dateThursday 9 Feb 2012

Guitar Fingerpicking Basics

Guitar fingerpicking or “fingerstyle” is the technique of plucking the guitar strings with the fingertips or fingernails instead of a guitar pick(plectrum).

Although mastering fingerpicking can take a bit of time, the actual technique is fairly simple as discussed in The Ultimate Guitar Guide – Part 2 and in my “Fingerpicking 101” video below:


99% of fingerpicking “know-how” can be summed up with a few basic rules that will help you know that you are using the correct fingers and playing most efficiently.

  • Use the thumb, index, middle and ring finger. Don’t leave any of these fingers out of the equation. When necessary, you can even use your pinky.
  • 99% of the time, your thumb will play strings E, A & D, while your other fingers will play the melody strings.
  • When reading music that uses fingerpicking, you may see the term “PIMA” or the initials P, I, M or A used. PIMA is an acrostic for the thumb and the first three fingers of the right hand. Because of its length, the pinky is often times not used. PIMA is often used to indicate which fingers to use in picking. The traditional Spanish words that we derive those letters from are:
    • Pulgar = Thumb
    • Indice = Fore Finger
    • Medio = Middle Finger
    • Anular = Ring Finger

If you are new to fingerpicking, try playing the pattern P, I, M, A while counting 1,2,3,4. This would be the first exercise to get this idea down. Take your time, PLAY in time and do it over and over again until your fingers start “listening” to your commands. Watch the “Fingerpicking 101” video above if you have any issues.

Fingerpicking, like any other technique that we study, requires practice, attention and a lot of patience.  This is a technique that feels awkward at first but with time and discipline, miraculously gets easier.

One of my favorite fingerpicking techniques is what I have named the “harpsichord” technique.  It’s great for tunes in 6/8 or ¾ time.  To hear this technique in action listen to:


For tips on how to master this guitar fingerpicking trick go to:


So what can you do with fingerpicking?

The most common style involves patterns that repeat while the chord progression underneath it changes.

Here are two famous examples:

Dust in the Wind by Kansas


My Name is Jonas by Weezer


You can also play as if you are both the bass player and guitar player in a band playing multiple voices at once.

Check out my versions of:

Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles


Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones


Kids by MGMT


for that corresponding guitar lesson for this song, go to:


John Wayne Gacy Jr. by Sufjan Stevens


So there you have it!  If you still need help with fingerpicking please go get

The Ultimate Guitar Guide – Part 2 and Master the dedicated Fingerpicking section of this invaluable guitar tool.

You may download this PDF for FREE just for being cool for reading this blog post and visiting  It will help you with your Guitar Fingerpicking.


Posted byErich

About Erich

Erich Andreas has been playing and teaching guitar for nearly 30 years. He has taught 100s of students for 1000s of hours, has authored several books on the subject, has over 40,000,000 video views on his collective YouTube channels and is passionate about creating guitar ninjas all over the world. His philosophy is, if you have the right instruction and do the practice there is NOTHING that you cannot accomplish!