Developed by musicians of blues and folk called Old South of the United States from the 1920s, fingerpicking is a special technique of playing the guitar. It is nothing more than playing with bassline and melody simultaneously, whose accompaniment is generally with arpeggios and basses.
As such, the style is unique, presenting variants and dynamics. It is vital to use all the fingers of the right hand, from the thumb to the little finger: each finger plays a crucial role. Because this style requires speed and precision in the long term, meaning that you have to exercise a lot to get better at this technique. While all the fingers from the index to the little finger are used to perform the melody, the bass line is performed with the thumb.
Historically, the fingerpicking style has been used on acoustic guitars, but also it has spread to electric guitars. From pop songs to great rock ballads, fingerpicking can be seen everywhere. There are hundreds of songs to master and experiment with the fingerpicking technique, which will give a guitar player much more comfortability and mastery over his instrument.
Top 10 Easy Fingerpicking Songs
Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
Leonard Cohen’s famous song Hallelujah was covered by many artists but got the popularity thanks to its Jeff Buckley cover in 1994. The sentimental song is characterized by slow-paced basic arpeggios along with Jeff Buckley’s outstanding vocals.
The song is played with fingerpicking technique throughout and has fairly easy left-hand positions for even absolute beginner players. It is a great song to get familiar with the fingerpicked arpeggios and build a solid right-hand technique.
Good Riddance – Green Day
Released in 1997, Good Riddance is one of the most famous acoustic songs of the American punk rock band Green Day. The rhythmic arpeggios of the song resemble some country influences and is an ultimately fun song to play for beginner guitarists.
It is a pretty easy song to play with basic open chords and a reasonably simple fingerpicking pattern. To get familiar with the picking pattern, you can try it with open strings first and use your left hand after getting comfortable with the picking.
If you want to play more iconic tunes like Hallelujah, do not forget to check my folk tunes article Top 50 Famous&Easy Folk Guitar Songs For Beginners – Chords Included
House Of The Rising Sun – The Animals
The Animals version of the classic blues tune House Of The Rising Sun was released in 1984 and got immediate popularity with its beautiful arrangements. The song was considered one of the first songs of the folk-rock genre with its basic arpeggio and vocals-based structure.
The song can be played with the same straightforward descending and ascending fingerpicking pattern. The chords used are all basic open chords except a recurring F chord which also can be played without the barre technique since not all the strings are used in the picking pattern.
My Way – Frank Sinatra
My Way is an adaptation of a French song released in 1969 performed by the great American pop icon Franks Sinatra. The song has many covers, with the most famous one still stays as the Frank Sinatra version.
The song has a slow-picked arpeggio pattern which stays the same throughout the song. The chords are also easy open-chords that only require 2 or 3 fingers to play. It is a great song to learn this widely used fingerpicking pattern.
Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
Released in 1971, Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers is one of the most widely known blues tunes. The song has a bluesy character with sentimental lyrics and a fun-to-play guitar pattern.
The song is played with the fingerpicking technique, which has a quite irregular yet easy pattern. The arpeggios have a double stop on the lower two strings and long spaces between arpeggios during which the chords are let ring. Its slow-paced and straightforward structure makes this song perfect for beginner guitarists to get familiar with the fingerpicking technique.
If you own a classical guitar and wish to practice on it more, check out my article Top 40 Easy Classical Guitar Songs For Beginners – Tabs Included
Malaguena is one of the most famous classical guitar songs with Spanish flamenco influences. The song is beautiful as it is ultimately entertaining to play.
The song mainly consists of open strings with a thumb-picked bass line that creates the melody. This makes the song perfect to train the right-hand fingerpicking technique to build speed and precision.
Waltz In E Minor
Another classical guitar piece, Waltz In E Minor, is a widely popular guitar tune in the 3/4 waltz time signature. It was composed by Italian guitarist Ferdinando Carulli at the end of the 18th century.
The song consists of four different parts, all with different yet simple fingerpicking patterns and accessible fretting hand positions. Throughout the song, you only need to use two fingers at the same time to create the chord positions, which lets you concentrate more on the picking hand to build a solid fingerpicking technique.
We Are Going To Be Friends – The White Stripes
We Are Going To Be Friends is a song by the American alternative rock band The White Stripes, released in 2002. The song got a massive place in popular culture and was used in many movies and shows.
The tune is played with a bass note picked with thumb followed by a melody note on the lower strings pattern. It is relatively easy to pick and fret since the whole song goes a bass and a higher note on the lower strings. This creates a rhythmic and easy-to-play melody, perfect for absolute beginners.
If you want to play hard songs, check out my other article The 50 Hardest Songs To Play On Guitar – Tabs Included
If – Pink Floyd
If is one of the lesser-known songs by the legendary psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd from their Atom Heart Mother album released in 1970. It is a mellow melody like a lullaby slightly out of the style of the band.
The song is played with a descending and ascending fingerpicked pattern along with straightforward open-chords. You can practice your singing while fingerpicking with this song since it is pretty easy to play.
Fluff – Black Sabbath
Fluff is the third track from Black Sabbath’s 1973 album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. The instrumental song has a quite slow tempo and a soft tone in contrast to the band’s heavier pieces.
The song consists of slowly picked open-chord arpeggios but uses many different left-hand positions throughout the fretboard. It is an excellent song to build some harmony between the left and right hand while the left-hand moves along the neck.
It is also a great song to play with another guitarist since the arpeggios prepare the background for a great melody and soloing.
Top 25 Intermediate Fingerpicking Songs
Nothing Else Matters – Metallica
One of the most famous songs of the American thrash metal legends Metallica is undoubtedly Nothing Else Matters from 1992. The song is well known for its iconic intro, great lyrics, and excellent guitar solo and partitions.
Although the song has a complex structure with many different sections, all the sections individually are not that hard to play. You will need to be comfortable with your fretting hand to play the song since the melodies require many different and complex fretting hand positions.
Ultimately it is one of the most played guitar songs and is a must-learn for every guitarist.
Every Breath You Take – The Police
Every Breath You Take is probably the most famous song of the English rock band The Police. The sentimental lyrics and the great arpeggios, along with Sting’s killer voice, elevate the song to ultimate high quality.
The song is pretty easy to play since the fingerpicking pattern stays the same in the entire song and the chord shapes are not that complex. If you are familiar with the chords, you will learn the song in no time.
Don’t Cry – Guns N’ Roses
Released in 1986 as a part of the iconic Appetite For Destruction, Guns N’ Roses album, Don’t Cry is a great power ballad. The song immediately hit the top of the lists and became the band’s most known song for a while.
Although the song’s foundation is a traditional descending and ascending fingerpicked arpeggios pattern, there are many nuances like legatos and transitions that give characteristics to the melodies.
Wherever You Will Go – The Calling
Wherever You Will Go is the debut single by American alternative rock band The Calling on their debut studio album Camino Palmero in 2001. The song is still the most known and appreciated tune by the band.
The song is pretty straightforward to play with the same intermediate-level fingerpicking pattern going on through the song. It is a lovely pattern to play and learn.
Dust In The Wind – Kansas
Performed and recorded by the American progressive rock band Kansas, Dust In The Wind is one of the most known acoustic pieces in rock history. The song’s naive and romantic lyrics and melodies, along with its iconic fast-picked arpeggios, create an unforgettable song.
Although the song has pretty comfortable chord shapes and arpeggio patterns, it is played with high-paced fingerpicking, which is challenging for many guitar players. So, start slow and build up the speed later on as you get comfortable with the fingerpicking pattern.
Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
Fast Car ” is a song written and recorded by the American singer Tracy Chapman. It was released in 1988, based on the first single from his 1988 self-titled debut album.
The subtle folk-rock tune is played with triads and legatos that create the melody. The great-sounding melody accompanies the lyrics through the verse, and the short chorus is played with strumming.
It is essential to adjust the dynamics with fingerpicking in this song, sounding louder and softer in times to create contrast.
No Surprises – Radiohead
Radiohead uses many variations of fingerpicking patterns throughout their melodies, and No Surprises is one of the best examples of it. Released in 2017, No Surprises became one of the band’s iconic songs in no time.
The arpeggio-based melody is fast-paced and self-repetitive with slight nuances. It is not hard to play, but the pace is challenging, especially for the fretting hand. The pattern is almost the same throughout the song, so start slow and learn it well to build up the speed later.
Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton
One of the most romantic songs ever written is Wonderful Tonight by the virtuoso Eric Clapton. Released in 1977, the song was written for Clapton’s wife and became an iconic song with its perfect melody and sentimental lyrics.
However, it is not easy to play for beginners with many unconventional chords, legatos, and complex fingerpicking patterns. To learn the song, practice each section individually with patience and play it all together at the end.
Hurt – Johnny Cash
The last hit of the country legend Johnny Cash was Hurt that was released in 2002. Initially written by Nine Inch Nails, the song got its popularity with Cash’s cover. It is an ultimately sad song which is apparent in its lyrics and melody.
The song’s verses have a descending arpeggio pattern where the last double-stops are let ring before the chord changes. The only challenging part here is the fast chord changes which require some mastery with the fretting hand.
The strummed chorus is pretty easy for guitarists of any level.
Everybody Hurts – REM
Everybody Hurts is the hit song of the American rock band REM from 1992. It is a great inspirational song with a soft melody and lyrics.
It is an easy song to play with slow-paced finger-picked arpeggios. The section with F# and Bm chords requires the barring technique, but you won’t have a hard time if you are familiar with it.
Hey There Delilah – Plain White T’s
Hey There Delilah is the hit song by American rock band Plain White T’s from 2006. The mellow melody is fun to play and is full of emotions.
The song is played with the pattern of the bass note played with thumb followed by a double-stop on the lower strings, which is played with the index and middle fingers. The pattern is the same for the right hand in the entire song, while the left-hand shifts between different chords.
The Boxer – Simon and Garfunkel
The Boxer is the hit song by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel, released in 1969. The song’s lyrics tell about poverty and loneliness along with a melancholic melody.
Although the song has a simple picking pattern, it has many different variations and sections which must be practiced individually. You will need to be familiar with the barring and legato techniques to play the tune.
Jolene – Dolly Parton
Jolene is the widely known song written and performed by Dolly Parton on her 1973 self-titled album Jolene.
The song has country-pop influence and is played with many hammer-ons with an unconventional fingerpicking pattern. You will need good coordination between your right and left hands to play the song.
What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
What A Wonderful World is the globally famous song of the jazz legend Louis Armstrong from 1967. The song was probably heard by everyone at some point.
The tune has a straightforward fingerpicking pattern; however, the challenge comes with the chords used. There are many unconventional chords with complex fingering positions. It is a good practice for your left hand and a great fun song to play and sing along.
Landslide – Fleetwood Mac
Amazing Fleetwood Mac song, Landslide is written by the incredible Stevie Nicks and features some beautiful fingerpicking acoustic guitar from Linsey Buckingham.
The fingerpicking of this song is relatively fast-paced, and the pattern varies softly through the sections. You will need a fast picking and fretting hand to play the song.
Guaranteed – Eddie Vedder
The Into The Wild movie soundtrack, Guaranteed, composed in 2007 by Eddie Vedder, is a beautiful song with touching lyrics.
The tune is played with a fast fingerpicking technique which does not change through the song. So it is easy when you get familiar with the pattern. The challenging part is the chord changes since there are some barre chords and unconventional positions. It
Road Trippin’ – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Road Trippin is the hit song of the American band Red Hot Chilli Peppers, released in 2000. The song features a nice finger-picked riff with significant rhythmic aspects.
The picking pattern is pretty unconventional and varies a little in every riff. Also, the chords require some stretches between the index finger and little finger, which can be challenging for novice guitarists. But, it is a great riff that is enjoyable and educative.
Blackbird – The Beatles
The Beatles’ classic Blackbird from 1968 features a beautiful mellow melody with country and pop influences. It is a highly cool song to play and features some unique characteristics that can teach a lot.
First of all, the time signature varies between 3/ 4 to 4/4 between riffs. The general pattern is a bass note played along with a melody note on lower strings followed by a single open string note.
The tune requires a left hand comfortable on the whole neck since the melody uses almost all the positions on the fretboard. It is a challenging yet rewarding song that is a must-learn for every guitarist.
Tenerife Sea – Ed Sheeran
Tenerife Sea is Ed Sheeran’s romantic pop hit from 2014. The acoustic song’s most crucial element is its nice arpeggiated riff which goes on through the entire song.
The beautiful melody is played quickly with a thumb-index-middle-index-ring finger pattern mostly. The chord shapes are relatively simple, so your concentration should be on the little nuances and fast fingerpicking hand.
Lost – Anouk
Lost is the 2014 hit by the Dutch singer Anouk. The song has a slow tempo and relatively easy fretting hand positions, making it an easy and entertaining song to play.
The fingerpicking pattern of this song is more than manageable with a slow and traditions descending-ascending pattern. There are some unconventional chords, but all have pretty comfortable positions.
Behind Blue Eyes – The Who
One of the most classic songs of The Who, Behind Blue Eyes, has a beautiful acoustic guitar melody accompanied by touching vocals.
The song has a pretty traditional fingerpicking pattern along with many but simple chords. The chorus is played with strums, and there is a section played with triads—a great song to learn and play.
Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You – Led Zeppelin
One of the best ballads of rock history coming from the hard rock legends Led Zeppelin is Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. Released in 1969, the tune features great acoustic guitar riffs that should be in every guitarist’s repertoire.
The song has a straightforward fingerpicking pattern with a bass note followed by 3-note descending arpeggios. The challenge with this song comes through the fretting hand since the tune uses many different chords and positions.
The Animals Are Gone – Damien Rice
Released in 2006, the folk song The Animal Are Gone by Damien Rice features simple yet solid acoustic guitar arpeggio partitions.
The pattern is pretty simple, with the chords fingerpicked descending 4 strings and ascending back. Also, you will need a capo on the 7th fret to play it like the recording.
Street Spirit – Radiohead
One of the biggest hits of the alternative rock band Radiohead, Street Spirit, is well known for its melancholic melody. The arpeggiated riff of the song is quite fun to play and easy to learn.
The melody is played with the same fingerpicking pattern but varies according to the chord played. It may be challenging to learn, but when you get the rhythmic pattern right, the fretting hand easily accompanies it.
As Tears Go By – Rolling Stones
As Tears Go By is one of the first songs composed by Rolling Stones, which is a mellow melody from 1969. The song is characterized by the great arpeggios coming from Keith Richards’s acoustic guitar.
The intro and verse feature some nicely arpeggiated chords while the chorus is played with strums.
Top 15 Advanced Fingerpicking Songs
Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
One of the saddest songs of rock history is Tears In Heaven by Eric Clapton, which he composed for his son who fell from an apartment and lost his life. The melancholy can be heard through all the riffs and lyrics of the tune.
With legatos, double-stops, complex picking patterns, the song requires some advanced guitar skills to play. However, as an iconic acoustic guitar song, it is a song that deserves to be in an experienced guitarist’s repertoire.
Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
One of the most famous songs of rock history, the most played melody in guitar shops… Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin does not need much description. Great riffs, outstanding lyrics, excellent solos, and transitions; the song has everything.
The tune is excellent yet challenging to play with many different chord positions and picking patterns. Some strummed partitions and fast-picked arpeggiated transitions and a tremendous final riff and solo with overdrive—a must-play for every rock guitarist.
Angie – Rolling Stones
Angie is the famous hit song by The Rolling Stones that appears on the Goats Head Soup album from 1973. The emotional song features some great acoustic guitar riffs for advanced guitarists.
The iconic acoustic riff of the song requires some mastery of fretboard and good coordination between both hands. The song is played through a mix of fingerpicking and strums. There are also some unconventional chords making the song perfect for testing the limits of your skills.
Let Her Go – Passenger
Released in 2012, Let Her Go is the famous hit of the English singer Passenger. The song has a unique time signature along with great yet complex riffs.
The tune is played with legatos, triads, and complex fingerpicking patterns, making it an advanced-level song. You have to be careful with the time signature and rhythmic aspect since there are some odd transitions.
Hotel California – The Eagles
Hotel California is the title song of the eponymous album from 1976 by the American rock band Eagles. The song has global popularity thanks to its exciting story, beautiful lyrics, and, most importantly, great guitar riffs and solos.
The song has a great finger-picked intro followed by straightforward arpeggios in verse. There are many chords, but they shouldn’t be challenging for an experienced player. As an extremely famous song, it is a must-learn that is an excellent tune for audiences.
Shape of My Heart – Sting
Released in 1993, Shape Of My Heart became one of English musician Sting’s most famous tunes with its iconic guitar riff. The song’s appearance at the ending of the cult movie Leon added to its fame greatly.
You will need a skillful fretting hand to play this fantastic guitar riff, as the chord shapes vary quickly down the fretboard. There are some barres and stretches that may be challenging for any player. But the good news is that the song has many repetitive riffs, so if you manage to play the iconic riff, you are almost done.
Romeo And Juliet – Dire Straits
When we talk about fingerpicking, the first guitarist that comes to mind is undoubtedly Mark Knopfler. He never uses a pick, playing every kind of melody with his peculiar fingerpicking style, and Romeo And Juliet, the beautiful ballad by Dire Straits, is no different.
The tune features strums and fingerpicking patterns simultaneously, as it is a characteristic of Mark Knopfler’s playing. Although there is a core pattern, the tune is played progressively with nuances and minor variations on every verse.
Going To California – Led Zeppelin
Going to California is Led Zeppelin’s penultimate song from their fourth studio album, Led Zeppelin IV, released in 1971. The melancholic sound and folk influences of this song contrast with the heavier guitars of the rest of the album. Yet the tune is terrific with Plant’s extraordinary vocals and Page’s outstanding acoustic guitar partitions.
Going To California is a challenging song to play with quick arpeggios and techniques such as slides, legatos, triads, and double stops that enrich the arpeggio patterns. You will need two skillful hands and excellent coordination between them to play this song as Jimmy does.
The best way is to start slowly and maybe try to play the song more straightforward, adding the little embellishments later.
Mister Sandman – Chet Atkins
Mr. Sandman is a song written by Pat Ballard in 1954 and got its fame with Chet Atkins’ version. This instrumental version is a great song to play for experienced guitarists with its funky rhythmic foundations and excellent guitar partitions.
The song has many aspects that are challenging. First of all, it is progressive, and there are many advanced techniques used like staccatos, legatos, unconventional chord shapes and positions, many fretting hand stretches…
But when you get the feeling of the rhythm built with a single bass note followed by a single chord, you can experiment with the song. Once you get the rhythm of it, it gets easier.
Brain Damage – Pink Floyd
The Dark Side Of The Moon classic Brain Damage by the legendary Pink Floyd features some great advanced fingerpicking material worth taking a look at. Although the core pattern is not that difficult to play, Gilmour plays some excellent variations and embellishments, making the pattern more progressive.
There are some unconventional chords played in the song, with different positions and barring techniques. Overall it is not the most challenging song to play, and it is more than enjoyable to play this uplifting melody.
Classical Gas – Mason Williams
Classical Gas is an instrumental song by American guitarist Mason Williams, released in 1968. The 3-minute song shows some advanced techniques and great melodies, making the song a valuable piece in the classical guitar repertoire.
From the constantly changing time signatures to different variations of fingerpicking patterns, from fretting hand techniques to different chord positions, this song requires complete mastery of your instrument. It is an excellent choice for guitarists who want to test their limits.
The Heart Of Life – John Mayer
The Heart Of Life is the pop hit from 2006 by the American songwriter John Mayer. It is a challenging song to play with many barre chords, mutes, and ghost notes.
The song’s fingerpicking pattern is pretty straightforward, but the challenge comes with a few nuances Mayer adds, such as mutes on the bassline and chords. The chords he uses also have different positions on the fretboard, and you will need to be fast when shifting around the chords.
Soldier Of Fortune – Deep Purple
The classic Deep Purple ballad, Soldier Of Fortune, from 1974, is one of the best ballads of rock history. It is a fun song to play with some lovely chord arrangements, iconic intro, and solo.
This song may be the easiest one to play in the advanced section of the list. The fingerpicking is pretty simple with a descending-ascending pattern. If you are comfortable enough with your fretting hand to shift between barre chords, you are good to go.
The intro and solo partitions of the song are also not that difficult if you know how to slide and use some legatos.
Fire and Rain – James Taylor
The romantic song Fire And Rain by James Taylor from 1970 is yet another cool fingerpicking song to play for guitarists with experience.
The song has an intro and two different riff variations that are repeated throughout the song. The riffs use many legatos, slides, and arpeggios patterns as well as minor strums, making things complicated, but if you nail the two riffs, you are already ready to play the song.
Troubles Will Be Gone – Tallest Man On Earth
The last piece on the list is Troubles Will Be Gone by Tallest Man On Earth, released in 2010. The song has a country-influenced melody with a quick-paced arpeggiated pattern.
The good news is that the all the song is played in the same chord position, but the bad news is that the repeated riff is really fast-paced and is not easy to play. The legatos and slides between the arpeggios can be challenging, but starting slowly to have a solid foundation and building up the speed later will get you going.
The fingerpicking technique is essential for any guitarist as it gives the opportunity to experiment, create and play many different arpeggiated patterns quickly and easily. It is especially crucial for acoustic guitar players as this technique takes the guitar technique and mastery to another level.
As with any technique, building a solid foundation is very important. You should never sacrifice the proper technique for pace. You have to be patient, start with easier songs and go step by step.
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