An important and valuable skill for guitar players is the ability to command a wide and versatile range of guitar fingerpicking patterns.
This is true for all kinds of styles, electric or acoustic, across all styles. This can help your if you’re a Rock, Folk, Country, Pop, or Funk player.
A single fingerpicking pattern can be the creative nucleus for an original song or solo. If you’re a songwriter, touring sideman or just love jamming alone or with friends, the same fingerpicking strategies will be useful for you. They can help you create a rhythm part, riff or motif for a complete solo.
One of the first things you need to do is to explore arpeggio patterns. This will include important skills that include:
- voice leading,
- alternating thumb patterns,
- cascading melodies,
- grace notes,
- open tunings
These and several other strategies provided by fingerpicking are essential approaches that you can put to use in your own playing, right away.
The origin of fingerpicking technique is on classical guitar. In the classical notation the letters p-i-m-a are used to indicate which finger you’ll use on your ‘picking’ hand. They represent the different forms of arpeggio.
The notation is based on the names of each finger; p=thumb, i=index, m=middle and a=ring (anular in Italian!).
Lead by voices adds what we call a ‘pluck’, which is picking 2 or more strings at the same time.
You need to plucking two strings, for example the 1st and 2nd strings together.
Notice that, when doing this type of exercise, your thumb only has to pick its bass note on the 1st beat of each measure.
Using Your Nails
Fingerpicking can be done in several ways. A common method used by classical guitar players is to use the nails.
The nail playing gives an added strength to the fingerpicking technique.
However, this is not required for good results. In fact, even among classical guitar players there are some who use only the tip of the finger, instead of the nails.
Use your personal preference. While using nails may be easier for some, it is also disliked by other players. The important think is to be comfortable with your playing.
Using All Fingers
The All At Once technique introduces the concept of using all our picking fingers at once. The goal is to pluck the whole chord.
The challenge of this method is to work on getting the ‘stacatto’ notes, and that ‘rhythmic rest’. This is where you are letting your picking hand drop on the strings, without an actual pick or pluck.
It’s worth putting the time in to get this one right, as it will serve you in so many other patterns as well as strums!
Alternating the Bass
Another useful technique is to use the thumb to alternate between strings, and generate a nice bass pattern that makes your sound even richer.
This new technique is using your thumb in a traditional ‘alternating bass’ pattern.
Depending upon the chord and it’s bass string, you can alternate your thumb between 3 bass strings, 6th, 5th and 4th. This gives a lot of opportunities to find the right bass note for each situation.
To learn more about fingerpicking styles and exercises, I recommend this valuable online video course.
The course goes into detail on these techniques, and many others, with several videos that break down each movement. You’ll also learn song that use these awesome fingerings.