3 Simple Fingerpicking Patterns That Rock! - Part 3

Learn some of the most beautiful fingerpicking patterns around.

Ultimate Guitar
The "Butler" pattern is named because it is very loosely based off John Butler Trio's amazing instrumental piece "Ocean." This is one of my personal favourite instrumental songs ever and is well loved by a lot of guitarists.

John Butler also had the best dreadlocks since Swampy the Eco-Warrior (why oh why would he get rid of them!)

We are playing something a little more unusual here and it is definitely more intermediate than some of the other techniques we have looked at so far.

Example 1 - C Major, G Major, D Major Chords

Notice how each bar starts off with a bass note hammer on.

If you are not yet comfortable hammering on - particularly from open strings, you should practice this in isolation first before adding it to the pattern.

To start the pattern off we play the:
  1. Open string that the root note is based on (for C major it is the A string).
  2. We then hammer on to the root note (for C major it is the 3rd fret of the A string).
Note: For chords where the root note is an open string, hammer on to the "3rd" note of the chord.

If you do not yet understand music theory, you may not know what the "3rd" of the chord is. If that is the case, use the guide below.

What fret do I hammer on to for what chord?
  • E minor = open low E string - hammer on 3rd fret
  • E Major = open low E string - hammer on 4th fret
  • A minor = open A string - hammer on 3rd fret
  • A Major = open A string - hammer on 4th fret
  • D minor = open D string - hammer on 3rd fret
  • D Major = open D string - hammer on 4th fret
The rest of the pattern uses the thumb, middle and ring fingers in the standard way for all the other notes.

As you will see in Example 2, there is a better and more interesting way to use this pattern than on typical open chords.

Example 2: A Real World Play-Along

The above example is one that I wrote in the mode of A Lydian.

If you do not understand modes, this simply means that it is based around the notes in the key of E major but the focus is more on the A note rather than the E note.

The fretting hand has a relatively simple job in this example and you can use just your index finger to fret the notes and perform the hammer on's all throughout the piece! Wowza, that's a breather for your fretting hand. Apart from the two hammer on's it doesn't have a lot to do.

This is a relief as the plucking hand picking pattern is a little complex and intricate. Listen to the pattern clearly and break it down into smaller chunks.

The first and second half of the patterns (separated by the hammered on note) are very similar. Master the first half and then the second half, and then play them together slowly. Remember - take your time with this pattern and don't forget to do John proud. He'll come after you if you mess the pattern up!

Key Takeaway

Some fingerpicking patterns are so intricate and complex that playing them with conventional chords can be far more difficult. You will probably notice that the second example is easier to play than the C, G, D example. For a pattern like this, the second example is what I would use far more often in the real world.

Sometimes with a fingerpicking pattern that sounds as good as this one, we only need simple chord voicings and the use of drone notes to create an interesting vibe. Paul McCartney wrote "Blackbird" - a classic fingerpicking song for many guitarists (and one that I love myself) and that used the open G string droning throughout.

It's a powerful technique that can add a lot of colour to some ordinary chords. Experiment with playing this pattern and others using a drone note or two within a chord. A simple way to do this is to play conventional chords but pick a string (let's say the B string) and keep that as an open string throughout.

Experiment and have fun!

About the Author:
By Dan Thorpe. You can view more of his tutorials at his website Guitar Domination and download a free copy of the 5 star rated Amazon eBook - Fingerstyle 101: Learn 8 Beautiful Fingerpicking Patterns That Every Guitarist Should Know.

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