You are currently viewing 35 Must-Know Easy Fingerpicking Songs on Guitar – Electric & Acoustic
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Last Updated on January 26, 2024 by Justin Thomas

Author: Santiago Motto

Aka. Sandel. Telecasters and all-mahogany Martins lover.

Besides that, Sandel is a professional writer, guitar player, confessed guitar nerd, and all-things-guitar consumer. He has been playing for 25 years which makes him a nineties kid with serious low-tuning youngster years, and a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music.

Whenever Santiago is not pouring all that experience and love for the instrument into articles, you can find him playing live shows supporting his music and poetry books as “Sandel”. If he’s not doing either of those, you can also find him gigging with his band, “San Juan”, writing, reading, or enjoying the Sun.

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).


What do a 1,000-mile journey and going out for coffee have in common? Both start with a single step.

I know you’ve been watching one fingerpicking master after another rip it on YouTube and you’re probably thinking you know so many picking styles that fingerstyle or finger picking is not for you.

Well, just like you mastered that first F major bar chord and bent your first string, all you have to do to acquire this amazing new skill is to pick up the guitar and start fingerpicking.

We picked these 35 songs specifically for beginners because they are perfect to lay the foundations of your fingerpicking mastery one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be playing using hybrid picking and you’ll expand your sound palette much more than you ever imagined.

Go get your six-stringer because this is your first step to fingerpicking mastery!

Check our other sweet guides for fingerstyle lovers!

Best Electric Guitars for Fingerstyle in 2023

Best Acoustic Guitars for Fingerstyle in 2023

35 Simple Fingerpicking Songs for Beginners

1.      Everybody Hurts- R.E.M

YouTube video

Originally played onElectric Guitar

Peter Buck’s shy electric guitar technique made him a no-soloing guitarist and pushed him in a one-of-a-kind direction. As a result, the picking style he used for the arpeggio in the background gives the song as much movement as if he was sweep-picking.

This cool, simple, beautiful arpeggio is perfect to get started with your fingerpicking abilities.

If you don’t know how to read chord charts, master guitar chord charts here.


2.      House of the Rising Sun – The Animals

YouTube video

Originally played onElectric Guitar

This is a song that’s deep into the DNA of any rocker; we heard it a million times.

Hold your horses…I know that this song is originally played with a pick. But…playing this arpeggio fingerstyle is excellent practice!

The arpeggio you hear as the song’s main motor utilizes all free fingers to create a repeating pattern played very fast (sorry, Mark Knopfler).

I recommend you play it using an electric guitar (a hollow-body one would be ideal) to practice economy picking and how to combine the ring finger and middle finger in a single move.


3.      Hey There Delilah – Plain White T’s

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

Although Mark Knopfler is the most famous example to show you can play all the notes at any speed without the need of sweep picking but using only your fingers; acoustic guitars are something different.

These one-hit wonders managed to capture the closeness and intimacy of fingerpicking arpeggios perfectly in this song. The guitar moves from chord to chord playing two and sometimes three strings at a time while the voice follows.

Play this song and try to sing it to get the ultimate intimate feeling from it.


4.      Love Yourself – Justin Bieber

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

The fingerpicking in this song is very unique. The guitar player is using a custom-made fingerstyle to create a beat that’s absent from the tune. Yes, the silence between the guitar bits works as a rhythm section, making you move your head and feet as you hear it.

Regardless if you use hybrid picking (the combination of fingers and a pick) or regular fingerpicking the main takeaway of learning how to play this tune is thinking about fingerpicking almost as a percussive instrument.


5.      Behind Blue Eyes – The Who

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

By the time “Behind Blue Eyes” came out, every lead guitar player in a rock band wanted to play faster and pull off amazing tricks bending the e-string and using alternate picking. Pete Townshend isn’t just any player; he’s got a rock n’ roll right hand capable of creating this beautiful arpeggio and setting the house on fire.

The key takeaway here is trying the song’s rhythmic pattern. If you can replicate Townshend’s sense of rhythm with the arpeggio, you’ll be one step closer to fingerpicking mastery.


6.      Nothing Else Matters – Metallica

YouTube video

Originally played onElectric Guitar

These modern thrash metal heroes aren’t just a copycat of most rock guitarists, but true original geniuses capable of creating landscapes with their guitars. In this case, the picking hand marks the tempo, rhythm, and intention of the piece.

The key takeaway here is to capture the song’s intention by copying the accents Hetfield and Hammett use to play it. If you have one, add a little chorus to the signal and you’ll be in ‘80s heaven.


7.      Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright – Bob Dylan

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

The one thing that separated Bob Dylan from many of his contemporaries going in the same direction is the melodic line that sits on top of the finger picking that works as a rhythmic and a melodic pattern at the same time. Bob accompanies his vocals’ intentions with the guitar and vice versa.

That is exactly the takeaway of learning this fingerpicking song: accentuating to create a sense of movement.


8.      Here Comes The Sun – The Beatles

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

The Beatles aren’t the biggest band of all time because they could play light-speed notes. On the contrary, learning this song will help you lay down fingerstyle basics to replace the different picking styles used to play it on the original recording.

Why is this a great song to learn fingerstyle with? Well, you’ll learn a lot about economy picking playing the number of notes the song needs using your fingers; not one extra. Plus, with over 800 million plays it’s The Beatles’ song with the most streams worldwide; how about that for a bonfire hit!


9.      Suzanne – Leonard Cohen

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

This is one of those songs that need the player to play arpeggios with their fingers. No, you don’t need to be Jeff Beck to play this simple tune, but you must learn how to play more than one string at the same time using your picking hand to play it right.

Regardless of your picking style, use your fingers to play those simultaneous strings throughout the song.


10. Blackbird – The Beatles

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

I remember going to see Paul McCartney play 10 or 15 years ago in a big arena. When the time came to play this timeless classic, I expected more than one person on stage.

Instead, Paul came out by himself and the whole stadium went crazy.

This song might take a while to learn but will teach you a lot about economy picking and different picking styles using every finger in your picking hand.


11. Perfect – Ed Sheeran

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

The sweeping motion of Ed’s fingerpicking technique is the only thing driving this song forward, especially at the beginning. Moreover, Ed’s playing is so tight he could be doing tremolo picking or sweep picking and it wouldn’t have the same effect. There’s something about the “dead” sound of not using a pick that serves this song perfectly.

How transform into a Party Jukebox everyone Admires in 5 days?

So, as the main takeaway of learning this song, you can expect to learn a different type of guitar picking that includes the thumb, the index finger, and the rest of the hand creating a wavy, moving effect.


12. Dust In The Wind – Kansas

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

You can think of “Dust in the Wind” as a timeless classic or as a fingerpicking or fingerstyle masterclass. Yes, the dual-guitar approach doesn’t need any fancy hybrid picking or alternate picking to make the song move from the verse to the chorus and back without any percussion instrument.

The key takeaway is creating a non-stopping arpeggio that can move for an entire song. Try it, and eventually complete the 3 minutes 20 seconds with a single start.


13. Landslide – Fleetwood Mac

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

Lindsey Buckingham is, to me, one of the most underrated guitar players in the world. He’s made his guitar fit every context, even with a bluegrass mandolin.

In this tune, he uses his bare fingers as if he was playing the guitar with alternate picking. Yes, while his thumb is doing the bass part, his index, middle, and ring finger are creating a flow of notes that keeps the song going forward.


14. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

Jimmy Page is one of those players whose fretting hand and picking hand are just perfect. While he can bend that e string to the skies playing lead guitar, he can also create small, beautiful nuances in the adjacent strings while guitar picking with different picking styles (like alternate picking, for example).

The main takeaway of this song is learning dynamics; going stronger or softer as the song dictates.


15. More than Words – Extreme

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

You might know Nuno Bettencourt to be a pyrotechnic player but here you can appreciate his right-hand technique. He does more than play notes using an advanced technique like pulling out with his index finger and playing multiple strings at once. He uses his fingerpicking hand as the only rhythm instrument in the song.

This is something classical guitar players do a lot when they play using finger picking or hybrid picking. You can even try it on a Stratocaster guitar and the result will be a driving force for melody.


16. We’re Going To Be Friends – White Stripes

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

Jack White’s fingerpicking technique is so simple and yet so effective and beautiful that the song only needs his tapping foot on the floor to be the glorious hit it is. Moreover, Jack’s fingerstyle playing isn’t complex, on the opposite; it’s as simple as it gets using only the thumb and index fingers.

So, that’s the main takeaway from this song, learning how to accommodate picking styles to what the song needs. In other words: effective simplicity.


17. Road Trippin’ – Red Hot Chili Peppers

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

John Frusciante is one of my all-time favorite rock guitarists. He can play the same string or change his picking style or use as many techniques as the song demands while all his playing remains as the bones and the structure of the Red Hot Chili Peppers tunes.

The main takeaway here is the way he interacts with the lyrics.


18. No Surprises – Radiohead

YouTube video

Originally played onElectric Guitar

Radiohead’s approach to guitar playing has nothing to do with picking techniques, pick direction, or economy picking. On the other hand, it is fueled by the intention to help Thom Yorke’s voice blossom with the song’s melody.

You can hear players work the simple melody in the arpeggio joined by a xylophone while the song keeps growing and taking their playing to a more intense territory.


19. Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead

YouTube video

Originally played onElectric Guitar

Most of us can play chords that are as simple as this song’s chords are. But the way the guitarist uses the bass note as an anchor while playing the multiple strings at speed makes the song move forward even before the drums make an entrance.

You can play this tune on electric, acoustic, or classical guitar. Just forget about alternate picking or sweep picking and focus on the accents; they’re not always logical but always effective.


20. Just Breathe – Pearl Jam

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

Eddie uses various fingerstyle techniques in this tune, from single-note to full-chord arpeggios. Also, he uses accents in his playing to support the melody and tempo of his singing. You can’t pull this one off with hybrid picking or any other picking styles because you need to be able to play two or more strings at once.

Practice this exercise with the original and try to mimic Eddie’s use of the thumb as a metronome.


21. Wherever You Will Go – The Calling

YouTube video

Originally played onElectric Guitar

There’s no need to play banjo rolls to give a rock-pop song an acoustic flavor. In this case, all you need is to be able to play three adjacent strings using your fingers to create an arpeggio and let the other guitar play the alternate picking parts.

Fingerpicking is perfect for the riff and the overall vibe of this tune.


22. Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton

YouTube video

Originally played onNylon-String Acoustic Guitar

Eric Clapton strips naked from all tricks like tremolo picking for this tune. Yes, his lead guitar in this piece is more relevant because of his use of the picking hand to arpeggiate adjacent strings than any pyrotechnics.

Coming from a guitarist this size is a lesson in humility and a great way to learn how to play beautiful without worrying about fast or amazing.


23. Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen (Jeff Buckley version)

YouTube video

Originally played onElectric Guitar

Sometimes, playing notes in blues music is enough to make room for lyrics as amazing as these. Yes, Jeff’s finger picking on a guitar with dripping reverb is enough. He doesn’t need any fancy alternate picking or tricks, just mellow finger picking, and his otherworldly voice.

The main takeaway of this song is learning how to embellish simplicity by playing simple chords as a succession of notes fingerpicking an arpeggio.


24. Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

A repeating pattern played on three strings with minimal movements by the fretting hand is all Bill Withers needs to turn this song into a timeless classic. Yes, fancy picking styles and fireworks have no room in this song of loss and broken hearts.

So, the main takeaway here is learning how to use fingerpicking to put emotion into a simple set of chords.


25. Shape of My Heart – Sting

YouTube video

Originally played onNylon-Strings Acoustic Guitar

Sting is an artist who can make amazing Turkish folk music songs, invite singers of any language, or use the most diverse musical instruments to rock the entire planet. That being said, this classic arpeggio using nylon guitar strings sounds epic with the not-so-subtle reverb and delay.

Forget about any picking style, the soft touch of the fingers make nylon-string guitars sound much more epic and full.


26. Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton

YouTube video

Originally played onElectric Guitar

The way that the fingerpicking guitar in the background uses a little tremolo to complement the fingerstyle approach allows the main melody to sit comfortably in the center of the song. Your mind is compelled there while the background keeps moving.

Fingerpicking is why the background moves while Eric uses economy picking to play one of the sweetest, most recognizable lead guitar lines in guitar history.


27. You Are My Sunshine – Johnny Cash

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

This is a timeless classic with many, many versions. From Johnny Cash’s famous chicken-picking band to Mississippi John Hurt and his broken voice. Yet, what doesn’t change from one version to the next is how the fingerpicking accentuates the bass notes and uses the rest as an embellishment to the main melody.

So, the main takeaway is to learn how to use bass accents with your thumb and play the melody with the rest of your fingers. That’s something not even sweep-picking masters can duplicate with a pick.


28. Every Breath You Take – The Police

YouTube video

Originally played onElectric Guitar

There are many different picking techniques involved in playing this song. Yet, the pick direction is always down strokes, that’s why it can be done using hybrid picking. Moreover, fingerpicking the initial section is a way to make this tune more intimate-sounding.

The main takeaway is learning how to use all five fingers of your fingerstyle hand.


29. The Sounds of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

This song by Simon & Garfunkel isn’t just another step in your way to becoming a fingerstyle master, it is also a way to broaden your catalog of moves. This is because this song will allow you to practice one-string-at-the-time arpeggio playing as well as to play multiple strings using your fingerpicking hand.


30. Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright – Bob Dylan

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

Away from banjo rolls and multiple notes, the picking hand (well, fingerpicking hand in this case) is the main driving force of this tune. Yes, the way Bob works his way with simple chords and the simple notes in his arpeggios allows him to use only vocals and a harmonica to create a timeless classic.

Learn this tune; it will help you build up your speed and accuracy a lot.


31. Hotel California – The Eagles

YouTube video

Originally played on12-String Acoustic Guitar

There’s so much to learn about this song that, once you finish with it, you’ll be a much better player than when you started. To begin with, the rolling syncopated style of playing the acoustic guitar will help you understand your role in a band situation, for example.

Also, the finger picking, hybrid picking, and multiple picking styles throughout the song will help you “crack the code” with your right hand, broadening your moves’ catalog drastically.


32. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

If you pay close attention to the hide-and-seek game that vocals and the fingerpicking guitar play, you’ll learn a lot about the dynamics in songwriting. The player uses the lower strings only to accentuate the moments Tracy speeds up to make a statement. The bottom three strings are responsible for the song’s movement forward and melody.

You can learn a bunch of picking styles with just this song.


33. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You – Led Zeppelin

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

The fingerpicking guitar in this Zeppelin classic sounds as if it was played underwater; every note sounds constant but in the background. Moreover, the lower strings and the middle and ring fingers give the arpeggio the movement it needs to propel the song forward.

The main takeaway from learning this song is how the picking style Jimmy Page uses on the same chords can change the intention completely. Try it and you’ll see everything is in your picking hand.


34. Tenerife Sea – Ed Sheeran

YouTube video

Originally played onAcoustic Guitar

This song works perfectly to learn fingerpicking. The falling cadence is completely based on what Sheeran’s right hand is doing, and his fingerstyle is so tight and accurate that it would amaze guitar greats like rock guitarists Steve Howe.

Ed Sheeran is a great, underrated rhythm guitarist. Follow his lead substituting economy picking and alternate picking with fingerpicking. As a piece of advice, changing strings before playing this song will make it sound way better.


35. Brain Damage – Pink Floyd

YouTube video

Originally played onElectric Guitar

The way David Gilmour bends the high e-string in the background and the treatment the fingerpicking gives to the higher strings makes the finger-picking in this song unique. Yes, instead of sweep picking really fast, the guitar takes its time to build a sonic landscape.

Learn this song to practice patience in letting the tune unfold while you follow a simple arpeggio pattern. Changing strings before playing this song really pays off.


FAQ

Should A Beginner Learn Fingerstyle?

Before I start answering this question let me tell you that practicing motor coordination helps Corpus Collsusm growth. This is part of the brain that acts as a bridge between your left and right side. As a result, you’ll be able to think more clearly and enhance memory, intuition, problem-solving, and motor coordination.

That being said, I know what you’re thinking: I can barely press the B string when I play a bar chord I should leave the rapid-fire succession of fingerpicked notes to classical guitarists. Well, that’s absolutely not the case, learning fingerpicking is just as difficult as playing everything using down strokes or learning alternate picking.

Whatever stage you are in your musical journey, the time to start learning fingerpicking is always right now. I mean, you’re going to have to do it eventually anyways, so why not start now with these simple songs?

Is Fingerpicking Harder Than Using A Pick?

Those of us who learned how to play with a piece of plastic to pluck the strings and broadened our catalog to different picking methods including alternate picking need to fill a void in our technique and learn fingerpicking. The same thing happens with those who learned how to play using their fingers instead of a pick.

So, what I’m saying is that neither is harder than the other, both require a learning curve. Bear in mind, though, learning this new approach helps us use the creative brain more.

In the end, the best is to learn as many techniques as possible and be able to do hybrid picking (play with your fingers and with a pick) when we need it to serve songs better.

What’s The Best Guitar for Fingerstyle?

We love Fender Stratocasters for electric guitar fingerstyle and guitars like Seagull S6 Original & Taylor Academy 12e for acoustic fingerstyle. To learn more, check our fingerstyle guitar buying guides:


Conclusion

Playing the lower string using your thumb while the rest of the fingers do fingerpicking on the bottom three strings can unlock a whole new universe for your playing. Yes, if you’re a rocker you might be tempted to tell me that fingerpicking isn’t cool in your area of expertise. Let me tell you that there are several notable high-profile exceptions starting with Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, and John Mayer.

The fingerstyle you can develop by working on your picking hand will allow you to explore music in different ways. Moreover, you don’t have to replace your usual picking styles with fingerpicking; it’s a complementary technique.

Learn these easy songs we proposed here and let your fingerpicking skills reach the next level. After all, music is a great dopamine source and you’ll surely have a ton of fun playing along to these timeless classics.

Happy fingerpicking, I mean playing!

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Santiago Motto

Aka. Sandel. Pure Telecasters and all-mahogany Martins lover. Besides that, Sandel is a professional writer, guitar player, confessed guitar nerd, and all-things-guitar consumer. He has been playing for 25 years which makes him a nineties kid with serious low-tuning youngster years, and a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. You can connect with Santiago on LinkedIn or just email him.
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