem handling three strings. and the other string will have a finger dedicated it them. Hope i helped.
    SpellItWrong wrote: When i fingerpick, its my thumb for the bass strings and my index middle and ring fingers for the three remaining strings. this i find is the fastest way, i use my little finger as an anchor on the guitar body, keeping my fingers in the right position. For me, the little finger is generally to short and weak to get a clean sound out of, but if your able, i don't see why you shouldn't use it. Hope this helped.
    yeah, that's all right, mostly you won't use your pinky unless you can get a clean sound out of it, and ya i forgot to put in to use your thumb for the 3 lowest strings and your index, middle and sometimes ring fingers for the higher 3.
    massey40
    Sweet lesson there...I can't w8 to get home from work and try this out! I started guitar about 3 weeks ago now and haven't been able to put it down for a single night!
    thelonesoldier
    Why does this have good comments and a bad rating? This lesson is very on the simple side... but I think it's better than a lot of "play this tab" lessons because you explain how to do it and it's a simple concept. On the other hand, perhaps too simple to warrant an entire lesson? I don't know.
    Guns&Rosesman49
    yeah sorry videos aren't there. Don't worry ill update this with the videos soon, they just show you how these examples should sound if your doing it right.
    libertines4ever
    Guns&Rosesman49 wrote: ah, i can't update lessons, that sucks lol
    I would like to update mine as well
    PiCSeL
    libertines4ever wrote: Guns&Rosesman49 wrote: ah, i can't update lessons, that sucks lol I would like to update mine as well
    PM me with updates you'd like to implement and link to your article. I'll update them.
    Guns&Rosesman49
    yes, sometimes you will use your ring finger, but thats only if your playing a chord with 4 strings involved, and in that case you would just strum them with your thumb. in most official tab books of songs that you fingerpick in, there will be letters above the tab indicating which fingers to use to play a certain note to play it the easiest way, but it isn't necessarily required to be played that way.
    SpellItWrong
    When i fingerpick, its my thumb for the bass strings and my index middle and ring fingers for the three remaining strings. this i find is the fastest way, i use my little finger as an anchor on the guitar body, keeping my fingers in the right position. For me, the little finger is generally to short and weak to get a clean sound out of, but if your able, i don't see why you shouldn't use it. Hope this helped.
    SpellItWrong
    generally the little finger isn't involved in picking the strings, its help to use as an anchor agains you scratch plate, so it keeps your other fingers in a good position. I use my thumb for the 1st three strings (bass strings). Then my three remaining fingers on the three remaing strings. Your thumbs genereally faster than your other fingers, it will have no problem handling three strings. and the other string will have a finger dedicated it them. Hope i helped.
    doza808
    you know, sometimes i see people using all of their fingers not including their pinky. What are some of the other ways of picking that involve the first four? I picked up the guitar for the first time 2 months ago and I'm really curious if there's some sort of set method to it or is it just like a freestyle?
    guitar_20
    anyone who knows the tab for the following songs,,,sleeping child,photographs by ariel rivera,wandering by james taylor chords,,my sweet lady by john denver tab and chords,its my life by bon jovi tab intro,,,hope somebody help me,,