How to Fingerpick on the Guitar

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Fingerpicking is a popular and effective style for both folk and classical guitar playing, but it takes considerable practice. Make sure you know the positions of the strings on your guitar (E-A-D-G-B-E) before you start.

Things You'll Need

  • Capo
  • Guitar Amplifiers
  • Guitar Cables
  • Guitar Cases
  • Guitar Picks
  • Guitar Slide
  • Guitar Stands
  • Guitar Straps
  • Guitar Strings
  • Guitars
  • Sheet Music For Guitar
  • Electronic Tuner For Guitars

Finger Style

  • Rest the thumb of your right hand on the sixth (low E) string and rest the index, middle and ring fingers on the first, second and third strings. (The thinnest string is the first or high E string.)

  • Keep the wrist, hand and fingers relaxed.

  • Form a triangle between the thumb, index finger and strings.

Arpeggio Picking

  • Play a C chord, one note at a time, starting from the bass note (in this case, C on the A string) and moving up.

  • Rest the thumb on the bass note of the chord, the index finger on the third (G) string, the middle finger on the second (B) string and the ring finger on the first (high E) string.

  • Pluck the A string with your thumb.

  • Pluck the other strings with your fingers in the sequence described in Step 5. This is called arpeggio or broken chord picking.

  • Repeat this fingering pattern very slowly at first, getting faster as you get better.

  • Try to establish a 1-2-3-4 rhythm in your pattern, with the main beat on 1.

Finger and Flat Picks

  • Apply the same hand position as in finger style, with the thumb a little more parallel to the strings, when using finger picks (see Glossary).

  • Learn to play without finger picks first.

  • Hold a flat pick (see Glossary) between your thumb and first finger.

  • Hold it firmly but not too tightly.

  • Keep your hand relaxed.

  • Relax and slightly arch your wrist.

  • Hold your thumb almost parallel to the strings.

Tips & Warnings

  • Start off slowly and don't get faster until your playing sounds clean and accurate. It's the only way to get the pattern ingrained in your brain and your fingers.
  • Get a guitar player's manual that shows graphics of chords and fingering patterns. It will help.

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