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Mastering Fingerpicking: Six Essential Patterns for Guitarists

Introduction to Fingerpicking

As a guitarist, there’s something truly magical about being able to create a beautiful melody using just your fingertips. Fingerpicking, also known as fingerstyle guitar, is a technique that allows you to play multiple strings at once using your picking hand fingers.

It’s a technique that has been used by some of the greatest musicians in history, from classical composers like Bach and Sor, to modern-day legends like James Taylor and Mark Knopfler. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced guitarist, learning the basics of fingerpicking is a must.

Fingerpicking adds color, depth, and nuance to your playing, allowing you to create textures and dynamics that simply aren’t possible with a pick. With fingerpicking, you can cover a wide range of styles, from folk and country to rock and pop.

In this article, we’ll explore six fingerpicking patterns that every guitarist should know. We’ll also provide some tips on how to incorporate these patterns into your playing and suggest some popular fingerpicking songs you can learn.

Fingerpicking Pattern #1 – Stairstep Picking Pattern

One of the most classic fingerpicking patterns is the stairstep picking pattern. This pattern involves picking individual notes on each string of a chord in a descending order, creating a stair-like effect.

Here’s an example of stairstep picking pattern using an E minor chord:

E Minor:|——-0————-|

|—–0—0———–|

|—0——-0———|

|-2———–2——-|

|———————-|

|———————-|

Pattern: |—–p——-i——–|

|———p——i—-|

|————-p—-i–|

|———————-|

|———————-|

|———————-|

( p = thumb, i = index finger)

Practice this pattern slowly at first to develop accuracy and build speed gradually. Once you have it down, experiment with applying the stairstep pattern to other chords.

Fingerpicking Pattern #2 – Travis Picking Style Pattern

Named after country guitarist Merle Travis, Travis picking uses a fingerpicking pattern that alternates between the bass and treble strings. It’s a versatile pattern that works well with a variety of chords and progressions.

Here’s an example of the Travis picking style pattern using the chords C, Am7, G, and Em:

C: |———0——-|

|————-1—|

|—–0———–|

|—2————-|

|-3—————|

|—————–|

Am7: |—–0———–|

|———1——-|

|—0————-|

|-2—————|

|—————–|

|—————–|

G: |—–0——-|

|——-0—–|

|—0———|

|——-2—–|

|-3———–|

|————-|

Em: |—0———-|

|—–0——–|

|——-0——|

|—————|

|———2—-|

|—0———–|

Pattern: |—–p——i——-|

|————-p—-|

|—–p———–|

|—————-i–|

|——————-|

|————-p—–|

Start practicing this pattern at a slow and consistent pace, making sure each note rings out clearly and smoothly. Gradually increase your speed as you build dexterity in your fingers.

Fingerpicking Pattern #3 – Cascading Picking Pattern

The cascading picking pattern creates a beautiful cascading effect that adds warmth and texture to your playing. It’s a pattern that works well with the I – V – vi – ii progression, and also barre chords.

Here’s an example of the cascading picking pattern using the chords C, G, Am, and F:

C: |———0——-|

|———–1—–|

|——-0———|

|—-2————|

|-3—————|

|—————–|

G: |—–3——-|

|—0———|

|——-0—–|

|————-|

|-2———–|

|————-|

Am: |—–0——–|

|—–1——–|

|—–2——–|

|—–2——–|

|-0————-|

|—————|

F: |—–1——–|

|—–1——–|

|—–2——–|

|—–3——–|

|-1————-|

|—————|

Pattern: |—–p————-|

|———i———|

|————-p—–|

|—————–i-|

|——————-|

|———–p——-|

Fingerpicking Pattern #4 – Multi-String Plucking For Guitar Players

Multi-string plucking, also known as hybrid picking or claw picking, involves using a combination of a pick and your fingers to achieve a bright, articulate sound. It’s a technique that’s often used in country and bluegrass music, but can be applied to other styles as well.

Here’s an example of the multi-string plucking pattern:

Pattern: |D—–p——-i——-|

|A———p——i—|

|E———————|

|B———————|

|G—–i—————|

|D———————|

( p = pick, i = index finger)

Try practicing this pattern slowly at first, alternating between the pick and your index finger to pick individual strings. Fingerpicking Pattern #5 – Multi-String Plucking Waltz

Another variation of the multi-string plucking pattern is the multi-string plucking waltz.

This pattern creates a gentle, waltz-like rhythm and is great for slow, romantic ballads. Here’s an example of the multi-string plucking waltz using the D chord:

D: |-2———-|

|-3———-|

|-2———-|

|————-|

|————-|

|————-|

Pattern: |D————p——–|

|A—————–i-|

|E——–i———–|

|B—–i————–|

|G———————|

|D———————|

( p = thumb, i = index finger, m = middle finger)

Use your thumb to pick the D string, your index finger for the B string, your middle finger for the G string and finally, use your thumb again for picking the D string again.

Fingerpicking Pattern #6 – Let’s Mix It Up!

Once you’ve mastered these fingerpicking patterns, it’s time to start experimenting with mixing them up to create a unique sound. For example, try using the stairstep picking pattern for the verses and the Travis picking style pattern for the chorus.

Or, try using the cascading picking pattern for the melody and the multi-string plucking pattern for the rhythm. Here’s an example of how you could mix and match these patterns using the key of G:

Verse: |——E——– | |—–G——– |

|—-0—0—— | |——-0—— |

|–0——-0—- | |—–0—0—- |

|————————–| |—0——-0– |

|-2————-2———-| or |-2————-2——|

|————————–| |———————-|

Chorus: |——–C——— | |——–G——— |

|——0—0——- | |——0—0——- |

|—-0——-0—– | |—-0——-0—– |

|—-2————-| |—–0————- |

|————————| |-2—————— |

|-3———————-| |————————|

Bridge: |—–G——– | |——E——– |

|—3—3—— | |—-0—0—— |

|-0——-0—- | |–0——-0—- |

|————–4-2-0——–| or |—————2-0—|

|———————3-2-0–| |———————-|

|—————————-| |———————-|

Conclusion

Fingerpicking is a valuable skill for any guitarist to learn. It adds color, nuance, and depth to your playing, allowing you to create textures and dynamics that simply aren’t possible with a pick.

With these six fingerpicking patterns, you’ll have a solid foundation for exploring different styles of music and creating your own unique sound. Remember to practice these patterns slowly and accurately, and to experiment with mixing them up to create your own style.

Happy picking!

In this article, we have explored six essential fingerpicking patterns that every guitarist should know. From the stairstep picking pattern to the multi-string plucking waltz and more, these patterns add color and nuance to your playing while covering a wide range of styles.

It’s important to start with the basics and practice these patterns slowly and accurately, but don’t be afraid to mix and match them to create your own unique sound. Fingerpicking is a valuable tool that can help take your guitar playing to the next level and it’s worth putting in the time and effort to master these essential patterns.

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