5 of My Favorite Fingerstyle Guitar Pieces to Play – Part 1

Are you familiar with fingerstyle guitar playing? If not this will be a great post for you, if you are I think you'll still enjoy it immensely.

So, I thought I'd share some of the fingerstyle guitar pieces that I actually like to play regularly and are staples for me over many years.

While I already did a 1-hour guided YouTube tour of great fingerstyle guitar players, this post is much more personal, so I hope you enjoy it. This will be the first in a 2 or maybe 3 part series.

Wherever I could I used video of the actual artist playing the piece. I also tried to provide links to free tab, or if no free tab was available then I provided links to paid tab. I hope you find some gems in here. I tend to like slightly quirky music that's intuitive and fun to play, so I think these pieces fall into that category. Enjoy!


dr auten acoustic paintings span31 5 of My Favorite Fingerstyle Guitar Pieces to Play   Part 1

Angela – by D.R. Auten from Acoustic Paintings

I tried to find a video of Auten playing this but didn't. None of the covers I saw came close to sounding the way he plays it. He rips through the piece, so I've included an audio only recording of his recording. I love that you can't tell where this piece is going. It's unusual but familiar sounding at the same time. There's a great section that sounds like spy music. This is an advanced piece.

Standard tuning.

Tab: Transcribed in a back issue of Fingerstyle Guitar. Issue #11.


Eric Johnson Ah Via Musicom 31 150x150 5 of My Favorite Fingerstyle Guitar Pieces to Play   Part 1

Song for George – by Eric Johnson from Ah Via Musicom

Just an incredibly tasteful piece of southern fried blues. As usual full of Eric's great melodies. This is a piece of music that took me a long time to learn the whole thing. I had learned most of it and just played that for years, and finally learned the breakdown near the end that I had skipped. It has some tricky syncopation. I never get tired of playing this.

Tuning with E strings dropped to D. (D A D G B D)

Tab: Song for George


Sunny Side of the Ocean – by John Fahey from Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death

This is a classic Fahey composition. Somewhere I read, maybe in the liner notes, that Fahey wrote this when he was 20 or so and it was one of his first pieces. He played it for his dad and his dad said that he liked it. Fahey held this song in high regard because it was implied that Fahey's father didn't approve of much. This takes medium skill.

Open G tuning (D G D G B D).

515AKYK58YL1 150x150 5 of My Favorite Fingerstyle Guitar Pieces to Play   Part 1

Tab: On the Sunny Side of the Ocean

Video Lesson: On the Sunny Side of the Ocean


John Fahey comp Oxenham and Burleigh Joh 31 150x150 5 of My Favorite Fingerstyle Guitar Pieces to Play   Part 1When Kings Come Home – by Peter Lang from John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Peter Lang 

This is a majestic piece with some slight touches of avant-garde. If you like zoning out into a moody piece of music I find this one works well. A beginner could play this, though there's a few tricky spots so more of a medium skill piece.

Open D tuning. (D A D F# A D)

Tab: Long out of print and I couldn't find it anywhere online. It's in open-d though. If someone wants to the tab for this I can scan it. Just leave a comment below.


41KVQKD6Q3L. SL500 AA300 1 150x150 5 of My Favorite Fingerstyle Guitar Pieces to Play   Part 1Last Steam Engine Train – by Leo Kottke from Green House

This is a traditional piece that Leo adds his touch too. It's originally a banjo piece and played very quickly. Just fun to rip through. Of this set this is probably the most impressive if you're trying to wow an audience. This is an advanced piece. 

Standard tuning.

Tab: Last Steam Engine Train


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe below to get free email updates!

pixel 5 of My Favorite Fingerstyle Guitar Pieces to Play   Part 1
 5 of My Favorite Fingerstyle Guitar Pieces to Play   Part 1

About Michael Jae

Michael is a guitarist of over 18 years and has taught lessons, played in front of live audiences, and wrote and recorded his own acoustic fingerstyle albums. He’s especially fond of playing classic rock, heavy metal, classical guitar, and fingerstyle acoustic guitar in the style of Leo Kottke and John Fahey.




  1. This is one good post for those who are learning guitars and for those who wants to learn. Great one!

  2. Great playing, all of them. As a player I can really appreciate the complexity of these songs. You know there was a ton of wood shedding going on to get to this level!

  3. Thanks for these videos. There’s something about the sound of a well-played guitar that can be very healing.

  4. Hi, I would greatly appreciate a scan of the tab for Lang's "When Kings Come Home", I would love to get this song down for my own mother.  Thanks for this page also!

  5. Steven Faraday says:

    I would like to receive the tab for "When Kings Come Home."

  6. I appreciate your sharing your five picks. You must have selected them in part because they are good melodies for learning. Can you suggest a song from the Spanish music genre? I once heard a six string concerto on a classical music radio station and it was so passionate that it made me want to learn to play the guitar. Here I am twenty years later and still wanting to learn. I think the name was something like Fandango. If I wasn’t clear, please make some suggestions for tango style or Spanish songs which feature the guitar.

  7. I have a few friends that play the guitar that I am going to share this link with, I think they will get a lot out of it. I don’t play the guitar but this was beautiful music and I can’t wait until you get the scanned links up and running so I can hear more. Thanks for putting all the hard work into this site you did a great job.

  8. I’d like to take your generous off to scan the tab for When Kings Come Home. Thanks much!


  9. Mark Mesaros says:

    Great article, Michael. Big Fahey fan myself. I’ve recently discovered that Peter Lang composition you’ve mentioned and it’s perhaps the only song of his that I really dig (pretty underwhelmed by his debut album even though it’s full of great ideas). If you could send me a scan of that tab I would be eternally grateful. It SOUNDS fun to play! Thanks!

    • Michael Jae says:

      Hey Mark, thanks for the note. That Lang song is very fun. It’s very intuitive and yet kind of complex in character, hard to explain but it’s my favorite Lang track. Okay, I’ll get you the scan in the next few day. Funny, I just took out the tab for it about 2 days ago because there was one or two parts I couldn’t remember well enough anymore. :)

      • This is an awesome list. I really like the fahey piece and I would really appreciate it if anybody could scan me a copy of that.


  10. Hello, Michael! I just wondered if it’s still possible to get a scan of “When Kings Come Home” tab. I’ve enjoyed this song for a long time, but it was a while since I last listened to it. Today I found it on my old playlist and couldn’t resist but search for a tab. :) Would be great if you could help out…

  11. Hi Michael, awesome choices. For some reason I find Angela amazing, there’s such a haunting feel to it, it’s my favorite of these 5 songs by far. Anyway, could you please send me the tabs for “When Kings Come Home”, and also, is there any other source for the Angela tabs? I can’t find that #11 issue anywhere. Much less here in Peru. And I’m certainly not skilled enough to learn it by ear :(

  12. I ran across this post looking for Open D finger style tabs. I saw that a couple folk offered to scan the tabs they had for When Kings Come Home. Any chance that happened and you have a copy laying around you could share? Pretty please?

  13. Hello! This is an old piece so you may not see this, but I would love to get ahold of the tabs for “When Kings Come Home.” Would it still be possible to get them? Thanks either way, this article is great!

  14. Hi Michael, great choices- I realised I am lacking the tab for When Kings Come Home and hope i can get scans from you

  15. planetarymike says:

    Hi all, for those looking for the tab for “When Kings Come Home”, it was printed in /20th Century Masters of Fingerstyle Guitar/ . The book is out of print, but with some googling you can find a PDF of the whole book online.

Say What's On Your Mind...