Fingerpicking Patterns Part 1 [Beginner & Intermediate/Folk & Country/Technique]

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Fingerpicking Patterns Part 1

This lesson is a branch from Area 3 from the Playbook for Beginners and Beyond main lesson. Visit the main lesson to see my philosophy on the five different areas of learning to play.

The fingerpicking patterns used here are very similar to those used in many songs. The two here are in the style of the song Dust in the Wind by Kansas, but can be found in the song The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel, Annie's Song by John Denver and many others.

The two patterns shown here are really the same. The only difference is that the second one adds a second pluck. Let's start with the first pattern.

The first half of the video shows the first pattern. The pattern can be described as the famed Travis style fingerpicking pattern. The addition to the basic pattern is that the A and B strings are plucked at the same time on the downbeat, or first beat, of the measure. The rest of the pattern is 'pure Travis style'.

After the pluck of the A and B strings comes the pluck on the D string followed by the pluck on the G string. This is followed by a single pluck of the thumb on the A string and a pluck on the G string, then the D string and again on the G string to complete the pattern.

To practice the first pattern, simply play an open C chord. The first set of tab below describes 2 measures of the fingerpicking pattern of the open C chord only, as an exercise. Notice that we are only concentrating on the inner 4 strings: The A, D, G and B.

I use the thumb for the A and D strings, the index finger for the G String and the middle finger for the B string.

Again, notice that it is only on the downbeat where both the A and B strings are plucked together. The first line of tab below describes the first pattern.

The second half of the video shows an addition to the pattern, which is a pluck on the open G string to end the pattern. It just makes chord switching that more difficult when keeping time, but it can be done. It most likely could be said that it's critical to play the second pattern whenever the same chord is being played over the period of two measures, and the first pattern is used in the measure of a song when a chord change is required.

The last part of the video shows this second pattern sped up to the approximate tempo of many songs.

The second line of tab shows the second pattern.

Get these basic patterns down and then tackle the other "Fingerpicking Pattern" lessons you'll find here in my lesson forum.



Below are a couple of questions that were asked about this lesson. I hope this is helpful.


I am trying to pratice this with a metronome slowed way down. Couple of questions:

1) Each pattern is shown in 2 measures but is this actually 4 measures? I looks like the "A and B together" thingee happens twice per measure in your tab.

2) Is the thumb keeping straight time on the A and D strings? eg 1n2n3n4n as indicated by your tab or 1234 if the measures are halved.

Thanks, for the lesson. Please post more. This is the type stuff I would like to be able to play.


Excellent questions, Robert!

On 1):

You bring up a great point about TAB. TAB isn't originally designed to show timing and a time signature. Yes, there are tools and software out there that WILL show both (GuitarPro, which is what Kirk uses, for one), but that's not my intent with this TAB.

To answer your question, you can play this pattern no matter if this was two or four measures. If you think of it as two measures, then this is the same time signature as The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. If you think of it in terms of four measures, then this is the same time signature as Dust in the Wind by Kansas. If you drop the measure symbol all together, you can get a timing of '1-e-and-a-2-e-and-a-3-e-and-a-4-e-and-a' and then this C chord is played in a similar pattern as found in Dreamboat Annie by Heart.

There was no intention of indicating timing or a certain song, only the pattern of strings and fingers. Actually, you might notice that I play the pattern three times and each time I end on the downbeat of the next pattern (on the A and B strings), rather than actually finishing out the fourth pattern Yah, you did notice that correctly. The A and B pluckings happen twice per measure in this TAB. What I had in mind was as the TAB indicates, which is two measures.

On 2):

The answer is also above. If you view the timing as indicated whereby two patterns equal one measure, then the thumb is keeping 1n2n3n4n on the A and D strings. If you look at it as four measures, then the E string plucks are on the 1 and 3 and the D string plucks are on the 2 and 4.

Again, this lesson isn't about a particular song, it's about a pattern. This pattern works in both time signatures, and the actual time between the fingers remains the same.

I hope this helps. Let me know if this is still confusing. The thing about the guitar is that you can easily learn how to play thinking mechanics and basic math rather than having to play strictly to a theory formula.

I'm glad this one is helpful to you! To continue on and to expand the use of this pattern, move on to Fingerpicking Patterns Part 2.


Have fun,


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