Intro to Fingerstyle (Guitar Lesson)

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Jim Deeming

Intro to Fingerstyle

This lesson serves as an introduction for Fingerstyle Guitar with Jim Deeming. Come on in and get started!

Taught by Jim Deeming in Fingerstyle Guitar seriesLength: 24:32Difficulty: 0.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (01:12) Intro Music Jim Deeming kicks off his Phase 2 series of lessons with an excellent fingerstyle arrangement.
Chapter 2: (06:26) Intro to Fingerstyle Welcome to the first lesson of Jim Deeming's fingerstyle series! Playing fingerstyle will open up a whole new world of possibilities to you. Playing with your fingers enables you to play multiple parts at the same time. Jim frequently incorporates a bass line, chord changes, and a melody line into an arrangement for a single guitar! In this series, Jim demonstrates how you and your guitar can form a powerful one man band.

Fingerstyle History

The guitar was first played with the fingers. The pick didn't come into popularity for hundreds of years. Fingerstyle playing has been applied to countless genres of music over the years. Fingerstyle playing is almost exclusively used in classical guitar playing. This is where fingerstyle techniques and principles originated. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, new forms of music began to evolve that utilize fingerstyle techniques. A large amount of bluegrass, blues, jazz, country, folk, and rock music combines two or more parts into a single guitar arrangement.

Advantages of Fingerstyle

Like Jim mentions, there are many specific benefits to playing with your fingers. Playing fingerstyle allows you to play rapid arpeggios with the right hand. You can play a bass line, or chordal accompaniment in conjunction with a melody. You can also play two songs at the same time!

Fingerstyle Heavyweights

Jim lists several of the guitarists that have pioneered the style that he will teach in this series. The style in which Jim plays was largely pioneered by Merle Travis in Kentucky and Chet Atkins in Nashville. The styles of these players gradually spread throughout the southern United States and eventually the rest of the country. Since then, many amazing guitarists have followed in their footsteps. Players such as Tommy Emmanuel, Buster B. Jones, Laurence Juber, and Doyle Dykes have kept fingerstyle playing alive and flourishing. Check out the music of these players for some inspiration and guidance.

What You Should Already Know

This is not a beginner guitar series. With that in mind, you need to be familiar with several basic guitar concepts in order to receive the full benefit of these fingerstyle lessons. You must be comfortable with basic chords, keys, basic scales, chord progressions, left hand technique, as well basic right hand strumming patterns.
Chapter 3: (17:03) Fingerstyle Choices Thumb Pick

Jim will perform the vast majority of musical examples in this series with a thumb pick. These exercises can be played without a thumb pick, but this will not achieve quite the same effect. Playing with a thumb pick enables you to play a bass line with a more forceful sound. It is also much easier to palm mute a bass line when playing with a thumb pick opposed to playing with the thumb nail.

Nail Care

Playing fingerstyle requires that you take proper care of the fingernails on your right hand. The nail in conjunction with the fleshy tip of the finger makes contact with the string and produces a tone. If you are playing a classical guitar with nylon strings, your nails are probably strong enough to withstand the strength of the strings. However, in this series, most of the music is performed on a steel string acoustic. Steel is much stronger than your fingernails. As a result, you must either learn to play without nails, or keep your nails very short when performing fingerstyle music on a steel string guitar. Many fingerstyle players apply nail hardener to keep their nails from breaking. Others glue acrylic nails on top of their natural nails. Regardless of whether you are playing classical or steel string, it is easiest to play accurately and with a solid tone if your nails are kept very short. If you turn your hand so that your palm is facing you, your nails should just barely extend above the fleshy tips of the fingers by about a millimeter.

Guitar Setup

If you intend to play a lot of fingerstyle guitar on a steel string acoustic, you want to play with a fairly light set of strings. Changing the gauge of your strings requires that you perform a new setup. Take your guitar to a trained repairman or luthier and explain what you want done. Explain the different contexts in which you will be playing the guitar. For example, do you intend to tune down, play with a slide, or play with your fingers? Make sure that you discuss your needs thoroughly to ensure that you get the exact result that you are looking for.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

aezpegasusaezpegasus replied on January 30th, 2018

A few comments below touched on the subject of thumb picks. How do I decide which one I need: Obviously, a shorter one would seem better than longer one. But how do I know if I need a large, medium or small; or a thin, medium or thick?

Bradley.ConwayBradley.Conway replied on January 31st, 2018

Hello aezpegasus!! Just like your standard picks, your choice of a thumb pick can be quite personal and is totally determined by what you are most comfortable playing with. For your first time purchasing thumb picks I'd recommend buying one of each gauge and experimenting with each until you decide which gauge of pick works best for you! There is no right or wrong's all up to your personal preference :)

FingerblasterFingerblaster replied on January 1st, 2018

Where are the lessons? I'm very confused. There has been only talking about shit and noodling around. I watched three videos and got nothing out of it .

rachar124rachar124 replied on November 21st, 2018

look to the left of your screen. click 2. Basic fingerstyle and so forth. the three are just THREE in the 1. intro to Fingerstyle.

Dhruv KohliDhruv Kohli replied on September 14th, 2016

What is that thing attached to hi guitar below the fretboard ?

valeeboyvaleeboy replied on August 25th, 2016

This video quality is nightmare ,any Guitar instructor youtube quality is far better than this particular video ,i don't understand why Jamplay check before they put on website ,this particular lesson video need to be replace as soon as possible ,disgusting

cl1959cl1959 replied on January 10th, 2016

need a little less talk and a lot more playing

DrMichaelRothDrMichaelRoth replied on December 15th, 2015

Jim is an artful player, but we're into week 3 of the archived fingerpicking lessons and there's simply too much information to digest. He assumes we know the scales (we don't). This particular lesson needs to be scaled back into bite size pieces. We needed an entire week, just for the G, then the C and so forth. We couldn't even remember all the variations he was going over.

tmayestmayes replied on September 13th, 2015

Much of the sound was missing from this first lesson.[email protected] replied on July 31st, 2015

Thank you for using the same picking pattern style. I hope to just stick with you when it come to picking. you uncomplicated picking. The last internet guitar site I was with made it hard. to this day I learned nothing, nothing! I been watching you for 15min. I can play the picking part. I know chord but I don't know how to pick with a min then change to c . I don't know what chords you are using after that. I just been looping the finger picking right now. thanks

one old manone old man replied on January 6th, 2015


bozzy50bozzy50 replied on April 25th, 2013

Jim, After making a comment, I sighted down the neck of my dean and there is a bow. I just got it back after several years. Off to the guitar store.

bozzy50bozzy50 replied on April 25th, 2013

Jim, In phase 2, first lesson intro, you mentioned setting up your Gibson for finger style ie; light strings ect. Did they adjust the finger board and/or neck using the adjustment I see on the head? Because I have a Dean performer egn without the adjustment. I noticed the distance between the string and the finger broad on my Dean to be a 1/8 in. Of day light. Tough on my fingers even with ultra light strings.

otterwallaotterwalla replied on December 9th, 2012

What's the name of the song he plays in the intro and does he teach that arrangement?

portage_60portage_60 replied on March 2nd, 2013

sounds like mr. bojangles

lululionesslululioness replied on November 15th, 2012

Ok, this sounds dumb, but my finger is too small for a finger pick! I'm only 11 :p

cybersmythcybersmyth replied on December 1st, 2012

Duct tape! :)

cbriggscbriggs replied on June 22nd, 2012

What about wood characteristics? What's a good wood choice for fingerstyle and body type. I love an om shape and wanted to know which wood combo would work with this body style

BD cgullBD cgull replied on May 22nd, 2012

I didn't think I would like a mostly talking lesson as much as this one. Very good. I also lost the tip of my index finger as a kid. You give me hope. I'd like to re-iterate the Bojangles request.

layollayol replied on March 6th, 2012

Hi Jim- I just completed (& continue to practice) Phase 1. I went through your lessons & Eve Goldbergs. I just started your phase 2 lessons today. The other day I purchased a Fender T Bucket CR 400. Are you familiar with this guitar & what do you think of it?

bany_rockbany_rock replied on May 13th, 2009


kryaxis1kryaxis1 replied on September 10th, 2011

made me buy 1 too (me four)

sandeepsandeep replied on June 3rd, 2009

Made me buy a thumb pick too.

kevinmckevinmc replied on December 20th, 2009

me three

presagpresag replied on July 7th, 2011

I'm 82 years old and I started playing guitar with a professional classical, jazz teacher. I was asked to play and sing "Silent Night" and "Holy Night" this coming Xmas but I Play these in an arpeggio style which was not what they wanted, I was browsing the Internet and , by chance, came upon Jim Deeming playing "Silent Night". That's exactly what I was looking for so I bought the course. Already I've learned how to string a guitar, and I'm hoping to play Silent Night finger style just like you. Thanks Gerry

ekostykekostyk replied on May 11th, 2010

Hey Jim, I use a Herco Medium thumb pick but it's a bit bulky, yours looks more compact, what type is it? Thanks, Ed

jmtetzlaffjmtetzlaff replied on December 14th, 2009

Some one that is huge right now that uses a lot of fingerstyle and has since he first started on the scene is John Mayer. In a lot of his songs, he has started utilizing both a pick and playing fingerstyle at the same.

psy80219psy80219 replied on November 10th, 2009

great introduction, i really think this is what i'm looking for. much love!

lisaliguslisaligus replied on October 12th, 2009

Hi Jim!! I've been on jamplay for a week now and I am loving it. It's really the best bet for me. I've been wanting to advance my guitar skills but can't afford to take private lessons (neither time nor money) at this time. I am a visual lerner and do not do well with learning from books. I never knew what this style of playing the guitar was called. But, seeing your intro sold me on jamplay and fingerstyle guitar. Here's my question for you in regards to "setup" - I use my guitar a lot for basic strumming & accompaniament while singing. If I alter the setup of my guitar by lowering the action for fingerstyle playing what are the negative implications (if any) for basic strumming / rhythm guitar? P.S. - i too just purchased a thumb pick today. :)

sparky4jcsparky4jc replied on September 6th, 2009

I've been noodling and doodling on guitar for 40 yrs since I was 10. I got a thumb pick Fri then Sat I went to a family reunion and dropped my thumb picks and lost them. the family organizer found them and gave them to me and insisted I play. I obviously didn't do too well. I can't wait to go again next year with my new guitar skills. I've been playing all day with renewed enthuseasm!

sandeepsandeep replied on June 3rd, 2009

Great Lesson! Valuable information. Thanks a lot.

brokendawnbrokendawn replied on May 9th, 2009

how about a tutorial on the intro song? or at least tabs.. it's so awesome.

gone workingone workin replied on February 18th, 2009

Question about thumbpicks and paste-on false nails (my nails split every time) vs. a flat pick, bare fingers, or something else -- There are lots of ways to play, and I don't want to put the cart before the horse, but I like finger picking, in addition to strumming and flat picking. I want to have the the full range of playing though. I want to sort of blend all the styles together as the spirit moves me -- not just fingerstyle -- all. I especially don't want to learn based on the mechanics of my choice of pick. Any thoughts you can share? Thanks. (Hope this is the place for this question.)

kenny yarbroughkenny yarbrough replied on November 14th, 2008

I grew up listening to Chet Atkins music and have always held him in the highest esteem....I've got a feeling that you do as're a fantastic instructor and i am so happy to find someone to teach me the finer points of Chets style. I was wondering if you would consider teaching us Chets version of yesterday

Jim.DeemingJim.Deeming replied on November 19th, 2008

Thanks Kenny. I play a simplified version of Yesterday. Chet's is pretty enough that it would be worth the extra time for me to hunt down some of the prettier chords he adds in there. I'll take a look at that - good call!

haibinhaibin replied on October 30th, 2008

Hi, Who is the rocket scientist that Jim mentioned? I just did not get it :-)

Jim.DeemingJim.Deeming replied on October 30th, 2008

Leo Kottke - take a look on youtube. Lots of complex tunings, rhythms, slide guitar, and 12 string stuff.

gideongideon replied on May 29th, 2008

Mate... I so need a thumb pick. I don't think I can go on without one. Where are all the thumb picks when you need them? AAAGGHHH!!!

andrewbrittainandrewbrittain replied on May 26th, 2008

Got my first Thumb Pick this weekend.. :-) I can't wait to get going on this.. Please keep the lessons coming.. Your teaching style is awesome !

evnyevny replied on February 25th, 2008

I just got a thumbpick. Yay! But I also have thin, weak nails. I'm trying Sally Hanson's Hard As Nails on them. So far, so good.

jboothjbooth replied on May 16th, 2008

Jim will be happy to know he's converted someone else :) He's going for world domination, one thumb pick at a time.

dalcorndalcorn replied on May 16th, 2008

I was conscious of the neck width when I bought my guitar; but it turns out I didn't really know what I was supposed to be looking for. You mentioned in the video that your 2" classical was too wide. You also mentioned your Gibson ES335 being very narrow. How wide is that? How wide is the acoustic you play in this video?

jboothjbooth replied on May 16th, 2008

Hello, Just so you know Jim will currently not be able to answer as many questions as usual as he is currently in the Ukraine adopting a child. He will get back to this message as soon as he can. As far as necks go they come in SOOO many shapes and sizes the only real way to figure them out is to play them. It's amazingly difficult to find the PERFECT fretboard, but once you do, oh my goodness your playing will be so much easier.

mav67mav67 replied on February 21st, 2008

I waited to get used to my thumbpick, that done, now I am here. Long live the thumbpick revolution, lol

artlartl replied on February 11th, 2008

Great lessons! Will you be adding more anytime soon? How about teaching your opening song, "Mr. Bojangles"? Thanks, Art

jboothjbooth replied on February 11th, 2008

A new fingerstyle lesson from Jim should be coming this week, and we will be filming more within the next two :) Stay tuned!

Fingerstyle Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Fingerstyle guitar allows you to play the bass, harmony, and melody of a song all within the context of a single guitar part.

Lesson 1

Intro to Fingerstyle

This lesson serves as an introduction for Fingerstyle Guitar with Jim Deeming. Come on in and get started!

Length: 24:32 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Basic Fingerstyle

Jim demonstrates a basic fingerstyle exercise that you can use with any of the chords you know.

Length: 16:05 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

More Picking Patterns

Jim expands on lesson 2 and teaches several different picking patterns. He also covers the basics of muting.

Length: 14:23 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Using Syncopation

Jim Deeming explains how to integrate basic syncopation into your rhythm playing.

Length: 17:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Picking Melody Notes

This lesson is all about picking melody notes. Fingerstyle guitar really gets interesting when you combine bass, harmony, and melody.

Length: 33:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Aura Lee

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle version of the classic Civil War era song "Aura Lee."

Length: 43:23 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Chet Atkins Style

Jim explains key components of Chet Atkins' guitar style.

Length: 18:12 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

3/4 Time and a Song

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of "Bicycle Built for Two." He uses this piece as an example of 3/4 or waltz timing.

Length: 37:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Two Songs at Once

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of "Yankee Doodle" and "Dixie." Both songs are played simultaneously!

Length: 30:03 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Open G Tuning

Jim Deeming teaches the basics of open G tuning. He also teaches a song entitled "Spanish Fandango" to show how the tuning can be used.

Length: 39:58 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

Carter Family Style

Jim Deeming introduces a playing style called "Carter Family Style." The technique is also referred to as "Frailing" or "Clawhammer" style.

Length: 13:07 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 12


Jim Deeming teaches the many wonders of DADGAD tuning.

Length: 32:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Thumb Independence

Jim Deeming tackles the topic of thumb independence.

Length: 31:51 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
Lesson 14

The JamPlay Song

Jim Deeming teaches a more advanced version of the aptly named "JamPlay Song."

Length: 7:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

The Wayfaring Stranger

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle version of the classic song "The Wayfaring Stranger."

Length: 31:27 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

The Official Thumbpick Guide

Jim Deeming answers one of the most common fingerstyle questions, "which thumbpick should I use?"

Length: 13:03 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

Fingernail Guide

Jim Deeming presents his thoughts on how to properly grow and groom your fingernails.

Length: 7:07 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

The Entertainer

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of "The Entertainer," a classic piano song ported over to the guitar.

Length: 20:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs

Jim Deeming teaches the skills necessary to transform any song into a solo fingerstyle masterpiece.

Length: 37:04 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 2

Jim talks more about arranging fingerstyle songs. This time around he discusses harmonization and chord inversions.

Length: 13:35 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 3

Jim Deeming demonstrates alternate ways to play the CAGED chords that can be very useful when playing melody and accompaniment simultaneously.

Length: 30:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Arranging Fingerstyle Songs Pt. 4

In this lesson Jim Deeming talks about a simple way to add harmony notes to the melody section of fingerstyle songs. This technique is quite simple and can add a whole new dimension to your playing.

Length: 5:51 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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