How to arrange a song in fingerpicking style -

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How to arrange a song in fingerpicking style

Tips and tricks

Tips And Tricks

Many students ask me how I create fingerpicking arrangements from songs with only melodies and chords. The answer to this question is a little complex. In the final analysis much is dependant upon the experience of the individual creating the arrangement and their knowledge of the instrument.
Let's start with a very simple song and follow it's development  in order to obtain a pleasing arrangement with an alternating bass.


We'll start with a simplified version of the traditional "Buffalo Gals, accompanied by only two chords.

In the key of C Major, it would look like this:

How to arrange a song in fingerpicking style, tab 1

Some notes of melody are played at the fifth fret. Let's say we want to make the whole song in the first three frets in order to create the simplest accompaniment possible.

First we transpose the melody in a key that allows us to play all the notes in first position. After several attempts with various keys we realize that the key of G works well for our song:

How to arrange a song in fingerpicking style, tab 2

The key of G is the easiest and most complete on the guitar. Other keys to try are C, E, A and D. We may be able to play the whole melody in first position in one of these keys.

Once we have found the right key we are ready to insert the alternating bass accompaniment.

For each chord there is an accompanying bass pattern. This is an alternating bass pattern (played with the thumb) that can be used easily.


For G major the pattern is:

fingerpicking pattern G chord

For the D7 chord the bass pattern is:

fingerpicking pattern D7 chord

By combining the two tabs we get one that contains both the melody line and the alternating bass accompaniment simultaneously!

Our result:

How to arrange a song in fingerpicking style, tab 5

Our arrangement is ready.

Obviously this example is particularly simple, but it's the process that's important. Here are a few complications you will undoubtedly run into with other songs.

1. More chords
             For any new chord it is possible to find the right alternating bass accompaniment, here are some examples:

fingerpicking pattern C chord
fingerpicking pattern E chord

2. Sometimes you just can't play the whole melody in first position. There are notes that play on the fourth string or on high frets:

In this case we must find particular solutions on a case by case using the experience of the musician. This will be the subject of another lesson.

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