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Here are some tips and resources on how to quickly learn fingerstyle guitar playing.

If you are completely new to guitar playing, it might take some time to develop the techniques used in fingerstyle guitar.

Here is what you need to focus on in order for you to learn fingerstyle guitar in the shortest time.

How To Learn Fingerstyle Guitar

Here are the steps to a quick progress at fingerstyle guitar:

  1. Start practicing the basic fingerstyle techniques. One of the keys to learning fingerstyle guitar quickly is to focus on both right and left hand techniques.
  2. Play some easy songs. Find some easy fingerstyle arrangements to develop a sense of rhythm and timing
  3. Learn advanced techniques. Once you have mastered the basic fingerstyle guitar techniques, it's time to take your playing to the next level with advanced techniques.

Let's look at each of those steps in more detail.

1. Basic Fingerstyle Techniques

Firstly, you will need to refer to the fingers of the plucking hand.

The individual fingers of the plucking hand in fingerstyle guitar are referred to with the letters p, i, m, a and c. 

Graphic showing the plucking fingers of the guitar
The letters refer to the fingers of the plucking hand, in contrast to the left hand in which the fingers are referred to with numbers.

Practice Plucking Chords

The most common way to start playing fingerstyle guitar is to play four note block chords or arpeggios. This involves playing the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers in some sort of repeating figure over basic chords such as G or C. 

To practice chords, start by learning the basic open-position chords, such as C, G, D, A, and E. Instead of strumming the chords, you'll want to pluck the notes with the fingers of your hand. Use the thumb to pluck the bass note and the other fingers to pluck the higher notes.

Chords are groups of notes played together, and arpeggios are the individual notes of a chord played one at a time in a specific order.


Arpeggios are a great fingerpicking exercise because they require you to use all of the fingers in your right hand.

To play an arpeggio, simply pluck each note in a chord individually. For example, if you are playing a C major chord, you would pluck the fifth, third, second and first strings one at a time. This would produce the notes C, G, C and E. You can start slowly and gradually increase the speed as you get comfortable with the pattern.

Arpeggio patterns involve using separate fingers of the picking hand, where each finger is assigned to one string.

So, use the thumb to play the bass strings, the index to play the third string, the middle to play the second and the ring finger to play the first string. Doing this causes you to play a four note arpeggio pattern across four strings.

I am a strong proponent of using arpeggio patterns in your practice and I introduce them early on in my premium course for learning to play fingerstyle guitar, called Play Fingerstyle Guitar Now!

2. Play Some Easy Songs

I get it, you probably want to start learning Phunkdified right away. However, if you haven't got the basics down yet, it's better to start with something easier.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when fingerpicking is to avoid using the same finger over and over again. This can lead to strain and discomfort in the hand, and can also make the sound less clean and loud. Instead, try to use all of the fingers in your right hand, and alternate between fingers as much as possible. 

Alternating Bass And Treble

Unfortunately, most guides stop after teaching you arpeggios and assume that's the only thing you want to play with fingerstyle guitar. But, let's learn some songs and arrangements. 

Once you are finished playing arpeggios, I like to move on to a more musical example. The next step is an introduction to individual finger independence. This is Fandango, also known as Malaguena, a popular piece for piano and often played on the guitar.

Score and tab for Fandango/Malaguena arranged for fingerstyle guitar
This fandango is from a piano piece called "Caprice de concert" by Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869)

To play the fandango, you can alternate between playing the bass note with the thumb and the treble note with one of the fingers of the plucking hand. 

3. Playing Full Arrangements

Once you have practiced easier songs, it's now time to learn some advanced fingerstyle guitar techniques. These techniques include:

  • Thumb independence exercises to improve bass line playing
  • Harmonics and tapping techniques for unique sounds
  • Alternate tunings to create new chord shapes and sounds

Here is the opening of Diddy Wah Diddy, as played by Blind Blake, which combines block chords, arpeggios and individual plucked notes.

Diddie wah didie tab
Play Diddy Wah Diddy by Blind Blake with lots of swing and blues feel.

Notice how often the ring finger needs to pluck the notes repeatedly which are on the first string.

Not only does it pluck the melody note when there are other notes in the chord which are in play, but it also is more convenient to use this finger to pluck the melody notes even when there are no other notes being played.

How To Improve Coordination Between Picking And Fretting Hands

Although your finger picking hand is responsible for plucking, an awkward finger placement in your fretting hand can seriously affect your finger picking. This is because it will take you more time to fret an awkward chord instead of a more comfortable or natural chord.

Consequently, this could hinder your ability to synchronize and coordinate the actions of both hands effectively. If you find that your fretting hand just can't keep up with your picking hand, see if you are using the best fretting hand position for the passage that you are about to play.