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I want to be a competent 'alternate bass' picker. What are some exercises I can do to improve? At the moment I am a complete noob to fingerstyle guitar, I never even attempted it. I adopted the classical method of thumb to e,a and d string, first = g second b third e.

Should I be learning songs yet, should i use a metronome, should I only start out with thumb and fingers 1 and 2.. etc.


Tags: acoustic, advice, beginner, fingerpicking, guitar

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IMHO, start out the way you have described - use thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.  There may be times in the future when you may want to shift the pattern down - use thumb for E, A, D, and G, and index and middle for B and high E - but, if you first learn to use all of them, it's easier later to drop down to 3, if you want/need to...

Working with a song you already know strumming, try it in a fingerstyle - starting from the low to the high string, and back again - and let it flow.  Practice, practice, practice...

"Let it Be" might be a good song for this...or "Leaving on a Jetplane"...


Thanks for the reply. I'm going to learn (slowly) "Don't think twice" by Bob Dylan, it sounds tough but it'll be a great personal achievement to be able to play it.

Dave, let me share with you how I've done things.  I started out, 4 years ago, trying to use thumb and 3 fingers.  It got to be too confusing for me though.  A little over a year ago, I got stefan grossman's fingerpicking guitar techniques and went to my thumb and index finger.  Best $40 I've ever spent and best guitar playing decision I ever made.  His DVDs come with the tab and sheet music, they start at the beginning and build gradually.  I took my time and learned all of the songs and now I'm on another of his DVDs.  Check out some videos on youtube of rev gary davis, mississippi john hurt, and merle travis.  All used a thumb and one finger.  Won't slow you down at all and makes things easier I think.  Good luck and happy pickin.


For me it has been strictly a case of mind over matter ... for the longest time my fingers refused to do what I wanted them to do.,  Then one day they began to come around. 

Once my mind became master of my fingers, the rest has been much easier,

Thanks for the reply Charlie, I recently purchased a blues course (fingerpicking) off Justin Sandercoe, a guy I learn from online. It's very similar to what you described, I'll stick with that and finish it before I move on.

I would highly recommend learning songs, it's a lot more fun and you're less likely to give up. Try to find easy ones to start out with like the ones suggested by FloridaGull.

I would also recommend the classical method as you have, using four fingers. Start by playing songs very slowly, and when I say very slowly I mean play each note for four seconds or so. Once you can play a section at that speed without messing up then try playing it faster. It will probably feel ridiculously slow but in the end you'll learn the songs faster this way. If you find yourself playing too fast and messing up a lot then get a metronome out just to slow yourself down, otherwise I wouldn't worry about playing with one for now. Once you can play a little faster then practice with a metronome.

I've written a series of posts on improving your guitar playing when you don't have a guitar handy. One that was very helpful for me when I started playing fingerstyle is on improving picking hand arpeggios. You can read it here: A couple others you might find useful are finger independence and finger stretching.

Welcome to the world of fingerstyle, it's a great place to be!

Thanks Nic, I read the first two articled (I'm good at stretching already) and found them useful. I'm going to tap out patterns I made up while on the bus or procrastinating studying :)


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