This is continued on from yesterday, so if you missed that post you may want to check it out. It is the A to Z of fingerpicking, including tips, and today we continue the fun with N.

Here we go…


N – Nails


If you pick with your nails rather than the flesh, you must groom, shape, and look after them and they will look after you in return.


O – One


As in “One hand at a time”. If you are struggling with the juggling act of trying to sync both hands, try practising the chord changes on their own without picking. Then practise the fingerpicking pattern on its own on some open strings. When both are good, put it all together.


P – Patterns


Everyone should know at least 2-3 fingerpicking patterns (ideally more if this is the style you love most) so they can play them in their sleep, use them as a good warm-up, and add to their fingerpicking arsenal. How many do you know?


Q – Quiet


Most guitarists fingerpick far too quietly – either due to a lack of confidence and/or technique. The tone you get should sing loudly and brightly so the notes fill the room and space with a rich quality. Always keep working on improving your tone.


R – Repertoire


Work on the fingerpicking songs you love and keep building up an amazing repertoire of 5-10 songs you can play well (this takes years, of course, so choose the songs carefully). One or two classic fingerpicking songs like “Blackbird”, “Dust in the wind”, etc. are great and together with one or two solo fingerstyle arrangements of songs you love they will give you a good mix.


S – Sound of silence


A true gem of a song by Simon and Garfunkel, and a popular one I taught a while back (Learn it here).


T – Travis picking


The classic technique where you play alternate bass strings with the thumb and pick the melody with the fingers. Combined, it creates a lovely, rich, and classic sound.


U – Uptight


Don’t be like me in my earlier years and don’t take guitar too seriously. You need to be realistic and expect that it will probably take a few years to get pretty good, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a tonne of fun and make beautiful music in the process. Just enjoy each step of the journey.


V – Variety


Learning at least a few fingerpicking patterns and songs is key. For example, learning something in 4/4 time, 6/8 time, something slow, something faster, a Travis picking pattern, etc. Variety will add more depth and dexterity to your fingers and more joy to your repertoire.


W – Waste


As in “wasting time”. 20 minutes a day is a good solid amount of time to spend on really focused practice. If you have another 5-40 minutes, you can spend this time learning something new, revisiting any lessons or products from me and others, and playing the songs you love.


X – Xmas


I highly recommend you learn a fingerstyle carol as they are fun, timeless pieces of music and nice to play in December (you can even consider performing one to a loved one or your family on Christmas day if you are confident enough).


Y – “Yanking”


The movement fingerpickers make when their picking hand flies out and away from the strings. Not good as the further from the strings your hand moves, the more likely it will be out of position when you return it (increasing the chance of the dreaded feeling of plucking the wrong string).


Z – Zimmerman Blues


A great song by one of the masters of fingerstyle – Ralph McTell. In fact, pretty much all of his material is great, not only with his fingerpicking but his songwriting too. Another master of the style.



If you liked this, let me know. I may even tweak and expand upon this idea and do more A to Z’s for other things such as strumming, rhythm, etc.

If you did enjoy it, you may want to check out a much more specific guide with plenty of musical examples to learn in my book, Fingerstyle 101.

This book is full of great fingerpicking tips and goes into much more depth than the above. It’s good fun too.


Have a great day and happy fingerpicking!


Dan Thorpe

Guitar Domination



P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.

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