Most guitarists can pull at least a couple of fingerpicking patterns out of their pockets. The Travis picking pattern or simple arpeggios are some common ones. Fingerstyle guitarists usually employ a greater number of fingerpicking patterns as rhythmic tools. These are the tools we use to support the harmony and melody of the song we are playing.
In his course, 30 Fingerpicking Patterns You MUST Know, Brooks Robertson helps you expand your catalogue of patterns. The tools he provides you with ultimately open your range of creative options for accompaniment, arrangements, and composing original music.
Here are five free video guitar lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Brooks Robertson’s 30 Fingerpicking Patterns You MUST Know on TrueFire!
Fingerpicking Pattern Guitar Lesson – Double Pinch
“Double Pinch” is a great accompaniment pattern and skill builder to develop more thumb independence. For this pattern, we keep the thumb playing steady quarter notes (always starting the alternating thumb pattern on the root of the chord, on beat 1 of each bar) while the index, middle, and ring fingers play together with the thumb on two beats.
First, try pinching on beats 2 and 4 along with this video then on your own try placing the pinches on other beats, i.e. 1 and 3, 2 and 3, 1 and 4, or any other combination. Experiment with muting the bass strings on the picking hand as well as dampening and muting the strings on the fretting hand with the techniques described and demonstrated in the video. Muting the strings helps accent and punctuate the pinches, an essential percussive and rhythmic tool you can utilize. After you have the “Double Pinch” pattern down, try some variations over a few different chord progressions.
Fingerpicking Pattern Guitar Lesson – Green Thumb
“Green Thumb” is the basic rhythmic pattern used in the intro of Tommy Emmanuel’s tune “(The Man with the) Green Thumb”. The pattern has a great groove and uses a variety of pinches and syncopation. The version I’m teaching here is slightly simplified and uses the left hand thumb over the top of the neck to play the F# on the second fret, sixth string on beat 3.
If you can find a video of Tommy playing this tune (there are dozens on YouTube), notice that he also uses his pinky finger to play C# on the fourth fret, fifth string. TE plays the notes with the thumb very “heavy”, in such a way that he often brushes two strings with one downstroke of the thumb, which is what allows him to play both F# and C# on beat 3. Additionally, he usually adds syncopation on the up-beat of beat 2, which I demonstrate toward the end of this video as a variation. Try getting this pattern down first and then play it along with Tommy as he plays the intro to “(The Man with the) Green Thumb”. Go for feel and a good solid groove!
Fingerpicking Pattern Guitar Lesson – Clawin’
“Clawin'” borrows the basic picking pattern from one of Jerry Reed’s most recognized and popular tunes, “The Claw”. If you’ve never listened to this Reed classic you’re in for a treat! We’ve now stepped away from the Travis-picking alternating bass style and closer to a banjo roll. This involves the middle and ring finger paired together creating double stop. The trick here is to keep straight and even 8th notes in your rhythm, which can be a challenge because the picking hand pattern has a grouping of three elements to it: 1) thumb, 2) index, 3) middle and ring finger paired. I tend to accent and mute on beat 2 as you can hear in the performance. Push yourself to try this with several types of chords, keys, and different progressions.
Fingerpicking Pattern Guitar Lesson – Swiss Army Roll 5 Strings
“Swiss Army Roll: 5 Strings” takes a banjo roll and adds the ring finger into the mix by pairing it with the middle finger. Essentially the result is a banjo roll pattern with a built-in double stop. I use this technique on the B section of my tune “Jonesin'” if you want to hear it in action. Also listen to “The Claw” by Jerry Reed, where he plays a forward banjo roll with the middle and ring fingers paired.
As a variation, you could also work on pairing the index and middle fingers and letting the ring finger to play by itself which offers a completely different sound, basically moving the double stop to the middle of the string set you’re playing vs. the top. Be sure that you first have a good grasp on “Swiss Army Roll: 4 Strings” before going after this pattern and technique.
Fingerpicking Pattern Guitar Lesson – Bossa #2
“Bossa #2” is a syncopated pattern that generates a really nice Bossa Nova groove. I learned this pattern from listening to Brazilian guitar legend João Gilberto and trying to emulate one of his most used rhythmic patterns. The use of 16th note syncopation is a characteristic of this pattern. The last 16th note is often used as a chance to anticipate the upcoming chord, as you can hear in the example. Take your time and learn this pattern slowly at first. Once you have it memorized correctly, try bringing up the speed and applying the pattern over some alternative progressions. Notice the use of left hand muting as well and how that helps accent and punctuate the rhythm.
Digging these free fingerpicking guitar lessons? Check out Brooks Robertson’s full course, 30 Fingerpicking Patterns You MUST Know.