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Finger Picking – Introduction and Your First Pattern

Finger picking is a great way to play more intimate songs, or if you just want to have a completely different feel from flat picking. In this lesson, you’ll learn the basics of fingerpicking – how to place your hand, which fingers to use and your first basic finger picking pattern.

It starts with your fingers

There are really several ways to go about finger assignments. I’d say no one way is necessarily better than another, but this is how I do it. First, anchor your picking hand with your pinky – I like to plant it right below the sound hole and toward the bridge of the guitar. Then, the rest of your fingers will be assigned to the following strings:

  • Thumb (T): The root note of the chord (typically the low E, A, or D string)
  • Index finger (1): G string
  • Middle finger (2): B string
  • Ring finger¬†(3): E string

These fingers will almost always only play the strings they they are assigned to.

Play a pattern

From here, to get started, just play a set pattern. For this lesson, try the following pattern:

Thumb – 1 – 2 – 1 – Thumb – 1 – 2 – 1, …

Pluck the strings on 8th notes, so the pattern looks like this when you count it out:

1 a 2 a 3 a 4 a, 1 a 2 a 3 a 4 a, ...
T 1 2 1 T 1 2 1, T 1 2 1 T 1 2 1, ...


Start slow, and play a chord (start on a G chord, for example). As you become familiar with this pattern, try speeding it up a bit. When that gets easier, change chords every measure or two.

As I said earlier, there are many ways to go about finger picking. This is just a systematic way that I used to get started. Once you become more advanced, you can start exploring different methods.

9 Responses to Finger Picking – Introduction and Your First Pattern

  1. Michael Norgaard Jun 1, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

    Thanks Brian, I came across your website looking for guitar chord for 1000 reasons. I started to get more serious about playing guitar recently and your tips are amazing and easy to learn. Now, I view your website every time I get a chance.

  2. Jonathan Waters Jun 27, 2014 at 2:54 am #

    Hey Brian, thanks for all the lessons you put up. Helps making to learn to play worship songs so easy for a newb like me :). I wanted to ask also, for the Pads music files is there any software that you could recommend for cross fading from one track to another while playing live? thanks!

  3. Marianne macdonald Jun 4, 2016 at 6:10 pm #

    Hi Brian,

    Thank you for taking the time to put the music videos on the Internet. I am a sixty five yr old female trying to learn guitar. Playing praise and worship music for a congregation , brings me great joy. I am trying to learn new music so that perhaps someday I can once again find a pace with a praise and worship band. Presently I am between Churches but have hopes of finding a Church where I can play with a band. I thank you so much for your patience and generosity of your time making the videos. It is very much appreciated. It is nice to know that not everyone is money driven in this day of age. I really like the way you teach and am hopeful that I will be able to entertain others in the near future……thanks p p

    • Brian Jul 7, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

      Thanks so much, Marianne!

  4. Anneleen Nov 24, 2016 at 6:11 am #

    Hhi Brian,
    Thank you so much for this video! You make it easy for me! I’m happy with your video’s. May God bless you in your work and video’s.
    I’m sorry for the bad Englisch, i come from the Netherlands.

  5. ISAAC LAWRENCE Jan 16, 2017 at 10:53 pm #

    Hi Brian

    My name is Isaac Lawrence from India, i m intermediate player and want to improve myselef for advance
    but i m little bit confuse regarding joining class or to buy online purchase

    can you please advice me how to proceed further. i like your finger exercise T-1-2-1 can you please guide me.

    Thanks & Regards
    Isaac Lawrence

    • Brian Mar 15, 2017 at 1:54 am #

      Hi Isaac – you can find more lessons on the Guitar Lessons page. Thanks!

  6. Boomer Fitzpatrick Apr 17, 2017 at 11:20 pm #

    Hi Mr. Brian,

    I watched this video and I loved it. It helped me so much and now I’m actually good at fingerpicking! However, I stink at the knowledge about it. How would I fingerpick to a song? Do you think you could help me with that? What is the purpose of fingerpicking? Could I fingerpick to any song? How do I do that?

    Thanks so much! Please, please get back to me when you get a chance.

    • Brian Oct 20, 2017 at 9:25 pm #

      Yeah you definitely could – you’ll just need to come up with a rhythm and pattern that matches the song.

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