The Most Basic Fingerstyle Guitar Rhythm

Sami Ghawi  /  Lessons UPDATED Aug 19, 2022

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There are plenty of different rhythm guitar styles out there that all use a slightly different technique. In this lesson, we’re joined by Guitareo Coach Sami Ghawi for a quick tutorial on the most basic fingerstyle guitar rhythm. With his appropriately-named “thumbs-up” technique, you’ll learn how to play in the style of many classic country and folk guitar players. Sami uses a nylon-string guitar in this video, but this technique can be played on a steel-string acoustic or even an electric guitar!

The Thumbs-Up Technique
Start off by putting out your strumming hand and making a thumbs-up. Then take that shape and place your thumb parallel to the low E and A strings on the guitar. Your fingers should be in a position where you can now place your index, middle, and ring fingers onto the D, G, and B strings. This is going to be your home base for this technique. You’ll use your thumb to play the lower two strings and your fingers to play the remaining four.

Your thumb should be extended and you can drop your wrist down onto the bridge of the guitar. This will act as your anchor point and help you to have some more precision. Once you’re in position, you can use your thumb to pluck downward on the low E string while your fingers should pluck inward towards the palm of your hand. You can do this all in one motion or break it up depending on the rhythmic pattern you’re going for. 

Putting It All Together
A good example of a song where you can use this technique is Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash. You will need to add in some alternating bass by using your thumb to go back and forth between the E and A strings. Depending on the chord you’re playing, this alternating pattern can be reversed to emphasize a chord with its root on the A string as well. Including your pinky finger or moving your fingers up to the highest three strings allows you to access every string on the guitar pretty easily. Add this new fingerstyle technique to your practice routine and you’ll have it down in no time!

Get your 36% discount on Sami’s course Rhythm & Groove until August 31st

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