Fingerpicking for absolute beginners

Try not to pick with the same finger for consecutive notes
Try not to pick with the same finger for consecutive notes

The beauty of fingerpicking is that you can play melodies and basslines together using open chord shapes. We've got two examples for you here, based around open position A, D and E chords.

You can practise each example in full or break them down into their melody and bass parts. If you break them down, don't change the fingering - stay around those chord shapes. Otherwise when you play the full parts you'll have practised the wrong fingering!

Example 2 is much trickier than Example 1 so take the time to learn the melody and bass in this way. The picking is trickier too, particularly on the semiquaver rhythms and wherever you have to cross to another string in the melody. A basic rule of thumb is to try not to pick with the same finger for consecutive notes.

Next page: tab for the video examples

Example 1: simple melody with bassline

(Click tab to enlarge)

Practise this example chord by chord. Once you're comfortable with the first A chord, move on to the D, and so on.

Example 2: complex melody with bassline

(Click tab to enlarge)

Compare the melody here with Example 1. Try to work out where the extra notes are and pick the melody by alternating your i and m fingers.

Chris Bird

Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.