Help with fingerpicking
I'm having a lot of problems with this "simple" fingerpicking exercise (it is a 4/4 and all the notes have the same duration):
It is included in "Fingerstyle Guitar" by Mark Hanson, pp. 34-35. (The author has a free tablature based on this exercise in his web. For this reason I think there aren't problem if I copy just 8 bars here.)
It is an alternating bass pattern. The melody for the fingers is very easy and the chords are easy too.
Ok, I'm not able to play it. I've tried to play it as slow as possible. I don't have problems with the chord changes, strumming or with another fingerpicking patterns without an alternating bass. I can play the bass line alone and the melody alone but not both simultaneously.
I guess the problem is that I'm not able to dissociate the thumb and the fingers. My right (picking) hand requires a lot of attention (CPU?) and it makes I fail with the fretting hand positions or even in the timing (it makes me forget the chords). I can play the previous exercises or study songs without troubles (or the normal troubles) but I'm practicing this exercise for 10 days and there was not an improvement since the first day.
Any advice or complementary/preliminary exercise is welcome. :D
Thanks in forward.
I'm sure you have heard this before....the key is practice. I have worked through this book...at first the patterns seemed daunting...once I learned how to put my fingers on auto pilot, it all fell into place. The key is repetition...slowly, very slowly follow the pattern again and again until it becomes second nature. Just work on one pattern, then progress to the next.
At first it seemd like I would never be able to fingerpick these types of patterns, but now it doesnt even require any thought....it's all in training the fingers to become independent of each other. There are several books on the subject...one is the "Natural Approach; Right Hand Finger Strength". It's expensive, but worth a look.
I may grow old, but I'll never grow up.
You have described the problem: I don't know how to put my fingers on auto pilot! I didn't have problems with other fingerpicking patterns such as arpeggiating, Travis picking, etc. I'm able to pick several difficult arpeggiating patterns with bass lines.
I don't know if I didn't dedicate enough time to the preliminary exercises. The Hanson's method seems pretty good but I am not able to find the correct way in this part. I'll work on one pattern each time. I agree the key is the practice but I wasn't sure if my method was right.
The Caruso's method seems very good. It covers a lot of styles. Thanks for the reference!
Not being familiar with the book, I can only make some suggestions as to what works for me. I tried the pattern and once I was comfortable with the changes, the melody "appeared". First I use my chord hand thumb to catch the bass note on the low E for the D7. I also used my fingerpicking thumb to only play the E A and D strings. The index finger takes care of the G string and the middle finger controls the B string. For the high E, I switch between the middle finger or the ring finger - I think "proper" technique suggest the ring finger for the high E.
For the D7/F# (thumb wrapped over the top to get th F#) it goes something like thumb thumb pinch (thumb + index) pinch (thumb + middle) pinch (thumb + middle or ring) pinch (thumb + middle) pinch (thumb + middle) pinch (thumb + index).
Hope this makes sense. I do a fair bit of fingerpicking and I find sometimes I go on automatic pilot and stray from the tabbed pattern to a pattern that is more familiar to me and have to make a concerted effort to play a tune properly - the lesson on "After the Gold Rush" was excellent for forcing me out of my comfort zone. It takes patience and as suggested earlier practice but you'll find it'll come together soon enough.
When I'm learning a song that's fingerpicked, the first thing I concentrate on is the chord shapes required. Then I work out if there are any additions to those basic shapes - 4ths, 9ths, hammer-ons, pull-offs. Then I work out if I need to play the chord with the normal fingering, or do I need to play it a different way to leave a certain finger free to put somewhere else?
It's all trial and error - and after a while, it'll become second nature. I find it helps to write fingerings down so I know which finger to use on which string, and when!
:D :D :D
"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)
Try this lesson by Allan Green.
It's the first fingerstyle piece that I was able to play.
I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep
First, thank you very much for all your replies! :D
I'm able to play the previous bars and the whole song already. Probably I had to update my original post. :(
The book is a very good book and Mark Hanson is a great teacher/author but I have some problems with the method in this book. I've worked on the 80% of the book. Basically, it is composed by several songs/lessons. Each song is dedicated to an aspect from simple arpeggios to more or less complex fingerpicking patterns. Each song is preceded by some exercises which are two or four bars length and are exactly songs parts. My first complain is this, if a song has four or five pages, really you have a lot of information repeated, because the songs usually need just one page.
I was already able to play the initial songs. Obviously I had to practice them but although some chords were new to me, they are easy, and the picking hand patterns also were easy to me. I learnt a lot of harmony (Mr Hanson uses very cool chords and chord voices, he doesn't explain nothing about harmony but the chords are there and you can easily understand why they use them).
The problem was with this song/lesson. I never used this kind of patterns with the thumb and a finger simultaneusly and, moreover, with an alternating bass line. As the previous exercises are parts of the song and not a preliminary exercises, it was a quick step to me. As I already played the previous patterns to this song, it could be a problem with the method and me but I detected it in this song.
In order to play the song, basically I followed the ldavis hints and also I searched new info. I remembered another very good book, "Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar". Amazon allows to review some pages. The first ones are on a similar fingerpicking pattern but the authors include complementary and preliminary exercises. I followed them and then I practiced each chord separately. In a couple of days I was able to play the song.
"Beginning Fingerstyle Blues Guitar" was already in my wish list but now it is in my imminent shop list. I'll buy it in my next purchase, probably this month.
Now I must to improve some aspects for the song, basically, practice it to achieve the tempo, but it sounds good some bpm below the requested.
rmorash, your fingering is basically which I use. I also started to use the thumb for the D7/F# due to I use it when I play one of my favorite songs: "Wonderful tonigth" by Clapton. In this case it is easier to use the middle finger because, in the whole song, frequently the D7/F# chord is preceded by an Am. You just move one finger.
Thank you very much again! :D
Thanks for the suggestion of using the middle finger instead of the thumb for the bass note on D - good to get a different way of chording once in awhile. It will take a bit of getting use to but I see your point about switching to the next chord.
May I also suggest that if you are interested in blues that you check out the guy deltabluestips on Youtube if you haven't already. The URL is
I initially learned to fingerpick from reading tabs but he has a good feel for the music which one doesn't get from tabs
Thank you very much! :D
Great videos! I only watched some minutes of a couple of them and reviewed the list. It seems there a lot of good info there!
BTW, I mentioned a version of this song is available for free in the author's website. Here it is:
It is called "Four per bar". It is harder than the book versions because it also has some "embellishments".