“PIMA” (or “TIMA”)

PIMA is an acronym that stands for:

P = Pulgar = Thumb
I = Indice = Index finger
M = Medio = Middle finger
A = Anular = ring finger

What is important about this is that this acronym is a basic guide into fingerpicking based on the same concept of “Eat A Darn Good Breakfast Early” (EADGBE) and the color wheel/rainbow of “ROY-G-BIV” (Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet).

There’s a general rule in solo fingerstyle playing, especially in classical, that you don’t use the same finger twice, apart from the thumb. When two consecutive notes are on the same string, you usually alternate between i, & m or m, & i.

This is really a general rule about fingerstyle accompaniment, rather than solo fingerstyle. In fingerstyle accompaniment, you are mostly playing chords and always changing the string, so that rule about using a different finger for each of the upper strings works well.

For now, we don’t have to focus too much on this idea, but I want to introduce you to it because it allows you to play ANY note on the fretboard for practice in your own personal studies. Using PIMA will allow you to create your own exercises without having to stare at tablature. I will be supplying you with the tablature, but also an overall legend using PIMA.

It is also called TIMA, but that is only because the “T” stands for thumb instead of “P” for ‘pulgar.’ Since PIMA is a much older acronym, we’ll be using it, as it will probably appear as PIMA in your future studies.

Basic Legend:

Here we have a basic legend that uses PIMA. Notice that all “P’s” are on the Low E string, followed by the next series of letters. The “i, m, a” just change string placement.

You will recall that we’ve talked about the difference between arpeggios and actual fingerstyle guitar, where arpeggios are individual notes played out, and sometimes fingerstyle guitar uses more than one individual note WITHIN an arpeggio, right?

For the purpose of this series of basic exercises, we are going to use PIMA in the form of arpeggios, and then add to it with fingerstyle.

Other Examples:

Mixed Patterns

This mixed pattern set still uses the PIMA, but in various order. This example proves that the acronym can be adjusted accordingly.

Classical Guitar

This is a very common pattern in classical guitar. It still uses the acronym, but really enhances your picking hand movement.

Blocked (Flutter) Patterns

This is what you will probably be most familiar with. It’s based on the ‘boom-chuck’ that is so common in classical/fingerstyle guitar.

But Wait A Minute

Did you notice that using PIMA completely eliminates the use of your 4th finger or ‘pinky’ finger? There are two reasons for this:

1. Though the pinky (4th) finger is actually the STRONGEST finger on your hand ( I know, it seems strange, but it’s based on the muscle structure of your hand) it is rare that you use it solely to play a note. We’ll try to change that a little, because when you get into work by Tommy Emmanuel and Chet Atkins, not only will you have a need to use your 4th finger at times, but you’ll probably wish for once you had another set of fingers to work with!

2. The general rule with PIMA is a basic guideline and the 4th finger many times is ‘nested’ using the C-cup formation we’ve already talked about.

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