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Fingerstyle Guitar | Lesson #10

Welcome back to Beginner Guitar for Adults. This is lesson #10.

Today we’re doing an introduction to fingerstyle guitar. If this is not something you’re interested in feel free to pass on this lesson… but I think it’s a lot of fun! I typically use a nylon string guitar for fingerpicking, but you can use a steel string just as well.

The Fingerstyle Guitar Strum

Let’s start with the fingerstyle guitar strum. We’ve done the D chord, the Cadd9 and G chords with the pick. You can also strum it with your fingers.

To get a good sound with your fingers, you need to get your nails involved a little bit. Start strumming down with the top of your nails of your first two fingers. You may use your third finger occasionally, but it doesn't matter much.

Then strum up with the back of your thumb nail.

Try it now – strum down with your first 2 fingernails, and up with your thumbnail.

Wrist Trick

The key is to turn your wrist so that your fingernails are initially facing the strings, then turn it on your way back up so your thumbnail is facing the strings. There should be more twist in your wrist than up and down of the elbow.

With the same chords that we just learned, go ahead and try this now with the fingerstyle strumming. Start with D, then Cadd9, G, then D again.

At first your thumb might be a little rough. But once you practice it you’ll see improvement a little at a time. Strumming with your nail brings out a little bit more treble, that gives it a more smooth, brushing sound.

The thumb strum without the nail is kind of muted.  You can hear how dull it is. Of course if you want that sound you can use the flesh of your thumb… but most prefer using the nail.

Basic Fingerpicking

  • Put your thumb on the fourth string
  • your first finger on the third string,
  • your second finger on the second string,
  • and your third finger on the first string.

The motion is down with your thumb, up with the first finger, up with the second, and up with the third. Then you start over.

Try not to pluck the strings “out”, or away from the guitar body. Pull your fingers in toward your palm.

Give it a try yourself:

1) Place your fingers on the strings (4th string – thumb, 3rd string -1st finger, 2nd string – 2nd finger, 1st string – 3rd finger)

2) Get your left hand set with the D chord

3) Now pluck- thumb, 1st finger, 2nd finger, 3rd finger, repeat!

Now try the same thing again… this time with the Cadd9 chord. Your right thumb will go on the 5th string instead of the 4th string for this one.

Then move to the G chord. This time your thumb will go on your 6th string (the first 3 strings are covered by your 3 fingers).

Now you're ready for the entire exercise…

The Full Exercise and More

Let’s do the full exercise I’m going to want you to practice.

Same progression we’ve been working on: D, Cadd9, G, and D. You’ll do 4 fingerpicking patterns per chord.

Start this Fingerstyle guitar exercise slowly. Take your time changing from chord to chord. Be sure to do 4 patterns per chord. Then change it to just 2 fingerpicking patterns per chord. Once you have that down, then little by little pick up the speed.

If you find yourself fumbling, go back and do it slower. Then keep pushing it up little by

What's Next?

In the next lesson you’ll learn your first easy guitar song. I’ll also show you a little trick to help make songs easier to sing along with that I think you’ll enjoy.

>> Lesson #11 Your First Easy Guitar Song

See you in the next lesson.

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  1. I want to learn to finger pick so much! Very new to me……stumbling along here, but very excited to work on this skill!

    1. I’m glad you’ve found this helpful. The best you can try to relax and practice a little as often as you can. – Tomas

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