A Common (and Versatile) Folk Fingerpicking Pattern

Classical guitarists don’t always learn folk fingerpicking patterns. But these are useful if we want to accompany singers or other instruments.

Fingerpicking patterns also build versatility and coordination. So regardless of what style we most often play, patterns can be fun and beneficial.

The “Outside-In” Pattern

We can learn this fingerstyle pattern in two stages. This makes visualizing the pattern easier.

For this example, we will use a G chord.

Step One

To begin, we can play the outside two strings together. These are strings 6 and 1.

Next, we play the next two strings in from these. So strings 5 and 2.

For this pattern, we omit strings 4 and 3. Though we can substitute string 4 for string 5 if desired.

We then alternate between these two sets in a steady rhythm.

open strings together - fingerpicking

Step Two

Once this is flowing and consistent, we can move to step two. Here we offset the two pairs.

So instead of playing strings 1 and 6 together, we play them one at a time. 6 then 1.

And the same with strings 5 and 2.

So the full pattern moves in string order: 6–1–5–2 in a steady loop.

fingerstyle pattern step two

Other Chords with the Pattern

The G chord in our example uses all six strings. Many chords use only 5 or 4 strings. For these, we have a formula.

The root of the chord (the note for which the chord is named) is in the bass. This means that the lowest note of the chord is on the first beat.

For example, the A and C chords use five strings. The pattern for these will be: 5–1–4–2

The D and F chords use four strings. The pattern for these is: 4–1–3–2

With a little practice, this pattern can become habitual and intuitive. We can add it to our muscle memory and play through our chord songs with fluid grace and ease.

Outside-In Pattern with Chords

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

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