fingerstyle arrangements

Today, I want to give you five important tips on playing solo fingerstyle arrangements.

Quickly though, you might be wondering, what is a “solo fingerstyle arrangement”?

In case you don’t know, a “solo fingerstyle arrangement” is when you fingerpick the melody of a tune plus the bass notes, chord tones…

And optionally, you add in some cool fills and ghost notes to make it sound huge and extra impressive.

In short, it is when you fingerpick like a one-man/woman band. (Check out the link at the bottom of this email to hear some cool examples of this).

Anyway, here are five tips on playing this style better from today…


#1 – Perfect the melody first

The melody of a fingerstyle piece is the most important part.

Get the other parts wrong and you may get away with it.

Get the melody wrong and everyone will notice.

The melody, just to be clear, is the part we all sing or hum – i.e., the tune.


Learning the melody on its own for a little while before attempting a full fingerstyle arrangement can be fun, simpler to learn, will help you be clear on the important notes, and will give you some confidence when you are ready to tackle the full version.

It might sound strange, but I often like to get students to use a pick when learning the melody at first. A pick can help keep things simple.


#2 – Don’t be greedy

If I said to you, “here are 20 random things I want you to learn today,” you might think I was mad.

Well, when guitarists try to learn 3-4 bars of a fingerstyle piece of music in one day, they are effectively trying to learn anywhere from about 10 to 30 new things per day.

That is a lot.


Fingerstyle arrangements are tricky, and you have to force yourself to only learn a handful of notes per day.

Learn a handful of notes, perfect them, and then rinse and repeat.

Like a piece of delicious cake, don’t have it all in one go – take a bite each day.


#3 – Let the bass notes ring out

The bass notes in a full fingerstyle arrangement are really important.

If the bass notes are not there or they are not clear, the piece will sound emptier than the heart of Cruella de Vil on a grouchy day.

Therefore, it is important to always let the bass notes ring out clearly and make sure you do not inadvertently kill them off.

Avoid that mistake and you will have a lovely bass sound ringing out that may make Paul McCartney, John Paul Jones, Flea, and Jack Bruce proud (some of my favourite bass players).


#4 – Use consistent fingers

If you want to make life hard for yourself when learning a fingerstyle piece, try using different fingers of both hands.

With the fretting hand, change your fingers for every note you fret and with your picking hand, use random plucks of the thumb and fingers.


Of course, I do NOT want you to do this, but unfortunately, many self-taught (or those taught by others out there) often do.

Learn the best way to play a piece and then be rock solid and consistent with how you play it every time.


#5 – Hum the tune

Humming the tune of a song as you are learning it is really useful.

It will help guide you, keep you focused on the important things, and doing so will help you get the rhythm correct, which is crucial.

Try humming the tune as you are learning it, hum along with yourself while you are playing it, and stop every now and then to sing it.

It all helps.


If you have ever attempted a solo fingerstyle arrangement only to struggle (which we all have), then try the tips above.

Likewise, if you are okay at playing them or even if you are blessed by the spirit of Chet Atkins and can play them really well, the tips above can help you play your fingerstyle arrangements even better.


And for more help and advice on learning solo fingerstyle arrangements…

Including step-by-step instructions on how to play 18 of the best arrangements I have ever taught…

…Which I have whittled down from dozens and dozens over the years,  then you may want to check out The Fingerstyle Collection.

It is a course dedicated to helping you play this super exciting style.


Take a listen to some of the arrangements and find out more below…

Learn more about The Fingerstyle Collection – and learn 18 beautiful arrangements specifically arranged for the guitar

Until tomorrow night, you can get this course with a nice hearty discount.


Dan Thorpe

Guitar Domination


P.S. Getting ready for Christmas? Inside the course, there are 3 Christmas carols for you to learn, including a brand-new lesson on how to play a fun version of “Jingle Bells”.

Not only that, but I have also released another new lesson where I take 5 of the arrangements from the course and strip them back to their absolute basics (i.e., the pure melody).


These will help you get started, learn with confidence and get your foot well and truly in the fingerstyle door, so to speak, no matter how new you are to playing.

Yes, the songs take focus and practice, but if you have that, you will be in for a world of wonderful, fingerstyle fun.


P.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.


December 3, 2021 Reply

I am interested in your website.
I have a fundamental question before I can approach fingerpicking a melody: Is it a given that I would first need to be able to identify what the individual melody notes are, and then know where they are on my fretboard, in order to fingerpick a melody? (I have been doing chords on my baritone ukulele) . I have just started learning my fretboard but knowing the notes in a melody is a different story!
Thanks, Gail

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