How To Play Pattern Variations Of Clawhammer Guitar Fingerpicking Technique

How To Sound More Musical, And Less Exercise Like With These Clawhammer Fingerpicking Pattern Variations For Your Guitar Playing

by Simon Candy



In a previous lesson I introduced you to what is perhaps the number one fingerpicking pattern for guitar.

Todays lesson, all about pattern variations of the clawhammer fingerpicking technique, is an extension to this lesson, so I highly recommend you check it out first, before returning here and continuing with what we will be covering today.

That being said, as great as the previous lesson is for getting the clawhammer fingerpicking pattern into your playing, and your awareness of it when used in songs, another vitally important step is needed to truly master this awesome technique.

What exactly is that?

One word, variations!

You need to be able to play variations of the clawhammer fingerpicking technique, because when it is used in songs there are differences with how it is played each time, generally speaking. These difference aren’t big, many of them nuances, however they are important.

Once you have a number of clawhammer fingerpicking variations under your fingers, you will gain the ability to ad lib with it on the spot, much like you can do with strumming. This is great when you get to this stage because you will be able to apply the technique to your playing in real time, without first having to plan it all out.

That’s true freedom as far as fingerpicking your guitar is concerned!

Variations Of The Clawhammer Fingerpicking Pattern

So let’s look at some variations we can do with this pattern so you can easily apply it to your own playing whenever you want or need, as well as recognise its use in exisiting music.

Clawhammer Fingerpicking Pattern Variation 1

One variation is to pluck two notes out of the chord at the same time. For example, you can pluck both a bass note and higher note in the chord together. I’ll refer to this as “pinching” notes:


Guitar Clawhammer Fingerpick Pattern Variation 1



In the example above I am pinching the root note in the bass and the octave of this note on the 2nd string on the first beat of the bar before continuing with the clawhammer fingerpicking pattern.

You can also pinch notes together on different beats, such as the second beat like this:





Clawhammer Fingerpicking Pattern Variation 2

For this Fingerpicking variation we will combine the pinching variation with the more involved bass pattern of 5 4 6 4 on the C open chord like so:


Clawhammer Fingerpicking Pattern Example



Clawhammer Fingerpicking Pattern Variation 3

An approach I was taking in the demo piece in the introduction of the video to this lesson, was adding extensions to the chords I was applying the clawhammer fingerpicking pattern.

This brings in a melody component and adds much interest and sophistication to your fingerpicking.

Here is an example of adding extensions to a C chord using a 5 4 5 4 bass patter:


Guitar Clawhammer Fingerpick Pattern Variation 4



And the same thing only with a 5 4 6 4 bass pattern:


Guitar Clawhammer Fingerpick Pattern Variation 5



Be sure to watch the video that accompanies this lessons for a more detailed break down of each example above, as well as the other examples presented in this article.

Clawhammer Fingerpicking Pattern Variation 4

Another variation is to change the order in which you pluck the higher strings of the chords. Instead of plucking the 3rd, 2nd, then back to 3rd string combination I have been doing throughout, I will now pluck the 2nd, 1st, then 3rd strings of the chord in-between my bass notes, like this:


Guitar Clawhammer Fingerpick Pattern Variation 6



Here is the same pattern with a 5 4 6 4 bass pattern:


Guitar Clawhammer Fingerpick Pattern Variation 7


Clawhammer Fingerpicking Pattern Variation 5

This variation sees a straight 8th note rhythm with a higher note in the chord plucked on the off beat of 1 which I have not done in any previous example.


Guitar Clawhammer Fingerpick Pattern Variation 8



And with a 5 4 6 4 bass pattern:


Guitar Clawhammer Fingerpick Pattern Variation 9



As you can see and hear, you can pick any combination of the higher strings in-between your bass notes with this fingerpicking pattern. You’ll develop the ability to just decide in the moment which strings you will pick before long at all.

What doesn’t change throughout is the bass pattern consistently falling on the beat. Remember this is a very useful reference point for you and the driving force behind the clawhammer fingerpicking pattern.

Applying The Clawhammer Fingerpicking Pattern Variations To Your Guitar Playing

Once you have worked through each of the variations above in isolation, you want to be able to mix and match them. I can’t stress the importance of working on each variation in isolation first though, as this is very important.

Having done so, have a go at playing the exercise below. This is designed to start integrating the fingerpicking variations together. This is a vital stepping stone in getting the clawhammer fingerpicking pattern into your playing so you can actually use it in a meaningful and musical way.


Guitar Clawhammer Fingerpick Pattern Variation 10



Take your time with the clawhammer fingerpicking pattern variations presented in this article. You will find the time you invest into learning them will be well worth it, as these patterns are the key to playing many fingerpicking songs on your guitar.

Check out these advanced sounding patterns for fingerpicking your guitar and take your fingerpicking technique to even higher levels in your playing.