Beginner fingerpicking songs?
February 18, 2012 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for songs that will help me incorporate fingerpicking into my guitar practice. What are some good songs to start out on?

I listen to a lot of Beatles, Neko Case, Elliott Smith, Wilco, and White Stripes; bonus points for a song by one of them or someone similar (my profile's linked in my Metafilter profile if you want more ideas). I'm working on Blackbird but would like some more variety or songs that use both picking and strumming. I tried Cocaine Blues but I feel like I need to work on something more simple first.
posted by quiet coyote to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Check out So Begins the Task by Stephen Stills
posted by smokingmonkey at 6:43 PM on February 18, 2012

We're going to be friends by the White Stripes is a good starter. It doesn't have strumming, but I think you could incorporate some muted, gentle strums near the end.

I've always loved Condor Ave by Elliott Smith, and it switches between fingers and strums in interesting ways.

I think of Independence Day by Elliott Smith as the ultimate challenge of this direction you're working on. It's not a beginner's tune, but man, is it amazing.
posted by umbĂș at 7:20 PM on February 18, 2012

Una Pieza by Chetes might fit the bill. This record by Chetes was produced by Ken Coomer, ex-drummer of Wilco.
posted by umbĂș at 7:33 PM on February 18, 2012

Townes van Zandt. Not only are his songs holy-shit-deep, he was quite an accomplished picker. He apparently spent years in his bedroom trying to mimic Lightnin' Hopkins.


Guy CLark.
posted by notsnot at 7:40 PM on February 18, 2012

Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You by Zeppelin was a fun song to learn that has finger picking and strumming. It's at about the same difficulty level as Blackbird.
posted by klausman at 8:18 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hurt as done by johnny cash
Sweater song by weezer
Street spirit by radiohead
Dust in the wind
Hallelujiah as done by jeff buckley
Wish you were here

Not sure if these fit your musical tastes, but they're good for pickin practice.
posted by mosessis at 9:11 PM on February 18, 2012

So much Simon & Garfunkel (too old?). Mark Knopfler (Ragpicker's Dream, Sailing to Philadelphia).
posted by smirkette at 10:43 PM on February 18, 2012

When you're ready to move onto something more challenging, I really loved playing Led Zeppelin's Bron-Yr-Aur. It's all picking, but really impressive once you get it down.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 4:13 AM on February 19, 2012

The Biggest Lie by Elliott Smith

Five String Serenade by Mazzy Star

Junkie Song by The Be Good Tanyas

Forever by Ben Harper

Be Careful of My Heart by Tracy Chapman

Naked As We Came by Iron and Wine

Urge for Going by Joni Mitchell

Forgiven by Deb Talan

Time After Time as interpreted by Eva Cassidy
posted by seriousmoonlight at 10:23 AM on February 19, 2012

Not sure if it's your style but GnR's Civil War is a pretty simple pick/strum combo.

Neil Young? Sugar Mountain, Needle and the Damage Done, Old Man..

Clapton's unplugged Layla, Tears in Heaven

Beatles - Yesterday

Celtic party song maybe? Check out Spirit of the West, Home for a Rest

And I'll pass along my personal philosophy as a solo performer which could also be interpreted as an attempt to elevate sloth and lack of talent to a virtue: you don't have to replicate a guitar part down to every note and technical detail, instead interpret and capture the ESSENCE of a song. For example if you're playing a four-part song, simplify the guitar part but make it more percussive..
posted by raider at 10:30 AM on February 19, 2012

Oh, and you said you like Wilco. Have you heard the album Mermaid Avenue? It's a collaboration between Billy Bragg and Wilco, using lyrics by Woody Guthrie.

Try these:

At My Window Sad and Lonely

Birds and Ships
posted by seriousmoonlight at 10:31 AM on February 19, 2012

I learned how to fingerpick with KT Tunstall's Throw Me a Rope.
posted by topoisomerase at 5:56 PM on February 19, 2012

I had originally started with Cocaine Blues because Townes said it was the first song he learned to fingerpick on Live from the Old Quarter, and had assumed that his other fingerpicking songs were about the same level of difficulty. I've been practicing Pancho and Lefty (here's the tab I'm using), and I'm finding it a lot more accessible than Cocaine Blues. I'm also practicing The Weary Kind from the Crazy Heart soundtrack (tab), although I've the tabs and youtube videos I've found don't do a great job of capturing the picking pattern. I think We're Going to be Friends is also a great suggestion for a beginner, so I marked that as a best answer too. Since I've been listening to my music with an ear for this lately, I've noticed some other songs that might be good for beginners- the Iron and Wine cover of Such Great Heights and Jose Gonzalez's version of Heartbeats both sound easy. I can't find a tab for Heartbeats online though, so I may have to tackle it by ear.
posted by quiet coyote at 8:44 AM on February 28, 2012

Pat Donohue Pat Donohue Pat Donohue Pat Donohue.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:47 AM on February 28, 2012

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