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.