Day #5: Become a Better Fingerpicker

How’s the Fleetwood Mac song going? If you’ve not done much fingerpicking before, it might take you awhile for your fingers to get used to the motion of the fingerpicking pattern. Be patient with yourself. Go slow and focus on one thing at a time. With dedication and practice, you will see improvement.

Today, I’m going to give you a few fingerpicking patterns and exercises that you can practice. Some of these are actually simpler than the fingerpicking pattern for “Landslide”, but they are great to incorporate into your practice to get your fingers used to different patterns. Plus, these patterns work great for songs that have a count of two or four.

Once you get used to these patterns, you may even start to notice yourself adding to them and creating your own patterns!

3 Extremely Effective Fingerpicking Patterns

I will be notating these patterns in guitar tab. If you don’t know how to read guitar tab, I created post explaining how to read it here.

At the top of the tabs, I include letters indicating the finger you use to pluck the string. At the bottom of the tabs, I include which beat (or count) the note falls on. I recorded audio samples for the first pattern so you can get a feel for how the notes line up with the count.

Fingerpicking Pattern #1: Outside-In

You are going to first pluck the root of the chord (a ‘C’ note) with your thumb.  Usually in fingerpicking patterns you will want to pluck the root of the chord first.  Then, you will also pluck another ‘C’ note with your middle finger.  Next, you will pluck an ‘E’ note with your thumb.  Lastly, you’ll pluck a ‘G’ note with your index finger.

-   T    M     T    I      T    M     T    I
e ----------------------|----------------------
b -------1--------------|-------1--------------
g ------------------0---|------------------0---
d -------------2--------|-------------2--------
a --3-------------------|--3-------------------
e ----------------------|----------------------
-   1    &     2    &      1    &     2    &

It sounds like this:

[audio:http://www.guitarfriendly.net/audio/fingerpicking/outside-in-1.mp3]

Then, we might add a chord change. Let’s change from a C major chord to an A minor chord.

-   T     M     T    I     T     M     T    I      T    M     T    I     T     M     T    I
e ----------------------|----------------------|----------------------|----------------------
b -------1--------------|-------1--------------|-------1--------------|-------1--------------
g ------------------0---|------------------0---|------------------2---|------------------2---
d -------------2--------|-------------2--------|-------------2--------|-------------2--------
a --3-------------------|--3-------------------|--0-------------------|--0-------------------
e ----------------------|----------------------|----------------------|----------------------
-   1    &     2    &      1    &     2    &      1    &     2    &      1    &     2    &

It sounds like this:

[audio:http://www.guitarfriendly.net/audio/fingerpicking/outside-in-2.mp3]

Fingerpicking Pattern #2: Alternating Bass

This pattern is nearly identical to the last pattern except we alternate the bass note of the chord. You use this alternating bass pattern for any chord. Again, the only thing to keep in mind is that when you first pluck the chord you want to pluck the root bass note of the chord first. This helps establish the chord.

For example, if we are playing a C major chord, we would pluck the C note on the 3rd fret of the A string first, then later on in the pattern, we would pluck the G note on the 3rd fret of the top E string.

It would look like this:

-   T    M     T    I      T    M     T    I
e ----------------------|----------------------
b -------1--------------|-------1--------------
g ------------------0---|------------------0---
d -------------2--------|-------------2--------
a --3-------------------|----------------------
e ----------------------|--3-------------------
-   1    &     2    &      1    &     2    &

Again, we can do an alternating bass fingerpicking pattern over any chord. This is what it would look like for a G major chord:

-   T    M     T    I      T    M     T    I
e ----------------------|----------------------
b -------0--------------|-------0--------------
g ------------------0---|------------------0---
d -------------0--------|-------------0--------
a ----------------------|--2-------------------
e --3-------------------|----------------------
-   1    &     2    &      1    &     2    &

Fingerpicking Pattern #3: “Pinch”

For this pattern, we’re going to continue to use our alternating bass pattern, but we’re going to “pinch” two notes on the first beat of the measure.

While plucking the 3rd fret of the A string with your thumb, you’re also going to pluck the bottom E string with your ring finger. You will then proceed to plucking the 1st fret of the B string with your middle finger, the 2nd fret of the D string with your thumb and then the G string with your index finger.

You repeat this pattern, but add in the alternate bass note for the second measure. Here’s what that looks like:

-   R                      R
-   T    M     T    I      T    M     T    I
e --0-------------------|--0-------------------
b -------1--------------|-------1--------------
g ------------------0---|------------------0---
d -------------2--------|-------------2--------
a --3-------------------|----------------------
e ----------------------|--3-------------------
-   1    &     2    &      1    &     2    &

Here’s what this pattern would look like playing a G major chord:

-   R                      R
-   T    M     T    I      T    M     T    I
e --3-------------------|--3-------------------
b -------0--------------|-------0--------------
g ------------------0---|------------------0---
d -------------0--------|-------------0--------
a ----------------------|--2-------------------
e --3-------------------|----------------------
-   1    &     2    &      1    &     2    &

Your Practice Goals for Day #5

Chances are you’re still working through the “Landslide” fingerpicking lesson. This is more than okay. The best thing to do would be to print this page so you can refer to these exercises and patterns later on.

These basic patterns are great to incorporate into your practice because they get your fingers loose and used to the motion of fingerpicking. These patterns also work great for a lot of popular folk songs (e.g. “Take Me Home, Country Roads”).

Look out for a special bonus gift email tomorrow!