How to Break Down a Fingerpicking Piece of Music - The Bassline

fingerstyle guitar Aug 22, 2023


This is a sample lesson from my course "How to Play Fingerstyle Guitar - My Direct Method". 


Learning to play fingerstyle guitar can be both challenging and rewarding. If you've ever felt overwhelmed by the intricate movements and transitions involved, fear not! In this guide, we'll break down a tutorial video discussing a specific chord progression to help you navigate the complexities of fingerstyle playing. By the end of this guide, you'll be equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to smoothly play through the provided chord progression.


The tutorial video begins by introducing the chord progression that will serve as the foundation for our fingerstyle practice. We will be extrapolating the bass line from the chords and understanding why it works for the song. The goal is to gradually build up the fingerstyle technique required for this progression.


Starting with the Basics

The tutorial dives into the specifics of the chord progression, which consists of E minor, C, G, and D/F#. However, we won't be playing the chords exactly as they are traditionally played. Instead, the focus is on playing only the notes that are necessary for the bassline.


Breaking Down the E Minor Chord

We will be playing the E minor chord in a unique way. Instead of using the traditional finger placement, we are more concerned with pulling the bassline from the chord progression. This modification allows you to focus on the notes needed for the bassline.


Understanding Octaves

Octaves is a concept that's crucial for understanding the chord progression. The two E notes in the bassline are octaves of each other, setting the foundation for the progression's rhythm and flow.


Developing Accuracy and Speed

I can't emphasize the importance of accuracy in fingerstyle playing. Speed, is a byproduct of practice and accuracy. As you repeatedly practice, your accuracy will improve, leading to increased speed over time.


Focusing on Essential Notes

I encourage you to focus only on the notes required for the bassline. For instance, when transitioning from E minor to C, I advise to place your 3rd finger on the third fret of the fifth string while keeping your second finger on the fourth string. This approach simplifies the transition between chords.


Thinking Ahead

The tutorial highlights the significance of thinking ahead during transitions. Skilled guitarists can play quickly because they're capable of visualizing their moves in advance. To foster this skill, practice transitioning smoothly between chords without stopping.


Transitioning Between Chords

The tutorial provides a step-by-step breakdown of transitioning between chords. It recommends practicing the transitions between specific chords, such as C to G and D/F# to E minor. By dedicating time to mastering these transitions, you'll be better prepared to play the progression smoothly.


Playing the Entire Chord Progression

Finally, we bring all the components together. Start with practicing separate sections, then gradually connect them to create a seamless loop of the entire chord progression. The key is to find a tempo that suits your skill level and gradually increase the speed as your fingerstyle technique improves.



Mastering fingerstyle guitar requires patience, practice, and a methodical approach. By breaking down the chord progression, focusing on essential notes, and practicing transitions, you'll develop the skills needed to play smoothly and confidently. Remember that progress takes time, and the journey of learning the guitar is just as important as the destination. So, pick up your guitar, follow the steps outlined in this guide, and enjoy the process of becoming a proficient fingerstyle guitarist.


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