Easy Guitar Fingerpicking Patterns

When playing through finger-picking patterns, you have some choices as far as your right hand is concerned. If you make sure that you understand your options, you'll have more freedom when developing your fingerpicking style...

A lot of great guitar playing can come from patterning out just four notes when fingerpicking. As a starting point, (when you are playing four notes ascending or descending together), you can use your thumb, index, middle and ring fingers, (one per string), to play those notes. After you've become familiar with this technique /set-up, the technique can be modified even further.

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 or may not work out feeling comfortable for you because it may feel a bit awkward for some players).

Fingerpicking Pattern 1).
The first 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.

Patter 1). click image to enlarge

 After you can apply this pattern to C and G, try making up your own chord progressions and work on each pattern over the 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. All of these can be found in many classic rock, folk, country and pop songs.

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.

Pattern 2). click image to enlarge

While pattern #2 is simply a reversal of the first pattern, it is still a great way to expand your fingerpicking vocabulary while not having to learn anything brand 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).

Practice this pattern 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 enhance any song that you’re playing on the guitar.

Fingerpicking Pattern 3).

In the 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, work slowly testing your feel for how to address this combination pattern in your practice.  As the pattern becomes memorized, you'll feel more at ease.

 Pattern 3). click image to enlarge

Fingerpicking Pattern 4).

In the next fingerpicking pattern you will reverse the previous combination pattern so that you begin 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, you'll need to keep in mind that even though you are simply reversing an existing pattern, this fingerpicking pattern in example four does have a sound unto it’s own. Once your ears learn to hear this, then you’ll be able to apply it at the right time in your playing and songwriting.

Pattern 4). click image to enlarge

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 a 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. All your doing is creating new combinations of previously learned material.

 Pattern 5). click image to enlarge

Once you have worked out these five patterns, over C and G (as well as, other chord progressions that you know or that you come up with), try expanding upon them.

Work at different tempos with a metronome to keep your time steady and study unique combinations of these ascending and descending patterns. Once you begin to experiment further with these combinations, you’ll quickly realize how much mileage you can get out of a few easy fingerpicking patterns when you bring creativity into the mix.


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