How To Play A Basic Fingerstyle Song
I'm going to start by saying that I highly encourage you to watch this video. You'll get so much out this lesson by watching the video. I'll use this article to give you some additional guidance.
This song is in 6/8 (six-eight) time and the fingerpicking pattern stays pretty much the same from chord to chord.
It starts with a G chord. You wont play a 3 or 4 finger G chord though. We wont be playing the 5th or 1st strings so you don't have to worry about fretting them.
The only notes you'll be fretting are the 3rd fret on the 6th string and 3rd fret on the 2nd string. The 4th and 3rd strings are open. I recommend playing the 6th string 3rd fret with your middle finger, and the 2nd string 3rd fret with your ring finger.
So go ahead and grab the G chord and play these string one at a time (these are the fretted notes, but the strings you'll play with each chord):
6, 4, 3, 2, 3, 4
You'll play the G chord twice then move onto the second chord.
The second chord is almost identical, it's called a D/F# ("D over F#). It's a D chord with an F# in the bass. The only change is you'll play the 6th string 2nd fret with your index finger. Everything else stays the same and you'll play the same picking pattern twice.
The third chord is a Cadd9 chord. Keeping your ring finger on the 2nd string 3rd fret, you'll put your middle finger on the 5th string 3rd fret, and your index finger on the 4th string 2nd fret. Because the root note is on the 5th string you'll change your picking pattern slightly (remember these are the strings you'll pick, not the notes):
5, 4, 3, 2, 3, 4
The last chord is the second chord played exactly the same way.
The entire first progression is:
Practice this a few times to get comfortable. When you're ready you can move onto section 2.
The first two chords are the same as section 1, the G to D/F#. The third chord is a C chord, but instead of a Cadd9 you'll play a standard Folk style C. Use your ring finger to play the 5th string, 3rd fret. Your middle finger will play the 4th string, 2nd fret. and your index finger will play the 2nd string 1st fret. The 3rd string is open. You'll do the same picking pattern as the Cadd9:
5, 4, 3, 2, 3, 4
Then for the last chord it's another variation of a D chord. Take your C chord and slide it up two frets. Your ring finger should be on the 5th string, 5th fret. Your middle finger on the 4th string 4th fret. And your index finger on the 2nd string 3rd fret. The fingerpicking pattern is the same as the C chords:
5, 4, 3, 2, 3, 4
Tips For Success With Fingerpicking
Most fingerpicking songs follow a similar fingerpicking pattern throughout most of the chords. Just like this one. The strings of the treble notes all stay the same, and the bass note only changes strings when the root note does. This makes it much easier to learn and play fingerstyle songs. Once you get your right hand into a groove your left hand can play any chord you want to!
Use your thumb for the bass notes. And then on the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings use your index, middle, and ring fingers respectively. It might be tempting to use one finger on more than one note, but this will slow you down in the long run.
Lastly, try to make your chord changes as quick and clean as possible. In section 1, your ring finger on your fretting hand wont move at all. Use this as an anchor while your middle and index fingers change notes. Part of the reason I like to teach fingerstyle guitar is because it trains you to change chords fast. And part of that is the efficiency of these anchor notes.
So give this a go! Take it nice and slow to start. I wouldn't worry about playing it to a metronome until you can play both sections about 80% of the way at a pretty steady tempo.
Do you enjoy learning fingerstyle guitar? Let me know in the comments if you'd like to see more of these kinds of lessons. There are still a few days left in my 30 day guitar coaching challenge. If there's a topic you'd like me to cover, leave a comment!