If you’re a beginner wanting to play fingerstyle, these songs are for you. The fingerpicking songs in this lesson are some of my beginner student’s favorite songs to learn.
I’ve tried to stick to more recent songs for something different as I notice a lot of other guitar websites focus on classic fingerpicking songs. A lot of beginners come to me wanting to learn recent fingerpicking songs, so this list matches what I find beginners enjoy playing.
Once you’ve learned some simple fingerpicking patterns from this lesson, you’ll find that these songs aren’t too much of a challenge. Some of the songs will use easy open chords while others may require you to learn a few new chord shapes.
Most of the songs don’t use a capo, but I’ve mentioned when they do. If you want to learn fingerstyle, I highly recommend getting a good quality capo. A lot of fingerstyle guitarists use capos, so it’s handy to have one with you.
After you learn these fingerpicking songs, check out this lesson on Easy Guitar Riff Songs. Practicing a mix of riff-based songs and fingerpicking-based songs is a great way to develop your skills as a guitarist.
We’re Going to Be Friends by The White Stripes
This song is played in standard tuning at 95 bpm. It’s an incredibly simple fingerpicking song that only plays one note at a time with very simple open chord shapes.
Check out the full song transcription in the White Blood Cells Guitar TAB book here.
Note: if you don’t know how to read the above TAB, read this Guide on How to Read Guitar TAB. It will explain everything you need to know to read Guitar TAB.
Make sure all the notes ring out clearly and continue to hold your finger down on any fretted note until you see it change to an open string or a different chord shape.
There are a couple of ways you could play this song:
Classical fingerstyle: use your thumb on the lower bass notes (low E, A, D strings), use your index finger on the G string, your middle finger on the B string, and your ring finger on the high E string.
Thumb and index: use your thumb to play the lower notes and your index finger to play the higher notes. For songs that constantly bounce back and forth between low and high strings, this style of playing works really well.
I recommend you learn this song using both fingerpicking methods, but if you’re a beginner you may want to start with the thumb and index method to get you going.
Hey There Delilah by Plain White T’s
This song is played with fingerpicking in standard tuning at 100 bpm. It’s a simple song that uses a very basic fingerpicking pattern throughout the entire song.
I highly recommend you practice the above song before you attempt this one as it is slightly harder than the White Stripes song. If you can play the above song with ease, you should find this song fairly simple.
Unlike other fingerpicking songs where you would use two different fingers to play the two strings at the same time, this song only uses the thumb and index finger.
You play the single bass notes with your thumb and strum the higher notes together with your index finger in an upward direction.
Think of it as thumb (down) index (up) thumb (down) index (up).
When you play it properly following this fingerpicking style, you will end up with a sound that matches what you hear in the song. Take your time practicing the upward strum with your index finger as you want to make sure you only hit the two strings shown.
The chord in bars 3-5 is a B minor chord. If you’re a beginner, this chord may take some time to get used to. If you have trouble pressing your fingers down to play this chord properly, keep practicing the other chords until you build up your finger strength and control to properly play the chord.
If you have trouble pressing down on the strings or stretching out to play some chord shapes, check out these guitar finger exercises to build up strength and dexterity in your fingers.
Tenerife Sea by Ed Sheeran
This song is a bit more complicated than most of the other songs in this lesson, so if you’re only getting started with fingerpicking you may want to work on the easier songs first.
This song is played with a capo on the 4th fret at 90 bpm. If you don’t have a capo and want to play songs by Ed Sheeran, I highly recommend you get one (check out this guide to find the right capo for you).
This song also uses a very odd tuning: E A D E B E. To play this song, you need to tune your G string down to E. If you try to play it in standard tuning, it won’t sound right.
This is an odd tuning, but it gives you a glimpse of how alternate guitar tunings can take your playing in different directions. I highly recommend you try this song out in the correct tuning.
If you enjoy playing this and want to experiment with other strange tunings, check out this Ultimate Guide to Alternate Guitar Tunings. You’ll see how alternate tunings can take your playing in interesting directions.
You can either play this song with the thumb and index method or a classical fingerpicking method as explained earlier. Try both methods and see what works best for you.
While the 12/8 time signature may look confusing, you may notice that the bar is neatly split into four parts (look at bar 2’s bass notes for an obvious example). If you listen to the song, you can hear how this uncommon time signature sounds pretty normal. Think of the last bar in 6/8 time as cutting the normal bar in half.
Ed Sheeran has many good fingerpicking songs worth learning if you like his style of music. Check out his live version of Perfect for a good example of a fingerpicking song.
This Ed Sheeran Guitar TAB book has a good range of fingerpicking songs and includes the notation to suggest which fingers to use for each song.
Everybody Hurts by R.E.M.
This song is in standard tuning at 94 bpm. It uses simple open chords that every beginner should know, so if you’re looking for an easy fingerpicking song, this is a good starting point.
If you have gone through the fingerpicking patterns in this lesson, you should recognize this pattern. This is a good example of why many fingerpicking songs are either in 6/8 or 12/8 time.
As I explained in the fingerpicking patterns lesson, guitarists love to play notes in groups of three. In this pattern, you’re playing three-up and three-down.
I highly recommend playing this with a classical fingerpicking style with your thumb on the low E, A, D strings, your index on the G string, middle finger on the B string, and ring finger on the high E string. The simple chords allow you to focus your attention on your picking hand.
Make sure every note rings out clearly at the same rhythm. You can use a metronome (play one note per click for practice) to make sure that you’re playing a steady rhythm.
Practice this song until you can play it with your eyes closed. Being able to fingerpick without having to look at your picking hand is a skill worth spending time on. When you get to more complex fingerpicking songs, you don’t want to have to be looking at your picking hand. So practice it now until you can play this or any other fingerpicking song in this lesson without needing to look at which strings your fingers are on.
Fast Car by Tracy Chapman
This is a great fingerpicking song to learn because it uses something different than typical open chord shapes.
This song is played with a capo on the 2nd fret at 102 bpm.
If you’re playing this song with a capo, remember that the numbers in the TAB above represent the fret number above the capo. So if you have the capo on the 2nd fret, an ‘8’ in the TAB means to play the 10th fret on your guitar.
Play the low notes with your thumb and the higher notes with your index and middle fingers. You can use your ring or pinky to rest against the guitar’s body if you want to anchor your hand in place to stop it from moving around.
For the chord shapes in the second bar, have a think about which fingers you should use to play them. Try to figure out all the possible options and which one feels the most comfortable.
For most guitarists, using your first and third fingers is the best choice. You can use those two fingers for both chord shapes in the second bar, which makes it easy to slide back to the second chord shape.
With this song, the rhythm is important to get right, so once you learn the basic pattern and the chord shapes, listen to the song to get a feel for the rhythm. Listen to the song on YouTube and slow the song down using the YouTube player settings and try to play along with it.
For something different, here is a fingerpicking part from the traditional Spanish song, Malagueña.
This song is played in standard tuning on a classical guitar, but you can play it on a steel-string acoustic or electric guitar if you want. If you like the sound of this song and enjoy playing it, you may want to look into similar traditional Spanish songs as they all use fingerpicking.
Check out this book of 30 Easy Spanish Guitar Solos (link to Amazon) for some great Spanish pieces including Malagueña.
This song is played with the thumb and index finger method. Unlike the other fingerpicking songs in this lesson, every note is played with the thumb except the notes on the high E string.
So to play this song, keep your index finger on the high E string and move your thumb around to play all the other notes (even the notes on the G and B strings). This may feel a bit awkward if you’ve never done this before, but it is a typical way to play this style of music.
For the very last chord, slowly roll your thumb across the strings and let the chord ring out. If you’re playing on a classical guitar, try to let your thumbnail scrape against the strings for a more traditional Flamenco sound.
The above song should give you an idea of how fingerpicking can be used in many different styles. Music styles such as Classical, Blues, Flamenco, Country, Rock, and Folk all use fingerpicking in different ways, so it’s a great skill for any guitarist to learn.
Check out these fingerpicking patterns if you want to work on your fingerpicking skills or try to come up with your own songs using fingerpicking.