When first learning how to play the acoustic guitar, one of the techniques that many of us are drawn to is fingerpicking. But, where do we start when first exploring this idea in the practice room?
To help you begin your exploration of this fun and important acoustic guitar technique, we’ve put together a collection of five easy fingerpicking patterns that you can learn, apply to songs and expand up in the practice room and in jam sessions.
Though you can pick and choose which patterns you want to learn and apply to your own playing, when first studying the fingerpicking patterns in this lesson try and go through them in order, as each new pattern builds on a previously learned fingerpicking pattern.
Right Hand Fingerings
When playing through these, or any other four-note fingerpicking patterns, you have a few choices as far as your right hand is concerned on which fingers play which strings.
As a starting point, when you are playing four notes ascending or descending together, so exercises 1 and 2, use your thumb, index, middle and ring fingers, one per string to play those notes.
When you begin to alternate ascending and descending patterns in the same bar, you can keep the same approach, but you will have to double up your ring finger on the top note of the first and second pattern, which may work out for you or it may be a bit awkward.
If you find that approach awkward, try playing this pattern instead:
Thumb-Thumb-Index-Middle going up the chord
Ring-Middle-Index-Thumb going down the chord
Then you can just reverse those approaches when playing the ascending version first, followed by the descending version.
This will eliminate the repeated ring finger on top, and if you are going to double up on a right-hand finger, the thumb is usually the easiest one to double up, rather than one of your other four fingers.
Try these fingerings out and see which one suits you best as you work through these 5 easy fingerpicking patterns for guitar.
Easy Fingerpicking Pattern 1
The first easy fingerpicking pattern that we’ll explore features an ascending approach to each chord in a given progression.
Here, and in each example in this lesson, you will first learn the pattern over a C and G chord, I and V in the key of C major.
After you can apply these patterns to C and G, try making up your own chord progressions and working each pattern over those new chords.
Some common progressions you might want to explore are F-G-C, C-Am-F-G, C-A-D-G, or Am-G-F-E, which are all found in many classic rock, folk and pop songs.
Easy Fingerpicking Pattern 2
In the next fingerpicking pattern, you will reverse the first pattern to produce a variation that descends down the chord you are playing, such as the C and G below.
While this is simply a reversal of the first pattern, it is a great way to expand your fingerpicking vocabulary while not having to learn anything totally new.
Often times as musicians, the easiest way to expand your performance vocabulary is to alter a technique, concept or musical device that you already know, such as reversing this fingerpicking pattern, rather than starting to learn something new from scratch.
Try this pattern out and keep in mind how it does sound similar to the first fingerpicking pattern, but that it also has a unique sound that you can use to decorate any song you’re playing on the guitar.
Easy Fingerpicking Pattern 3
In this next pattern, you will combine the ascending and descending fingerpicking pattern within the same bar of music.
If you are having trouble with the fingering for your right-hand on this exercise, refer to the fingering section at the start of this lesson for a few options on how to address this combination pattern in your practicing and performance.
Easy Fingerpicking Pattern 4
Again, in this next fingerpicking pattern you will reverse the previous combination pattern so that you are now beginning on the descending version, followed by the ascending pattern over C and C.
As was the case when you reversed pattern one earlier in this lesson, keep in mind that though you are simply reversing an existing pattern, that this fingerpicking pattern does have a sound unto it’s own, and if you can get your ears around this then you’ll be able to apply it at the right time in your playing and songwriting.
Easy Fingerpicking Pattern 5
In the last fingerpicking pattern, we will play pattern 3 over C and pattern 4 over G to take the combination concept to the larger progression.
Playing one idea over one chord, such as pattern 3 over C, and another over the next chord, such as pattern 4 over G, is a great way to expand your fingerpicking chops without having to learn new ideas, you simple create new combinations of previously learned material.
Once you have worked out these five patterns, over C and G as well as other chord progressions that you know or come up with in the practice room, try expanding upon these ideas in the practice room.
You can work at different tempos, maybe with a metronome if possible to keep your time steady, as well as come up with unique combinations of these ascending and descending patterns, such as two up one down, or one down one up, that sort of thing.
Once you begin to experiment with these different combinations further, you’ll quickly realize how much mileage you can get out of a few easy fingerpicking patterns when you bring creativity into the mix.
Do you have a question or comment about these 5 easy fingerpicking patterns? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.