Whether you’re new to learning guitar or have been playing for a while and just want to expand your horizons, jumping into basic fingerpicking patterns is an exciting journey. And while complex picking patterns can be dazzling, basic fingerpicking patterns can still result in beautiful music.
Don’t worry if you only have an electric guitar — while most people probably picture an acoustic guitar when they imagine fingerpicking, you can play fingerstyle just as easily on an electric guitar. In this article, we’ve chosen ten easy fingerpicking songs for beginners to get you started.
Our Top Picks: 10 Easy Fingerpicking Songs
1. “House Of The Rising Sun” By The Animals
This song has an easily recognizable picking pattern, and it’s arguably one of the most popular folk songs ever. Nobody really knows who originally wrote it, but it was well known as a folk song before recording artists brought it to even greater prominence. The most popular recorded version is by the British band The Animals, although countless artists, including Bob Dylan, have recorded their own versions.
It’s believed to be about a New Orleans brothel, but some theories hold that it’s about a women’s prison. Either way, it’s a blues-tinged folk song that can evoke powerful emotions in just about any audience.
And even though it’s powerful, this song is surprisingly easy to play. You’ll only need to be able to play Am, C, D, F, and E (all chords that most beginners learn pretty early on), and the fingerpicking pattern is a simple ascending/descending one. It’s probably easiest to fingerpick while using your thumb to play the bassline, but you could play it with a pick at first if you prefer.
The tempo is slow enough that the chord changes should be manageable for most beginners. If you don’t have much experience fingerpicking, you can always strum the chords with your picking hand until you’re comfortable. For a helpful video on how to play this beautiful song, check out this video lesson.
2. “Wonderful Tonight” By Eric Clapton
Just about everyone has heard this one from guitar great Eric Clapton. (And if you haven’t check out this live version – Below Left) This is a good one for beginners because the only chords in it are G, C, D, and Em — some of the very first chords most new players learn. And the pattern itself, while it’s a little more complex than that of some songs on our list, isn’t too difficult.
If you want to learn to pick “Wonderful Tonight,” check out this video lesson (Above – Right) featuring a tab. If you aren’t able to play it at a full tempo the first time around, don’t worry. Especially if you’re new to fingerstyle playing, it’s a good idea to play the pattern through as slowly as you need to without making mistakes.
As your confidence builds, you can then increase the tempo gradually. This is a good place to recommend playing with a metronome — the sound can be annoying to some players, but learning to play in time is a valuable skill. And when it comes to both playing in a band and doing multi-track recording, playing in time is essential.
3. “Fast Car” By Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman is a legendary songwriter and performer, and her song “Fast Car” is a great song to learn on guitar. And while it’s a good song for beginners, it’s a little more challenging than the above songs.
You’ll need to do a little more moving up and down the neck, but the entire song consists of a repeating riff. The song is played on an acoustic guitar on the record, but you can just as easily play it on an electric guitar — it sounds impressive with some added delay and reverb. If you’re not sure if you’ve heard this song, you can listen to it here (below left).
If you’re someone who likes to play songs with a lot of meaning behind them, then you’ll likely love this one. Though the arrangement is simple, this song is an understated story of heartbreak. If you’re ready to start learning this easy fingerpicking song, check out this video tutorial (below right).
4. “Hallelujah” By Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen is known as one of the best songwriters in the world. And even though he wrote “Hallelujah,” Jeff Buckley plays what’s likely the best-known fingerpicked version of the song. This great song is an outstanding example of the beauty and nuance of a fingerpicked electric guitar, but you can of course play this song on acoustic guitar, too. Because this beautiful song is so popular, you can find countless arrangements for it.
You can find easy arrangements that use simple chord shapes and picking patterns that are suitable for beginners (but still sound great). And then as you progress as a fingerstyle guitarist, you can start learning more complex arrangements (or even create your own).
5. “Dust In The Wind” By Kansas
This is probably one of the most famous fingerpicking songs for beginners. However, if you’re very new to guitar, “Dust in the Wind” may be too advanced. But if you already have a little easy fingerpicking under your belt and want to take it to the next level, this is one of the best songs to learn.
This song uses Travis picking, which we mentioned earlier. Using your thumb to play a steady bassline while your fingers cover the treble can certainly take some getting used to. But stick with it — it’s one of the most common (and the most useful) fingerpicking pattern choices you’ll come across.
Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll be able to pick up plenty of other finger-picked songs very easily. If you want an introduction to the pattern before you play the song, check out this useful article that comes with a couple of practice exercises.
Once you’re ready to play this song, it’s a good idea to break it into a few smaller parts (especially if you’re new to fingerpicking). For instance, this video lesson focuses on the song’s introduction.
Even though we’ve categorized it as an “easy fingerpicking” song, don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to learn — the first few fingerstyle songs you play definitely come with a learning curve. If you want some inspiration, check out this video of Kansas playing “Dust in the Wind” live and unplugged.
6. “Landslide” By Fleetwood Mac
Great fingerpicking patterns are known for their ability to create powerful atmospheres, and the Fleetwood Mac classic “Landslide” is certainly atmospheric. This is a down-tempo, meditative song that you need to know if you’re building a fingerstyle repertoire.
And if you hope to eventually perform “Landslide” live, you wouldn’t be the first person to do so — countless artists and bands, including The Smashing Pumpkins, The Chicks, Tori Amos, and even the cast of the TV show Glee, have covered the song. The song’s official music video will give you a sense of what the song sounds like if you’re not familiar with it.
“Landslide,” like many classic fingerpicking songs, has enduring appeal — although it was first released in 1975, it’s been featured on one of the band’s reunion albums, and it lives on through the countless covers performed by established and emerging artists.
7. “Hey There Delilah” By The Plain White T’s
This fingerstyle song is a more recent release than many of the fingerpicking songs we’ve mentioned above. It’s somewhat unique in that your picking hand moves a little differently than in many other finger-picking songs. In the intro, your thumb will be hitting a bass note as your fingers pluck the second and third strings simultaneously. This video lesson (below left) will take you through the song and show you the tab.
In terms of the chords used, this one is a little more advanced than some of the finger-picking songs on our list. You’ll need to play D, F#m, Bm, G, and A. Still, if you want to throw in some modern music as you learn finger-picking songs, this is an excellent choice.
As with most other easy finger-picking pieces, make sure to start out slowly as you learn the pattern. Once you’re used to it, you’ll be able to play at a faster tempo, just like you hear in the official music video (below right).
8. “Everybody Hurts” By R.E.M.
This is another easy finger-picking piece with a recognizable pattern. Like “House of the Rising Sun,” it has a simple ascending/descending picking pattern that’s especially easy for beginners.
It’s mellow and a bit sad, and it’s slow enough that it’s a good song to start with if you want to practice singing while fingerpicking. While you may not instantly recognize the title “Everybody Hurts,” you’ll probably know it when you hear it: here’s the official music video (below left).
Thanks to its relatively straightforward, easy fingerpicking pattern and slower tempo, this is one of the best fingerpicking songs for beginners to learn. To get an idea of how to play this great song, check out this useful video lesson (below right).
9. “Stairway To Heaven” By Led Zeppelin
A lot of easy finger-picking pieces are clearly acoustic or folk-rock, but this genre-bending Led Zeppelin song breaks the mold. And if you want to be able to impress people with one of the most easily recognizable song intros of all time, the “Stairway to Heaven” is a great one to earn. You might not think of a rock band when you think of finger-picking songs.
But part of the fun of learning how to play guitar is creating something new, and you might find that you like incorporating some fingerstyle playing if you’re a rock guitarist. We’re pretty sure you’ve heard this song before. But if for some reason you haven’t, you can hear the band playing it live in this video (below left).
To see a walkthrough (with tabs and rhythm pattern diagrams) of how to play this song on both acoustic guitar and electric guitar, check out this helpful video lesson (below right). And if you have a little more experience or want a challenge, this lesson even goes over the solo.
10. “Blackbird” By The Beatles
No list of easy finger-picking pieces is complete without the iconic band Beatles song “Blackbird.” Just like with many classic songs, there are plenty of arrangements for this song. We think this video lesson (Below Left) is a great one because it simplifies the song to make it easy enough for beginners. And once you’ve mastered the easy version, you can always work your way up to playing the song as it appears on the original album (Below Right).
If you’re a fan of classical music, you might be eager to learn this song — it was inspired by a Bach piece called Bourree in E minor. After learning the introduction to the Bach piece, Paul McCartney eventually came up with the unique pattern we now know as “Blackbird.” While this song is beautiful, it’s a little bit trickier to play than some of the other song options on the list. This is a good one to save until after you’ve mastered some easy songs first.
As a guitarist, it’s always nice to be able to learn a new style of playing. Becoming proficient at fingerstyle guitar is an excellent way to become a more versatile musician, and starting out with some easy finger-picking pieces is best. Once you learn a given fingerpicking pattern, you’ll be able to apply it to other pieces (and even songs of your own). Whatever your ultimate goals are, we hope you’ll enjoy your journey through finger-picking songs.
What did you think of our list? Are there other easy fingerpicking songs you think every beginner should learn? Let us know in the comments, and please don’t forget to share if you found our list of finger-picking songs helpful!
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