Stevie Coyle is one lucky bum. His dad ran a radio station in southern California and brought home all the promo LPs that didn't fit the Spanish-language format. The Ventures’ Guitar Freakout, The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett, and Alvin and the Chipmunks Play The Beatles's Hits all came home on a single fateful day.
It didn't hurt, either, that string-meister David Lindley played in a bluegrass band that rehearsed right next door and gave Stevie his very first lessons, or that his dear Granny was a pianist in the heyday of vaudeville and that his sainted mother was a whiz in mandolin orchestras during the 1930s.
Not even several years of playing Folk Masses every Sunday could quash his musical spirit, and in high school he began fingerpicking, inspired—as so many were— by the first Hot Tuna album.
After securing degrees in Theatre and Theology at Santa Clara University he hit the road for three years with the Royal Lichtenstein Circus, doing comedy, magic, wire-walking, sword-swallowing, unicycling, juggling, and rola-bola and working with dogs, cats, birds, bears, monkeys, horses, and even house-cats.
Once back home, he signed on as actor and stage manager/actor for the San Jose Repertory Company, and announced orca, dolphin, sea lion, water ski, lion, tiger and elephant shows at Marine World/Africa USA.
He and his dear satirist friend Roy Zimmerman have worked closely in several collaborations over the past 25 years, including folk tribute/parody band the Foremen and comedy duo the Reagan Bros. That chapter took him to Los Angeles, briefly, and while there, Stevie appeared on Cheers and in many television commercials and voiceovers, and had a regular role on the Young and the Restless, which was utterly subsumed by the then-daily broadcasts of the interminable Iran-Contra hearings.
Safely back in the Bay Area, he continued his acting career, doing commercials, radio, voiceovers, and films and played in folk duos the Frontmen and the Back Room Boys. In 1999 Stevie co-founded the Waybacks and toured steadily with them from 2001 through 2007. He toured solo nationwide from 2008 to 2012 and in 2009 released his first solo LP Ten-In-One, a nice polite fingerstyle guitar record that somehow went feral and turned into a whole concept album, with full-band arrangements, plots and subplots, a woebegone protagonist and a cast of musical guest-greats, including Mike Marshall, Phillip Aaberg, Kit Walker, Kendrick Freeman, Sam Bevan, Teresa Tudury, Corinne West, Hank Roberts, Rich DePaolo, and producer Walter Strauss. The very day after he decided to stop touring an opportunity came up to open his own high-end acoustic guitar shop. That newest adventure is Mighty Fine Guitars, in Lafayette, CA. mightyfineguitars.com
Fingerstyle Guitar Course Overview
Watch the video above for a taste of what you’ll learn in Stevie Coyle’s Fingerstyle Guitar course.
The Beatles’ classic makes a great fingerstyle guitar piece. Learn how to get an alternating bass going and find the melody on the treble strings. With Notation/Tab
Fingerstyle Guitar Lessons
A subscription to Fingerstyle Guitar includes:
More than 30 extensive Fingerstyle Guitar video lessons
New lessons added every month
20 complete songs to play
Notation and tablature for all lessons
Lessons on the C-A-G-E-D system and learning the fingerboard
High-quality video with multiple camera angles so you can see closeups of both hands in action
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FINGERSTYLE BASICS Learn the basics of fingerstyle guitar with these introductory lessons, including how to assign fingers to strings, some simple accompaniment patterns, an intro to Travis-style (or alternating-bass picking), and more.
Picking-Hand Technique Learn to assign specific fingers to strings: index, middle, and ring fingers to the top three strings, and thumb to the bass strings. You’ll also learn to focus on your right hand rather than your left to keep your fingerstyle momentum going, and get great advice on tone production.
Accompaniment Patterns Learn simple fingerstyle accompaniment patterns for basic chord shapes. You’ll learn the basic alternating-bass pattern and a Carter-style thumb/brush pattern, and how to use them both to play the chords to the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song “Teach Your Children.”
Travis Picking Learn to make your thumb’s alternating motion automatic and then add a pattern with your middle and index fingers. You’ll also learn about palm muting, which gives your bass notes a percussive, muted sound.
Dropped-D Tuning Dropped-D tuning is a great alternate tuning for beginning fingerstylists because it gives you two low D notes on which to practice your alternating bass. You’ll learn to play the melody to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” while playing a steady alternating bass.
FIRST FINGERSTYLE TUNES Once you’ve started to become comfortable with the basic fingerstyle technique, you’ll learn to play some great fingerstyle guitar songs, from Beatles songs to traditional favorites like “Deep River Blues” and more.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps The Beatles’ song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” makes a great beginning fingerstyle guitar piece. You’ll learn how to get an alternating bass going and find the melody on the treble strings. You’ll also learn some new chord shapes that allow the melody notes to ring together and get advice on how best to finger some of the chords to get all the notes to ring cleanly.
Here Comes the Sun George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” is one of the most popular songs to play fingerstyle. It’s played with key of D shapes with the capo at the seventh fret. You’ll learn the verse, chorus (with its signature “three feel” and repetitive three-note riff with moving bass), and bridge (the “sun, sun, sun, here it comes” part).
The Whirling Dervish French fingerstyle guitarist Marcel Dadi’s tune “Le Derviche Tourneur” (“The Whirling Dervish”) is a great pull-off workout. You’ll learn the whole piece and get advice on how to play clean pull-offs, as well as how to use palm muting to give your bass notes a percussive pop or thud, and make the sound of the bass notes distinct from the ringing melody notes.
Deep River Blues This fingerpicking blues classic comes from the great Doc Watson. It’s a blues in the key of E in standard tuning and begins with a couple of distinctive chord positions up the neck: E7 and Edim7. You’ll also learn a few ways to play the turnaround at the end of the blues form.
Freight Train There is no more well-known fingerpicking piece than “Freight Train,” which comes from Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten. It is played in the key of C, with just four chords (C, G7, E, and F). You’ll learn the basic tune as well as a number of variations with more slurs and melody notes occurring on the ands of the beat, as well as a more complex alternating bass and variations that include blue notes, banjo rolls, and sliding sixths.
LEARNING THE FINGERBOARD To learn and explore the guitar fingerboard, Stevie uses the C-A-G-E-D system, a method that is particularly helpful to fingerstyle guitarists.
The C-A-G-E-D System Using the C-A-G-E-D system of chord shapes, you can find useful chord shapes up the neck (as well as extended chords like sixth and ninth chords) that allow you to play variations up the neck on tunes you know in open position. Stevie explains the system and then shows you how to play some variations on “Deep River Blues” that are derived from different chord shapes.
Finding Chord Voicings with “The Shape” In this lesson, Stevie talks about a method for finding chord voicings anywhere on the neck using what he calls “the shape.” Stevie shows you “the shape” (created by the fingers in a chord where the root (1) and third (3) are on adjacent strings), how to find intervals on the guitar from the shape using the major scale, a handy way to play the major scale that you can move anywhere the neck, and how to intervals as they relate to the root and the third (“the shape”). He also gives some cool practical applications of “the shape” in the key of E.
FINGERSTYLE ACCOMPANIMENT Fingerstyle is of, course, used to accompany songs as well as play melodies and cool instrumental pieces. In this lesson, you’ll learn different ways to accompany yourself using the fun song “Compadres in the Old Sierra Madre.”
MORE FINGERSTYLE SOLOS Explore a variety of fingerstyle arrangements, including originals from Stevie, Bach, contemporary fingerstyle gems, and more.
Compadres in the Old Sierra Madre Learn an instrumental arrangement of “Compadres in the Old Sierra Madre,” playing the melody up the neck, using chord shapes derived from the C-A-G-E-D system.
Cousin Sally Brown In this lesson, you’ll learn something a little different: the melody to the old-time fiddle tune “Cousin Sally Brown” played “harp style,” with some fretted notes up the neck and some open strings, so the notes all ring into one another for a harp- or hammer dulcimer-like sound.
Both Sides Now This arrangement of the Joni Mitchell song “Both Sides Now” comes from Chet Atkins. It's in G6 tuning, with a steady alternating-bass pattern, mostly on the fifth and fourth strings, and a few tricky fingerings.
In My Life The Beatles’ “In My Life” makes a great fingerstyle guitar tune. Stevie shows you his arrangement, in the key of D, including some new ways to finger some of the chords to let the melody notes sustain into each other and allow you to move to the next chord more efficiently.
Saltflat Rhapsody Stevie’s original “Saltflat Rhapsody” is a fun fingerstyle tune that uses the fretting-hand thumb to play many of the bass notes. It has a regular alternating bass and some Merle Travis and Chet Atkins-influenced voicings in which you play higher notes on lower strings, for a ringing, chimey effect.
Walking in the Air The tune “Walking in the Air” comes from the 1982 film The Snowman, which has become a holiday favorite. It has three parts, mostly in the key of Am, and it’s played in dropped-D tuning.
622 Learn Stevie’s original “622,” a fun instrumental tune in dropped-D tuning. It’s mostly in the key of D major, although the third part goes to D minor for a while, and it uses a number of C-A-G-E-D-based shapes up the neck, particularly the A-shaped D chord.
Bourrée in E Minor Johann Sebastian Bach’s Bourrée in E Minor, the fifth movement of his Suite in E Minor for Lute, has become popular far outside the classical world, with Jethro Tull’s 1969 jazz/rock version springing it on an unsuspecting public and making it a must-learn piece for guitarists of all stripes. You’ll learn a jazzy arrangement of “Bourrée,” including the more complex second part.
Microphone Fever Fingerstyle guitarist Rick Ruskin’s great tune “Microphone Fever” has a lot of activity in the fretting hand, with slides, pull-offs, hammer-ons, and even some cool Telecaster-style string bends. Stevie gives you great advice on supporting the string bend with your other fingers, playing a hammer-on in the fretting hand while picking a bass note, anticipating notes, fingering bass notes with the thumb, playing with dynamics, and more.
Mr. Oster’s Baby Stevie’s original tune “Mr. Oster’s Baby” is in the key of F, capoed up to the second fret to make it easier to play the low F note with your thumb. F is an unusual key of fingerstylists. You’ll learn to play the alternating bass on the F and Bb chords with palm muting, while allowing the top strings’ melody notes to ring out.
Bosch Butt Music 500-plus years ago, Hieronymous Bosch painted “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” which includes a piece of music tattooed on the naked posterior of a man upended beneath a musical instrument. The music was transcribed recently, and now you’ll learn it in Stevie’s arrangement. It’s in dropped-D tuning, capoed at the seventh fret, which makes it sound very mysterious, with lots of long tones and melody notes sustaining into each other.
Two of Us The Beatles song “Two of Us” makes a great fingerstyle song in standard tuning in the key of G. It mostly uses alternating bass but there are some places where you stop the alternating bass to play sustained chords and the bass lines the Beatles used.
My Walking Stick The Irving Berlin song “My Walking Stick” was made popular among guitarists by Leon Redbone, who recorded the song played fingerstyle on his 1975 debut On the Track. In this lesson you’ll learn Stevie’s version of Leon’s version. It’s in the key of A minor in standard tuning and includes a couple of voicings of a diminished seventh chord.
Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor Mississippi John Hurt’s version of “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor” is a fingerpicking classic. Stevie’s version is influenced by Doc Watson and others. It’s in the key of E and features a few unusual chord voicings, including a couple of diminished chords, as well as a G#7 and F#7.
Suzanne The great singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen passed away last year. One of his early hits was “Suzanne,” a song that inspired Stevie in his early days of fingerstyling. You’ll learn Stevie’s arrangement in this lesson, which includes a cool fingerstyle pattern over the first long G chord, and then arpeggiated patterns over the Am, Bm, and C chords.
Don’t Fear the Reaper The chord progression from Blue Öyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” is also used in rock songs like “All Along the Watchtower” and many more. In this lesson you’ll learn some cool variations on alternating bass fingerpicking and fingerstyle accompaniment using the progression and main melody from “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”
BACK TO BASICS In this lesson, Stevie reviews some basic fingerstyle concepts, which is important for any level of guitar player to do now and then. He talks about the idea in alternating bass thumbpicking that any melody note will be either a pinch (played at the same time as a bass note) or “not a pinch” (played between bass notes), and gives you a few simple exercises to practice playing notes in different parts of the measure. He also talks about finding melodies on the guitar by singing a melody and looking for the notes within the chord you’re playing, then figuring out where it is in the measure and whether it’s a pinch or “not a pinch.”