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80 Songs to Help You Learn Fingerpicking

8 February 2024
Fingerpicking Songs

Are you looking to build up your repertoire of fingerpicking songs and simultaneously improve your fingerstyle playing? Then let me help you out!

Below is a HUGE list of 80 of some of the best-known and most-loved fingerpicking songs ever written.

The songs range from beginner (level 1) right up to expert (level 8) so whatever level of playing you’re currently at, there’s bound to be a good few songs you’d benefit from learning. And the fantastic thing is that each of these songs will teach you something new that you can apply to your general playing. If you want a challenge, why not learn them all?

Just follow the links to take you to the song lesson page where you will find in-depth video tutorials as well as the guitar TAB.

To get 25% off TABS then be sure to sign up for the newsletter. You’ll also be able to try out any of my fingerpicking courses for free, get early access to all new lessons, bonus hints, tips and fingerpicking tricks and exclusive deals.

Learning these songs has the potential to totally transform your fingerpicking. With every new song you learn, you’ll encounter a new pattern, a new technique or a new style. This will certainly propel your fingerpicking to the next level. So learn songs, (lots and lots of them) if you want your fingerpicking to get better.

 

Level 1 (Novice) Songs

Learn to play Ain't No Sunshine by Bill Withers on guitar - link to video lessons with tab available.

1. Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers)

With just three simple chords, this timeless and somber song about heartache and love is perfect for practicing fingerpicking multiple strings simultaneously.

2. Lost (Anouk)

Songs don’t get much more straightforward than this when it comes to fingerpicking, which makes it a fantastic one to learn if you’re brand new to the skill.

 

Level 2 (Beginner) Songs

Learn to play The Wind by Cat Stevens on guitar - link to video lessons with tab available.

3. The Wind

Another timeless classic with fast-moving chords and a beautiful melody. In The Wind, you’ll not only be fingerpicking but you’ll also be doing some fun strumming too!

4. Hey There Delilah (Plain White T’s)

This song uses just one simple picking pattern throughout and is a great one to learn if you’re just getting into learning your barre chords.

5. Fast Car (Tracy Chapman)

Fast Car is not just a good one for developing your picking hand skills, it’s also great for your fretting hand too as you have to make big jumps up and down the fretboard.

 

Level 3 (Beginner +) Songs

Learn to play Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel on guitar - link to video lessons with tab available.

6. Scarborough Fair (Simon and Garfunkel)

Simon and Garfunkel’s arrangement of this ancient folk song is truly beautiful and haunting. It’s in 3/4 time and the fingerpicking pattern is a really interesting one.

7. Naked as We Came (Iron and Wine)

A beautiful little song in drop D tuning. What makes this one tricky is the alternating bass line, it’s great for starting to develop your thumb independence.

8. Guaranteed (Eddie Vedder)

Guaranteed is essentially one fingerpicking pattern throughout over a gorgeous chord progression. The fingerpicking pattern is a very popular one and used in many songs so it really is an essential learning.

9. The Age of Worry (John Mayer)

The Age of Worry sounds pretty straightforward to play but being John Mayer it’s no walk in the park. Having said that, it’s great fun once you’ve cracked it!

10. Toulumne (Eddie Vedder)

A short one-minute instrumental song taken from the film Into The Wild. It uses an invaluable fingerpicking pattern over a few basic open chords. Perfect to learn if you’re not much of a singer (like me).

 

Level 4 (Intermediate) Songs

Learn to play Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton on guitar - link to video lessons with tab available.

11. Tears in Heaven (Eric Clapton)

A beautiful and tragic song about the passing of Eric Clapton’s son. Here, the bass notes work perfectly with self-accompanying chords being played on top.

12. Be Good Or Be Gone (Fionn Regan)

A lovely tune by a great singer-songwriter. A little tricky to play but it will do wonders for developing independence in the fingers of your picking hand.

13. Buckets of Rain (Bob Dylan)

A classic Dylan song you’ll just love to play. Put your guitar in open D tuning (D A D F# A D) and get plucking!

14. Cherry Wine (Hozier)

Another beautiful fingerpicked song in 3/4 time that everyone will love to hear you play.

15. Dear Prudence (The Beatles)

A Classic Beatles song from The White Album. This one is in dropped D and uses a pretty consistent fingerpicking pattern, but watch out for the slightly awkward alternating bass.

16. Detectorists (Johnny Flynn)

Taken from the hit British TV series Detectorists, this song is in dropped D and is great fun to play. You’ll love playing all the hammer-ons and pull-offs that embellish the song.

17. Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright (Bob Dylan)

Certainly, a fast-paced one that’s been covered countless times by many artists. Are your fingers up for the quick patterns and fast-moving chords?

18. Dust in the Wind (Kansas)

The perfect fingerpicking song that everyone should learn. It uses just one fingerpicking pattern throughout and is superb for developing stamina in your picking hand.

19. Everybody’s Talkin’ (Harry Nilsson)

A fast-paced fingerpicking classic from the 1960s that just makes you feel good. If you’ve managed to play Dust in the Wind then you should be OK tackling this one.

20. First Day Of My Life (Bright Eyes)

Along with some pretty fast fingerpicking there are a few strums thrown into the mix and therefore a delicate touch is required to pull off playing this song well.

21. Heartbeats (José González)

This one’s a little tricky to get under your fingers but once you do you’ll be playing it all day long!

22. Homeward Bound (Simon and Garfunkel)

Another classic here from an iconic folk duo. If you’ve learned some of their other fingerpicking tunes you shouldn’t struggle too much with this one.

23. If You Could Read My Mind (Gordon Lightfoot)

A hauntingly beautiful and timeless song. This one’s actually two guitars so it’s perfect for playing with a friend.

24. Is There Anybody Out There (Pink Floyd)

A short instrumental piece taken from Pink Floyd’s classic album ‘The Wall’. It was originally played on a classical guitar but works great on steel strings too.

25. Jenny Wren (Paul McCartney)

Together with Blackbird (number 50), this is the perfect pairing of McCartney songs you’ll absolutely love to play.

26. Jolene (Dolly Parton)

Dolly sure knows how to write a great song! The fingerpicked guitar hook in this song is so cool and great fun to play once you get comfortable with it.

27. Just Breathe (Pearl Jam)

This one more or less uses the same fingerpicking pattern that’s used in Dust in the Wind, just with a few cool variations.

28. April Come She Will (Simon and Garfunkel)

Simon and Garfunkel have so many great songs to learn if you’re a fingerpicker and April Come She Will is no exception. Lovely fast-moving chords and a great guitar intro which is trickier to play than it sounds.

29. Kathy’s Song (Simon and Garfunkel)

A real classic fingerpicking song here with a fun bouncy feel and some fun hammer-ons and pull-offs.

30. Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)

Do songs get any more beautiful than this? You just have to learn how to play Landslide, it’s a must for all fingerpickers.

31. Passenger (Let Her Go)

A huge hit in 2011 for Passenger, it was great to hear a fingerpicking song top the charts!

32. More Than Words (Extreme)

This is a great song to learn because it uses a percussive tap throughout. It’s a really useful technique to know and something covered in detail in my course The Complete Guide to Fingerstyle Guitar – Beginner Level.

33. Oh Susannah (James Taylor)

A really fun two-part fingerpicking song, perfect if you want to team up with a fellow fingerpicker.

34. Queen of California (John Mayer)

Such a cool song and for a John Mayer tune it’s relatively easy.

35. Spanish Romance (Traditional)

A beautiful piece of solo classical guitar and I’m sure you’ll be playing it for years to come once you’ve learned it.

36. Suzanne (Leonard Cohen)

Although this one’s not technically difficult to play, there are lots of twists and turns for you to navigate.

37. The 59th St Bridge Song (Simon and Garfunkel)

A great fun piece to play and, for a song that is just over a minute and a half long, it really packs a punch!

38. The Boxer (Simon and Garfunkel)

Yet another Simon and Garfunkel song, they really did write so many great songs for us fingerpickers to have some fun with.

39. Time After Time (Eva Cassidy)

Eva Cassidy’s version of Time After Time is simply sublime and it’s not just her voice that was incredible, her fingerpicking was first class too.

40. Vincent (Don McLean)

One of McLean’s best-known and most loved songs that just sounds better and better with each new year that passes.

41. Yesterday (The Beatles)

Why wouldn’t you want to learn the most covered song of all time? It’s not just a truly beautiful song but Paul McCartney’s unique style of strumming is well worth exploring.

 

Level 5 (Intermediate +) Songs

Learn to play Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotten on guitar - link to video lessons with tab available.

42. Freight Train (Elizabeth Cotten)

A real classic fingerpicking song from the the early 20th century. Many would regard Freight Train as mandatory learning for any fingerpicker.

43. Bron-Yr-Aur (Led Zeppelin)

A brilliant instrumental piece from one of the biggest bands of the ‘70s. To play this well you really have to let all the notes ring into each other,

44. Carolina in My Mind (James Taylor)

Taylor wrote this masterpiece whilst overseas and in the presence of other great writers, including McCartney and Lennon. Despite being surrounded by such an influential company, he desperately missed his home state of Carolina. What an incredible song that you’ll truly enjoy playing.

45. Don’t Know Why (Norah Jones)

I really don’t know why you wouldn’t learn this gentle and charming song from the great Norah Jones.

46. Fire and Rain (James Taylor)

James Taylor’s most successful song is one you’ll surely be playing for years to come.

47. Angeles (Elliot Smith)

This one’s a fast and furious piece full of twists and turns all over the place! Are you up for learning it?

48. Going to California (Led Zeppelin)

One of Zeppelin’s most famous acoustic songs. Get your guitar into double dropped D tuning (D A D G B D) and prepare to have a lot of fun!

49. Hey Hey (Eric Clapton)

A great acoustic blues song originally by Big Bill Broonzy. Clapton’s cover is so cool and very nifty on the fretboard.

50. Blackbird (The Beatles)

Like Freight Train and Dust in the Wind, Blackbird is another must-learn in order to turn you into a well-rounded fingerpicker.

51. Julia (The Beatles)

It was Donovon who taught John Lennon how to fingerpick in the mid-’60s and he put his newfound techniques to great use in this song.

52. Nothing Else Matters (Metallica)

This one starts out really simple but quickly progresses into a much more challenging beast.

53. One of These Things First (Nick Drake)

Drake’s style of playing was really quite unorthodox and it’s very hard to play exactly like he did. Make sure you let your strings get old and dull sounding if you want to emulate his sound.

54. Operator (Jim Croce)

Another upbeat guitar duet here from Jim Croce. Perfect if you’re going to be playing with others.

55. Road Trippin’ (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)

Taken from the band’s hugely successful album Californication, this one requires a rock-solid thumb to pull off.

56. Romeo and Juliet (Dire Straits)

This one has some tricky chord changes so it’s slightly awkward fingerpicking to get the hang of, but it sounds so great, especially on a resonator guitar.

57. Shape of My Heart (Sting)

Shape of My Heart requires good grip strength and long fingers in order to play the fingerpicked chords correctly. Give it a go!

58. Signe (Eric Clapton)

The opening track to Clapton’s MTV Unplugged album is upbeat and very fun to play.

59. Solsbury Hill (Peter Gabriel)

This one is fast-paced and very busy in the picking hand. Tricky but great fun.

60. Streets of London (Ralph McTell)

A classic fingerpicking piece that’s harder to play than it might sound. Especially when singing over the top!

61. The Heart of Life (John Mayer)

A great John Mayer song if you’re new to his style of playing. The song uses the same picking pattern throughout and is not as hard as some of his other tunes.

62. Time in a Bottle (Jim Croce)

Another guitar duo here and therefore it’s brilliant to learn if you’re going to be playing with someone else. Grab a friend and get going!

63. Who Says (John Mayer)

Another Mayer acoustic classic that uses his typical percussive tap technique.

64. Why Georgia (John Mayer)

A really fun one to play with some cool rhythms and some pretty tricky chord grips.

65. You’ve Got a Friend (James Taylor)

Classic Taylor here and straight away you’ll see just how unorthodox his approach to playing guitar was.

 

Level 6 (Advanced) Songs

Learn to play Classical Gas by Mason Williams on guitar - link to video lessons with tab available.

66. Classical Gas (Mason Williams)

Another must-learn once you reach an accomplished intermediate level of playing.

67. Cavatina (Stanley Myers)

One of the finest classical guitar pieces ever written. Certainly not for beginners and good grip strength is required for a lot of the chords.

68. Angie (Bert Jansch)

This one’s a blast. Fast, upbeat and absolutely chockablock full of all sorts of twists and turns.

69. Deep River Blues (Doc Watson)

You’ll need a truly rock-solid thumb to pull off this iconic Doc Watson song.

70. May You Never (John Martyn)

This wonderful song is full of all kinds of nuances and intricacies that will do wonders for your fingerstyle techniques.

71. Never Going Back Again (Fleetwood Mac)

A very fun but tricky piece to play. This song uses a fantastic fingerpicking pattern that doesn’t just sound amazing, it also really builds speed and strength in your fingers.

72. Stop This Train (John Mayer)

This song is well-known for using the percussive tap technique but what’s really tricky is that at the same time as you hit the tap, you also pluck a string with the back of the nail on your index finger. It’s very hard at first and requires a lot of practice.

I cover the technique in great detail in my course The Complete Guide to Fingerstyle Guitar – Intermediate Level.

73. The Entertainer (Chet Atkins)

A real crowdpleaser that everybody knows. Of course, being Chet Atkins, it’s pretty challenging to play.

74. Windy and Warm (Tommy Emmanuel)

The perfect song for really developing thumb independence.

 

Level 7 (Advanced +) Songs

Learn to play Big Love by Fleetwood Mac on guitar - link to video lessons with tab available.

75. Big Love (Fleetwood Mac)

Fill yourself up with some strong coffee before playing this one as it’s FAST and there’s no time to rest!

76. Embryonic Journey (Jefferson Airplane)

This one is jam-packed full of hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides and everything but the kitchen sink. Buckle up, it’s not easy.

 

Level 8 (Expert) Songs

Learn to play Neon by John Mayer on guitar - link to video lesson with tab available.

77. Neon (John Mayer)

Neon requires real technical skill to play but once you get the riff down you simply won’t be able to stop playing it.

78. Mister Sandman (Chet Atkins)

You’ll need some long fingers to pull off this classic.

79. The Claw (Jerry Reed)

Another 100mph song that’s not for the faint-hearted but if you’ve been fingerpicking for a while I’m sure you’ll get a lot of pleasure playing this one.

80. Cannonball Rag (Merle Travis)

The name says it all. You’ll feel like you’ve been hit by a cannonball when you first start tackling this lightning-quick song. It will do real wonders for your fingerpicking technique.

 

So there you go, that’s 80 fingerpicking songs for you to learn that you can return to over and over again for years to come.

Maybe you’ll just learn a small handful of them or you’ll set an incredible goal of learning every single song on the list, either way learning these songs truly has the potential to transform your fingerpicking so just keep learning them and keep having fun.

For your best chances of success with fingerpicking I recommend building up a great repertoire of songs and simultaneously working on improving your techniques and studying the art of fingerpicking more deeply.

Here at Six String Fingerpicking we have a whole bunch of courses for the beginner, intermediate and advanced player and they’re all designed to take your fingerpicking to the next level.

So why not sign up for one and really make your fingerpicking dreams come true? You can even try them out completely for free when you join the newsletter.

Thanks for reading and above all, just keep fingerpicking!


Author: Chris Murrin

Chris Murrin is a British guitar teacher who has dedicated his adult life to helping students master the guitar. A few years ago, in 2018, he founded Six String Fingerpicking so that he could help experienced and budding guitarists the world over to realise their fingerpicking goals.

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