Basic Fingerstyle (Guitar Lesson)

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Jim Deeming

Basic Fingerstyle

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

Taught by Jim Deeming in Fingerstyle Guitar seriesLength: 16:05Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:53) Intro Music Jim opens lesson 2 with a fingerstyle arrangement of "Me and Bobby McGee" written by Kris Kristofferson.
Chapter 2: (15:15) Basic Fingerstyle In this lesson, Jim expands upon many of the concepts that he has taught in his Phase 1 lessons. Primarily, this lesson expands upon the alternating bass pattern and basic open chord progressions. Take this time to review the material presented in lessons 7-14 of Jim's Phase 1 lessons before you continue with the rest of this lesson.

Rhythm Guitar

The MOST important component of any musical performance is rhythm. If a performance loses its rhythmic feel, a musical train wreck is inevitable. Rhythm is what makes the audience dance, bob their heads, or even start a mosh pit. Without rhythm a performance ceases to be music. Achieving a steady rhythmic feel will enable you to play as part of a group with other musicians.

Alternating Bass Pattern

In Phase 1 lessons, you learned how to apply a basic alternating bass line to open chords. When you initially learned this concept, you were most likely playing the bass line and chords with a pick. Now it is time to learn the same process with the right hand fingers. In this case, the thumb will play all of the bass notes. When a chord is struck, it is plucked by the index, middle, and third fingers. These three fingers pluck the three treble strings respectively. Also, when a chord is plucked, the thumb comes in to help out. The thumb will pluck the D string note involved in the chord. Practice this pattern very slowly using an A major chord. Once you feel comfortable playing the pattern with an A chord, practice it with the other chords that you know. Be sure to review the root and fifth locations within these chords. You want to master this exercise to the point that you can do it without even thinking about it. After this lesson, additional parts will be added to this basic technique.

Note: Open the "Supplemental Content" tab for tablature to these patterns.

Proper Right Hand Technique

Observe the following rules whenever you play fingerstyle guitar:

1. The fleshy part of the finger where it meats the nail is what makes contact with the strings. Do not dig your fingers too far into the strings! This will produce a poor tone and reduce accuracy.
2. Keep the right hand wrist as straight as possible at all times.
3. Keep the tips of your right hand fingers loose and relaxed.
4. All plucking movement should come from the knuckle joint. The finger should pass directly through the string into the palm of the hand.

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.

sophia2006sophia2006 replied on January 19th, 2017

Hello Jim. My 10 year old daughter doing your lessons is having trouble trying to figure out what your fingers hitting on the video 2- basic finger style particularly E , D chord. Can you possibly tell us the pattern and what fingers hit what strings every step Please. Thanks

stevenvlstevenvl replied on August 24th, 2016

Good to mention that the first note is the root note. First note in G is G, etc...

EssexTonyEssexTony replied on December 16th, 2015

Love this need to practice the alternating base style though. My thumb seems to get confused!!!

martintrinimartintrini replied on July 5th, 2015

Enter your comment here.

martintrinimartintrini replied on July 5th, 2015

wow, i finally found some one to teach me fingerstyle that i will enjoy

harrisonpaulharrisonpaul replied on March 8th, 2015

i thought i could try before i pay for my lessons???? the videos won't play

dcquandcquan replied on April 30th, 2014

When playing alternate base on the 4 stings chords why it is not recommended to use fingers 1,2 and 3 to pluck the strings instead of using the thumb and fingers 1 and 2?

jaredleejaredlee replied on December 31st, 2013

thaks for posting these great lessons

thundleythundley replied on April 17th, 2013

This is a awesome lesson, I LOVE FINGERSTYLE

zappafreakozappafreako replied on April 10th, 2013

this thumbpick feels so alien on me but slowly feelig it

zappafreakozappafreako replied on April 10th, 2013

I was checking this lesson out on the bus this morning( 1 day new to Jamplay) & it scared, scared me because I have to undo years of a Non punchy Jim syle ... but after a few hours of practice I found I was on my way whoop! the power of the thumb ;P

mare12mare12 replied on January 4th, 2013

Do you dremel your thumb picks down? Should I angle them as well?

whitexmaswhitexmas replied on December 28th, 2012

Would it be possible to do a session demonstrating the difference between fingerstyle guitar and fingerpicking guitar. I'm really questioning the difference, because I like to sing and accompanie myself. Your clarification would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

matsutsuki86matsutsuki86 replied on September 5th, 2012

Nice lesson!

rmonroermonroe replied on August 1st, 2012

Am I crazy or are you strumming different bass chords for the D than what is in the supplemental material? It looks like you are strumming the D and the G as the Bass notes, but in the material it says to strum the A and the D? Am I missing something? Does it matter?

glchildsglchilds replied on June 2nd, 2012

Great teacher! Question: when playing a 4-string chord like "D" wouldn't economy of movement suggest either (1)using the thumb for the bass notes only and plucking the three high strings with the fingers assigned to them or (2)plucking the bass notes and third string with the thumb and plucking the high E-string and B-string with the fingers assigned to them--omitting the first finger?

richardrhodesrichardrhodes replied on April 7th, 2012

Jim- Once more I'm gonna give fingerstyle a try. Not knowing anything and developing bad habits are obstacles I need to overcome. Question: Is the style you are teaching where the thumb joins the fingers on the two ( or the &), pinching, the standard. I'm guessing there are all kinds of variations but I want to learn correctly. Just ends up with thumb doing "double work" in that it plays on every beat- bass note, pinch, bass note. Tell me the effort pays off. :-)

johnhardyjohnhardy replied on April 3rd, 2011

great lesson! extremely easy to follow and very clear just need to do the practice now!

markinnewparismarkinnewparis replied on March 25th, 2011

having trouble dropping my third fingure on the right hand while i am playing the D chord....

dubster123dubster123 replied on February 11th, 2011

istarted about 6mo ago i wish i had this site 6 mo ago you guys rock thanks

snedmansnedman replied on July 30th, 2010

This was helpful from the standpoint of learning the pattern and how it applies to the various chords Jim showed us - great lesson!

symbiotsymbiot replied on December 29th, 2009

I broke down and bought a Thumbpick. Man is it awkward 8*( I had the alternating bass down using my bafe thumb, but now it is back to the beginning. Going to get it if it kills me (My wife said if i don't stop with that "do da do da" she will kill me instead). If I alternate between practicing bass and scales that at least breaks the monotony.

stretchstretch replied on October 6th, 2009

Jim, I noticewhen picking, that you're getting a really nice muted country sound occassionally as opposed to a fuller ringing tone at other times. What are you doing with the palm of your hand to achieve that?

kimminkkimmink replied on October 3rd, 2009

Did he hit the high e note when playing the A picking?

jerry mjerry m replied on September 25th, 2009

Jim, I am following your course 2 ok except for one thing, on the thumb pick I cannot make out in the video the direction of travel, is it down on 1 and then up on the top or all down, in other words you do not mention the direction of the thumb pick when hitting the strings. thank you

jpdugasjpdugas replied on August 30th, 2009

what's that black thing beside the sound hole?

voxpvoxp replied on July 6th, 2009

How do you get over the transition from the d to the g string. I keep trying to use all three fingers when I get to the D and muddle up the thumb everytime!!

garywaggonergarywaggoner replied on June 24th, 2009

great lesson, as they all are ! I am curious as to how you have the Blue Ridge strung, you get such a beautiful and long lasting ring?

mclovinmclovin replied on May 1st, 2009

is it better to have a plastick thump pick or a metall ?

widgetmakerwidgetmaker replied on February 3rd, 2009

what is a good thumb pick ?

joe1950joe1950 replied on January 18th, 2009

Jim.....I looked ahead at all of the lessons.....and decided that this is where I am starting.....I'm going to do it right this time.... Thanks for the great lessons.... Joe

haibinhaibin replied on November 3rd, 2008

Hi Jim, Great lesson. But I'm wondering why you're alternating between G and B node while playing G chord. I thought i should be G and D.

malcmalc replied on October 15th, 2008

Thanks Jim i got my thumb rockin

plcaplca replied on September 16th, 2008

Nice to get an understanding of how this works. Need to go and practise some more

southbasesouthbase replied on August 22nd, 2008

This was a great lesson. Prior to this, someone told me to sit down and learn "freight train" by Chet Atkins. Tried it for weeks and was too frustrated. I think this lesson will eventually lead me into that song. Thanks Jim!

southbasesouthbase replied on August 22nd, 2008

That was weird...just went back to the lesson set and noticed Lesson 7 is a Chet Atkins style lesson. Whoops.

guitarguy316guitarguy316 replied on August 16th, 2008

I don't think I'm going to go any further until I master this technique; it feels like im trying to make circles on my stomache, while making circles on my head!

guitarguy316guitarguy316 replied on August 16th, 2008

I think in the back of my mind, I always knew I was missing something from the fingerpicking style that was keeping me from advancing. The idea of bringing the thumb along with the other 3 fingers is what I've been missing to build a solid foundation! Once again; excellent lesson from an excellent teacher!

mr_lawmr_law replied on July 13th, 2008

This lesson was a big eye opener for me as I've been fingerpicking for a few years on and off and getting the alternating bass notes was always a challenge for me. I could pick out a decent melody but as for playing alternating bass with melody I always got stuck. At least now I know where to start practicing.

evnyevny replied on February 25th, 2008

Great lesson! I love the muted bass notes. I'm trying to do it but it's definitely going to take a lot of practice to get it right.

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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