The best way to learn fingerstyle guitar will depend on how you learn the most efficiently.
All fingerstyle learning methods involve a lot of practice and patience.
I’m one of those people that could never fingerstyle guitar from books, so I’d much prefer watching YouTube videos or taking a structured course – whether that be in-person instruction or an online course.
If you spend money on how to learn fingerstyle, you’re definitely more likely to take it seriously, but it’s not necessary if you have the drive to learn.
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Best Way to Learn Fingerstyle Guitar?
The best way to learn fingerstyle guitar is a mix of learning basic technique, practice, and patience. One of the best 20-minute videos you can watch to get started is Justin Johnson’s Fingerpicking Tips to Save Years of Guitar Practice.
Once you have the basics down, you can also check out our 24 fingerpicking patterns article for an idea of the possibilities down the road.
While you’re waiting for your fingertips to adjust and muscle memory to develop, here are more resources.
1. Best YouTube Channel for Learning Fingerstyle Guitar
The best YouTube channel for learning fingerstyle guitar is Let’s Play Guitar.
It might not be the best if you’re brand new to it, but after you get the basics down it’s a great way to challenge yourself and see how the pros do it.
First, you’ll hear the song and then you get a step-by-step breakdown. Some of the fingerpicking explanations are better than others, but there’s a TON of content and it’s a fun way to learn.
I don’t believe this fingerpicking channel is active anymore, but it’s not like the methods or songs are less useful because of it.
2. Best Books for Learning Fingerstyle Guitar Playing
The best book for learning fingerstyle guitar is The Christopher Parkening Guitar Method which is great for those starting with classical guitar.
Books are great because they are typically comprehensive and reading about technique can help provide useful insights while watching other tutorials.
It helps on learning the WHY and can be a useful, and inexpensive, tool to help guide you in your fingerpicking journey.
YouTube is great, but sometimes various channels start at a higher or lower level than you’d like and it’s easy to get distracted by unrelated content.
I like to buy older books like the one mentioned above because it was when information sold the book, not clickbait headlines or influencers sending their people to rank things high.
3. Best Course for Learning Fingerstyle Guitar
The best course for learning fingerstyle guitar is Mike Dawes Teaches Fingerstyle on JamPlay. I love Jamplay because the lessons are organized, they have multiple teachers for each subcategory you want to learn.
It costs ~$9 when you use MAR40 as your promo code (40% off). For 30 days of lessons, that’s super cheap and you can complete Mike Dawe’s entire course plus more within that time.
Is It Hard to Learn Fingerstyle Guitar? How to Learn It
It is not necessarily hard to learn fingerstyle guitar, but it takes a lot of dedicated practice, just like anything worth doing is. Some will have more or less natural talent, but if I can learn it, anyone can!
Here’s how your progression should look like for learning fingerpicking style:
- Start with simple fingerpicking patterns
- Practice fingerstyle until your fingers are sore, then let them rest
- Watch video tutorials as mentioned above
- Start with easy fingerpicked songs (recommendations below)
- Experiment with different fingerpicking patterns
- Patience, practice, patience, practice, and enjoy!
First Songs to Learn Fingerstyle Guitar
The 4 best fingerpicked songs to start learning are:
- “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas – This classic song features a simple fingerpicking pattern and a beautiful melody that’s perfect for beginners.
- “Blackbird” by The Beatles – The fingerpicking pattern in this song is easy to learn, and the melody is instantly recognizable.
- “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran – This song uses a simple fingerpicking pattern and features straightforward chord progressions, making it an ideal song for beginners.
- “House of the Rising Sun” – This traditional folk song is a great way to practice fingerpicking and is an excellent choice for beginners.
Beginner Tips for Learning Fingerstyle Guitar
- Fingerstyle hand placement – Your hand should be in a comfortable and natural position.
- Fingerpicking technique – Use your thumb to pluck the bass notes, and your fingers to pluck the higher strings. It’s important to keep your fingers close to the strings and avoid hitting adjacent strings by accident.
- Start slow – When learning fingerstyle guitar, start slow and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable with the techniques. It’s better to play accurately at a slower pace than to make mistakes at a faster speed. Getting correct muscle memory will pay dividends in the future.
- Use a metronome – A metronome can help you develop good timing and accuracy. Start with a slow tempo and gradually increase the speed as you improve.
- Finger strength – Your fingers will be tired and sore when you first start out. Building finger strength takes time. Gradually increase your practice time as your finger strength improves.
- Finger independence – To play fingerstyle guitar, you’ll need to develop finger independence. This means training your fingers to work independently of each other. Start with simple fingerpicking patterns and gradually add more complex patterns as your finger independence improves. You shouldn’t find yourself using the same finger consecutively, except for your thumb.
- Keep the pinky out of it – Avoid the temptation of using your pinky finger. It can teach bad habits and bad hand positioning because you have to stretch and reach to make up for its shorter length.
Frequently Asked Questions on Fingerstyle Guitar
What is the best online source to learn fingerstyle guitar playing?
The best online source for learning fingerstyle guitar playing is YouTube. Seek out channels like Let’s Play Guitar and Justin Johnson. Within a few videos your YouTube algorithm will start showing you more fingerstyle guitar vides than you could imagine.
How long does it take to learn fingerstyle guitar?
A brand new student of fingerstyle will take a few months to develop the technique and finger independence. This is with regular practice. Taking a few instructional courses will decrease your likelihood of developing any bad habits and will likely be worth the investment.
Learning fingerstyle guitar is similar to learning a language. It requires deliberate practice and will take longer if you’re learning on your own. Of course, that is completely fine, but you will have to adjust your expectations depending on how dedicated you are to the craft.