Sometimes we want a different sound from strumming. Something perhaps a little more sparse, spacious, woven together. So, it can sometimes be nice to pick the notes of a chord one at a time, instead of strumming it. This is sometimes referred to as “playing broken chords.” The simplest way to do this is to fret a chord in your left hand and pick the notes one at a time with your right hand. Here is an example with a C chord. We pick one string at a time starting on the G string. Like this:
Try this with some of the different chords you know! Fret the chord and pick the strings one at a time starting with the G string. Nice, eh?
How does it work rhythmically?
Generally, when we use this kind of picking, we pick TWICE PER BEAT. Which means that if you are playing a song with 4 beats per bar, you will play 8 PICKS per bar.
In such a case, a bar of the C chord would make a pattern like this:
Notice it’s just the same pattern twice, which makes things a little simpler!
Try this simple approach to finger-picking on a song that you know! Try singing while accompanying yourself with this simple pattern. A challenge!
Wasn’t it called FINGER-picking?
At first, it’s easiest to pick broken chords with our thumb, the same way we pick single notes. However, if we want to play the pattern at a very quick speed, it’s not possible to move the thumb fast enough from string to string. So, that is why, for finger-picking patterns, I tend to use ONE FINGER PER STRING in the picking hand:
The THUMB is in charge of picking the “G” string.
The INDEX FINGER is in charge of picking the “C” string.
The MIDDLE FINGER is in charge of picking the “E” string.
The RING FINGER is in charge of picking the “A” string.
Try this pattern using one finger per string. WARNING: At first, it may seem harder than just using the thumb but, in the long run, it will give you more speed. That’s the plan!
There are many different patterns that we can use for finger picking. (These are sometimes referred to as finger-style patterns too. I generally use the terms finger-picking pattern and finger-style pattern interchangeably.)
I have made a little video to talk a little more about finger-picking patterns. I introduce 5 patterns for songs with 4 beats and 3 beats per bar. Please have a look. The video is below. There are some juicy sounding patterns in there.
In the video, I use the chords from “Love Me Tender” to play the different patterns. Here are the chords to the song so you can follow along:
And I just had an idea! After we go through the chords for Love Me Tender in a finger-style pattern, let’s learn to play the song in a CHORD MELODY next lesson! It’s a plan.
Here are the 5 finger-style patterns that I look at in the video.
Here is the video!
I hope you enjoyed today’s lesson! See you in a couple of weeks to do a chord melody for “Love Me Tender”.