Fingerstyle Guitar Songs
April 10, 2014 2:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for good songs to practice various fingerstyle guitar patterns.

I have been playing the guitar for a few months now and am starting to practice more finger style playing. I am having good success playing songs with arpeggiated finger style patterns in 6/8 (Hallelujah, Can't Stop Falling in Love With You), because the pattern is very simple and repetitive (thumb - 1 - 2 - 3 - 2 - 1, etc). I'm also slowly learning the "Rolling E Blues" from this YouTube clip, which is coming along slowly but surely.

I'm looking for more songs in 4/4 that involve relatively simple fingerpicking, like "Wonderful Tonight". Stuff like Fast Car is also good, although it's a little too hard for me, and also less appealing since it's the same riff over and over again, as opposed to a finger style pattern that I can apply to various chords throughout the song.

I'm open to just about any kind of music, although I only have an acoustic guitar.
posted by rossination to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any specific recommendations, but have you looked into flamenco/spanish guitar music? Lots of fingerstyle there. Also for youtube guitar stuff my go to is Marty Schwartz. He does some fingerstyle stuff I think along with a LOT of pretty good lessons. Good for beginners.
posted by Big_B at 2:44 PM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Search youtube for Van Ronk, Stephan Grossman, Rev Garry Davis, Mississippi John Hurt.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:52 PM on April 10, 2014

Obscure Reference, those are all pretty advanced players. (Also add Elizabeth Cotten and Stefan Grossman to your list.) Youtube has a bunch of easy fingerpicking songs.
posted by blob at 3:29 PM on April 10, 2014

John Prine does a lot of nice fingerstyle stuff. Check out the Souvenirs album.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:31 PM on April 10, 2014

Also Live from Sessions at West 54th.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:35 PM on April 10, 2014

Bruce Cockburn is my guitar hero because of his incredible skill, and Wondering Where the Lions Are is a great song of his to start with. It's fairly straightforward and has a repetitive pattern (just don't worry about playing it nearly as fast as he does at first). His thumb serves as a metronome in his songs, bouncing back and forth between bass strings, while his fingers pick out a melody.

This is probably one of his 2-3 most well known songs, and it's played in Drop D with a capo (so, pretty easy to tune).

Here's Bruce playing it live recently... he's adding a lot of flair to it but it's actually a pretty simple tune if you practice it. Same pattern over and over again, just with a few different chords, and 4/4.

Here's a tab.

This guy's videos are fantastic, and he does a lot of demos for how to play Cockburn songs. Here's his video on this song.
posted by Old Man McKay at 3:59 PM on April 10, 2014

I do this as an instrumental. The chords and picking pattern are very easy.

(Mary McCaslin's version of "My World Is Empty Without You, Babe")
posted by Danf at 4:11 PM on April 10, 2014

I love the fingerpicking bit in the middle of Pink Floyd's is there anybody out there. It's a haunting little melody based around the open Am chord, one of the very first things I learned 20+ years ago and I still play it weekly. Tabs are everywhere.

For full songs take a stab at Extremes "more than words", the chords are simple and it really teaches using your thumb for bass note plucking and your fingers for the top range while slapping your wrist down to keep a beat. Plus everyone groans when you play it, but someone always knows the words.

For more finger style songs, you can't go wrong with Kansas' "dust in the wind" (again, revolves around the open Am chord) or John Mayer's "who says", which is an easy fingerpicking pattern and chords, but played quickly. Sounds impressive but is actually pretty easy.

For more advanced, John Mayer's Stop This Train is a fantastic fingerpicking song with an incredibly difficult right hand technique to truly nail. The chord pattern is easy if you just want to pick along, but I've been trying to play it identically to John for almost 3 years and still can't nail the volume he gets (and I've been pickin' for decades).

Have fun!
posted by BlerpityBloop at 5:00 PM on April 10, 2014

Dust In The Wind sounds complicated, but it's not that bad once you wrap your head around the outside-inside-outside travis picking.
posted by CKmtl at 5:33 PM on April 10, 2014

posted by bitdamaged at 9:52 PM on April 10, 2014

Lotsa good song recommendations already offered, so I'm going to suggest a more fundamental approach. If developing fingerstyle chops is worth a $30 investment to you, then get these two instructional books by Mark Hanson:

The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking
The Art of Solo Fingerpicking

These are excellent primers on developing some fundamental techniques, including outside/in, inside/out, pinching, and arpeggio patterns. Plus there are many pleasant songs along the way. They are not video, just audio, but Hanson does an excellent job of helping a person learn the basics.

I noodled around for years before I found them and have often wished that I had discovered them early on when I became interested in fingerstyle. It's easier to learn good technique from scratch than it is to unlearn bad technique haphazardly acquired.

Best of luck and have fun!
posted by CincyBlues at 10:06 PM on April 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

A couple of relatively straightforward songs that I enjoy:

Iron and Wine - Such Great Heights (need a capo)
White Stripes - We're Going To Be Friends
posted by doctord at 7:15 AM on April 11, 2014

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