Guitar Finger Picking Basics

The finger picking method of guitar playing is one of the most wonderful styles to tackle for any guitarist. So many genres can be played using this approach, and not just classical, yet the approach is typically the same. The key to learning how to do finger picking on the guitar, is to master the four picking fingers of the picking hand.

Many exercises are needed to strengthen the timing and flexibility of these fingers, so it is in this article that I offer you a bit of advice and knowledge.

The first thing that a developing guitar player should learn is the labeling system for the fingers. The fingers that are used to pluck or pick strings are the thumb, the index finger, ring finger, and the pinkie finger.

Each finger carries a Spanish name, and when the names are abbreviated, we end up with P.I.M.A

P stands for Pulgar, I for Indice, M for Medio, and A for Anular.

Now, regardless of the style of music that you wish to pursue, you must first develop your fingers on some level. Let me provide you with some simple exercise suggestions.

Start with plucking, by taking P (Pulgar) and M (Medio), and pluck the low E string and B string on your guitar. Remember to pluck them together, and keep a good tempo. You don’t even have to form any chords with your fretting hand, unless of course you wish to do so.

After you’ve gotten use to this, try picking out a single note with I (Indice), in between the plucked chords. Keep repeating this.

Finger picking is a great way to play the guitar, because it allows you to create several layers at once. Alternating bass lines is a perfect example of this. This occurs when the thumb is alternating between the Low E and A strings using P, while the remaining fingers are keeping a melody.

If you are using chord changes where the root starts on the A string, you can also use alternate picking between the A and D strings.

Rolls are another great way to utilize the finger picking method. These are essentially arpeggios, where you take a chord and play each note separately. The best way to practice this is to work with a 3 or 4 note chord, such as the D chord.

If you do this, you’ll want to use P.I.M.A. like this (ascending) P – I – M – A (descending) M – I – P.

Just like any other way of playing guitar, finger picking is virtually endless when it comes to the quest for new ideas and everlasting knowledge.

If you are completely new to finger picking, try to find some simple finger picking tablature. Even better, if you can, try and find some sheet music that has the fingering listed above each note or chord.

This will get you started, and then from here on out, once you get used to using the fingers in a certain way, you’ll pretty much be able to figure out the picking hand fingering for any song, even if the use of fingers is not denoted in the tablature or notation.