A Fingerstyle Arrangement of Tom Petty's American Girl

Lesson #438 • May 27, 2022

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

Hey there, friends! In today’s lesson I want to show you how I came up with a fingerstyle arrangement for American Girl by Tom Petty (1976). Back in lesson #113 (link) I taught how to play this song the “normal” way (i.e. with fast strumming) — but recently, when returning to the song & spending time with it, I put together this low-key, easy-going fingerpicked version which I’ll show in my video. My aim was to create something that worked well for a solo acoustic guitar, without requiring the fast strumming used in my prior tutorial. I’ll end the video with a full play-through (tabs included), so you can see how it sounds when I put it all together. I hope you enjoy!

Video timestamps:

  • 0:00 Lesson Preview
  • 0:55 Verse Fingerpicking Approach
  • 4:12 Pre-Chorus and Chorus Chords
  • 11:36 Full Playthrough w/ Tab
  • 14:12 PDF & Song Sheet Overview


Get my American Girl Song Sheet (3 pages)

Song sheet preview for American Girl by Tom Petty

I’ve updated the licensed song sheet I previously created for American Girl so it includes the fingerstyle tabs I show in this video. This song sheet also includes all the strumming notes, tabs, and chord shapes I use in my original tutorial for American Girl (lesson #113). And of course, all the lyrics & chords are shown on page #1, for easy access in case you’re performing this song — whether you’re strumming or playing fingerstyle.


My Earlier Tutorial for American Girl (Strummed!)

If you want to view my previous lesson teaching American Girl, here it is! I show you how to strum it and play it more like Petty’s recorded version. Video below, and view my full notes here if you want to dive in. Again, my 3-page song sheet linked above will work for both this version (#113) as well as my finger picked tutorial (#438).


Top Petty’s Recorded Version of American Girl

Want to hear how Petty plays it? Here you go! This is from the 1976 album Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

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A few years after learning American Girl the way Tom Petty plays it, I returned to it — this time determined to work out a low-key, easy-going fingerstyle arrangement. Here's how it went!

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