Fingerpicking. Part 2

This is the second in a series of articles that will help you to play Fingerstyle guitar.

Fingerpicking. Part 2
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In the last lesson, Fingerpicking. Part 1, we looked at the technique used and some fairly basic fingerpicking patters. This lesson will continue where the last lesson finished, looking into some more advanced techniques. Again, we are going to avoid the use of PIMA here, in order for you to determine which fingers to use for yourself.

5-String Patterns

One problem that occurred in the last lesson is how to play patterns with more than four strings. Although your little finger could be used, it is common to have one finger play two strings. The finger that takes responsibility for two strings will depend on the picking pattern being played (though more often than not it will be the thumb that doubles up). Let's take a look at a 5-string pattern:
e|-------0---------|
B|---1-------1-----|
G|---------------0-|
D|-----2-------2---|
A|-3-------3-------|
E|-----------------|
As you can see, the pattern covers the A, D, G, B, and e strings. The notes in the pattern create a C major chord. You can use the first bullet point from lesson 1 and place your thumb on the string of the bass note, the A String. This rule is very rarely broken. However, by following the remaining points, you would be left with no fingers to play the high e string. The easiest way to tackle sequences like this is to simply treat the second lowest note (in this case, the E Note, 2nd fret D String) as a bass note (as well as the real bass note, C, 3rd fret A String). This means your thumb will be allocated to two different strings, giving the following fingers to use on each string: E not played A bass note use your thumb D treat as a bass note use your thumb G 2nd lowest note use your index finger B 3rd lowest note use your middle finger e 4th lowest note use your ring finger Try playing through the pattern, playing close attention to your thumb movement. The following pattern also uses five strings. Have a go at working out which fingers to use for which strings
e|-----------------|
B|-------0-------0-|
G|-----0-------0---|
D|---2-------2-----|
A|---------2-------|
E|-0---------------|

Thumb Isolation

By isolating the thumb, what often appears is an alternating bass line. This alternating bass line helps to reinforce the pulse of the song and, in a band setup, is often accompanied by the rhythm section of the band. It is worth practicing the thumb movements on their own to get into the rhythm of the song.

Picking Patterns

Here are some more 5-string picking patterns for you to tackle. Once you are comfortable with all of the patterns within this lesson, have a go at creating some of your own.
e|-----------------|
B|-------------0---|
G|-----0-----0---0-|
D|---2-----2-------|
A|-------2---------|
E|-0---------------|

e|-----------------|
B|-----------0-----|
G|-----4---4-----4-|
D|---2-------------|
A|-------2-----2---|
E|-0---------------|

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

e|-----------------|
B|---8---------8---|
G|-----9-----9-----|
D|---------9-------|
A|-------7---------|
E|-0-------------0-|
As you progress with fingerpicking, you will easily be able to interpret picking patterns and adapt them to suit your playing style. At the end of the day, there are no "wrong" fingers to use to sound a note, but in the context of a sequence some may be more effective than others. About The Author: Sam Dawson is a singer/songwriter who specializes in fingerstyle and percussive guitar. For more lessons and to hear his music, go to SamDawsonMusic.co.uk.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    mazturofpuppetz
    When I first started finger-picking, I was told Nothing Else Matters by Metallica was a good song to start learning if you want to test your skills with a song, and I personally improved with it fast. My Name is Jonas by Weezer is another good one to practice with.
    BrownGibsonDude
    How about we start teaching people to use their thumb on the A string and then every string going higher each gets a finger. Yes, I am saying use the pinky, telling people not to use it is why it's hard to develop it in the first place
    tcrono
    I agree. To me there are shapes where it's more useful to stay with the thump on A and use the pinky and some to move your thumb up to the D string. It also depends on what feels more comfortable for your hand.
    Theophillis
    I learned using the pinky, but never found it useful outside of Flamenco playing. After five years, I abandoned it because there wasn't anything done with the pinky that I couldn't do with the other digits, and sometimes more efficiently. The extra time spent on the pinky would probably be better used developing tremolo and tremolo scalar runs. I'd take issue with the lack of pointing out the fingering convention of the picking hand (p i m a).
    henrihell
    I don't do much fingerpicking, but when I do, I use the thumb on 4 strings, then there's one string for the final 3 fingers. If the pattern is on the lower i strings I just reduce the amount of strings for the thumb.
    sambargun
    Idiotic song but 'Love is on the way' by Saigon Kick has a nice finger picked intro, if you handle the stupid lyrics that is.....