5 Easy Lessons in Fingerpicking the Guitar

Fingerpicking the guitar is a technique used on the guitar in which you use your fingers to pluck the strings, rather than using a pick. Playing fingerstyle is a unique way of adding texture and interest to your sound.

It is a great way to provide another layer of sound to your guitar playing. Even though it is already a trend to pick for guitar players, as a beginner, this isn’t another alternative you can use to avoid learning how to strum first. It is a technique for adding another variety of expression to your song.

Fingerpicking the Guitar

So how do you start fingerpicking the guitar?

In this article, we’ll explore 5 fingerpicking lessons for beginners:

  1. What is fingerpicking?
  2. The difference between fingerpicking and fingerstyle.
  3. The benefits of fingerpicking in guitar playing.
  4. Steps to learn fingerpicking.
  5. Fingerpicking patterns and exercises.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding and how to get started fingerpicking the guitar. Let’s dive in!

What is fingerpicking?

Most guitar players use a pick, or plectrum, to strum chords and play melodies on the instrument. When you fingerpick the guitar, however, you use your fingers instead of a pick. This fingerstyle technique can be used to play a wide range of musical styles, from folk and country to classical and jazz. It opens up a whole new world of musical possibilities on the guitar.

Now that you know what fingerpicking is, let’s take a look at the difference between fingerpicking and fingerstyle guitar.

The difference between fingerpicking and fingerstyle.

Fingerstyle guitar is a broad term that refers to any style of guitar playing that uses the fingers instead of a pick. This includes fingerpicking, but it also includes other techniques such as travis picking and hybrid picking.

Fingerpicking, on the other hand, specifically refers to a fingerstyle technique that uses the four fingers outlined above. When most people say “fingerpicking,” this is what they’re referring to.

Now that we’ve clarified the difference between them, let’s talk about the benefits of fingerpicking in guitar playing.

The benefits of fingerpicking in guitar playing.

One of the main benefits of this technique is that it allows you to play multiple parts simultaneously. When you strum with a pick, you can only play one part at a time (typically the melody). But when you fingerpick, you can play the melody and accompaniment at the same time. This gives your playing a much fuller sound.

It can also help you to create a more delicate and nuanced sound on the guitar. This is because you have more control over the individual strings when you fingerpick, as opposed to strumming with a pick where all of the strings are struck at once.

In addition, fingerpicking can make your guitar playing sound more expressive. When you fingerpick, you have more control over the volume of each note. You can make some notes louder and some softer, which adds a lot of feeling and emotion to your playing.

Fingerpicking has many other benefits, including increased speed, accuracy, and dexterity. It also allows you to play more complex guitar parts, and can make your playing sound more expressive.

Now that we’ve covered its basics/benefits, let’s learn how to fingerpick the guitar.

Steps to learn fingerpicking.

Before you start to fingerpick, it’s important to know the names of the fingers on your picking hand and learn the proper hand position for fingerpicking.

Picking Hand Finger Names

The thumb is typically referred to as “p,” the index finger is “i,” the middle finger is “m,” and the ring finger is “a.”

  • p – thumb
  • i – index finger (1)
  • m – middle finger (2)
  • a – ring finger (3)

Right Hand Position

The right hand position is to have fingers hovering over the strings, hands curved all of the time with a thumb that stays in front of the fingers.

Make a fist and put it on top of the strings over the sound hole. The thumb should be over the 4th string, with the index finger positioned underneath the third string. The middle finger goes on the second string, and the ring finger is placed underneath the first string.

You may use your pinkie as your anchored hand position. Some players prefer to float their pinkie, while others prefer to anchor it. The problem with your pinkie down is that it most likely scares off your ring finger but the anchored hand approach provides you the stability to keep your hand in one spot.

Some guitarists would rest their palm on the top board of the guitar or plant it on the bridge. This is a matter of preference.

Basic Fingerpicking Pattern

If you’re new to fingerpicking, the best place to start is with some basic exercises which you may use to play a variety of songs. These will help you to get comfortable using your picking hand and develop the muscle memory needed to fingerpick smoothly.

There are a few different ways to fingerpick the guitar, but the most common pattern uses the following four fingers:

  • The Thumb (p) plays notes on the lower 3 bass strings of your guitar (E, A, and D strings).
  • The Index finger (i) plays notes on the third string (G).
  • The Middle finger (m) plays notes on the second string (B).
  • The Ring finger (a) plays notes on the first string (high E).

Some guitarists, on the other hand, use their pinky finger to fingerpick, but this is less common as a beginner and isn’t always necessary because it can be used to anchor while fingerpicking. The most important thing to remember when fingerpicking is that the thumb always picks the bass note while the other fingers pluck the higher notes.

Now that you know how to fingerpick, try practicing this pattern with some of your favorite songs!

Fingerpicking Patterns and Exercises

You may use the beginning pattern outlined above to make additional patterns that you can utilize while warming up and performing songs.

Here are a few fingerpicking exercises to get you started:

Exercise No. 1: Thumb, one-two-one

This fingerpicking exercise is designed to help you get comfortable using your thumb to pick the bass notes on the lower three strings of your guitar. It also prepares you to move your other two fingers.

  • p – thumb
  • i – index finger (1)
  • m – middle finger (2)
  • i – index finger (1)

This is plucking strings three (G) and two (B) with your index and middle fingers while playing the bass notes (strings E, A and D) with your thumb. This picking technique only requires three fingers, making it easy to learn.

Once you get used to the timing and finger placement, try picking a little faster. Remember to keep the thumb steady on the lower strings while you pluck the other two strings.

Repeat this pattern until you feel comfortable.

Exercise No. 2: Thumb, one-two-one-three-one-two-one

This fingerpicking exercise is similar to the first one, but adds in your ring finger to pluck the first string. This prepares you for adding in more notes and playing more complex fingerpicking patterns.

  • p – thumb
  • i – index finger (1)
  • m – middle finger (2)
  • i – index finger (1)
  • a – ring finger (3)
  • i – index finger (1)
  • m – middle finger (2)
  • i – index finger (1)

This fingerpicking exercise is designed to help you get comfortable using all four fingers of your picking hand. This time the ring finger is added to pluck the first string (higher E). It also accentuates the higher strings by playing them repeatedly.

Continue doing this practice until you feel confident playing the notes correctly and cleanly.

There are a variety of exercises and patterns that you can practice. Start with something simple and work your way up to more complex patterns. Once you have the basics down, try practicing these fingerpicking patterns with some of your favorite songs!

Get your fingers in motion!

It’s time to put them into action!

The first step is to get comfortable with the basic hand position. The second step is to start working on some simple patterns and exercises. And the third step is to apply those patterns to real songs.

Start with songs that use simple chords and fingerpicking patterns. As you progress, you can move on to more fingerstyle guitar pieces that are more challenging.

In addition to practicing fingerpicking exercises and learning fingerpicked songs, it’s also important to develop a good picking hand technique. This includes working on your hand position, as well as developing a light touch with your picking hand fingers.

With fingerpicking, less is often more. You don’t need to use a lot of pressure when plucking the strings with your picking hand fingers. Instead, let the strings do the work for you. This will help you to develop a cleaner sound.

As you continue practicing and developing your fingerpicking skills, you’ll find that it becomes more natural and easy.

So there you have it! These are just a few things to keep in mind as you start to fingerpick the guitar.

Happy picking!

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