FINGERPICKING PATTERNS 10 Essential Approaches
Fingerpicking is a vital technique for today’s guitarist, whether electric or acoustic. Tristan Seume reveals 10 top patterns with some great playing ideas too.
Tristan Seume aims to arm you with a wealth of fingerstyle patterns to improve your playing across a range of genres, from blues to jazz.
The world of fingerstyle guitar can seem overwhelming. So rich is it in stylistic roots, from Brazilian bossa nova, to American singer-songwriters and the folk songs of Britain.
So this feature’s aim is to arm you with a wealth of fingerstyle essentials that cover 10 different playing styles including blues, jazz, folk, country and lush-sounding Latin. Even if you already play fingerstyle, I’ll bet you’ll find something new and interesting here.
I have grouped the patterns roughly into ‘families’ of approaches to make sense of the learning process. For example, for those new to fingerstyle it is important to begin with a solid foundation – crisp note production and solid timing. The first two patterns will serve you well here as they focus predominantly on playing single notes at a time, looking at arpeggios without any troubling syncopation.
For the more experienced player we move onto thumb independence, introducing the idea of ‘pinching’ two notes together to create harmony. We explore this through a few styles including folk, country and blues.
Patterns three, four and five in this special fingerpicking feature are indicative of the classic playing of great American pickers, such as Paul Simon and James Taylor who would have shared licks and tricks with their 60s and 70s transatlantic counterparts, Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch and Ralph McTell, as they played the folk clubs of London as well as New York.
A vital fingerpicker’s technique is the ability to play self-accompanying blues grooves in the vein of the great original bluesmen, Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters or Robert Johnson. Pattern seven should set you on your way here: it is essential to be able to develop an independent thumb to free your creativity in embellishing the monophonic bassline with Pentatonic phrases in the way that the aforementioned masters did.
Thumb independence was second nature to country and western pickers like Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, whose light-hearted sound and consummate mastery saw them appearing on popular TV and radio shows. The fifth and sixth patterns will get you on the right road to Travis picking mastery.
Finally, there are three patterns that follow a more chordal approach, with syncopated rhythms: pattern nine takes a bossa nova rhythm and offsets it with a steady bass, in the style of Brazilian legends João Gilberto or Carlos Antônio Jobim; and the final pattern marries chords to a walking bassline, as performed such great jazzers as Martin Taylor, Tuck Andress and Joe Pass.
With patience and practise you might find the foundational exercises allow you to become a more versatile and diverse player, or even a specialist in whichever particular style inspires you most!
This FEaTurE’s aim is To arm you wiTh a wEalTh oF FingErsTylE EssEnTials ThaT covEr 10 diFFErEnT playing sTylEs including bluEs, jazz, Folk, counTry and laTin