Techniques For A Beginner Of Classical Guitar Music


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The Madcap
08-20-2007, 07:04 PM
As I started out classical guitar, I did not have the right technique for playing. The correct way to play seemed very pointless, and too difficult. However as my studies continued, I realized I needed to correct these techniques, no matter how pointless they seem. If you want to become a classical guitarist, yet you still know very little about it, keep in mind one piece of advice for all of these techniques:

Every singe technique is practical. They are all made for the best of your guitar-playing.

Now, let's begin with some of the biggest problems I see.

The right hand:

1. Like I once was, you will be tempted to use your pinky or ring finger to hold it against the guitar for stability of your right hand. Do not ever do this. There are multiple reasons why.

It is nearly impossible to do some very crucial techniques when the right hand is positioned like this. Also, amplifiers are not used in classical guitarists concerts, and it's just the guitar alone making the sound. The guitar is a quiet intstrument, and volume is one of the most crucial aspects and given much attention to. The vibration of the wood does make a difference in the volume, and the right hand in this position will decrease some of the volume.

2. The wrist positioning is debatable. Many traditional guitarist tilt their wrist to make their fingers perpendicular to the guitar strings. However, this can cause some damage to the wrist that hurt your ability to play guitar. Modern guitarists are solving this by tilting the guitar with the neck facing slightly more upward, making the strings more perpindicular to the hand, without the need to bend the wrist.

The position:

1. The classical guitarist plays sitting down. The general position is to sit in a chair, with a foot stool for the left foot to rest on, while the guitar rests on the left thigh. I myself find that even when I play electric guitar, I prefer this position, because the capabilites of the left hand are at it's maximum.

The left hand:

1. Often times a guitarist will be tempted to let the thumb rest on the neck, or even use the thumb to hold notes. Do not do this. The thumb should always stay behing the fretboard, thus giving the fingers faster access when switching from treble strings to bass strings. An amusing anecdote my instructor told me is that he knew an instructor who once told a student of his to do this: Draw a smiley face on your thumb, where the finger print is. Play in front of a mirror. If you see the entire smiley face, you're not playing it properly.

2. Try as much as possible to keep the knuckles of your left hand parallel to neck. You do not want to have your knuckles at an angle when playing pieces. On the faster pieces, it is likely you might have to pause when switching from an angle to a fingering which requires a stretch. This is very difficult to do, when playing some chords, and especially when playing notes above the 12th fret. I myself can't help but do this on ocassion. I recommend trying to let this happen as little as possible.

The nails:

Obviously, try to keep the nails on your left hand very short. However the right requires long and almost feminine-looking nails to play many pieces at a high volume. The best shaping of the nails is a source of debate. A book could easily be written on this subject. I personally have the right side of my nails longer than the left side. I have mine long, but still short enough for the flesh to maintain contact with the string. I recommend watching videos of Pepe Romero masterclasses. He talks often about nail shape. I attended a masterclass of his, and he told a performer that the nails should be the same shape of the finger. One thing almost all guitarists agree on is that they should be trimmed by using something such as very fine sand paper, or something along those lines.

Free stroke and rest strokes

A free stroke is very simple; it is simply hitting a note with the finger. Nothing more. A rest stroke is for giving some notes more volume. To do this, as you lay the finger on the string to hit the note, let the inertia cause your finger to fall on the next string and rest on it. For example, if you hit the B-string, let the finger fall and rest on the G-string.

Remember, there is a code for your fingers on the right hand.

P = Thumb
I = Index finger
M= Middle finger
A = Ring finger

Try not to use the pinky. When playing lead strings without playing multiple notes at one time, it is best to do rest strokes, with the I and M fingers alterating when hitting string.

NOTE: When you are playing like this, when you switch from one string to a lower string, ALWAYS keep your fingers in the order of IMIMIMIM. You will be tempted to let it drag on to other strings.

Sometimes when doing the rest strokes as I described above, it is a good idea to play in different variations for practice, such as IAIAIAIA or MAMAMAMA.


This is a strumming technique in which you will use the I, M and A finger. You use the back of the nails to strum very quickly, giving it a very powerful sound. An example is the guitar piece, known as "Asturias"

There are multiple ways of doing this. One being just one strum with all three fingers, another way is to use the A finger alone, followed by the M, and then I finger which is used much more in flamenco guitar.


The tremelo technique is a simple but very difficult technique. It involves the thumb playing the bass notes, while the three finger alternate and play the melody. Like this:

P AMI. Here is what the tablature would look like for a tremelo piece:

..P A M I P A M I P A M I P A M I P A M I P A M I

An example of the general speed of a tremelo piece is Barrios' "Una Limosna Por El Amor De Dios".

Although sometimes there are pieces, like "Asturias" which only use two notes between bass.

The tremelo isn't too much trouble until using the inside strings, which requires practice.

Also, learn to read sheet music if you already do not know how. You can never be taken seriously by classical musicians if you can't read sheet.

Well, there is so much more to learn in classical guitar, but here are some pointers. If you want to learn classical guitar, I hope this will help you, but classical guitar is probably the most complex and difficult form of guitar-playing to learn, and it will require hours of practice every day to become a very skilled classical guitarist.

Also, although there are many self-taught musicians, in classical music, I highly recommend a skilled instructor. As I stated, classical guitar is difficult, and learning from someone more advanced can only help.

08-20-2007, 07:28 PM
Good article, you might want to re-align the fingering for playing "Una Limosna Por El Amor De Dios" though.

09-18-2007, 06:58 PM
Very good article. I'm guessing you must have submitted it by now?

09-22-2007, 04:02 AM
Very nice :) I don't play much classical, but that's some pretty sound advice.

Though you did have a few spelling mistakes. The line after your first paragraph is supposed to say "single" not "singe" and in the "left hand" piece you spelled "knuckle" as "knuckl"

Cheers :cheers: