Learn beginner finger picking techniques and the song, House of the Rising Sun!
- Learn how the fingers are named and abbreviated.
- Learn the proper fingerstyle hand position.
- Practice using the classical fingerstyle technique
Fingerstyle is the technique of plucking the strings with your fingers instead of a pick.
Picking Hand Finger Names
|4, 5, 6
|e or c
When playing fingerstyle, position your hand so the fingers are perpendicular to the strings so you can strike the stings easily. To do this, the thumb should be in-front of the fingers (closer to the headstock). This hand positioning is very important for several fingerstyle techniques.
Exercise 1 – Fingerstyle Arpeggio
In this example, the chord is played as an arpeggio. This means that the chord is played one note at a time instead of at the same time. This exercise will help you play some basic finger picking patterns. Focus on using the fingerings given above the staff.
When picking, try not to pull the strings away from the fretboard so they pop. Though, this is sometimes used for a percussive effect, it is not usually a desired sound.
Exercise 2 – Chordal Finger Picking
In this exercise, we will play multiple strings at the same time.
Exercise 3 – Brushing
This exercise focuses on the technique of brushing your fingers across multiple strings. To execute this with your index finger, use the face of your fingernail (the part that people use nail polish on) and brush it against the strings by straightening your finger. Your finger should fully extend and point towards the floor when you complete the brushing motion.
In the exercise below, you will execute a brush stroke on beat 2 of the first four measures by brushing strings 3, 2, and 1 (in that order).
Song Exercise – House of the Rising Sun
This song uses arpeggio patterns throughout the song. Enjoy this folksy classic.
Named after Merle Travis, this is one of the most famous fingerstyle techniques. When using the technique, the thumb alternates between bass strings (strings 4, 5, or 6) while playing steady quarter notes. While this is happening a melody is played using the higher strings (1, 2, and 3).
Exercise 1 – Steady Bass
The first step to Travis Picking is playing a steady bass line. Practice this example until you have it precise.
Exercise 2 – Adding a Melody Note
This example adds a melody note on beat 1. Specifically, this adds a note to be played with the middle finger.
Exercise 3 – Adding More melody Notes
To complete the example, we’ll add the rest of the melody notes.
Applying Travis Picking
Travis picking is not limited to the pattern I showed you. You should be able to recognize it in fingerstyle songs. If you’re writing music, consider using it. Most of all, just have fun with it.
Thanks again for reading one of my lessons to the end! If you liked this lesson, there is no greater compliment than to follow me on twitter and like me on facebook. You can find links to do that on my contact page.
Now that you know fingerstyle basics, seek out songs that you can practice. Blackbird by the Beatles, Dust in the Wind by Kansas, Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton are all great songs to play. You can also find a lot of classical arrangements. I will be posting a couple of my own arrangements soon, so check back often!