16 Legendary Fingerpicking Patterns

For tabs see below.

Fingerpicking style is a technique that is used in many famous and legendary songs over the years. The 16 examples in this post are a good source to learn the most common fingerpicking patterns you will ever come across. The fingerpicking patterns can be applied to almost every folk, pop, country or rock song.

Try and figure out which pattern suits your favorite song. Maybe you’ll already recognize some of these patterns from songs you heard before.

I personally think pattern #12 is a really nice one. It’s a Travis fingerpicking style arrangement named after Merle Travis. The Travis fingerpicking style is known for it’s steady bass pattern played with the thumb while the rest of the fingers fill out the rest of the pattern on the treble strings.

Right hand finger positioning

Now let’s take a look at the finger positioning assuming you are a right handed guitar player.

For my right hand position I use my thumb to pluck the low-E, A and D-string. The index finger is on the G-string, the middle finger on the B-string and the ring finger on the high E-string.

For each different chord, you play the corresponding bass note with your right hand thumb.
Whenever you play an A or Am chord with your left hand, you pluck the A-string ( A root note) with your right hand thumb.
For an E or Em chord pluck the E-string (E root note) with your right hand thumb.
D or Dm chord = D-string (D root note).
G chord = E-string (The G root note is played with your left hand on the low E-string).
C chord = A-string (The C root note is played with your left hand on the A-string) and so on.

In the video lessons above the tabs I show you what each pattern sounds like and explain the pattern slowly in close up.

Practice each and every one of them thoroughly. It’s really good for you.


   A                                E



   A                                     E



   A                                   E



  A                                    E



  A                            E



  A                                     E



  A                 E               D               A



  A                                  E



  A                                    E



  A                     E                      A



  A                                     E



  A                            E



   A                           E



  A                                    E



  A                                    E



  A                            E


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  1. Phil says

    This is an excellent jumping point for someone who’s been wanting to dabble in fingerpicking but never knew a good place to start. Guitarhabits has been a worthwhile addition to my online activities. Thanks a bunch!

  2. says

    Hi Phil,

    I’m really happy to hear that.
    If you got any questions about the patterns or anything else let me know.

    Thanks for turning to Guitarhabits.

    Klaus Crow

  3. says

    Hey Thanks so much for this! The exercises are great and it’s set up so nicely with the audio examples. I’ve been wanting to expand my picking skills and this makes it very easy. Thanks again…we appreciate it!

  4. Annie says

    Thanks so much for this, very helpful with the audio. It has gone a long way in helping my fingerpicking skills, and I try to run through one of these a day as part of my practise. Much appreciated!

  5. Arlen says

    This is an awesome list. I’ve been trying to improve my finger picking a lot lately and this is a huge help. To anyone else trying to learn to finger pick, I would suggest you learn the song Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotton. It has been a huge help in getting my right hand fingers used their string assignments.

  6. Yo-ko-Oh-No! says

    Answer to mark, (8th of jan, 2012). From the 12th to the end you will find it in songs like:
    -Helplessly hoping – CSN. You can find the tabs almost anywhere in tablature sites in the net.

    -Check some mississippi John Hurt songs beautiful picking. Be patient!!

    -Bron-yr-yaur -Led Zep. It is an arpeggio very nice but at the beggining it´s quite tricky. U´ll find the tab in lots of sites. The problem is u´ll find a little bit lost as it is a funny tunning invented by Page in a sort C!

    -Some country and rockabilly songs have patterns like that, check Merle Travis, like “9 pounds hammer” which is not really tough.

    -Beatles, Dear Prudence. It is drop D. Very beautiful and easy. Try with Blackbird as well. Very helpful.
    Good luck mate

  7. John says

    Really interesting and useful information. It would be an additional help if the appropriate time signature had been provided against each pattern. A further bonus would be the actual musical score in conventional notation. This would help me to practice when I don’t have access to the Web.

    Many Thanks

  8. Mateusz says

    Thanks a lot brother – this is just wonderful to have all those patterns collected in one place – and including the soundclips is just great idea – cause sometimes it’s really hard to get the style of playing just reading the tabs. Once again THANK YOU !!

  9. says

    Can I ask a dumb question. Just learning here. what do the numbers refer to? I understand PIMA but am lost here. Thanks for any help.

  10. says

    I’m just learning and am lost. How do you read these things. I know PIMA but what do the numbers apply to.
    Any help would be appreciated.

  11. Edwin says


    If I understand your question correctly the answer is:
    The numbers stand for the guitar fred.

    When I look at the first pattern it starts with the A cord. That is 3 fingers on the second fred on the strings DGB. You only pick the A, G, B, e string. therefore you see 0 2 2 0 2 2

    Hope this helps.

  12. Priyantha says

    Dear Sir,,,

    I really appreciate your work. These patterns are really matching with our songs.
    If you have any lessons about hammer on and finch off etc. pls send me

    God bless you.

    Priyantha – Sri Lanka

  13. onegoodmule says

    Can you list other chord combinations that sound as nice? I love the E & A, but it would be nice to practice with other combos as well.

  14. Kim Forcade says

    These 16 patterns are helping me with my fingerpicking.

    Can you tell me what songs are played with each of the different patterns.

    Thank you

  15. Bob says

    Thank you for the array of different patterns. These offer some new ones that go beyond many of the book patterns out there and offer a good challenge. See, who says you can’t get decent information on the net?

  16. Chris says

    Hi great lesson mate just wandering about my right hand.What fingers should pluck what strings?

  17. Paul says


    Thanks! This is exactly what I have been looking for. I am beginner to intermediate level, and wanted a place where I could find some common picking patterns. I recognize a few patterns from some Jack Johnson songs I know. Are you familiar with John Prine and know which patterns he favors?

  18. chris k says

    Exactly what I was looking for to jump start my fingerpicking lessons. I am a beginner about 9 months in and felt it was time to try some different approaches to playing. This is a great training tool that I come back to all the time. Thanks so much!

  19. Chris says

    Hey, Georgie, I mentioned it before but if you like #12, definitely check out the song Romeo and Juliette by Dire Straits. Exact same pattern and amazing voice!!

  20. Emily says

    I actually use #14 all the time (figuring it out after a bit of playing around), and didn’t realise it was so popular. :)
    Will definitely be checking the rest of these out more thoroughly.

  21. zack says

    thanks, been playing with a pick for too long and want to get used to fingerpicking. Trying to take it slow. Can anyone tell me some songs that use the first 5 so I can play along?

  22. Chris says

    Nothing else matters kinda uses a variation of the first 5. There’s just a bunch of fills and stuff though.

  23. Chris says

    Another great song to learn fingerpicking is Broken by Seether. I don’t really know if it’s based on any of these styles but there’s some pretty straight forward tabs. Make sure to tune a half step down. Especially if you’re trying the one with Amy Lee.

  24. says

    to play music is a wounderful gift but to give freely of skill knowledge and the ability to teach and to reach people in this process
    is honorable. from this 78 yr old guy to a young guy THANK YOU

    i have just started on this musical journey and your gift to us on
    this site sure has taken alot of the bumps out of the road for me

    my learning is much more fun now sounds lot better to


  25. says

    Hi Robert,

    Thank you for your kind words. Hearing that you enjoy your musical journey like this keeps me writing posts on guitarhabits.

    Thank you I really appreciate it.

    Best regards,
    Klaus Crow

  26. Animesh Sinha says

    Its a pleasure to play all these and equally soothing to hear them.

    Thanks Klaus for the patterns!!!

  27. Emer says

    Dear Klaus, I agree with Robert that it is extremely generous of you to take the time to share all this information with us. Many thanks. I have a question: when you play #1 with an Em chord all the strings that you pluck are in fact open – is that just part and parcel of the method? It still sounds great to me as you move through a succession of chords but I was wondering if I am doing something wrong? Regards Emer.

  28. Kurt says

    Hi Klaus,

    I just found this page while doing a search. Great resource for finger-picking! It’s great to have the tabs & the audio of the pattern to verify that you’re playing it correctly when doing new patterns.

    I will have to spend some time browsing the rest of the site.

  29. Rod says


    I am just learning to pick up a guitar and I frankly am not sure I understand how to read the patterns above. I am sure I sure I should understand. Can you give me a little guidance as to how to read so that I can try and learn to use the exersises.

    Thank you

  30. Marc says

    Hi Klaus-

    I’m really glad that I found your site. I’ve been looking at your 16 picking styles. Is it possible to get the tabs for each of these – in a larger format. The ones accompanying your videos are a bit too narrow and the spacing makes pinches look like sequences and visa versa.


  31. Magnus says

    Really great stuff, Claus! This site would be really top notch if you also would give some examples of songs to apply the picking patterns to.

    As the tabs concerns, change the font to “Courier new” and the picking patterns 2 – 16 will be as neat as pattern no.1! =)

    //Magnus, Sweden

  32. Marc says

    Thanks, Magnus. I don’t know how to make that change on the web page itself but by copying and pasting onto Word, it automatically cleaned up the spacing problem. I also agree that it would be great to have some examples of what songs apply to the patterns.

  33. says

    I am 72 years old. I’ve been a painter photographer and film director most of my life. I have filmed and photographed some of the biggest rock stars. I have just decided to teach myself guitar and you are an inspiration…The gentle approach to teaching you take is great …Many thanks…Maybe we will meet one day…Thanks…Keep up the good work!!

  34. Stuart says

    Just stumbled across this wee page, can’t wait to get home a give this a go, I know a few of these already… Ps… Magnus… It’s up to you now to find what works with what songs… But you will have lots of fun trying it out..

  35. Tony says

    I haven’t played (strummed) a guitar since I was at school 30-some years ago and last week,I decided to buy a good quality guitar to learn to play finger-style i.e. properly!

    Because of your well constructed tutorials and delivery, you have taught me so much in such a short space of time.

    Klaus, you are brilliant!

    Thank you, Sir

  36. Chris says

    Hey thanks so much for setting this out so clearly. Anyone got tips to fast track your brain into making your fingers follow a pattern please help!
    What would take this even further is maybe ten popular songs alongside each pattern to help us learn but hey we always will want more!
    Thanks again.:)

  37. Marc says

    I agree with Chris. Having even one or two iconic songs tied to each pattern would make it much more useful than trying out all 16 styles for any new song, particularly when we are not as versed in the finger picking as Klaus.


  38. edel says

    hey I have been playing guitar for twenty years now only playing rhythm on a 12 string, I decided I wanted to start learning how to pick and didnt know were to start, I came across your page the other day and you have helped me heaps. Thank you so much for making this amasing page.

  39. Ted Lonnberg says

    Just wanted to express my gratitude and say thank you for sharing so many great lessons. This site is a great resource!

  40. Hans says

    Thanks Klaus
    This is great – I even find some of the patterns I use :-) but there are also some that are new to me and require practice

  41. says

    Hi Hans,

    Enjoy the new fingerstyle patterns and incorporate them into your songs. That’s the best way to memorize them.

    Best regards,
    Klaus Crow

  42. Gene Pindser says

    Hey Klaus,
    I’m 77 years old, and four months ago, decided to learn guitar. So far, I’m doing that “three chords and the truth” thing pretty good. Actually have about 15 chords memorized, but the chief item on my “bucket list” is learning how to Travis Pick. I think your finger picking patterns are going to do the job for me. Currently beginning #4. Confidence is building. Thanks!
    I will keep posting as I progress.

  43. says


    Thanks for the 16 patterns- not only are they extremely well done, but you obviously thought about how to most effectively present them from the watcher/listener’s perspective…there’s a ton of junk out there, but this is really perfect….after hearing your comment at the outset, I jumped straight in at pattern number 12!

    One question- and it may well be on others’ minds as well…the D chord, with the root note on the D (4th) string. How do you play / modify a pattern when playing a D chord? That would help me a ton- I always struggle with that.

    Cheers and thanks,

  44. Johnny says

    Hi Klaus,
    Great tutorials, I`ve been strumming for a few years but have been trying fingerpicking and came across your site, some nice patterns and I like the way you teach, easy to listen to. are they all 4/4 time, or how do you work out what time Signature they are in.
    Many thanks again, Johnny.

  45. says

    Dear Klaus
    First off I would like to thank you for putting up this great website which has helped me a lot with my guitar skills so thank you! Also I would like to ask of you a favor that if you could please go to this song on YouTube “Troublemaker”-by Gabriela Quevedo and help me figure out what finger picking pattern she uses it would mean a lot please and thank you! -tony

  46. lm says

    Dear Klaus,
    Very interesting and fruitful.
    Could you precise for each pattern whether it is a 2/4, 3/4, 4/4 or 6/8 etc…?
    Thanks in advance.

  47. Matt says

    Wow. Endless thanks for explaining these 16 techniques!
    I have a question right off the bat: in #1, why bother to form the full E and A chords with the left hand, since few of those particular fingered strings are plucked? Just curious. It’s probably just a good habit to form the full chords.

    Thanks again.

  48. Marc R says

    Hi Klaus,

    Really useful video clips, I like your chilled-out style of teaching, really comprehensive and slow enough but not too slow, thanks!


  49. Agnelo says

    Hello Klaus,
    Your tutorials of these fingerpicking patterns are simply superb. I have a question regarding pattern #12, what will be the pattern if the root note is on the 4th string, like a D chord ?. Thanks a lot… Take care.

  50. says

    Klaus, this is a wonderful site, and I am so pleased to have found it. I’ve just started playing guitar, though I always wanted to learn. Turned 50 and figured it was a good time to begin! I love the intimacy of acoustic finger picking, and hadn’t been able to find much in the way of patterns to learn. This lesson is perfect! Thank you for sharing your skills, my friend. I shall bookmark this site and peruse more of your teachings. Kind regards, indeed.

  51. Scott van Heerden says

    Cool list, nice exercises as a refresher or for beginners!

    I think there might be a mistake with Ex#8 though, there should be 6 notes per bar but there are 7. In the video I think you don’t play the A (4th string) in the A chord and the Bb in the E chord which works. It’s just the tab that has the mistake.

    Thanks a lot.

  52. Scott van Heerden says

    There’s a very similar mistake in the tab for Ex#10 as well. Not trying to be a complainer! Just trying to help out :)

    Kind regards.

  53. Scott M says

    I stumbled on your site looking for fingerpicking pattern so I am not just strumming the chords to a song. Some of these patterns seem better for 3/4 time vs 4/4, I.e. The number of notes in a pattern. Am I correct or just overthinking it.

  54. says

    I come from a background of drumming. Have recorded and six years ago decided to learn how to play the guitar. I DID NOT start playing guitar at six years old (I’m 58) but have gotten to this point http://www.soundcloud.com/wrtallman-1 I am concentrating on fingerpicking the 6 & 12 string guitars. My question is, Could you please tell me which pattern(s) John Prine uses? Thank You in advance and I sincerely like EVERYTHING you are doing here!!!

  55. JK says

    Most of these patterns are a total bore and sound almost identical.

    Do you have anymore spicy patterns? For instance from the department of Travis picking? How about the pattern from “In The Early Mornin’ Rain”? Then we’re talking.

  56. Glenn says

    Thanks for the humble donation of your time to put this on the web. Even though I use a gdae tuning I still find these patterns helpful. May God bless you.

  57. Harlan says

    Congratulations on a very professional website and sixteen wonderful patterns. One suggestion: consider developing an Air Guitar instructional website for visitors like JK who left that present last Christmas.

  58. Simon T says

    This is fantastic, very helpful. Could you just elaborate what to do with the D chord or chords with the D string as the root. Im not sure what to alternate bass wise.

  59. says

    Great lesson, thank you for sharing! This is an area I have always struggled with. I can sweep arpeggios like nothing but for some reason my fingers can’t pick! These fingerpicking patterns will definitely help me develop my skills further. I especially like that you’ve included video AND TABS. Thanks for sharing!

  60. Lani says

    Thank you!!! I’ve been teaching myself guitar and have been wanting to figure out finger picking for a while now. I’m dyslexic and haven’t been able to understand any patterns the way they’re written for the longest time, so when you went slowly and talked about how to do it while you were playing…well, that made all the difference! It suddenly ‘clicked’ for me and now I can make the connection of the visual to the sound. :-) You’re awesome! Thank you!!!

  61. gerald pugh-roberts says

    thank you for the help with the finger picking patterns.I find them very helpful with my attempt to play Spanish guitar.about six months ago I bought a guitar at a boot fair and at the age of 79 I need to learn rapido.

  62. coking says

    Special Request

    I’m Arab guitarist
    I Entered into your site
    and I was impressed with way too much and the way you play your announcements
    I play the Finger Style way
    But I can not make music in a way Finger Style
    So I hope you will help me in making music this way
    I will Sended to you a song for Arab singer her name “Fairouz”
    I should be drafted by way Finger Style
    and tell me how much the cost of the song and how to send money to you
    of course this will not be the last song
    Accept greetings

  63. Priyantha says

    pls what is the meaning of following tabs (within brackets)


    how to play notes in the brackets

  64. coking says

    Please can you send your email to me
    I want to talk to you in a special theme
    I send message for you before in March 19, 2014 at 1:34 am
    Thank you

  65. Jamie says

    This is awesome! How do you figure out which pattern to use though? I’m trying to learn Autumn to May by Peter Paul and Mary, do I use any pattern?

  66. says

    This site is really great!!! I’ve been playing for over 40 years and finally got the nerve to try to finger pick. I love the way you explain and show how to pick effectively especially for slow learners like me. I just started your tutorials yesterday and am already starting pattern #3. I want to thank you and I really appreciate your lessons and feel it will add another dimension to my guitar playing. Thanks a million!!!…

  67. Steve Lucocq says

    Thanks for this. I have been dropping into this page for a while and have found it a great help. I have been mixing and matching a few patterns and with different cords which can sound good. It would be helpfull if combination patterns and alterative cords were included as well as sone other more advanced patterns to allow progrestion( that is if u have the time? ) many thanks and this website has been a great help for me whilst struggling with a long term illness. Cheers

  68. says

    I agree that the Travis picking is (for me anyway) the most interesting
    pattern. With it you can then add melody notes and start playing Merle Travis tunes (or any tune come to that – even the Beatles) The other patterns are great finger exercises but really for accompaniment, in other words good for singing to, whilst the Travis picking you can be a virtual one-man band. Finger-picking can add a lot to your enjoyment than merely strumming. Make damn sure (as in these examples) you play the correct notes and in strict time. Speed up gradually and they sound fantastic (especially the Travis picking style)

  69. brian says

    Thank you for the great lessons. So far the easiest way for me to learn is when you describe each finger placement for each string. It had me playing along faster than any other teaching method.
    I have the same question as the post from September 3, 2013. I am wondering about the D and F chords and if all the 16 fingerpicking patterns can be applied when the root is on the 4th string. I have been double plucking the 4th string for some patterns and it sounds ok. But I am a bit perplexed for pattern #12.

    Thanks much!

  70. says

    I really love these.
    As a elementary guitar student, tthese plucking styles make me more falling in love with guitar as well as music.
    Thanks for your teaching.

  71. Everett Bonds says

    Hello All,
    I think these patterns are perfect for the beginner guitarist who is just now learning to finger pick. You need to begin with the easy ones in order to progress to more difficult or you will get discouraged. Please learn easy first. You must learn the easy ones so well, that you can do them without thinking…they have to go into your long-term memory in order to do that. Once that happens, you can learn another, slightly more difficult pattern. This pattern took me 6 months to learn and I do not recommend that you try unless you have already learned all the rest. You will be frustrated, if you try to skip easier ones, not being ready for it. It is difficult and your fingers won’t be ready, accustomed. T6-3-T4-1-T5-2-T4-1. T stands for Thumb and number next to T, as in T6, means strike string 6. Good luck. Later on, you will be able to add Melody. Much later. For now, go slowly and in 6 months, if you work on this every day, for the next 6 months, for an hour a day, it should go into your long-term memory. Good luck. You will need it. A tough pattern. Just don’t give up. It will make you a better guitar player.

  72. Everett Bonds says

    Oops, I forgot, use an E chord with that pattern. or F, or G. Do not use an A chord, B7 or C chord. This is for chords where the root of the chord is on the E string, string (6). The pattern changes very slightly for other chords when the root moves to other strings. If you get this pattern down perfectly, the changes are a piece of cake to learn.

  73. Lars says

    It would be very helpful if somebody would tell the rhythm counting in each pattern ex whats in 3/4 4/4 6/8 ?
    Pattern 12? is it sixteenth notes? please help

  74. Paul Soloslow says

    These are very good with good instruction to establish time sigs… To make them brilliant you need to inc a song with each pattern.
    Cheers Soloslow

  75. Nicolle says

    thank you so much . I just believed I can actually play , seems a lot easier with all info I found here .
    bless !
    cheers mate

  76. Guido says

    Dear Klaus,

    Can you(or other readers:D) please post an example of 1 song in which each fingerpicking pattern is used(like ”house of the rising sun” in pattern 8)?
    That would really help me a lot to practice them.

    keep up the good work!

  77. Martin says

    Hi Klaus,

    I’ve just seen the question before but I haven’t seen the answer… What should we play the pattern 12 with a D chord? If you get down all the notes… what become the low E-string at the third time? I got the same question with other patterns… Thanks a lot if you can help me.
    I’ve told you before but I’m gonna repeat once again: your site is very helpful! Really great work.

  78. De says

    If one measure has 4 beats (4/4) and I use pattern 1 (above) then how many time of pattern 1 I need to play? (4 times?)
    If so then the P finger will land on the beat?
    Thanks for your help in advance.

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