Guitar fingerpicking made easy

guitar close upYou’ve got a few strums under your guitar strap and now you’re ready to move on. If you want to play songs like “House of the Rising Sun,” “Blackbird” or “Hallelujah” you need to know how to fingerpick. Like anything else with playing the guitar, if you break it down, play it slow and practice, you’ll get there.

In this video, I teach two simple fingerpicking patterns, one in 4/4 time and one in 3/4 time. Below is additional info not covered in the video including the bass notes for some chords and links to the full songs.


First pattern, 4/4:

It’s B321B321. “B” stands for bass and strings are numbered from the bottom up. The bass note is the topmost string you play in a chord as well as the lowest sounding note and it’s often the tonic, so if you’re playing a G chord, the bass note will be the G note, the one you play on the top string on the third fret. Here are some common open chords and their bass notes, again, counting the strings from the bottom up:

G             6th string

C             5th

F              4th (if you’re playing the four string version)

D             4th

Em          6th

Am         5th

E              6th

A             5th

Chose one chord and practice this fingerpicking pattern over and over again until everyone you live with moves out. Hey, they’re living with a musician, they should know.

In the video I play part of  “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” The rest of the chords and lyrics can be found here He uses a few different chords but it’s in the same key. Both versions, mine and his, work.

I also play part of “Brown Eyed Girl.” Find the rest of the song here.

And “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” is here. 

Second pattern, 3/4 or waltz time:

The second fingerpicking pattern I teach in the video is in ¾: B32123

It works great for “House of the Rising Sun.” In the video I play only the first verse. Here’s the rest. Don’t try to play with the Animals version. They play a syncopated picking pattern that’s a little different. This pattern works best for folk.

It’s also wonderful for “Hallelujah.” Again, I only play part of the song in the video. Here’s the rest.

Remember, play these picking patterns slowly at first, then gradually speed them up. Practice on one chord, then on two chords, back and forth. Then put them into a song.

If you aren’t sure if a song is in 4/4 or 3/4, try the 4/4 pattern first. Most of the songs you want to learn are in that time. However, if that pattern doesn’t sound right, then try the 3/4 pattern.

Want to know more? I teach via Skype. Contact me here. You can also check out my YouTube channel and other blog posts about playing the guitar. 

Happy fingerpicking!

About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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