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Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar Tabs

Jim Josselyn
Fingerstyle guitarist playing

Acoustic fingerstyle guitar music is a delightful, warm, natural, and uncluttered sound. There are a number of techniques inherent to the style, and good sheet music can help you learn them.

A Blues Classic

The House of the Rising Sun, an early and perhaps even medieval folk classic of unknown origin became a popular hit in the 1960's thanks to the British rock group The Animals wonderful blues interpretation. If you need help with the following sheet music, please consult LoveToKnow's guide to printables.

For fast and easy success with this arrangement:

  1. Play through the chord progression first. Get the feel and sound of the song under your fingers and in your head.
  2. House is in three-four time so make sure you are comfortable with triple meter.
  3. The top or highest note of the tab and sheet music is the melody. Play just that by itself.
  4. The bottom or lowest note is the bass line. Play that by itself.
  5. Slowly put it together. In measure six, ten, fourteen, and sixteen the high A note will require second position fingerings. Take your time and work on those transitions.

Marching on In

With the saints that is. Starting out as a slow gospel hymn in early 19th century New Orleans, this American classic became a jazz standard.

Things to consider in this arrangement:

  1. The rhythm of When the Saints Go Marching In is swing. To convey that, emphasize the second and fourth beats of each measure.
  2. Play the octaves in measures one, three, and five cleanly. There is a big skip between the strings used.
  3. In measure ten, the bass walks. Bring that out dynamically.
  4. In measures six and seven ,and fourteen and fifteen, the bass is a pedal point. Again, emphasize that.
  5. After learning this version exactly as it is, improvise with it and see what you can create.

Other Fingerstyle Tablature for Acoustic Players

The following sites also offer free tabs.

  • Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar Page - A rich resource for acoustic fingerstyle players, this website has tabs and much more, including essays, articles, reviews, interviews, reference guides, and forums. The community that participates in this website is passionate and knowledgeable about fingerstyle guitar playing, so spending time here will certainly help your playing.
  • Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar - This site has a nice collection of some Irish reels and marches tabbed out for fingerstyle guitar players.
  • Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar Studio - Browse the sidebar at the left of this blog to find tabs from a handful of artists, arranged by Brother John Morris.
  • Guitar Downunder - This is a nice collection of mostly traditional songs, including Auld Lang Syne, Greensleeves, and Waltzing Matilda, all tabbed for fingerstyle guitar.
  • Class tab - This site is as basic as it gets. It's a very plain, easy to see, and useful website full of classical guitar arrangements all in tablature.

Playing Tips for Fingerstyle Guitarists

When learning to play acoustic fingerstyle guitar using tablature, begin slowly. Your right-hand technique is crucial to making the music happen and getting to certain notes on the beat will make or break it. Keep these songs at a slow tempo until you master playing each part and then slowly increase the tempo. Listen to the great fingerstyle guitarists from early bluesmen like Robert Johnson, to singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, all the way up to classical maestros John Williams and Andres Segovia, to modern players like Tommy Emmanuel. Keep at it and keep improving.

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Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar Tabs