Hi, I've been playing electric guitar for about 7 years, and have been learning fingerstyle for about 6 months. It has come to my attention that I've picked up alot of very bad habits that my professor never noticed (it was a group class, and maybe he just sucked, I dunno). I haven't been able to figure out good solutions to one problem, and then another I am a little unsure on.

1.) Unsure: looking at the attached picture (I'll upload and link to it if you need me to)

Is my right wrist curved too much? Most classical players I see have their wrist more or less straight, which mine is somewhat curved. I have tried to straighten it but I end up picking on an odd angle, more or less sideways, which feels very odd to me.

2.) My right pinky spazzes when I am playing, especially when I use my middle finger. I have tried to stop it from moving, but everything ends up creating tension and fatigue in my hand. Any suggestions?

3.) Unsure: when doing a free stroke, should I ALWAYS follow through to the inside of my palm? What about if I were playing fast? Wouldn't the motion from string to palm take a massive amount of time that would be inefficient?

Also, how do I differentiate fatigue in my right forearm from tension? After a while I think I feel tense, but it might also be weak muscles, right?

Last edited by Sadistic sponge at Jul 10, 2009,
#1) If you were to ask a 'Classical' player they would generally say any bend in the wrist is too much... as it's unneccesary and can be damaging to your joints

#2) Can't help you

#3) Sure
I never have difficulty 'performing' it right away with whistles, hums, 'grunts' and percussion.
1. Your wrist, imo, is turned toward the right too much. Due, I suspect, to your choice of seating posture.
The fingers are, nevertheless, attacking the strings at an angle within a range acceptable to modern practice.
2. Don't worry about it. Let it spas.
3. Depends, there are various types of free stroke, (for instance prepared on the string and unprepared) but all have one thing in common, any deliberate energy expended on continuous finger forward movement in the direction of stroke, after release of the string from the fingertip or nail is wasted energy. Allow the finger to relax after release or even after the initial impulse that initiated the stroke (this subtle difference further illustrates different types of attack) and to follow through to its natural extent of relaxed movement.
1) You'll also notice most classical guitarists tilt the guitar more, lessening the need to tilt your wrist.

2) Try tucking your pinky against your ring finger, slightly curving it. See if you can stop it from moving while practicing slowly.
You get out of your instrument what you put into it.
OOOHHHH!! I din't see the photo before... I thought you meant your fingering wrist, that can cause joint and ligament damage, but I now see you meant your picking finger... I honestly don't know if that's 'correct' or what, sorry
I never have difficulty 'performing' it right away with whistles, hums, 'grunts' and percussion.
So that leaves one question remaining-

What is muscle tension and how do I tell the difference between that and muscle fatigue?

Also, just a note, my hand position is probably a product of learning fingerstyle on an electric guitar (still classical stance but no left leg stool), but now that I use full classical posture, I also have my leg raise about 6-8 inches off the ground, which makes things a little different.
Sorry to be an a-hole, but some of the answers that have been posted are uh, not right at all.

1) Most people have been correct regarding the wrist. Your wrist should generally be pretty straight, both in terms of bend and how level it is. Though considered by many to be amazing, Segovia did NOT have very good mechanics by today's standards. Pick up a copy of Scott Tennant's "Pumping Nylon" for more info about this.

2) Never just "let it spaz." Your pinky is inherently very weak and it will be very difficult, but focus a lot on keeping it relaxed and in control. Work on very very simple Giuliani arpeggios (again found in Pumping Nylon). Just play open strings and gently hold your pink in place with your left hand. Note: GENTLY. Don't apply any pressure, just make sure it can't move too much. Go back to playing with the correct notes and see if you can keep it relaxed. Basically do a lot of this, and ALWAYS be aware of your pinky. I spent the better part of my first year at music school working on this. When your pinky is relaxed, the rest of your hand, wrist, and forearm feels much better, and you will play better.

3) You should use the least amount of motion possible. Teachers often tell you when you first start to follow through to your palm as a way of making sure your fingers move from your first knuckle (or at last, I'm not really sure. It's at the base of the finger.) rather than just bending half your finger and plucking. So basically, being your stroke like you're going to follow through, but don't actually do it. In time it will be very natural, and you'll be playing much faster and with better tone.
On the topic of construction delaying the Large Hadron Collider:

Quote by Deliriumbassist

Construction my ass. They just haven't found a good enough crowbar for Gordon Freeman when everything goes tits up.
Also, to answer your last question. If you don't have any unnecessary muscle tension, you will fatigue MUCH less. I can say from experience that the consequences of playing with too much tension can be devastating. I thought I should be focusing 100% on how things sounded, and not worry at all about my health, but it really is important.

Manuel Barrueco in a masterclass (paraphrased): "Any tension in your playing is very bad."
On the topic of construction delaying the Large Hadron Collider:

Quote by Deliriumbassist

Construction my ass. They just haven't found a good enough crowbar for Gordon Freeman when everything goes tits up.
Quote by Stingmaskii

2) Never just "let it spaz."

Yes, you are right, that was my comment, it was a bit flippant.
Really meant let it relax. Nevertheless, for anatomical reasons concerning the tendons and their sheaths the little finger will slightly track the third finger in a sympathetic manner. In my view it is counterproductive to attempt to reduce such movement to nothing.

Lets try this, looking at the video I recorded, does anything look wrong in my technique? I've worked on it some, but would still like some more feedback.

Thank you.
Firstly let me say I recognise good musical fundimentals in your playing. As to the technical basics, rather less so, from a purely classical performers perspective it would be my guess that you have had very little, if any, formal training in this field.
There are many areas open for improvement.
The way you choose to present the right hand to the strings has many consequences. Your forearm crosses the guitar bout at a very deep position (toward the endblock) . This is sometimemes observed in players with very long forearms. It necessitates that either the fingers adopting a very oblique attack angle to the strings (i.e. the finger attack is more parallel than it is perpendicular to the string) or an excessive turning of the wrist to avoid such an attack angle. You appear to have settled on the second route but your fingers are also striking the strings on the "right side" ( or pinky side) of the nail or fingertip because you allow the wrist to rotate to the right. The fingers therefore tend to strike in a manner that tends to propel the string out and away from the face of the guitar. This results in inferior tone and loss of dynamic range, a serious concern.
Loudest and fullest tone is produced when a fingernail or fingertip propels the string into the guitar as the finger passes through it in the execution of its stroke.
Conventional technique has the left side (thumb side) of the nail make initial contact ith the string as the finger makes its pass. Release is in the center of the nail or fingertip. That is, i think you basic finger attack and even its movement requires remedial attention.
I observe what I regard as other fundimental errors but really these forums can only do so much. I suggest that you seek a good teacher at this stage of your development. Attention to correct fundimentals is easiest to apply at the outset.

But in general I'd suggest the forearm cross the bout at a higher postion, the wrist be straightend somewhat (fewer curves in tendon trains the better) and above all you learn to attack the strings without pulling them out and away from the face of the guitar.
Last edited by R.Christie at Jul 21, 2009,
The thing is SeeEmilyPlay, I am not 100% comfortable and at my level I know there is an issue with that. I've been playing for 7 years and had a brush with correcting bad technique on electric guitar and it was extremely difficult to do, and so I'm attempting to attack the problem while i'm still new at it.

R.Christie, You would be correct in assuming my lack of formal training and I think that if I could find a good instructor in my area, I will pursue a few weeks of lessons in order to master the basics. Just to clarify, moving my arm up seems to create a little tension in my shoulder and bicep, the way I've found to alleviate this is to tilt the guitar at a higher angle. Is this the correct response?

Were those comments based on the video or the picture?

Thank you, any more feedback would be appreciated.
Last edited by Sadistic sponge at Jul 21, 2009,
It's the way you are seated that is putting your hand at that position. I would keep it quite a bit straighter.

As for the following through, I follow through most of the time, though I only really go right to my palm if I have a lot of time, or I really want to get sound out of my guitar. If not I'll just go close but not all the way.

The spazzing pinky must be avoided. Just try to relax all of you hand, shoulders, arm and body in general. That should help. When you do this, concentrate on keeping your pinky still and you'll see some improvement. Don't be surprised or frustrated if it's harder to play, make sure you don't stop being completely relaxed and at ease.

EDIT: Just saw the video. I agree with RChristie, you need to move your arm further up the guitar. If you notice points of tension in your body just take your time and relieve them rather than changing the position any more.

Those are some nice positions from three very prominent and technical classical guitarists.
Last edited by Confusius at Jul 21, 2009,
I spoke with one professional classical guitarist that said that the bent wrist that I am exhibiting in that picture is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is simply indicative of a different style, in this instance he said it looked like the classic Segovia technique, which isn't going to kill me. That said, I still plan to rectify it into a more modern technique without the bend.

Thanks for your comments, any additional feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Your friends comment is partially true, Segovia had a similar turn of the wrist but his forearm crossed the guitar quite differently from yours. It is true that the bend isn't a fatal flaw, of greater concern should be the accompanying rotation of your wrist and the resultant finger action. I'd make correcting that a greater priority than the wrist bend.
Last edited by R.Christie at Jul 22, 2009,