Finger Picking Pattern 1: part 1, Dust in the Wind intro

Our first finger picking lesson features a picking pattern that has been used in a great many songs. This pattern has no name that I am aware of.

To play this picking pattern, you will use your thumb (P), index (I) and middle (M) fingers on your picking hand. ( Hand diagrams coming soon )

Look at the first tab example below. While playing an open C chord, pluck the strings using your thumb and fingers as indicated by the P’s, I’s and M’s. Notice that the first notes in each bar are plucked together by P & M while the next 6 notes are plucked individually.

Work on this slowly. Notice the tempo and rhythm I have used in this example and do your best to copy it.


Click on the diagrams for an MP3 audio example.

Play this pattern over an open C chord.



Now lets apply this picking pattern over some chords and play the intro to Dust in the Wind by Kansas. Notice that there is very little finger movement required to move from chord to chord. Just add and/or remove your 1st and/or 4th fingers to move from chord to chord.

The same picking pattern (as above) is applied over each of these chords.


Click here if you’re not sure how to read the chord blocks.




Dust in the Wind By Kansas


Click on the diagrams for an MP3 audio example.

(If the tab image is not rendering nicely on your browser, right mouse click on it and choose the save image option. Save it to your desktop and open it there. It will display just fine and you can print it for reference.)

Part 2 is available here

© Synaptic Systems Inc., 2000


  1. Mister x says

    thank you for this it was a great help!

  2. this was a wonderful lesson! thanks alot!

  3. Sixgun Dan says

    I believe this pattern is referred to as Outside-In. At least that how it was referred to when I learned it 🙂

    • Hey Dan,

      Thanks for your note. Actually, there is a name for this pattern and for the life of me I cant remember it BUT I will and I will leave that here as well.
      Outside-In was not the name but that’s a good name for this!


  4. Travis Picking

  5. Thanks, this is really helpful, although I cannot see how to get the rhythm right from looking at the tablature, I think I still got it right 🙂

    btw, isn’t this Travis picking moved up a string? 🙂

  6. Hi Falckjazz,

    Thanks for your comment 🙂

    Did you click on the tab to listen to the MP3? It should help you with the rhythm.

    In fact, I believe this is Travis Picking. This lesson has been up since about 2000. In 2004, I received an e-mail from “Raj” thanking me for the lesson. Here is what Raj had to say.


    I was looking for a tutorial on Dust In The Wind – Kansas and ran into your site.

    I am referring to the page

    You have an accurate version laid out, along with the MP3 file. The pattern used in the song is called the “Outside-In” pattern. It has been well illustrated in the book The Art of Contemporary Travis Picking – by Mark Hanson. This book is considered the bible of finger-picking, by many. He has laid the foundation for various finger-picking patterns in his book. You apparently were not aware of the name of the pattern, and so I decided to send across a mail. :o)

    Your site helped me pick up the song, thanks to the chords. I thought it’d be nice to acknowledge your efforts and also let you know the name of the finger-picking pattern.

    Warm regards,


    I did thank Raj but I never made a note in the lesson as I wanted to get a copy of the book and check it first. I have yet to do that so I can’t personally answer your question though Chris Finch may be able to.

    I also just received a comment from Mdfr saying ” Travis Picking”. Thanks Mdfr.

    Again, thanks for your comments and good luck with your playing!



  7. Chris Finch says


    From what I understand songs such as “Dust in the Wind” and “Landslide” are examples of pattern picking. For a majority of both of these songs the picking hand is executing a repetitive pattern. “Dust in the Wind” could be also known as the “Outside-In” pattern. Some guitarists may have another name for it as well.

    What I do know is that the original “Travis Picking” involves a consistent alternating bass line. In other words the thumb or pick is carrying the quarter note between two lower strings. Keep in mind there are many variations within “Travis Picking” as well.

    Its kind of a confusing topic 🙂 Here’s a video example of the basic “Travis Picking”


  8. Thanks a lot for this lesson!

  9. This is perfect…Very helpful…Thank you very much, and I look forward to seeing more of your stuff!

    Lowell (Miami, FL)

  10. Wow man thanks I wanted to play this song ever since I heard it.
    Bought ny guitar and went on the web to look for tabs and notes..
    Thanks again!

  11. I am a guitar newbie.

    I’ve accidently found your site when I was googling how to play Dust in the Wind 🙂 I am so lucky to have found your site, the content you have here is tremendously helpful and priceless. I know I will visit it daily, I need to learn the scales.

    Anyway, just wanted to say THANK YOU!

    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave me a message and also for your e-mail. I really appreciate that.
      I am so glad that you are finding these lessons useful and wish you every success in your playing!


  12. hard to learn when you have lyin eyes stuck in your head

  13. Dr. Kingmaqn says

    Thanks for the great fingerpicking lesson…Listening carefully, I was able to pick out that the bass notes are more prominent
    throughout the riff.

    Getting the correct tempo makes a world of difference!

    Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Doc!

      Always nice when folks take the time to leave a comment!

      For sure the bass notes set it up the groove 🙂

      Good luck with your playing!

  14. How about the full tab please? 🙂

    • Hi Joboto,
      Sorry, I am not tabbing it all out. The idea here is to give you what you need to learn the whole song using the lesson, AND … your ear!
      I am sure there are full tabs out there … but … use your ears 🙂

  15. Hi
    I want to thank you.
    This was a great lesson for me i have learnt so many things
    Thank you so much

  16. Savebird says

    Thank you very much
    i just learn with this song my first lesson with a professional guitarist.
    This music is very beautiful.
    great for me
    thanks for your job.

    from France

    kind regards.

  17. Hello!

    It’s a great lesson! After a week training I’m ready to try the second part!
    I’ve been looking how to play this correctly a long time, ’cause here in Brazil we have lessons but not as good as this one.

    Thank you very much!

  18. Awesome! 2018 and this article is still a great help. many thanks

    • Happy to help Zed!
      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and sorry for taking so long to see it!


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