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Basic Finger-Picking Folk Pattern

Presenting the basic pattern in 3 easy steps

If you have the Real Audio Player, click here Click to Listen
to listen to a sample of this style.


This basic finger- picking pattern is played in either 4/4 or 2/4 time. At its core is the alternating bass movement of the thumb between the primary and secondary bass notes of each chord.

The thumb plays the bass strings and provides a constant bass pattern played on the downbeat of each beat.

1 - 2 - 3 - 4

Meanwhile the middle and index finger provide a syncopated upbeat (and) on the treble (1st or 2nd) strings.

1 - 2and - 3and - 4.

This pattern will produce the same rhythm as the basic boom-chicka right hand strum. Once you are comfortable with this simple finger - picking folk guitar pattern you will be able to adapt it to any style of music.

Learning the pattern is not difficult as long as you remember that the thumb is the all important controlling factor. If you keep the thumb alternating between two bass strings in a smooth steady manner everything else should fall into place.

Take the time to follow each step and you should not have any problem.

Good luck!

Step 1 - preparation:

If you are not accustomed to playing guitar accompaniments using a finger style pattern this may seem awkward at first. Look at the diagram and follow these steps:

Diagram 1 The alternating bass

Finger - picking diagram 1 - the alternating bass pattern

  1. Form a C major chord (first position)
    • Place your right thumb (T) on the fifth string.
    • Place your index finger on the second string.
    • Place your middle finger on the first string.
    You may want to anchor your ring and little finger of the right hand on the top of the guitar. This will give you a feeling of greater stability.
  2. Strike the fifth string with your thumb (T) this is the downbeat (beat 1 )
  3. Now strike the third string with your thumb (T). This is beat 2
  4. Return to the fifth string and strike it (beat 3 )
  5. Return to the third string and strike it (beat 4 )
Repeat this alternating bass pattern in a slow steady manner until it sounds smooth and flowing. Watch your timing! When you feel comfortable with the alternating thumb movement in the C chord, try changing to other first position chords without altering the flow of the bass pattern.

Remember this finger- picking pattern is controlled by the steady movement of the alternating bass on the downbeat. Count 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 .

Take the time to become fully adept at changing chords while keeping a steady alternating bass movement before attempting to play the syncopated finger-picking pattern.

If you have the Real Audio Player, click here Click to Listen to listen to how it should sound.

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