Learning to pick out individual notes while playing rhythm guitar is a great skill, and one of the best ways to learn to do that is by playing picked fingerstyle. Sounds good and is lots of fun. You will find with just a little practice that you develop the skill of being able to play individual notes while you strum.
Bass on 1
Most commonly the note played on beat 1 is a bass note. Sometimes the base note is repeated on beat 3. You might find it interesting that we play the bass notes on beat 1 and 3 which other beats that the drummer would normally play the kick drum (the big drum played with a kick pedal). We also tried to replicate the drums with our percussive snare hit in rhythm guitar. If you combine the two techniques and play a bass note on beat 1 and 3 and a snare drum on beats 2 and 4 you really end up being a drummer stuck playing guitar! :)
But let's start by checking out this very common picked finger style pattern. The bass note will change depending on which chord is being played but the rest of the pattern remains the same and on the same strings.
With the 5th string root it will be (just seen it should say Example 2...):
Here's another common pattern where you play the bass note on beats 1 and 3. The notation is wrong for this but the tab is right. Must have been very tired the day I did these tabs lol.
Usually the pattern will remain the same or very similar between the bass notes. This is not always the case and sometimes it sounds very cool for there not to be a pattern and for the extra notes between the bass notes to be random. This takes a lot more practice, which might sound funny that it's harder to be free than it is to play a strict pattern, but it's true. This is because this kind of picked finger style relies on muscle memory for your picking hand to play the right notes and if you play at random it no longer remains automatic.
It's very easy to make up your own pattern as long as you stick to the bass note being played on beat 1. Please try it, have a go and see if you can come up with a call picked finger style pattern and use it in a song. the easiest way to do this is to write eight little lines above some tab which represent the eight notes in a bar. put in the base note under the first one (which will be beat one of course) and then just make up a little pattern with one note under each of the following seven lines. You should now have an eight note picked finger style pattern to try out!
Some examples you might like to check out include "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton and "Wherever You Will Go" by The Calling, both have very obvious picked finger style guitar parts.
Maybe you should have a go at making up your own patterns too - it's a lot easier if you write them down!
If you find a technically difficult you might like to check out the string skipping exercise below.
String Skipping Exercise
This exercise is awesome for helping your Picked Fingerstyle... but I like this exercise for lots of reasons. It helps you judge the distances between the strings. It helps you learn to allow your anchor to move freely. You will find that with a little practice that you just "know" what string you are on. I still remember first trying out this exercise and after a few weeks really feeling like I had made progress.
The idea is basically to play the thinnest E string and then all the other strings. I'll put it in tab, but it's just as easy to read it as regular string numbers (1 being the thinnest and 6 the thickest). Just play:
1 2 1 3 1 4 1 5 1 6 1 5 1 4 1 3 1 2 1
And repeat it a whole lot. I used to play it with open strings but after a while I got sick of the sound so I used to sometimes play E Shape Barre chords, which helps to develop that thumb muscle at the same time as checking all the notes, bonus!! You can also just keep your fretting hand resting on all the strings so they are all muted and then you can do it without making much noise while you watch telly or something, but only do that when the exercise is 100% right - you need to concentrate until it's instinctive!
To start off you will use an up pick on the 1st string and a down pick on the rest.
Once you are cool with that you do the same thing, but coming back to the thickest string each time:
6 5 6 4 6 3 6 2 6 1 6 2 6 3 6 4 6 5 6
For that one you would use a down pick on the thickest string and an up pick for the rest.
You can make up your own variations of the exercise too if you like!
Have fun kiddies...