Finger picking is a musical technique used to create a unique sound.
It’s played by plucking or strumming strings with the fingers instead of using a pick. This method produces a mellow tone that sounds similar to guitar.
Some people use a combination of the two to produce a richer sound.
While any song can be played by strumming a chord in its entirety, there is something about finger picking that brings out the beauty of each individual note.
Typically used in introductions to songs, finger picking can sound beautiful, even when it is unaccompanied by any other instruments.
So many popular songs include finger picking, whether it is only for one section of the melody, or it is used throughout.
For those just starting out at guitar playing, this way of playing may seem a little intimidating. It is important to remember that, yes, it takes some practice to get it nailed, but once you get it down, you’ll never go back!
Prepare yourself to sacrifice some blistered fingertips for the ability to play some of the most beautiful songs in the world on your very own guitar.
Below, we have listed 10 songs that we consider to be some of the most beautiful fingerpicking guitar songs of all time. The songs have been listed from easiest to play, to hardest to play.
So, let’s get into it.
Fingerpicking For Beginners
You don’t need any formal training or instruments to learn how to fingerpick, even if you have never had a single music lesson. All you require is:
- an interest in the music
- the desire to master the technique.
In this day and age, there are so many videos and websites that can teach you the basics of learning musical instruments. Of course, these online tutorials won’t be able to teach you as well as a qualified professional giving you face-to-face lessons, but for the most part, these videos can be extremely helpful for beginners.
The most important part of playing guitar is knowing how to play the basic chords. Once you have learned these, you will be able to play basic songs, and from there on, you can build your ability up.
However, learning chords is not as easy as simply knowing where to place your fingers: it is being able to firmly hold your fingers in that position, pressing down on the strings.
The same can be said for finger picking.
Once you have gotten the hang of chords, you can begin to use your other hand to finger pick. At first, it may seem very difficult: after all, switching between chords while plucking individual strings requires brain work. It’s multitasking.
However, just like anything, you will be able to do it with ease once you get a little practice in.
Finger picks are commonly played using open chords, which allow the strings to vibrate easily. Some people use metal picks instead of fingernails to pluck the strings, while others prefer to play with their fingertips.
When learning to finger pick, you’ll want to practice on simple songs until you develop a feel for holding down multiple notes simultaneously.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can add embellishments such as arpeggios and strumming patterns.
When you hear the term finger picking guitar technique, most people think about plucking strings with each finger instead of just using two fingers.
But there are actually many different ways to pick guitar chords. Finger picking doesn’t necessarily mean using one’s fingers to play each string.
There are various techniques that use several fingers together to create sound.
These patterns are created depending on which fingers you pluck with, and which order. These patterns will vary based on what melody you are playing, and which works easier for the alignment of your fingers with the strings that need to be played.
While playing guitar, you may not realize how many different techniques there are to learn. Some of these include single string picking, triple picking, alternating picking, and using alternate fingers.
Guitar Pick Vs. Fingers
As we previously mentioned, there are two ways that you can finger pick a song: you can either use a guitar pick, also known as a plectrum, or your own bare fingertips.
But, which is better?
One of the biggest differences between these methods is the sound produced; more specifically, the tone. A plectrum will create a sharper, clearer tone due to the thickness and hardness of the object, whereas your fingers will create a softer tone, depending on how soft your fingertips are.
Fingernails are also a factor to consider while finger picking. Depending on how long your nails are, they may catch on the strings as you play.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although particularly long nails may snag against the strings, creating a scratchy, unpleasant sound. It is also generally known to be a lot easier to play guitar with shorter fingernails.
Plucking the strings with your fingertips will mean that you may get painful dents in them, as the strings press into the tips.
This is not much different to pressing your fingers against the strings on the fretboard, however, and eventually, your fingertips will harden up.
Using a plectrum is, arguably, the more comfortable way of playing, but you will have less control over what you are playing.
It is all about preference. Some songs sound better with a plectrum involved, while others sound better with fingertips. Some people prefer to use one or the other, and that is their own personal preference. A lot of people vary their style of playing, using a plectrum some days, and using their fingertips on other days!
Overall, it is up to you to decide which style of playing you feel more comfortable with.
10 Beautiful Songs To Finger Pick Along To
Here are 10 beautiful songs that we have chosen for you to finger pick along to.
The songs are listed from easiest to hardest, although some people may disagree with our ratings. Everyone’s abilities are different, meaning that you may find it easy to play some songs lower down in the list, but harder to play the ones higher up.
Give them all a try, and see which ones you prefer to play.
Capo: 2nd fret
Chords: C, G, Em, D
This is a melody that is perfect for complete beginners to play and learn how to finger pick. It’s also one of the easiest songs in this list.
The entirety of the song is played with only four, easy, beginner chords – C, G, Em, and D – and can be played by simply strumming those chords. A capo is required to play the song in the correct key, and it should be placed on the 2nd fret.
If you want to play the original melody, you will need to learn how to finger pick each chord in order to sound like Tracy Chapman. This is not as difficult as learning some other fingerpicking songs on this list, so it is definitely the best one to start with.
There is a reason that this song is, often, one of the first songs that beginner guitarists are taught, or choose to learn. Learning how to play ‘Fast Car’ is something that every guitarist should do at least once, if they haven’t already learned it.
This melody takes up very little space in your memory, and it is easy to get comfortable playing this tune. It is also a great one to sing along to.
Chords: E♭, B♭m, Fm
Next up, we have Coldplay’s 2003 single, ‘Clocks’. While this song was originally played on piano in the recorded version, it sounds particularly beautiful when played on guitar.
Not everyone likes this song because it is a simple track, but there is no denying its beauty.
The entire thing is played using only three chords: an E♭ chord, followed by a B♭m chord, and then a Fm chord. There isn’t anything complicated about these chords. They are pretty easy to memorize, and they give off a very soothing vibe.
‘Clocks’ can be played by simply strumming the chords themselves, but by finger picking, it makes it easier to hear which notes belong together.
Since the main part of the song is based around an E♭/B♭m pattern, it’s fairly easy to figure out what chord the song is going to go into next. The entirety of the song can be played by using the same few chords over and over, making it fairly easy to learn, play, and memorize.
If you’re looking for a song to play over and over again, this would be a good choice. The repetitiveness of this melody makes it extremely memorable, and it is a great way to practice certain scales and techniques.
Chords: Am, Em, G, Dm
‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ is another extremely recognizable song that most people love, or have at least heard many times throughout their lives. Since its release in 1971, it has been covered by hundreds of artists, including Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.
Many people think of this song as being quite hard to learn, but this song is actually super simple to play, once you know the chords. The chords in question are incredibly easy to play: Am, Em, G, and Dm. These are some of the first chords that beginner guitarists are taught.
It shouldn’t take too long to become familiar with the strumming pattern, especially if you begin by strumming the chords after reading them. Once you are able to play the chords without any trouble, you’ll find that it isn’t too difficult to start finger picking the song.
Finger picking this song will make the vocal line much more audible than strumming it, so it’s important to really listen to the lyrics while finger picking.
During the ‘I know, I know, I know…’ section of the song, there is only a beat playing rather than guitar notes. You can either play a beat by yourself to fill in the silence, drumming against your guitar, or use different techniques to accentuate the vocals.
Even though this song has a short length, it offers plenty of room for creativity. Depending on what you feel like doing, you could use any of your favorite techniques to add some variety to your performance.
Chords: C, Am, F, G, E
Depending on your age, you may be familiar with this song through a number of various covers over the years. Whether you are a fan of the original release by Leonard Cohan, Jeff Buckley’s cover from the nineties, or Rufus Wainwright’s version that featured on the Shrek soundtrack, chances are that you’ve heard of this song.
One of the reasons why this song has stayed relevant for so many years is because it is such an excellent example of the power of simplicity.
The song itself consists of five basic chords: C, Am, E, G, and F. All other variations on these chords can be used to create countless different songs. Because it is so uncomplicated, anyone who wants to play this song can do so very easily.
Learning how to properly finger pick this song means learning how to play one of the simplest songs ever written. When you master this skill, you’ll be able to apply this technique to virtually any style of music. It doesn’t matter whether you want to learn a classic rock ballad or a folk tune — you’ll still be able to practice finger picking.
When playing this song, it is important not to forget about the melody. If you get distracted by concentrating on the chords, then the melody will sound out of place. Instead, focus intently on the rhythm while remembering the key changes between each chord. This should help maintain an even pace.
Chords: G, F#m, B7, Em, C, D, A, Am, F, A7, Dm, B♭
‘Yesterday’ is one of The Beatles’ most well-known songs. It was considered very different compared to other Beatles’ songs at its time of release, due to Paul McCartney’s heavy influence on the melody and arrangement.
However, it became very popular, and is still played today, almost 60 years later. It is considered one of the most beautiful melodies ever written.
The most difficult part of learning this song on guitar is, perhaps, remembering each chord and positioning that needs to be played. The finger picking itself is fairly simple – once you get the hang of it – but it might take a little longer to figure out which chord belongs where.
There are a few ways you can approach learning this song. Some people choose to memorize all the chords first, before beginning to play. This may be easier for beginners, especially if you are still getting the hang of finger picking.
A beginner guitarist should focus on strumming the chords first, practicing the strumming rhythm, timing, and working out the proper hand positions. Once they have mastered those two things, they can begin to work on the actual notes themselves.
The timing of these notes are critical when playing this song. You need to remember both the beat and the note placements. With some practice, you’ll be able to accomplish this effortlessly, and it will feel like an amazing accomplishment.
Capo: 3rd fret
Chords: C, G/B, Am7, Em, G, D/F#
Fleetwood Mac is a band that has released countless classics over the past 60 years. Their success continues today thanks to the incredible ability of their members to write memorable melodies and sing powerful lyrics that have stood the test of time.
This particular song is perfect for beginners due to its relative simplicity and familiarity. ‘Landslide’ is a beautiful song with relatively simple chords, and a gentle tempo that makes it easy to learn.
In order to achieve the smooth sound that Fleetwood Mac achieves here, you need to make sure that you place a capo on the 3rd fret. By doing so, you’ll be ensuring that all strings that are tuned down to open positions start sounding together at the same time.
This is definitely a more challenging song to play compared to the first aforementioned songs on this list, but that doesn’t mean that it is impossible to learn. Once again, it just takes practice! As with most things in life, if you keep practicing, and you work hard, eventually you’ll be able to master this song.
‘Landslide’ is a great song to be able to play as it is very well known by those who listen to popular music. With a little practice, you will be able to nail down this song with ease.
Capo: 2nd fret
Chords: D/A, A, E
Now we are getting to the more challenging songs on this list, in terms of finger picking. However, as we said previously, no song on this list is impossible to play – it just may take a little practice to get there.
‘Solsbury Hill’ was released in 1977, following Peter Gabriel’s departure from Genesis.
The opening melody to this song is a highly recognizable piece of music, even if you are unfamiliar with the song itself. It is also one of the most complex parts of this song, and plays around the chords used throughout the entire piece.
It’s important to know what chords are being played, and in what sequence, because only with that knowledge will you understand the progression of the song.
This song can be played by strumming the correct chords, and it will still sound pretty good. If you want to be able to play the song just like how it sounds on the record, however, you will need to learn how to play the chords and finger pick each note.
It’s not too terribly difficult to play the song once you’ve learned it, but it does require a lot of effort and practice. Don’t expect to whip out a flawless performance after just a few weeks of learning, but at the same time, don’t be too hard on yourself for not picking it up right away.
This is a great song with a beautiful melody. Once you get the hang of the rhythm, timing, and placements, you will be able to play this piece with ease.
Chords: G, Am7, G/B, A7, C, C#, D, Em, E♭, Cm
Next up, we have another classic from The Beatles. ‘Blackbird’ was released three years following ‘Yesterday’, and was yet another commercial hit for the world’s biggest boy band at that time. It was written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and can be found on The Beatles’ White Album.
Despite being a bit harder than some others, ‘Blackbird’ is still fairly straightforward.
The main problem that you have to deal with when playing this is that it has such an intricate chord structure that it makes it easy to make mistakes. There are a lot of chords to remember, too, and a lot of the chords have been altered slightly to create more open sounding sections within the song.
In order to play this correctly, you need to pay attention to your chord shapes, and make sure that you’re holding them properly.
So, regardless of whether you’re familiar with this particular song, we suggest that you try your best to learn the chords before trying to play any other notes. You never know where a mistake could lead you.
If you struggle with this song, then we recommend starting off slow and gradually building up speed. This way, you won’t end up hurting yourself by rushing through something that you aren’t ready for.
Capo: 2nd fret
Chords: C, G, Am, F, Em
Many of those who were old enough to remember this song’s release, back in 2002, may hold a grudge against it. This song has been so overplayed over the years that many can’t stand to listen to it.
While it can be considered to be a cheesy tune on the surface, there is no denying that it is, otherwise, a beautiful song.
Its lyrics are quite moving, and the melody itself is pretty simple, which is why most people would agree that it’s one of the easier songs to learn.
The majority of its popularity seems to stem from the fact that it made use of an extremely simple melody, with an incredibly catchy chorus that everyone wanted to sing along to. As a result, it managed to stay popular throughout the years, despite its overuse.
You may be wondering why this song is so low down on this list, considering the chords needed to play the song are pretty basic. The majority of the song uses C, G, Am and Em, with the F chord being used only occasionally.
It is the finger picking pattern that causes this song to be a little trickier than some others on this list. Again, it is possible to play this song – even if you’re a beginner – but it will take a little more time and practice to fully perfect it.
This is a fun song to be able to play, especially at gatherings and parties where everyone can sing along. How many people do you know that don’t know the words to the chorus, at least?
Lastly, we’re ending on, arguably, the most difficult song to play on this list: Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’.
This is a song that scares away many beginner guitarists, and even some immediate players. There are some tricky notes and patterns to this song, so we definitely wouldn’t call it the easiest song to learn.
However, there’s also a very high chance that once you get past the initial learning curve, you’ll find yourself absolutely loving the song. It has a beautiful melody that is so satisfying to play, making it a ‘must play’ song for so many guitarists.
You may notice that we haven’t included the chords for this entry: this is because the finger picking section of the song is mainly played using individual notes rather than chords. It is this technique that makes it so difficult to play.
It also helps that the song contains many different parts, each requiring a certain amount of skill to master. As such, the difficulty range on this song is fairly high, as well as the level of technicality required.
Once you have cracked the code to playing this song, however, you will undoubtedly understand why so many musicians love this song so much.
Are There Rules to Fingerpicking Guitar?
There are some basics to fingerpicking that will help you with the learning curve as a beginner. Although these rules change as you get more experience, you need to ensure your fingers are on the right strings. These are:
- Thumb on bass strings, low E, A, and D strings
- Index finger on the G string
- The middle finger on the B string
- Ring finger on the high E string
Can You Sing When Fingerpicking?
Singing while still fingerpicking guitar is a pretty tremendous skill. It requires a lot of practice, but it’s doable once you have mastered both the song and the chords to play.
It’s always recommended to practice singing and fingerpicking separately until you are sure you’ve mastered each of these. Then, you can start playing without having to think too much about your finger movements or the song, making it less of a struggle.
Final Thoughts – Beautiful Fingerpicking Guitar Songs
Using the 10 songs above as examples, fingerpicking songs range from simple to complex. They all contain their own unique merits that make them great additions to your personal collection.
So, what’s stopping you from getting out your guitar right now and trying to pick out a few of these tunes?
Finger picking is an incredibly difficult skill to master. It requires dedication, practice, and patience — but when you finally do learn it, you’ll feel amazing!
Some songs are easier than others to learn, but regardless of difficulty level, finger picking music offers a unique sound and feel to your playing style.
Whether you’re just beginning your finger picking journey or you already know how to finger pick, enjoy these beautiful fingerpicking songs.
My name is Howard Matthews and I have been playing the guitar since I was knee-high. My parents like to joke that I was pulling the strings even before I was born. In fact, one of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my dad’s guitar, wreaking havoc on the chords.
Now, 40 years later, I can attest that I play them much better than I did back then. I have followed in the footsteps of both my parents – much to their delight – and have been the main guitarist in my band for the best part of three decades.
Music has always been my passion, and until recently my life has been so consumed with it that I haven’t had a moment to have a breath (and I wouldn’t have it any other way)!