3 Important Skills You Need To Learn If You Want To Learn To Play Fingerstyle Guitar Properly


By Maurice Richard

Fingerstyle guitar has a totally different sound and feel than regular acoustic guitar playing.

It is more relaxed and softer and when you look at someone playing it looks so intricate and complex.

And you would be right. It is definitely not a beginner technique and in order to learn how to play fingerstyle guitar properly you should have a good skill level before attempting it. 

Many people I talk to tell me they tried to learn this technique but they just were not able to do it and gave up thinking they may never learn. The reality is they tried to learn it too soon and the wrong way.

Here are 3 important skills you need to have before you can so you can learn how to play fingerstyle guitar properly.



1. Play Chords Without Looking At Them


This is where most people run into problems when learning how to fingerpick on the guitar because they usually attempt it much too soon in their development and are not ready for it.

Your brain can only do one thing at a time. You may be able to strum and change chords together no problem but that took time and effort to coordinate them. 

This does not mean you can now engage all of your fingers and also change chords the same way. This is taking things up to a new level where you have many things happening at the same time.

If you have to constantly look at your fretting hand to see where you need to go to land the next chord you are going to notice that your fingerpicking hand will fall apart and make it near impossible to progress.   

You must first automate the chords you are going to fingerpick with before you start to attempt it or you will get very frustrated and it will not end well.

2. Play Chords Cleanly


Many people are shocked at how poorly they play chords when they start fingerpicking.

Because you are now plucking individual strings you start to find the ones that do not ring out clearly or are muted. This can be very frustrating and is a reason many people quit.

They try to fix the problems but without really knowing why or how it tends to not go well and then feel that they will never be able to play chords cleanly so why bother fingerpicking because it will never sound good.

You have to be careful at this point. I think people throw the baby out with the bathwater instead of taking their time and fixing one thing at a time.

Ideally you have very clean and clear chords before you start fingerpicking. However, that can take a long time to achieve so I do not recommend it. 

Instead use fingerpicking to isolate 1 chord at a time and fix it. Keep learning the new technique and ignore all the problems while you practice. Make note of the areas in your fretting hand that need work and tackle those separately. 


3. Start With Basic Patterns First

There are many different styles and patterns in fingerstyle guitar. So many that it can be very overwhelming to someone just starting out. 

Some of those styles are more advanced than others, some are easier. The problem is that unless you are trained and experienced with fingerstyle you are not going to know the difference. 

The chances of guessing right and picking something that is at your level is quite small. Because of this most people who try to learn fingerstyle tend to start with something that is way above their skill level and too difficult. 

This leads to frustration and then avoiding this style in the future because you think you do not have the talent for it. 

The secret is to find out which patterns are easier and start there. This will still require some work and it is not always easy but it will give you the best chance at success. 

Once you see results your confidence will rise and you will want to do more.


How You Can Learn The Required Skills The Right Way


Learning how to fingerpick on the guitar is not a beginner technique and should only be attempted when ready for many reasons. One reason is because trying to learn something when it is too difficult can lead to learning bad habits which can slow down your progress and many times get stuck at a lower playing level.

Because of this you can get very discouraged and frustrated and I have seen people quit not only fingerpicking but quit guitar entirely because of such frustrations.

What you need is a trained guitar teacher who understands fingerpicking and can lead you through the proper ways to learn and play the techniques so you can flourish and play the way you want instead.

About The Author:

Maurice Richard is a professional guitar teacher that operates out of the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He has been a member of an elite guitar teaching mentorship program since 2007 and has taught many people how to learn to play the guitar. Go to his website to learn more tips on how to play fingerstyle guitar.