No matter what style of music you like to play, fingerpicking is a great technique to work on developing. Not only will it allow you to play along to many popular songs, it’s also a technique that you will be able to use in your own songwriting too!
There’s a host of other benefits to practicing fingerpicking including development of finger independence, accuracy, as well as wrist and finger dexterity.
So today we’ve put together a list of 30 easy fingerpicking songs you can dive straight into and have fun learning. Regardless of whether you’re a beginner, or an intermediate player looking to brush up on your technique.
- Ain’t No Sunshine By Bill Withers
- Blackbird by The Beatles
- Dust In The Wind By Kansas
- Everybody Hurts By R.E.M.
- Fast Car By Tracey Chapman
- Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) By GreenDay
- Hallelujah By Jeff Buckley
- Hey There Delilah by Plain White T’s
- House Of The Rising Sun By The Animals
- Love Yourself by Justin Bieber
- Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright By Bob Dylan
- Nothing Else Matters By Metallica
- Every breath you take by The Police
- Shape of My Heart by Sting
- Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
- Stand By Me By Ben E. King
- Tears In Heaven By Eric Clapton
- We’re Going To Be Friends By The White Stripes
- Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
- Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton
- Blind Guardian – The Bard’s Song
- Behind Blue Eyes by Limp Bizkit
- Fluff by Black Sabbath
- Poets of the Fall – Late Goodbye
- As Tears Go By by The Rolling Stones
- Brain Damage by Pink Floyd
- Don’t Cry by Guns ‘n’ Roses
- Road Trippin’ By The Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Tenerife Sea by Ed Sheeran
- The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
Ain’t No Sunshine By Bill Withers
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Known for his beautiful combination of soothing, rich, and soulful singing in tandem with his tasteful acoustic playing. Bill enjoyed a very successful career as a songwriter throughout the ’70s and early 80s with a legacy that made such an impression in 2015 he was given an induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
This is a fantastic song to learn if you are new to fingerpicking as you will only be playing simple chords or intervals, with your thumb acting as the bass. Allowing you to get your feet wet without needing to worry about overly complicated melodies. Try to focus on making everything ring out clearly with no string buzz. There aren’t many notes in the song, so make them count!
Blackbird by The Beatles
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As the number one selling band of all time, The Beatles hardly need any introduction. They were revolutionary in their development of popular music and have some of the most iconic and memorable songs ever written in their catalog. This also makes their songs ideal to learn on guitar as they are easily recognizable by both musicians and non-musicians alike.
Blackbird may look a little intimidating at first. The combination of fingerpicking and strumming can be overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to learn at a slower speed first. This song will have you moving up and down the neck with the chord changes (also called position shifting) which will help a lot in strengthening your forearm muscles.
Dust In The Wind By Kansas
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One of the great classic American rock bands. Kansas rose to prominence during the ’70s with a string of exceptionally well received albums. The band is still active today with their 2020 release ‘The Absence of Presence’. Within their catalog of 16 full studio albums, there are some great songs to learn for players at all skill levels.
Dust In The Wind is an ideal song for beginners as there is only 1 picking pattern which you will repeat for the entirety of the song, making this double up as an effective workout routine for your fingers. The chords are all easy to hold so there won’t be anything too strenuous for your left hand. However, do take note of the open notes and ensure they ring out as clearly as possible.
Everybody Hurts By R.E.M.
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Well known for their melancholic, alternative rock style. R.E.M had a string of successful albums throughout the 80’s and 90s. Boasting multiple Brit, Grammy, and MTV music awards. Everybody Hurts is one of their best-selling singles, reaching over 100 million views on youtube thanks to its iconic and sorrowful vocal melody.
It’s also an ideal song to learn on guitar due to its slow tempo and use of just a handful of easy to hold chords. The song is also in a 12/8 time signature which can be a great opportunity to expose yourself to a non 4/4 song if you haven’t done so yet. You will count this as: 1 and a, 2 and a, 3 and a, 4 and a.
Fast Car By Tracey Chapman
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As both a prolific songwriter and human rights activist. Tracy Chapman has been able to use her success in music to support various charitable causes throughout her career, often performing at charity events to help raise awareness for numerous social issues. She is a three-time Grammy award winner with the song ‘Fast Car’ winning best female vocal performance.
This song makes exceptionally good use of pauses to add groove, mastering this can help you to develop your rhythmic ability and become used to accenting the up beat. Take note of how the Em and D chords on bars 2 and 4 are played staccato, which means the notes are short and you mute them quickly after picking them with your left palm.
Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) By GreenDay
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Often when people think of Green Day they will usually think of that classic punk rock sound. But as time passed and the band garnered ludicrous amounts of commercial success, their musical palette also widened. Paving the way for more melodic and ballad-like songs such as one of their most popular singles, Good Riddance.
The song has a slightly more loose feel to it with a lot of open and strummed chords. This can be a welcome change from some other fingerpicked songs which demand a little more clinical accuracy. Instead, you can just relax and get used to the loose movement of the wrist, making sure to enjoy the rhythm and catch those key note accents on the higher strings.
Hallelujah By Jeff Buckley
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A budding legend who unfortunately left this Earth too soon. In his 7 years of activity, he released 2 full studio albums, both of which achieved great commercial success garnering numerous awards from the likes of Rolling Stone Magazine and Mojo. Arguably the most popular song in his catalog was actually a cover of the Leonard Cohen song ‘Hallelujah’.
The song is played at a quite slow tempo but uses triplet timing so you will count along as: 1 and a, 2 and a, etc. The majority of the song is played low down the fretboard making it easy on your left hand, allowing you to focus on hitting those interesting rhythms the song utilizes.
Hey There Delilah by Plain White T’s
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Even if you are not familiar with the Plain White T’s, you have almost certainly heard their Grammy-nominated number 1 hit song ‘Hey There Delilah’. With its instantly recognizable melody which has made numerous appearances on both TV shows and movies throughout the years. And while the band has undergone a lot of lineup changes, they are still active today with Tom Higgenson remaining as the only founding member of the band.
Hey There Delilah definitely sits on the easier end of the fingerpicking spectrum making it an ideal choice for beginners, it’s both simple to memorize and untaxing on the hands to play. Try to ensure those bass notes you are playing with your thumb are played loudly and confidently!
House Of The Rising Sun By The Animals
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Another of the classic English blues/rock bands from the ’60s. Although the group has gone through both numerous lineup changes and legal disputes throughout the years. They have nevertheless created a great legacy. Which included an induction into the prestigious Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
This song has a unique rhythm that requires you to ‘rake’ down the strings. This will take some time to master, but it’s a very creative and interesting way to accent your chords. Try to practice this part by itself first before playing along with the whole song, and remember to angle your pick slightly so it glides smoothly over the strings.
Love Yourself by Justin Bieber
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Originally garnering fame through YouTube with the release of his debut album My World. Justin Beiber’s style and look resonated heavily with the younger pop fanbase. With each of his videos attracting staggering amounts of views making him the current most viewed musician on the entire platform. He has also accumulated a massive 150 million in album sales worldwide.
Love Yourself is one of his most popular singles and is an ideal jump-in point for anyone looking to learn fingerstyle guitar. The great thing about this song is it will introduce you to percussive playing. Where you will essentially smack your hand down on the strings causing them to hit the frets which emulates the sound of a snare drum.
Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright By Bob Dylan
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One of the most prolific singer-songwriters of all time with a career that has spanned over 60 years with more than 125 million records sold. Also known for being a prolific poet, having been the first musician ever to be awarded the Nobel prize in literature in 2016.
This song is ideal for beginners as your right hand will be playing a nice and stable rhythm pattern that follows the chord changes. Allowing you to focus a little more on the left hand. Be sure to press hard on the Fmaj barre chord so every note rings out clearly! In addition, if you haven’t encountered one before, this song will also introduce you to the wonderful sounding D7 chord.
Nothing Else Matters By Metallica
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Metallica, the metal band that even non metal fans love. The Black Album signified quite a change to Metallica’s style, with more open and catchy songs giving them a degree of accessibility that their earlier thrash music did not facilitate. So with their newfound melodic style, the song Nothing Else Matters emerged as the album’s ballad.
The fingerpicked intro to this song is ideal for a beginner, as for the first few bars you don’t even need to hold any notes! You can just play the open strings as an exercise, making sure everything is ringing nice and clearly. So you can just enjoy the ease in which you are now masterfully developing your fingerpicking ability.
Every breath you take by The Police
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Perhaps one of the best-known British rock bands, originally formed in London. While they were well known for their high energy, punk-rock-reggae infused style, as they gained traction they expanded their songwriting repertoire to include other, more melodic styles. Many of the members have enjoyed their own, highly-successful solo careers outside of the band.
Easily recognizable and with some incredibly luscious sounding chords (look out for the Emadd9). The song is at a slower tempo where you will be playing 8th notes consistently throughout the song. This gives you the mental breathing room to focus on making sure you are not choking any notes. There are also some nice, percussive muted notes peppered in towards the end of the song.
Shape of My Heart by Sting
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We previously mentioned that members of the group The Police have enjoyed very fruitful solo careers outside of that band. Arguably the most successful of those is by the group’s singer, Sting. With an impressive 17 Grammy Awards over his 15 studio album solo career, he has been quite the force in his own musical pursuits.
Shape of my Heart is one of his most popular songs and a favorite amongst guitarists to learn due to its emotive chord progression and interesting rhythms. While not the fastest song in the world, some of the chord voicings are sure to give your fingers a good stretch and get those forearm muscles working.
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
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The premier British rock band who are considered one the most influential and innovative acts of the late ’60s and ’70s. They are directly responsible for influencing many of the artists we know and love today, from Queen all the way to Lady Gaga. If you have ever frequented a music store that stocks guitars, there is a very high possibility you have heard someone play Stairway to Heaven.
Considered a ‘go to’ piece for any guitarist to perform when picking up a guitar and is one of the most iconic fingerpicked passages ever written. It’s at a slow tempo and is well suited for the learning guitarist. A little pressure is required from the left hand to hold some of the chord shapes, but given a little practice, you will easily master this.
Stand By Me By Ben E. King
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One of the great American singer-songwriters. After leaving his original band The Drifters in the very early ’60s, Ben E. King has enjoyed a very successful solo career with a total of 23 full studio album releases. His most popular song ‘Stand By Me’ was a top 10 hit in America and made it to the number 1 spot in the UK.
This is a perfect song for beginners to learn as it uses a very simple 4 chord progression that repeats throughout the song. All the chords are big and open meaning you can let rip and not worry about the minutia of technical details. Try to tap your foot along to the song to help you stay in the groove and keep your rhythms in time.
Tears In Heaven By Eric Clapton
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Named as the second-best guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine, Eric Clapton is one of the most influential and iconic songwriters around. After his time in the Yardbirds came to an end he went on to write and produce some of the best-selling songs ever.
Tears in Heaven is one of those classic songs that are easy enough to play for a beginner, but also has a few little parts sprinkled in that might challenge you, including some hammer-ons and pull-offs and even some chromatic notes/passing tones for a bit of melodic intrigue. Your thumb will be acting as the bass guitar throughout the song so do make sure those notes are picked cleanly.
We’re Going To Be Friends By The White Stripes
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Often described as Garage Rock, The White Stripes attracted a lot of attention for their raw and organic sound which stood out against the slew of over-produced artists of the early ’20s. Their single Seven Nation Army marked a huge popularity spike for the duo and they have since released several best-selling albums.
This song is about as simple as they come when it comes to fingerpicking, with an almost nursery-rhyme-like quality to the melody and rhythm. Because of its simplistic nature, it’s very common for beginners to get eager and pick the notes a little too hard, this will cause them to ring out sharp. So be sure to manage the strength with which you pick the notes so you stay in tune.
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
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Few bands have gone through quite the number of lineup changes and inner turbulence that Fleetwood Mac has. Nevertheless, they are still one of the best selling bands of all time with over 120 million albums sold. Of their 17 full-length studio albums, their single ‘Landslide’ was one of the most popular.
It’s a great song for both the intermediate finger-picker and the beginner (although you may want to take the tempo down a little bit while you are learning). The chord progression is quite simple. However, it involves some string skipping and requires you to pick each note clearly and accurately to sound its best.
Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton
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Another Clapton classic, and a quintessential ballad for anyone looking for something a little more mellow to learn on the guitar. Eric wrote this single while waiting for his then-wife Pattie Boyd to get ready for a party.
There is nothing too crazy happening with the progression or rhythm, so the place to focus on in this song is the dynamics. That is to say the difference between which notes to pick hard and soft. As a ballad, getting the right feel for when to pick hard or softer can bring the music to life and is a large part of what carries the emotion of this song.
Blind Guardian – The Bard’s Song
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The classic power metal titans. With epic, soaring choruses and double kick drum pedals, and even some solo folk acoustic guitar. Blind Guardian can do it all. One of their most popular songs, and certainly one that always goes over well live where the entire crowd will chant the lyrics back to the band is The Bards Song.
At first glance, this might appear technical, but do not fear! Speed is the only challenging thing about this as the rhythm and picking is very consistent and with a little practice will just roll out of your hands without any thought. It also doubles up as a great workout for your index, middle, and ring fingers as they will be carrying the brunt of the picking work.
Behind Blue Eyes by Limp Bizkit
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Limp Bizkit was part of the wave of nu-metal bands that exploded in the late ’90s and early ’20s. Combining heavy Metallica-inspired guitar riffs along with hip-hop style rapping. As the buzz around nu-metal began to wane, Bizkit, along with bands such as Korn and Slipknot managed to outgrow their roots and achieve a lasting commercial success.
Behind Blue Eyes was a song that showed a different side of the band, a classic ballad presented with a modern spin. The song might introduce you to a few interesting chords such as the suspended second and the add9. This is a great song to learn as a beginner and get some exposure to the more exotic chords.
Fluff by Black Sabbath
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Prior to Ozzy’s departure from Black Sabbath and subsequent solo pursuits, in 1973 they released their fifth studio album titled ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’. Released on a double-sided cassette (remember those?) with only 4 tracks on each side. While the release was generally in line with Sabbath’s signature sound, the song Fluff stood out as the album’s only instrumental track.
The song uses a quite simple chord progression but will have you utilizing both tempo changes and some position shifts. Affording those who are just diving into fingerpicking the opportunity to explore some interesting musical ideas. But at the same time the piece is quite short without too many sections, so it shouldn’t be too taxing!
Poets of the Fall – Late Goodbye
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While the Finnish rock group is primarily known for electric guitars and powerful drums, their single Late Goodbye became an unexpected hit with its inclusion in the popular video game Max Payne. This brought their music to the western audience and afforded them many new opportunities. Although there is another rhythm and percussion section in the song, the band will often play this as a solo fingerpicked acoustic piece.
The song is quite simple to play and is ideal for any beginner to try their hand at. The interesting thing about this song is it uses some very unusual chord voicings (the shapes of the chords you hold). Including some parts where you will play the same note on two different strings which produce a unique kind of sound.
As Tears Go By by The Rolling Stones
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One of the most well known bands to emerge from England. The Rolling Stones skyrocketed to success in the ’60s. Still active today, the band boasts over 200 million in record sales and was, of course, inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
This song is easily accessible for a beginner, there are a few big ‘jumps’ you will need to make from the first string all the way to the fifth string. You can try to utilize some good economy of motion here by only using a free finger that is already close to the string you need to play. This will make your life much easier if you get into the habit of doing this.
Brain Damage by Pink Floyd
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Pink Floyd are well known for their elaborate compositions, using elements of psychedelic music in tandem with deep lyrical concepts. They have become one of the world leaders in the progressive rock genre. But as is the norm for progressive bands, their catalog is very eclectic.
Brain Damage is ideal for a beginner to develop their fingerpicking technique as the song begins with a repeating motif which utilizes 2 chords. But as the song progresses it opens up and becomes a bit more complex. Making this a great song to undertake as a learning project as the song will demand more from you the further you get.
Don’t Cry by Guns ‘n’ Roses
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Guns ‘n’ Roses are masters at the power ballad, with Don’t Cry sitting at over half a billion views on youtube. The song has been released twice, each with different vocal sections. But instrumentally they are both the same. It’s a popular song for anyone learning both by playing with a pick or fingerpicking as it can be played with either technique.
The structure is easily memorized without any unusual chords, but it’s played quite fast, requiring you to change and hold the next chord with some speed. A good rule of thumb when holding down a new chord is to press the notes within those chords which are going to be played first, this gives you a little bit of breathing room to get the rest of your fingers down!
Road Trippin’ By The Red Hot Chili Peppers
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The Red Hot Chili Peppers, over their nearly 40-year career, have amassed an extensive catalog of music. Ranging from high energy psychedelia-infused rock, all the way to funk and punk. Their song Road Trippin’ from the 1999 album Californication departed from that, being one of the few acoustic songs to not feature drums.
This song is ideal for the intermediate player to learn, beginners can also try this too but do consider lowering the BPM of the song a little so you can get the rhythm pattern and chord changes memorized before you play it at full speed. This will offer a good challenge!
Tenerife Sea by Ed Sheeran
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At only 30 years of age, Ed Sheeran is one of the younger musicians on our list, but in this time he has amassed incredible commercial success with over 150 million albums sold worldwide. He is also the second most-streamed artist of all time on the popular music streaming platform Spotify. Needless to say, his music offers a lot for the learning musician, being interesting enough to keep you busy while still adhering to the popular music formula.
Tenerife is a great song for the beginning finger-picker as the main rhythm repeats a lot. There are some small hammer-on and pull-off parts you will need to manage as well as making sure your 3rd string is held correctly so as not to choke out the 4th string.
The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
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Despite their troubled personal relationship, Simon and Garfunkel are a powerhouse American folk-rock duo who have been able to amass 10 Grammy awards as well as an induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Now whether you are an avid fan of them or not, there’s a good chance you are familiar with their song The Sound of Silence which has been used on many movies and TV shows throughout the years.
The original song has multiple guitar parts so there is some interpretation when it comes to choosing what to play in order to fit the song on a single guitar. This affords the learning guitarist a great opportunity for some creative freedom to be playful with which notes they choose to include.