Fingerstyle Guitar


By learning to use the fingers of your right hand to play individual strings, you will open up a wide range of musical possibilities. In addition to adding sophistication and variety to your playing, you will also find fingerstyle guitar to be easy and fun!


The following abbreviations are used for the right hand fingers:

p = pulgar or thumb
i = indicio or index finger
m = medio or middle finger
a = anular or ring finger.

In standard fingering you will use the thumb (p) to play the lower three strings, the index finger (i) for the third string, the middle finger (m) for the second string and the ring finger (a) for the first string.  There are two other common fingerings and, of course, lots of exceptions to each, but let’s concentrate first on standard right hand fingering.


Begin by getting used to the feeling of striking the strings with the appropriate fingers. The fingers of the right hand should be curled and almost perpendicular to the strings. If your fingers are pointing toward the neck of the guitar, you can correct the position by putting your fingers in place (one finger per string) and, without allowing them to move on the strings, sliding your thumb toward the head of the guitar until the fingers are pointing downward instead of sideways. This position will allow you to strike the string with a natural action of the last joint, rather than having to use an awkward and inefficient, whole-finger motion. If you are playing an acoustic guitar, be certain that your fingers are positioned over the sound hole.


Use the following exercise to practice your fingerpicking:


(string numbers)  6 3 2 1   5 3 2 1   4 3 2 1  :II


The fingers you use will be:  p,  i  m,  a;    p,  i  m,  a;    p,  i  m,  a


Practice the exercise until you are comfortable with it and can play it without pauses. When you are ready, start changing chords after every pattern. A bit of fingernail will enhance your sound and make it easier to fingerpick. Keep your nails rounded for the best sound.