Needless to say, fingerpicking or fingerstyle guitar playing (plucking the strings of your guitar) produces terrific sounds. But more than that, it is also a fascinating technique that every aspiring guitar player should understand and learn, regardless of style preferences.
Although it may seem intimidating at first glance, it doesn’t have to be. Master your finger and wrist dexterity from scratch by practicing fingerpicking techniques with 20 of the best songs for such purposes—tailored for beginners.
One final note before we get started: don’t forget to tune your guitar! These songs won’t sound right if your guitar is out of tune… If you need a great tuner, here’s my favorite clip-on guitar tuner (on Amazon).
Below are the The 20 Easiest Fingerpicking Songs for Beginners:
April Come She Will – Simon & Garfunkel.
There cannot be a discussion about fingerpicking without mentioning Simon & Garfunkel. Beyond exceptional performers, the duo is a quintessential reference for the use and relevance of fingerpicking in the folk-rock genre.
Although many of their highly recognizable songs could be part of this list, I chose to include April Come She Will as an example. It is an exceptionally short song with a relatively simple fingerpicking pattern that reveals a hauntingly beautiful melody.
But although the song is apt for beginners, keep in mind that its simplicity can deceive—it requires quite a bit of practice to master.
Freight Train – Elizabeth Cotten.
Even though it took over fifty years for the world to recognize Elizabeth Cotten as the author of one of the most emblematic folk songs worldwide, her influence through her magnum opus continues to shine through.
Freight Train is both an American folk and British skiffle anthem, immortalized by artists ranging from Joan Baez to Jerry García and The Quarrymen. By now, it has become a worldwide treasure, a must-know for guitar enthusiasts, and the best introduction to fingerpicking there is.
Just note that Cotten played this song in the now famous “Cotten Picking” style—as a left-handed player, she flipped her guitar and played without restringing them.
Hey There Delilah – Plain White T’s.
Released in 2006 and taking the world by storm in 2007, Plain White T’s Hey There Delilah has managed to become one of those memorable songs everyone knows about, not in small part thanks to its emblematic melody.
The recognizable acoustic fingerpicking segment is somewhat easy to master, making it an excellent choice for beginners. The main chord sequence moves from D to F#m and remains simple and easy to remember throughout.
Why Georgia – John Mayer.
As a general rule, playing a John Mayer song is no easy task. He is well-known for his technical and challenging pieces, most notoriously Neon—to the point he has had to upload tutorials for the song.
But no need to get nervous. If you want to get started on the Mayer fingerpicking technique, look no further than Why Georgia—a song that displays his composing style yet remains accessible to newcomers. It is the perfect lesson, but it still shows tricks and nuances.
Overall, Why Georgia is not the most effortless entry on the list, but an excellent one for those aiming to move to the next level as soon as possible.
Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) – Green Day.
Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) has earned its place as one of the most emblematic anthems of the 90s folk punk sound and a clear display of Green Day’s versatile portfolio and wide range.
The song highlights Billie Joe Armstrong’s distinctive vocals, accompanied by a five-chord progression and an easygoing strumming pattern. The main complication comes from the fast tempo, sitting at 190 BPM, which can be rather challenging for absolute beginners.
However, you can focus on learning the song first before picking up the pace, after which it proves to be an excellent song for newcomers.
Helplessly Hoping – Crosby, Stills & Nash.
A charming song with witty lyrics and an air of nostalgic melancholy, Helplessly Hoping is a beautiful track with profound meaning, stunning harmonies, and a perfect fingerpicking tune.
The song is not strict and allows for room to play around, making it relatively easy to strum for beginners as they learn the chords and get used to fingerpicking.
As a bonus—the song features Neil Young with contributions on the guitar, an entire album before he joined the group.
Let It Be – The Beatles.
A classic amongst classics, it would be a monumental task to find a single soul that hasn’t heard this song or recognizes its distinctive chords within a few seconds.
It is precisely because of this that Let It Be remains one of the most sought-after songs by beginner guitar players. It is not as easy as some other songs by the band, but despite its intermediate level, it is an excellent song to fine-tune abilities and practice fingerpicking.
More Than Words – Extreme.
Instead of just a single, More Than Works feels like an art display—an unparalleled excuse to showcase Nuno Bettencourt’s exquisite guitar and Gary Cherone’s harmonious vocals.
It is a one-of-a-kind soft acoustic track with a folk atmosphere that cannot be more different from the band’s previous style, but that nonetheless granted them enormous success.
The song showcases an easy-to-follow yet impressive fingerpicking technique, but it also combines strumming, string slams, and other techniques that beginners can practice in a more easygoing manner.
Landslide – Fleetwood Mac.
Written and performed by Stevie Nicks, Landslide is a profoundly personal folk-rock track. It counts with her distinctive vocals accompanied by Lindsey Buckingham’s masterful guitar, creating that perfect storm that only Fleetwood Mac can do.
This simplistic combination of guitar and voice makes this song one of Fleetwood Mac’s most appreciated tracks. In particular, the guitar is repetitive with a simple chord progression that is easy to follow by beginners interested in fingerpicking. But despite this, it has a bit of an edge that makes it challenging enough for those on the intermediate level.
Just make sure to take your time getting familiar with the chords and the finger movements, as it’s easy to get confused.
Dust In The Wind – Kansas
If you have already studied, dominated, and played Landslide, then congratulations—you are almost done with Dust In The Wind as well.
Despite being distinctively different songs, Dust In The Wind has remarkable similarities from the perspective of a guitar beginner seeking to learn to fingerpick. They also share the honor of being excellent entry-level songs.
This 1978 melancholic anthem has a basic right-hand pattern that can encourage building hand strength.
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – Bob Dylan.
Breakups and other romantic foils offer some of the most profound musical inspiration. As such, it is not surprising that the end of Bob Dylan’s relationship with Suze Rotole inspired a masterpiece such as Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.
Just one more amongst the many Bob Dylan songs suited for beginners, Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright features an easygoing chord progression that only gets complicated due to its fast-paced tempo, making it an excellent alternative for those seeking to dip their toes in the world of fingerpicking.
Country Road – James Taylor.
It is not an exaggeration to affirm Country Road is one of the best James Taylor songs for acoustic guitar. In particular, it stands out as an excellent choice for fingerpicking beginners trying to understand James Taylor’s iconic guitar playing style.
It is such a staple in guitar players’ repertoire that Taylor himself has uploaded a tutorial on how to play the song on his YouTube channel.
We’re Going To Be Friends – The White Stripes.
With a sound as sweet as its name, We’re Going To Be Friends is a soft acoustic track reminiscent of a lullaby, matching the somewhat nostalgic story portrayed by the lyrics—a young boy’s day at school.
Needless to say, it is a departure from The White Stripes’ characteristic sound at the time, but one that is welcomed and beloved—not in small part by beginner guitar players.
As a simple tune designed to sound like a children’s song, it is a perfect fit for absolute beginners. The chord progression is simple to follow, you only need to play one note at a time, and the strumming pattern is repetitive and easy.
Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton.
Bittersweet, tragic, and melancholic—Tears In Heaven by Eric Clapton tugs at the heartstrings with the same quiet strength he uses on the guitar.
The song’s simplicity enhances the beauty of the melody and lyrics, transforming it into an excellent piece for newcomers to the fingerpicking technique. However, beware that its straightforwardness betrays hidden complexities, so it is essential to go slow before daring to include percussion or other tricks.
Blackbird – The Beatles.
Written, composed, and performed by Paul McCartney, Blackbird could be about the Civil Rights Movement, birdwatching, or something else entirely. What we know for sure, however, is that it was inspired by Bach’s Bourrée in E minor, and the influence shows in the guitar style portrayed.
Blackbird is all about fingerstyle, and it is a must-try. Still, opinions are divided regarding its complexity—some believe it to be a no-go for complete beginners, so make sure to try it only after practicing the more accessible songs in the list.
Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton.
There is something effortlessly beautiful in Wonderful Tonight—something that captivates the audience the same way Pattie Boyd did to Eric Clapton as he composed the song.
The ballad is mellow and easy to follow—just five chords with a simple progression. Nonetheless, its fingerpicking style makes it sound unique and perhaps a tad bit more complex than it actually is.
Behind Blue Eyes – The Who.
Considered one of The Who’s signature songs, Behind Blue Eyes is a 1971 song that has since seen repeated success in the versions released by multiple artists, including Limp Bizkit.
The song starts as an acoustic and mellow folk-rock track, with charming harmonies and haunting vocals that shift into a more classic 70s hard rock sound near the end. Although you could use a pick to perform it, it also serves as an excellent fingerpicking track for beginners but with a dash of difficulty that makes it interesting.
You Are My Sunshine – Johnny Cash.
Although Johnny Cash’s rendition of the song is perhaps the most well-known, You Are My Sunshine is actually a 1939 song composed by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell.
Near universally recognizable, part of its everlasting popularity comes from simplicity. The melody has just five chords and a reasonably easy strumming pattern, which makes a fingerstyle arrangement a fun and straightforward experience tailor-made for newcomers seeking to show off their ever-improving skills.
Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen.
Although penned and performed by Leonard Cohen in 1984, Hallelujah saw enormous success much later, through Jeff Buckley’s 1994 cover and Rufus Wainwright’s in 2003.
The song has five easy chords and a straightforward strumming pattern that features stunning fingerpicking sounds and a slow, alluring tempo. Depending on the version, there are slight versions of the picking pattern, but the emblematic verses and chorus remain easy to follow for beginners with some practice.
Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers.
An exceptional track written and performed by Bill Withers, Ain’t No Sunshine displays breathtaking string arrangements by legendary producer Booker T. Jones. Its popularity has never waned, and it counts with many fantastic covers, including one by a young Michael Jackson a year after its initial release in 1971.
The four chords are easy to remember, and there are no complicated melodies, which makes it ideal for fingerpicking beginners.