Guitar Lesson 5

Finger picking

Songs for these Chords

I recommend that you visit the Tabledit site and download their free Player or buy the software -
each lesson will have TablEdit files with it.

Strumming is great, but there will come a time when you want to do some finger picking.
This adds a new challenge and new skills and will make your guitar playing sound very flashy
Progressing through the next few lessons might take a long time.

Exercise 1

Exercise 1

Rest your right hand thumb on the fat String 6 with your 1st finger on String 3, your 2nd finger on String 2 and your 3rd finger on String 1.

Sound String 6 with your thumb, then String 3 (with 1st finger), String 2 (with 2nd finger) and String 1 (with 3rd finger).

This pattern of strings is 6-3-2-1, 6-3-2-1, etc

Repeat until it gets smoother and (maybe) quicker.

To make it harder, make a G chord and try the same thing.

And make a C chord - this time start your thumb on String 5 so the pattern is 5-3-2-1.


Exercise 2

Exercise 2

Keep your 'chord hand' away from the fretboard and with your picking hand, rest your thumb on the fat String 6 with your 1st finger on String 3, your 2nd finger on String 2 and your 3rd finger on String 1.

This time, sound String 6 with your thumb, then String 3, String 2 and String 1 (using separate fingers in turn, as before). But now sound String 2 and String 3 before returning to String 6.

This pattern of strings is 6-3-2-1-2-3, 6-3-2-1-2-3, etc.

Repeat until it gets smoother and (maybe) quicker.

With a G chord the string pattern is the same.

With a C chord our 'home' note is on String 5 so the pattern is 5-3-2-1-2-3.

With an A chord your 'home' note is on String 5 so the pattern is 5-3-2-1-2-3.

With a D chord the pattern is 4-3-2-1-2-3.

Exercise 3

Exercise 3

This is possibly the most valuable technique of all. It will give you an 'educated thumb'.

This means that a steady bass line is produced by the thumb no matter what else the fingers are doing.

To start with, don't finger any chord at all on the fretboard. Just sound String 6 with your thumb and then String 3 (or String 4, or String 2 - it doesn't matter at the moment) - also with your thumb.

Repeat this over and over using the string pattern 6-3, 6-3, etc etc.

Then make it harder by forming a G chord and using the string pattern 6-3, 6-3. etc etc.

Then use an E chord with 6-3, 6-3, etc

Harder still - use a C chord but this time use the string pattern 5-3, 5-3 etc.

Use an A chord, also with 5-3, 5-3, etc

And how about a D chord - but this time with 4-3, 4-3, etc.

Each time it's the first string which must be perfectly hit - the second in the pair doesn't really matter (for now).

Exercise 4

Exercise 4

Next we can develop the 'educated thumb' idea while using other fingers to pick with. We are going to develop the idea of a steady 6-3, 6-3, pattern. This is the rock-steady base around which other things can happen.

1 Lets call the pattern you developed in Exercise 3 1-2-3-4 where the odd numbers are the bass string notes played with your thumb and the even numbers are an inside string (String 3 or 2 or 4 maybe) also played with your thumb. The first picture opposite shows this in TablEdit.

Now look at the second picture.

We might call this pattern 1-2-3-and-4 where the 'and' is played by your 1st finger and everything else is played by your thumb. Listen to the pattern in this TablEdit file.

Practice this pattern over and over with every chord you know so you can literally play it with your eyes shut - then move to the next step.

Exercise 5

Exercise 5

When you are confident with the pattern 1-2-3-and-4 you can experiment by moving the 'and' around in the pattern:

1-2-and-3-4, 1-2-and-3-4
1-and-2-3-4, 1-and-2-3-4,
1-2-3-4-and, 1-2-3-4-and
1-and-2-3-and-4, 1-and-2-3-and-4
1-and-2-and-3-and-4, 1-and-2-and-3-and-4
1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and, 1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and

TablEdit file

Try each pattern repeatedly with every chord you know.

Exercise 6

Exercise 6

When you are confident with the patterns in Exercise 5 you can add another challenge with a 'pinch' to start each bar.

For this you literally pinch your thumb bass string note with a higher note on String 1 or maybe String 2, and then finish the pattern in the way you already know:

pinch-2-3-4, pinch-2-3-4
pinch-2-3-and-4, pinch-2-3-and-4
pinch-2-and-3-4, pinch-2-and-3-4
pinch-and-2-3-4, pinch-and-2-3-4,
pinch-2-3-4-and, pinch-2-3-4-and
pinch-and-2-3-and-4, pinch-and-2-3-and-4
pinch-and-2-and-3-and-4, pinch-and-2-and-3-and-4
pinch-and-2-and-3-and-4-and, pinch-and-2-and-3-and-4-and

Tabledit file

Don't be surprised if this makes things much harder.

Exercise 7

Exercise 7

Everyone knows Ralph McTell's song 'Streets of London' and it's a good tune to try out your developing skills.

This TableEdit arrangement uses all the techniques you have been practising.

Take it slow; take it steady; it's even harder to sing the words as you play!

This time you are aiming at perfection for each thumb bass note and every higher string finger note.

The first graphic shows the Tabledit using bass notes only.

The second one uses pinches.

The third one is quite ambitious.

Songs for these Chords