Fingerstlye guitar is one of the most beautiful styles you can ever learn. It's a pretty epic process on the guitar, and one that shouldn't be underestimated. We're moving from a lot of strumming and glossing over various notes within imperfect chord shapes, to highlighting and arpeggiating individual notes within the chords, much like we would on a piano.
This of course comes with it's own unique set of challenges. Fretting the chords accurately, so that you get as clear a possible a note. Learning to use your picking hand in a way that allows you work through individual notes, and of course, doing all of this in time with a tune!
Fingerstyle playing can take you on a journey from the simplest of ideas to the most complex. Recently, when Thomas came down to the studio, he as showing me some incredible Tommy Emmanuel style playing, that blew me away! Bass lines that are playing at the same times as chords progressions and melody! It's like hearing a full band in one guitar part.
Of course, that's Thomas's current trajectory, and that's where you could get to, but we all need a place to start. So in today's lesson, we have three tracks that are perfect for improver players who are looking to enter the world of fingerstyle guitar (not suitable for complete beginners!).
Let's kick off with this wonderful track by Bill Withers. It's a great place to start as it's pretty simple chords alongside a simple fingerstyle pattern. In this instance we are not completely separating the notes of the chord, we are simply separating the bass note from the rest of the chord. It's a pattern that is used all the time, and it sounds amazing!
It's also worth reminding ourselves what the chore chords are, just in case you want to strum through them. Notice how in the tab we are only playing certain strings within these chord shapes, so we don't even need to fret the whole chord. Check out the video to see what Thomas does when playing these three basic chord shapes.
We're taking a big jump up in difficulty here, as we're trying to now separate the entire chord voicing into arpeggiated notes. This is very tough when you first try it, but this is a great song to start the process with. It's instantly recognisable, and will be so satisfying to play once you have it together. Really, at it's core, it's just a D major, Cadd9 and E/B chord. These might sound a bit fancy, but they're very easy to play. Let's start by looking at the tab.
You can also see the chords below, but once again notice how we are only playing fragments of the chords, so don't necessarily need to fret the whole thing. This is up to you. You might feel like it's easier to fret the chord, to keep things simple, and then just miss certain notes. I know that this is what I did until I became more confident in this style. You'll also notice that we add the Dsus4 chord at the beginning, which is that little melody note at the start of the tab (3rd fret of the E string).
Remember, this is not easy. If it's the first time you've approached fingerstyle, and you haven't had a chance to really develop your picking hand, this will feel very foreign to you. Take your time with it, and allow yourself a few weeks for it to start to settle.
And here is our biggest step up so far! We're getting in to the realms of "fiddly" with this track! At its base we have 5 simple chords, although not necessarily simple names (more on that below). The tricky bit, however, is the inclusion of a pretty string melody on the top strings. This is still a good starter track for fingerstyle, but I would recommend doing this third, so approaching it in the order Thomas performed and taught them. That way you will have built up the skill you need to tackle this track. Let's check out the tab first:
So, as I mentioned above, it is 5 chords. Am, G/Am7, D/F#, F & E. We've put the images of these chord shapes below, and in this track, you really do need to play the full chord shapes as we're picking most of these notes with our fingerstyle. As for the fingerstyle itself, we keep a very similar pattern for the whole loop, which allows you to focus a little more on the chord movement.
So there we have 3 suggestions for songs you may like to try when starting your fingerstyle practice! We also have a cool section in the video where we play through a few more songs that are worth looking at; Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton, Fast Car by Tracy Chapman, Blackbird by The Beatles, & of course Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin!
If you are serious about learning fingerstyle guitar, and would like a structured course on it, we have Acoustic Fingerstyle Level 1, 2 & 3 presented by Thomas! Get started with Level 1 today and watch your fingerstyle improve massively in a very short space of time! Good luck, and speak soon! Dan.