Fingerstyle guitar is one of those enchanting techniques that can create sonic tapestries from one guitar. As such, this technique is often employed by solo artists, allowing them to sound much bigger than one person.
If you’ve ever wanted to dip your toes into the fingerstyle world, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some of the best fingerstyle guitar songs ever written to help you get started on your journey.
“You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor
James Taylor is one of the most well-known artists using the fingerstyle technique. You’ve Got A Friend remains one of his most famous songs of all time.
This song is the perfect ode to sing to another friend, reminding them you’ll always be there for them. You’ll need a capo on the 2nd fret to play this masterpiece.
There are 2 different guitar parts that play throughout the entire song. However, you can use your ear to figure out how to assimilate them into one part for a solo performance.
“Dust In The Wind” by Kansas
When you think of fingerstyle, Dust In The Wind is likely to be the first to come to mind. In fact, in some regards, this song is just as popular today as it was when it was first released.
Dust In The Wind is a perfect song to learn if you are a complete beginner at the fingerstyle technique. Because you are probably very familiar with its music, it will make it quite easy to learn very quickly.
This song centers around some basic open chord grips, which is an added plus for beginners. Take your time to correctly incorporate that iconic fingerstyle rolling sound.
“Never Going Back Again” by Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac has a number of different famous fingerstyle guitar songs. This is largely in part thanks to the playing style of guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.
Never Going Back Again, from the Rumours album, remains a standout fingerstyle song in the band’s catalog. It’s also one of the more difficult fingerstyle songs to learn when it comes to fairly modern rock music.
This song is in drop D with a capo at the 4th fret. As with any difficult song, take it slow and be patient!
“These Days” by Jackson Browne
You might not be familiar with this powerful Jackson Browne song unless you’re a fan of his. In fact, the female artist Nico was the first to record a version of it.
These Days is a very heartfelt track that was written when Jackson was a teenager. Despite its age, it still hits into the center of the soul when played correctly.
Overall, this song is fairly difficult, so take your time and work through it slowly. You’ll need to employ a capo on the 1st fret. Jackson Browne can often be seen moving the capo up to the 2nd fret, but the underlying technique remains the same.
“Needle And The Damage Done” by Neil Young
One of Neil Young’s most famous fingerstyle songs is by far Needle And The Damage Done. You can hear this track from his smash hit album Harvest.
Needle And The Damage Done is a very serious song written about heroin addiction. While it was written in the 1970s, its message is still very much alive today (unfortunately).
For the most part, this song centers its fingerstyle patterns around basic open chord shapes. Be sure to listen to the recording to get the iconic pattern down correctly.
“Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac
Rhiannon is another smash hit by Fleetwood Mac that features fingerstyle guitar. In fact, the guitar part is the signature piece of music by which people can readily identify the song.
This song is fairly unique compared to others on this list, primarily as it features an electric guitar. Despite this, it can still sound great on an acoustic.
The tab provided breaks Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar part into 2 separate parts. If you want to play it like him, combine them into one cohesive part.
“Sultans Of Swing” by Dire Straits
Speaking of fingerstyle on the electric guitar, one cannot overlook the epic song Sultans Of Swing. Mark Knopfler continues to dazzle guitarists with his fingerstyle guitar playing on this track.
Many guitarists learn Sultans Of Swing, primarily for learning lead guitar concepts. When doing so, people often learn the song using a pick.
To get that highly expressive tone, you should learn this the way Mark Knopfler plays it. You’ll find yourself using his fingerstyle techniques in other songs throughout your guitar career.
“Angeles” by Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith proved himself to be a masterful songwriter, evoking many deep emotions others tend to ignore. With the song Angeles, he also proved himself to be a pretty great guitarist.
Angeles features extremely fast and complex fingerstyle patterns that continue to blow minds. The song stands out on the Either/Or album, as it is truly one of a kind.
Take your time and practice this song slowly, as there is a lot happening at a very quick pace. You’ll want a capo on the 5th fret when learning this song, so make sure you have one handy.
“Things Behind The Sun” by Nick Drake
If you’re unfamiliar with Nick Drake, consider this your introduction. Nick Drake didn’t enjoy major success during his short life. However, his music has been continually discovered in recent times, with legions of fans adoring his precious music.
As such, his album Pink Moon remains to be one of the best albums of all time. It features primarily just a voice and an acoustic guitar.
Things Behind The Sun is one of the more interesting tracks from the album. The fingerstyle pattern employed gives the track its mysterious sound.
“Classical Gas” by Mason Williams
Another song that is often thought of when thinking of fingerstyle guitar is Classical Gas. This song is extremely famous and is a bit of a rite of passage for guitarists.
If you can play Classical Gas, it is assumed that you possess quite a bit of skill on your instrument. In fact, this song has been covered time and again by many artists including Tommy Emmanuel.
As the name suggests, Classical Gas takes inspiration from classical fingerstyle guitar songs. The song has some iconic melodies that are forever cemented in modern music history.
“Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica
When Metallica released the Black album, they proved that they had a bag of other musical tricks beyond metal stylings. The song Nothing Else Matters is a prime example of this.
The song has an iconic intro that is perfect for those learning fingerstyle guitar. You’ll find that much of the pattern repeats throughout the song.
While Nothing Else Matters certainly is not Metallica’s heaviest song, it remains extremely popular today. Be sure to add this well-known song to your musical repertoire.
“Lonely Stranger” by Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton is often more known for his blues-style lead guitar techniques. However, he’s also a fairly accomplished fingerstyle guitarist.
His iconic Unplugged album is full of excellent fingerstyle arrangements. One of the best to learn, especially for beginners, is Lonely Stranger.
For the most part, this is based around some simple open chords and a barre chord or two. Its fingerpicking pattern is not too difficult, either, as it is mostly used for melodic chord inflections.
“Sleep” by Phish
The band Phish is more known for their sprawling freeform improvisations than anything else. However, to live your life based on this assumption, you would overlook some excellent fingerstyle songs.
One of the simplest, and most powerful fingerstyle songs in their catalog is Sleep. This is another track perfect for beginners who are dipping their toes into the fingerstyle world.
The fingerstyle picking pattern is not too difficult and can be learned by anyone. It also features similar chord shapes that are moved throughout the song.
“Fire And Rain” by James Taylor
Any finger-picking song list would be incomplete without the mention of James Taylor’s Fire And Rain. This song was a smash hit and remains to be one of the most popular songs in his catalog.
James Taylor wrote this song about a friend of his who was admitted into a mental institution. Unfortunately, his friend didn’t pull through and was never quite the same.
As such, this song is an extremely powerful song, both lyrically and musically. You’re sure to win over an audience by playing this song.
“Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s
When the Plain White T’s released Hey There Delilah, it became an instant hit. Part of this had to do with the lyrics. However, the fingerstyle guitar was a breath of fresh air in a musical landscape dominated by other types of music.
If you’re looking for an extremely simple and easy fingerstyle song to learn, don’t pass up this song. You’ll be able to master this song in no time.
Hey There Delilah has a pattern that emphasizes the bass notes using the thumb. This pattern remains constant throughout the entire song. Once you learn the pattern and the chords involved, you’ll be ready to go.
“A Lack Of Color” by Death Cab For Cutie
For those that are absolutely brand new at fingerstyle concepts, try learning A Lack Of Color. This song has a very easy pattern that centers around 2 strings.
The pattern has a bit of swing to it, giving it its signature sound. The tail end of the song features some basic strummed chords which should be easy enough for anyone to handle.
With this song, Death Cab For Cutie showed that simplicity can really provide the necessary context for a powerful song. If you play this for others, you’ll certainly gain credible recognition from other Death Cab For Cutie fans.
“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac
If you thought you saw the last of Fleetwood Mac on this list, think again! It would be a crime not to mention their smash hit song Landslide.
Landslide has become one of the band’s most popular and heartfelt ballads. The song tells a tale of how things change as one gets older. On the whole, it is something that every human faces.
To play this iconic song, you’ll need to have a capo on the 3rd fret. For the most part, the song is based on the simple open C chord shape.
“Blackbird” by The Beatles
The Beatles’ White Album remains to be one of the band’s most popular albums in the catalog. It contains many hits, but one song, in particular, Blackbird, is perhaps its most famous.
In fact, Blackbird is another one of those songs that is often first thought of when thinking of fingerstyle guitar. Many guitarists make this song one of the first fingerstyle guitar songs that they learn.
Blackbird is fairly simple for the most part. The song’s familiarity likely makes it much easier to play than some of the other songs on this list.
“Tears In Heaven” by Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton’s career saw a resurgence and some new heights in the 1990s. His success was ultimately propelled by the song Tears In Heaven.
Despite the song being a big hit for Clapton, the song actually has a depressing backstory. The song was written for his son, who unfortunately fell to his death from a window.
Tears In Heaven remains to be a popular song for learning fingerstyle guitar. The pattern isolates the bass notes and the treble notes throughout the song, emulating a piano.
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s career has seen many songs in his catalog be catapulted into extreme success. One of these songs is his hit track Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.
If you’ve ever wanted to venture into folk guitar, this song is standard fare and must be learned. It features some fast fingerstyle patterns that help give the song its sprawling folk guitar sound.
You’ll need a capo on the 4th fret to match the song’s recording. Despite its speed, the song is based on traditional open chord shapes that you are likely familiar with.
“Here Comes The Sun” by The Beatles
In the early days of The Beatles, the songwriting credits were dominated by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It wasn’t until later that George Harrison began to show that he, too, had worthwhile musical contributions to share.
One of the most famous George Harrison songs that The Beatles recorded is Here Comes The Sun. He actually wrote it while sitting in Eric Clapton’s garden.
This song features some iconic guitar parts that involve fingerstyle-picking patterns. In fact, the song just would not sound the same without it.
“The Sound Of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel
Perhaps the most famous song Simon & Garfunkel ever recorded was The Sound Of Silence. This heartfelt and tender song remains to be one of the most popular songs to emerge from the 1960s.
Interestingly enough, Paul Simon has mentioned that he found inspiration for this song in a bathroom. He used to sing in the bathroom as a child because he loved the natural acoustics of the room.
The Sound Of Silence uses a capo on the 1st fret. Its signature opening is the part of the song that features fingerstyle exclusively.
“Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman
When people think of Tracy Chapman, there are likely 2 different songs that come to mind. One of these songs is Fast Car, which features a signature fingerstyle melody.
In fact, Fast Car was the song that helped propel Tracy Chapman into the spotlight. The song comes from her debut album, which is a great entrance into the musical world.
For the most part, Fast Car is fairly easy to play. It does feature some hammer-ons which could prove a little difficult for some.
“Neon” by John Mayer
John Mayer often does not get the credit he deserves as a guitarist. Part of this is due to the fact that he’s had extreme success as a pop star.
To make this assumption would overlook some masterful guitar work. If you need proof, be sure to check out his song Neon.
In fact, if you’re looking for a fingerstyle challenge, you’ll want to learn this song. It could be one of the most difficult tracks on this list to master. There is a lot going on here, so go slow or you’re bound to end up frustrated.
“Pebbles And Marbles” by Phish
Pebbles And Marbles is another Phish song that features quite a bit of fingerstyle technique. In fact, when performed by guitarist Trey Anastasio solo (as seen in the video), you can see the song’s complexity.
This song is also played as a full band, at which the song takes on an even larger presence. Be sure to check out some of those performances to see and hear how the band changes the song.
To play this song as it is in the video, you’ll want to tune your D string up to E. Learn it slowly as there is a combination of different picking patterns throughout the song.
“Fade To Black” by Metallica
Metallica’s catalog is full of epic songs, some of which contain the best guitar solos of all time. Fade To Black is one of these songs that plays host to said guitar solos.
Aside from these solos, the song rides upon a fingerstyle acoustic guitar part. This gives the song a more heartfelt platform for the other instruments to play upon.
Looking at the song’s history, you’ll find that the song was written in response to the band’s gear being stolen. When you take this into account, the song’s emotional power makes much more sense.
“The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel
If you’re feeling defeated by some of these songs, you might make The Boxer your theme song. Granted, this song is not easy by any means, but you’ll essentially become the subject of the song.
As you might have guessed, this song does feature a boxer, but it’s one that has been continually beaten. Despite his defeats, he remains victorious for choosing to continue instead of following his whim to quit.
When you take that message to heart, you can apply it to anything in life (even fingerstyle guitar). This song is based around basic open chord shapes, but you’ll need to tune down a half step.
“House Of The Rising Sun” by The Animals
The Animals’ recording of House Of The Rising Sun remains one of the most iconic tracks of the 1960s. The most significant aspect of the song is undoubtedly the fingerstyle guitar part.
Once you hear the song’s opening line, you immediately know that it is House Of The Rising Sun. This kind of familiarity makes it an easy song to learn for beginners.
Familiarity aside, the song is based around some very simple open chords. The underlying arpeggiated fingerstyle pattern is pretty easy to master, as well.
“Cherry Wine” by Hozier
Hozier is one of the most recent artists to be mentioned on this list. He’s a solo artist who has become fairly popular in the last decade, with his songs receiving critical acclaim.
His song Cherry Wine has become a staple for fingerstyle guitarists to learn. You’ll need a capo on the 6th fret to play it like Hozier.
There is a lot going on in this song at times, so make sure to take it slowly. Much of the guitar is providing context for the lyrics to be sung. So, if you’re a singer-songwriter, this song is perfect for you to learn.
“Let Her Go” by Passenger
Passenger is another fairly new musician, exploding onto the scene with the hit song Let Her Go in 2012. The song won numerous awards and ranked at the top of the Top 40 hits chart.
Let Her Go uses a capo at the 7th fret. However, you can always lower the capo if your vocal range isn’t the same as the recording.
For the most part, Let Her Go uses very common open chord shapes. There is some complexity at times, as the guitar part matches the song’s iconic keyboard line.
“I Will Follow You Into The Dark” by Death Cab For Cutie
Death Cab For Cutie has had a long history of creating music, garnering a sort of underground following. It wasn’t until I Will Follow You Into The Dark was released that the band enjoyed massive mainstream success.
On the whole, this song is very simple and is ideal for beginners. There aren’t too many intricate fingerstyle patterns here. Rather, the song is based around chords, with fingerstyle used to connect the chord patterns.
“Signe” by Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton’s masterful Unplugged album opens up with a track called Signe. This song is an instrumental song that is likely not well-known by those who aren’t familiar with the album.
Despite this, Signe features fingerstyle throughout, against a sort of tropical-style rhythmic pulse. The song is also recorded in a duo format, making it a great song to play with another person.
As the rhythm is unique in this song, so too, is the fingerstyle pattern. Be sure to listen closely to the recording to ascertain the correct patterning.
“From The Morning” by Nick Drake
Another excellent Nick Drake song from the Pink Moon album worthy of learning is From The Morning. This is a track that perfectly emulates the rising sun and the transition of night into day.
There are a few things to note before learning this song. The first is that the guitar is tuned to BEBEBE. Another note is that the guitar uses a capo at the 1st fret.
If you haven’t already listened to the Pink Moon album, be sure to do so. It truly is a masterpiece that is likely to become a favorite.
“Vultures” by John Mayer
John Mayer is known to frequently transition between using a pick and his fingers. Quite often, he will do this seamlessly in the middle of the song.
One of his most well-known songs that features the use of fingers exclusively is Vultures. This song is played on the electric guitar, which is not traditionally what is used for fingerstyle techniques.
If you’re a fingerstyle player who also plays electric guitar, try learning this smooth track. It’s fairly simple, but just complex enough to provide you with a challenge.
“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen was a masterful songwriter whose songs have stood the test of time. By far one of his most famous is the song Hallelujah.
Since its release, Hallelujah has been covered time and again by countless artists. Perhaps the best-known cover version is by Jeff Buckley.
Hallelujah features an arpeggiated fingerpicking pattern that repeats throughout the entire song. Once you master the mechanics, you will pretty much have the song down.
“Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
Stairway To Heaven is one of the most famous songs ever released by Led Zeppelin. In fact, you’ll often find that this song is banned from being played in music stores and bars.
Despite this, Stairway To Heaven is a perfect song to learn how to play fingerstyle guitar. Over half of the song features a signature part that is instantly recognizable.
You might only be able to play this one in your bedroom, but Stairway To Heaven will build your chops. Don’t overlook this classic.
“Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” by Green Day
Green Day made their name by releasing some iconic punk-rock songs that will forever be cherished by fans. However, their track Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) totally came out of left field.
Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) is effectively a sort of power ballad. It’s found a home at high school graduations, as its lyrics seem to fit the occasion.
On the whole, this song is very ideal for beginner fingerstyle guitarists. It has a repeating pattern throughout, with the song using basic open chord shapes.
“Every Breath You Take” by The Police
Another song that was a change of pace for an artist is Every Breath You Take by The Police. This song was a smash hit for the group and features some very recognizable music.
Despite its stalker-like lyrics, Every Breath You Take is ideal for fingerstyle guitarists. For the most part, the entire song follows one picking pattern, with minimal variations throughout.
“Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.
R.E.M. had a huge following in the college-rock music scene. However, it was songs like Everybody Hurts that helped propel them into the global spotlight.
If you’re looking for a very simple (yet moving) fingerstyle song to learn, give this a try. The song features basic arpeggiated patterns on open chord shapes.
“Dear Prudence” by The Beatles
Another very famous song to emerge from The White Album is Dear Prudence. This is a track that features an iconic descending fingerstyle guitar line.
Beginners might find this song to be fairly easy to learn. Listen to the recording, as the picking pattern has quite a bit of openness that could be rhythmically problematic.
“Naked As We Came” by Iron And Wine
Iron And Wine had quite a bit of underground success as an indie-folk group. By far one of their most popular tracks is Naked As We Came.
This track features a complex tapestry thanks to the fingerstyle pattern. It might seem difficult at first listen, but the pattern itself actually stays consistent throughout the entire song.
“Behind Blue Eyes” by The Who
By far one of the most famous ballads released by The Who is Behind Blue Eyes. This track has a famous fingerpicking pattern that gives the song its iconic sound.
What’s even better is that this song also includes regular strumming. So, once you master the picking pattern, you’re well on your way.
“Why Georgia” by John Mayer
Here’s another track from early in John Mayer’s career that is sure to throw you for a loop. As with many of his songs, Why Georgia features some complex fingerpicking with some difficult rhythmic stylings.
Listen to the recording to ensure you get the timing right. Also, try to incorporate Mayer’s rhythmic slaps.
“Road Trippin’” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Californication album remains one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ best albums on a front-to-back basis. This album saw the return of guitarist John Frusciante to the lineup, which probably helped.
Road Trippin’ comes from this album and features some interesting fingerstyle patterns. It is fairly easy to play but can be a little difficult on the rhythm front.
“Oh, Susannah” by James Taylor
James Taylor has been featured throughout this list, as many of his songs are fingerstyle oriented. Oh, Susannah is another track of his that features fingerstyle throughout.
Believe it or not, this song is actually an old traditional folk tune, having been written in the mid-1800s. Taylor manages to make the song his own with this recording.
“Street Spirit (Fade Out)” by Radiohead
Radiohead are masters at involving fingerstyle guitar to invoke their iconic pensive feeling into songs. One of the best examples of this is with the song Street Spirit (Fade Out).
You’ll find that this song has a fairly unique fingerpicking pattern. Despite this, the pattern remains fairly consistent throughout the entire song.
“Stop This Train” by John Mayer
Stop This Train is yet another John Mayer song featuring a fingerstyle pattern worthy for advanced players. This song effectively employs a combination of fingerstyle and slapping strums to emulate the sound of a train.
If you attempt to learn this song, be sure to start out slow. The signature sound of this song is hinged on its unique fingerpicking pattern.
“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” by Led Zeppelin
This track, from Led Zeppelin’s first album, remains one of the most popular fingerstyle songs in the classic rock lexicon. As this album was released in 1969, it stands as a testament to this song’s effectiveness.
For the most part, the entire song follows one specific pattern, with the exception of one ascending section. Any guitarist is sure to have fun learning this classic track.
“Hey Hey” by Eric Clapton
As you’ve seen by now, Clapton’s Unplugged album is chock full of worthwhile tracks to learn on guitar. The song Hey Hey is perfect for any fingerstyle guitarist looking to add a bluesy track to their repertoire.
This is a fast-moving song with quite a bit of complexity throughout. The song is driven by a pulsing bass note throughout the fingerstyle pattern.
“Going To California” by Led Zeppelin
With their 3rd release, Led Zeppelin showed a bit of a softer side. One of the most famous tracks from this album is by far Going To California.
This song features a fingerstyle guitar accompanied by a mandolin to achieve its iconic sound. You might become a bit frustrated if you expect this song to be easy, so take it slow.
“Julia” by The Beatles
Want to add an easy fingerstyle song by The Beatles to your repertoire? Be sure to learn their classic song, Julia.
This song is built upon a fairly minimal fingerpicking pattern. As such, its openness makes it prone to inviting rhythmic errors, so match it up to the recording.
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver
If you’re looking for a song that is sure to induce a singalong, learn Take Me Home, Country Roads. This track remains to be one of John Denver’s most famous songs.
For the most part, this song is based on very simple open chords. However, it can be easily played into an all-encompassing fingerstyle arrangement that fans of the song will enjoy.
“Mister Sandman” by Chet Atkins
Any fingerstyle list would be remiss without mentioning the fingerstyle master himself, Chet Atkins. His rendition of the classic song Mister Sandman is perfect for the advancing fingerstyle player.
Let’s be clear here, learning this song is not for the faint of heart. There is a reason why Chet Atkins is revered as one of the best of all time.
“Homeward Bound” by Simon & Garfunkel
Simon & Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound is perfect for the beginner fingerstyle player. It features a very simple pattern that can be easily learned within a few minutes.
“Blowin’ In The Wind” by Bob Dylan
Fans of folk music must learn Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind. It’s a true staple within the genre, with lyrics that are absolutely timeless.
This track features a combination of fingerpicking and strumming. So, if you’re primarily used to strumming, this will make a great bridge into fingerstyle.
Best Fingerstyle Guitar Songs, Final Thoughts
The fingerstyle guitar technique really does allow for an artist to display their compositional skills. As you’ve seen, there are many different patterns employed when using this technique.
If you take the time to learn these songs, you’ll be on your way to fingerstyle mastery. Don’t forget to write some of your own songs using this fun and sonically enthralling technique.
Last Updated on April 12, 2022.
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