Basic Fingerpicking -- Pattern 1

Many people prefer to pick the guitar with their fingers and thumb instead of a flatpick. There are tons of variations to this, but we will begin with one of the simplest. This pattern, and all finger picking patterns that you learn from me, will use the thumb, index, and middle finger of the right hand. This is probably the most common for folk guitar, although many guitarists use the ring finger as well.



Two measures of pattern #1 are pictured below. Note the fingerings below the tablature:

  • T = Thumb
  • I = Index Finger
  • M = Middle Finger

Notice that your thumb plays a bass string on the count of 1 and 3. On 2 and 4 the index and middle finger simply pluck the 2nd and 3rd strings. Although you are not playing the 5th string or the 1st string in this particular pattern, you should still hold the entire G chord. Not only is this good practice, but in case you happen to hit the 1st or 5th string by mistake they will be fretted in the right position and will sound just fine. Another reason for doing this is that as the other strings are played the vibration causes some sound to be made by all of the strings, thus holding the entire chord will result in a more pleasing sound.

As you progress in your playing you will want to mix up different patterns in songs or fingerpick without using “patterns” as such, but stick with this pattern until you are comfortable playing it. You can try it with any song that is in 4/4 time. It will sound better with some songs than others. There is an arrangement of Red River Valley using this pattern. The bass notes will change for the different chords, using the same alternating bass notes as in regular flatpick accompaniment