Right And Left Hand Technique. Part 5 - Right Hand Position

I recommend that the right hand not be braced against the strings or the surface of the guitar in any way, shape, or form. Most people start by placing.

Ultimate Guitar
This series is the approach that I use to teach pick-style technique to all of my students. For best results, take these articles to an educated and experienced teacher who is stylistically broad based and who knows this approach, so that (s)he may coach you. This approach is to attain the maximum possible cleanliness and articulateness in ones tone. Also, it will give, ultimately, the greatest speed with the least health risk. I am careful never to say that it is the correct way to play. There is no such thing, and many people do great things with really sloppy technique. Wherever possible, though, I will indicate the exact benefits of each technique. If you are left handed, please excuse my right-handed bias, and reverse all of the relevant direction and hand indications. I) Right Hand Fingers. I recommend that the right hand not be braced against the strings or the surface of the guitar in any way, shape, or form. This is the single worst habit that I have to deal with in the right hands of my students. Most people start by placing one or more fingers on the surface of the guitar, and use that as a tactile guide to where the strings are. Furthermore, many rest their palm on the bridge. These are all bad! The fingers should be loosely curved into the palm, and the right hand should be off the strings and the bridge. Benefits: Any tension anywhere in the body will manifest itself in one's tone. It defies description. I cannot say it sounds more staccato or brighter or anything like that. It just sounds tense and less fluid. Bracing against the fingerboard is physically restraining the right hand; it produces a source of tension that one simply cannot remove while the fingers are planted there. Also, it directly interferes with crossing strings. It's like riding a bike with training wheels on. You can get by okay with them, but they really get in the way during a slalom race. This habit is very difficult not only because removing the training wheels is very awkward for a couple of days, people are more unwilling to give this habit up for some reason. Usually, they use as an example some Rock star that they revere -- that on MtTV (grin) said Rock star is bracing his/her fingers against the guitar. Again, my reply is that disclaimer that I put on each of these technique lessons. I acknowledge that some people have done a lot in the music industry despite what I would consider to be really sucky technique. Nonetheless, Pop guitarists are notoriously untrained. I cannot advise that you take what you see from one of them as the paradigm of technique. Also, what they do might produce appropriate tone for their style, but would sound bad for anything else. They could be completely incapable of producing the clean, pristine tone that I am selling. In Alt. guitar, there was a thread about this topic some time ago. Someone argued that some classical guitarist advocated bracing with the pinky. The obvious counter from me is that fingerstyle is in no way, shape, or form, anything like pickstyle. When I did try to brace my pinky with some fingerstyle playing, the tone did become tense though. Exceptions: I hear the question coming from the world: "But Tim... if you forbid my muting the strings with my right hand, when my Marshall stack is on ten (or eleven), how do I keep my strings from feeding back wildly?" Obviously, sometimes you have to mute your strings with your right hand. Class Assignment: Since this addition is generally so loathed, and since it is a handful, let it be the only new point for this week. Do the pseudo-chromatic exercise from Lesson II with the following criteria: A) Guitar Position (see part I) B)1. Left Hand Thumb Position and range of motion (midline [G string] to edge... see lesson II) 2. Left Hand Thumb Pressure (NONE! PERIOD! again, see lesson II) C) Left hand wrist. (straight as a ruler, palm away from the neck... again, lesson II) D) Left hand wrist. (parallel to the underside of the neck... lesson III) E) Finger placement. (close to the neck... lesson III) F) Overall position of right forearm. (lesson IV) G) The pick, angled for the least noise (Lesson IV) H) Alternate Pick (lesson IV) and I) Do not brace the right hand. - Tim Fullerton

20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    mister sir
    thank YOU SO MUCH!!!! although i dont necessarilly agree with oyu on some of the stuff in this lesson, at first i though i was lost because my hand always touched the guitar(like alexi laiho) and it sounded like shit. i thought i was born that way and my hand would never be able to float(like steve vai). thank YOU for showing me that it was just a habit, not something that i was just unluckily born with with. 10*s for that tip
    Two of the greatest alternate pickers of all time with revered tone: Eric Johnson and John Petrucci. They both rest there hands on the guitar. They do it very loosely though just as a reference point I assume. You do notice by listening to them though that it does give a specific tonality, one that I enjoy very much
    The problem I have with keeping my right hand off the guitar is when I change chords or slide some barre chords and do various slides, the guitar moves left and right wildly, I normally rest my arm on the top on the guitar when playing. I tried to keep my arm off right now and play some stuff but then my shoulder just gets tired..
    This is a great lesson. However, I do have to say that it is not actually bad to anchor the pinky while picking. It's just that anchoring and letting your right hand float both have their own advantages and disadvantages. For me, when I play riffs and chords, my right hand would float as this lesson has suggested, except when palm muting is necessary of course but when I need to play solos that require alternate picking, I anchor my right hand. For sweep picking, it's a bit different, I'll definitely let my right hand float. Now, it's true that anchoring restricts the right hand movement but in order for me to alternate pick quickly and cleanly, I need that restriction so that it doesn't move wildly on its own. My current speed is 180bpm of 16th notes with anchoring. That speed info is not to brag or anything, I know there are millions of people out there who can play faster and better than me. Another thing to mention is that guitar players such as John Petrucci, Michael Angelo Batio, Akira Takasaki anchor their hands when playing fast. It doesn't matter whether you like their music or don't, you do have to agree that their picking is extremely clean and fast. Also to answer some questions on moving the whole arm or only the wrist while playing, I prefer to move only the wrist as it produces much less tension in my arm when I play and also I heard that it's bad for the muscle to pick with the whole arm. I'm not saying that it's wrong though to do it but I only know Rusty Cooley who moves his whole arm for picking. Sorry for the long comment. This is a good lesson and I too am still learning a lot of stuff on guitar
    In his Instruction Book the famous guitarist Hank Marvin of the British The Shadows writes that when picking keep a nice flexible wrist,do not allow the pick to flex and keep thumb and finger finger rigid and let the wrist do the work!!! Tim writes that the wrist should stay straight and all pick adjustments can be made on different point on the fingertip!! I am confused. Can someone puts things right!!! I play single string melodies (ballads) just as Hank.
    Agreed. I've been playing for 42 years with my pinky braced & have recently decided to see exactly how long and what exercises it will take to break the habit. (2 days at about 6 hours a day so far. I'll let you know...) :H:
    If you brace improperly those problems mentioned will happen. Make your hand free-flowing when picking while using a brace. People who only keep the pinky in that same spot while picking will suffer. It's all about what you are comfortable with. Their are no real benefits from floating hand.
    Pressure kills, I have read it all over the place, and have impelmented it into my plauing and it works insanely well, great article man, keep this up!
    ive always played with my 3rd and/or 4th finger lightly resting on the pick guard for stability (except when strumming chords).... i see ppl like eric clapton do it too, but ur saying i will be able to player faster more easily if i have my hand floating above the strings without resting any fingers?
    ok im confused i find it really hard to keep my hand from resting on the guitar its kinda hard just having it float there
    oklahoma pie
    i do the little OK sign with my finger when i play (but i dont touch the guitar), is that okay?
    About picking movement, what's better to move the arm and keep wrist static or to move wrist and not the arm? Now I do the first one (my wrist is static I move only the arm) but I've sawn so many guitarrists doing the opposite that I got confused. Thank u pal!
    I read in an article that bracing the pinky was a good technique... Now I'm dissapointed because it took me nearly two months to get comfortable with it, only to learn that it is bad?!? Oh well... best to start unlearning bad habbits early, Glad I stumbled upon these articles. Thanks dude!
    Bracing the right hand can be more crucial than even sacrificing tone, accuracy, or speed.. I for one spent a lot of time earlier in my bracing the picking hand by holding the inside of my arm against the top of the guitar.. While this provides a lot of stability, with a little practice, freeing yourself from this crutch does help you loosen up significantly, and new avenues will open up in your playing. Also, if you brace behind/against the bridge, you will probably find that you're bending your wrist back at a pretty sharp angle, this can cause a lot of serious problems with your tendons & muscles, and not just in the long term either. Suffered from tendonitis pretty bad at one point, had a look and that one change to my technique made all the difference on the road to recovery. Interesting articles.
    I am the original author of this series. I published it to usenet newsgroups twenty years ago. Imagine my surprise to see it here! Forgive my non-responsiveness up to this point. Time permitting, I will review it and answer your questions as best I can.