How to Finger Pick Guitar: A Comprehensive Guide

If you look at the basic book definition then fingerpicking is a type of guitar playing style. Most likely the bass guitar style which involves plucking the strings using the tips nails of your fingers. Some players prefer attaching picks to their fingers. However, this shouldn't be confused with flatpicking. Do you want to master fingerpicking any soundtrack? If yes, keep readingour article on How to Finger Pick Guitar for all the details!

If you ask us, then we would define finger picking as more than just a playing style. And the reason behind that is very few people are able to master finger picking in their entire lifetime. However, do not let that scare you because it is nothing that hard, and with the proper guidance and help you will be able to as well. 

How to Finger Pick Guitar: What Is All The Fuss About It?

The whole concept of finger picking is not new, but rather something very old. Starting from rag to blues, jazz, folk and then resulting in evolving through modern-day music of all genres. An amazing aspect of finger picking is how one style itself can cover such wide rhythm and music patterns. 

Can A Beginner Guitarist Learn Finger Picking The Guitar?

The most common question that we ever come across is our readers asking if they will be able to learn the guitar in X number of days or how long will it take for them to learn to play the song that their crush so likely desires.

To be honest, these questions have no definite answers. Learning to play the guitar is like a habit, and just like any other habit, it will take practice, dedication and patience.

 If you look at the history of all the famous guitar players in the world, you will see that no one learnt to play the guitar when they were born. It was their hard work and resilience that made them what they were.

Now coming to the fact of whether finger picking a guitar is easy for beginners or not. Well, we will be completely honest with you; the answer is no it isn't. 

If you are just a beginner who has just held the guitar then we would suggest you focus on basic techniques and exercises first with a pick.

Regardless, if you still are reluctant on learning finger picking then you are most welcome to do, as your goal will be clear and you will be motivated to achieve it. In that case, we would suggest just go for it. 

You Will Need To Know The Positioning Of Your Fingers:

If you want to master the art of playing the guitar, you really need to focus on a few little things. One of which is knowing your finger positioning. Knowing how and when to put your fingers will cut off half the work. Just like all the styles, the same goes for fingerpicking as well.

Now, the question arises that how should you position for it? Well, this part is very simple and there is nothing to be weirdly worried about. 

Place your hands on the string like you are holding a cup, keeping your thumb separate from the other fingers. This will be the perfect start because you won't need to move your hand at all.

 Once you have gotten well accustomed to that, with the help of your thumb pluck the lower strings of 4th, 5th, and 6th. We cannot give more than enough emphasis on the word "pluck" because without it there won't be much of a difference.

 What your middle and index finger will be doing is taking care of the higher strings 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. We would advise you to keep plucking the strings as much as you can throughout the duration of the song. It will only make you better. 

How to Finger Pick Guitar:

Now that we have gone through the process, you need to make sure that you are plucking the strings right away because this will either make or break the process. 

Warming The Scales Up?

What do you do before working out or going for a run? You warm up first, right? The same is the case when you are finger picking as well. In this regard, you will need to warm up the scales. So how do you do that? 

The easiest and most convenient method would be to follow the vertical scale that is played in one single position starting from the neck in between the frets of three and five. The pattern that you should be following is i-m-i-m (index, middle). Nonetheless, it may vary depending on the person you are learning from.

 No matter what the variations might be, what matters the most is that you get your warm-up done. 

Exercises You Can Do To Get Better At Finger Picking:

As we talked about before, the more you practice the better you will eventually become. And to do that you need to learn a lot of exercises. Amongst the many different ones out there, we have picked out the easiest for beginners. Regardless of their difficulty level, these exercises will help you to get better. 

For The Beginners:

We wanted this entire article named how to finger pick guitar to be focused on beginners who haven't tried fingerpicking yet. So here is something to get you more acquainted with the process. For the beginners there we would suggest you follow a few general rules. 

The rules are that you need to make sure to pluck the 6th, 5th and 4th string with the thumb, the 3rd string with the index finger, the 2nd string with the middle finger, and the 1st string with the ring finger. This will pretty much stay the same, with few variations at times using the middle and ring finger. 

Pick ‘em With Your Claws:

Nothing to be scared about, you won't need to slash your guitar in half for this. What you need to do is make a claw shape with your hand and then with only using three of your fingers keep plucking the strings continuously.

You will need to change between the bottoms two strings using your thumb while clawing the other three higher note strings using your index, middle and ring finger. 

If you would like to master the tune of the jazzy blues then go for some swing in your movement. On the other hand, if you like to get the country vibes then keep playing it straight. 

Travis Picking:

No, we are not talking about the highest in the room type sicko mode Travis Scott. Named after the legendary country singer he is one of the most popular country picking styles out there.

However, do not take that for a revelation because practicing these styles will be ideal for getting your hand on blues, folk and country equally. Initially, it might seem to be very hard, but once you get hold of it will become much easier. Try to collude your patience with this one as it will take a lot of that. 

Start off by having your thumbs familiar with the bass notes. You will need to fully expertise this yourself until you are fully 100% comfortable with it. Now that you have got that covered, make a slight pinch on your first beat using your middle finger.

This might seem very easy, but as a beginner, you will surely need some time to get adjusted to it. Once you have mastered that, you can start dropping the offbeat notes with your index finger. We would suggest mixing and matching a whole lot of different types of beats to ensure your fingers are on the run and they are familiar with the movement of the strings. 


It is completely alright if you are not being to spell it out, you just need to know its functions and that's all. Arpeggios or most commonly known as broken chords. Broken chords are basically when a sequence is broken into different notes. Hence, you might encounter double notes. So if you are checking the chords, there is nothing to get scared of.

Considering the fact that you are a little familiar with playing these chords on the guitar with a pick, you can surely go at it trying to play with your bare fingers. The surprising thing about it is that you do not have to be perfect. 

Final Words

Fingerpicking is only one of the many different ways how to finger pick guitar. As much so, finger picking has its subcategories as well. Just like all the other techniques and lessons, you will need to keep practicing these exercises to get better at finger picking. We have talked only about just a few exercises.

However, there are many more like finger style classical song. Asturias (for beginners), fingerpicking blues, finger style Spanish song and percussive finger style-all of them cater to a certain level, so find the ideal one for you and keep practicing.

Once you dive into deeper realms of guitar playing, you will be delighted to experience its many horizons.

You can also read: How to Tune a 12-string Guitar: An Ultimate Guide

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