Fingerpicking is a fundamental technique that any guitarist should take upon themselves to learn. This technique can truly open doors for creativity, and it’s especially ideal for singer-songwriters worldwide.
Learning to fingerpick isn’t always the easiest thing to do, even if you’ve been playing guitar for years. If you’re new to the technique, it’s best to learn some easier songs to get the hang of it.
Give the following songs a try and you’ll see your fingerpicking capabilities increase dramatically.
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“Blackbird” by The Beatles
Believe it or not, one of the first fingerpicking songs people attempt to learn is the well-known track, Blackbird. This song from The Beatles’ self-titled album has become sort of a rite of passage among guitarists.
It’s not the easiest song to learn by any means, and it will take some time to get under your fingers. However, you can be certain that you’ll become more confident in your fingerpicking skills afterward.
For the most part, the fretting hand plays some fairly basic chord shapes, utilizing chord tones and open strings. The real trick is getting all of the in-between notes exactly like it sounds on the recording.
This is an excellent song to start with, primarily because you’re likely quite familiar with how it goes. You’ll find that this internal memory will help you learn the song a little bit faster.
Blackbird will also have you playing up the entire length of the neck for that iconic ascending/descending melody. Tap your foot and you will eventually sound just like Paul McCartney.
“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac
If you’re familiar with the guitar work of Lindsey Buckingham, you know that he’s a masterful fingerpicker. His guitar composition on Never Going Back Again is considered one of the most difficult to master.
If you’re not quite at that level yet, give the moving song, Landslide, a try. This song is absolute power in all forms, but its foundation lies in simple fingerpicking.
Landslide is an excellent commentary on the process of aging. You’re bound to connect with this song at some stage in your life.
“House Of The Rising Sun” by The Animals
If you’re like me, you might have tried to play House Of The Rising Sun with a guitar pick. And, if you’re also like me, you would have failed miserably at replicating the song’s classic guitar part.
For those looking for a shortcut, why not use fingerpicking to accurately play the guitar’s arpeggiated lines? Sure, it might not be the way it was originally played, but it sure is a lot easier!
This will have you incorporating different rhythms within your fingerpicking pattern. You’d be surprised at how often you’ll use this sort of technique in other songs you might wish to learn.
“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman isn’t only known for the hit song, Give Me One Reason. Her song, Fast Car, is what helped propel her into the spotlight of mainstream music interests.
This song features a simplistic guitar melody that repeats throughout most of the song. Its melancholy sound helps to convey that hint of hopeful desolation that the song seems to provide.
Aside from a few chords during the chorus, there isn’t much to have to learn to master the song. Get that main riff down and you’re essentially on your way to playing the song in its entirety.
“Angie” by The Rolling Stones
Are you looking to incorporate fingerpicking alongside your normal picking? The song, Angie, is a perfect ballad to add to your repertoire.
Now, don’t be fooled, you can play this song entirely with fingerpicking if you wish. It does have some strumming with clearly fingerpicked parts to create a cohesive whole.
If you’re feeling froggy, this is also an ideal song to practice your hybrid picking skills. That technique uses a pick like normal, with the addition of (at the very least) your middle finger.
“Dust In The Wind” by Kansas
Dust In The Wind is an absolute classic as far as fingerpicking guitar songs are concerned. This gem from the 1970s is one of the first songs that people attempt to learn when learning to fingerpick.
And really, Dust In The Wind is a fine example of how expansive fingerpicking can be in a song. It serves as the perfect accompaniment for the song’s sweeping vocal passages.
“Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
Yes, the song that is banned in music shops across the world is actually a good fingerpicking song for beginners. Just because it has such a bad stigma doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good song at its core.
Do be patient if you’re an absolute beginner. Some of the fingerings during the iconic intro can be hard to play if your guitar has high action.
“A Lack Of Color” by Death Cab For Cutie
Death Cab For Cutie’s album, Transatlanticism, was an absolute indie-pop powerhouse upon its 2003 release. The album consists of some of the most potent writing in the entire band’s career.
A Lack Of Color is the ending track of the album, providing the perfect bookend to a masterpiece. Though its fingerpicking pattern is extremely simplistic, it does provide ample foundation for some excellent vocal passages.
“Lonely Stranger” by Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton is undoubtedly one of the biggest names associated with playing the guitar. His MTV Unplugged album solidified his iconic status in the 1990s, showing his career still had steam.
While there are many great tracks from the album, Lonely Stranger is worth learning if you’re learning to fingerpick. You might have an easier time learning the chords and listening to the song to accurately replicate its picking patterns.
“Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” by Green Day
Green Day began to venture outside of the realm of “punk” with the track, Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life). Although, some would debate whether Green Day was ever a punk band, to begin with.
Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) is very easy to play, making this ideal for those in high school. You could very well end up playing this during your class’s graduation ceremony.
“Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica
When you first get a guitar, you want to do nothing but rock out like all of your favorite heroes. If you’re a big Metallica fan, you might not yet have the chops to play some of your favorite tracks.
The song, Nothing Else Matters, is an ideal track to get you started playing Metallica songs. You might be a little surprised at just how insanely easy the song’s signature intro actually is.
“Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley
Leonard Cohen’s classic song, Hallelujah, was taken to new heights when Jeff Buckley released his own rendition. Buckley’s performance of the song is downright haunting and hits the human core.
As such, it's a song that many people have on their list to eventually learn. The track features simple arpeggiations but does have a fair amount of chords and fretting hand movement involved.