Rock Guitarist as Classical Guitarist (Part 2) – Finger Movement

In the last article we discussed hand positioning, and hopefully you have been practicing the exercise I gave you. You’ve no doubt have listened to classical guitarists before and have noticed their warm, balanced, tone. If you have been practicing the exercise I gave you will probably have noticed that tone and volume is something that is lacking. Do not fear, this article will put you on your way to good tone and clarity.

There are two different ways of sounding a string. The first is called the Free Stroke, the second is called the Rest Stroke. The free stroke is what we will concentrate on first, since it is the stroke you will use the most. The free stroke is executed by preparing the finger on the string then playing the string allowing the finger tip to come into the palm of the hand. The following is a list of questions you should ask yourself.

  1. Did I keep my wrist relatively flat?
  2. Did I keep my wrist in line with my forearm?
  3. Did I follow through?

Follow through? Follow through is the natural expulsion of muscular energy without opposed muscular force to stop the motion. This is clarified by an analogy. Let us say that you and a friend are rolling a ball. You roll the ball and it stops on it’s own without any outside interference. That is proper follow through. Now, your friend rolls the ball and you jump in front of it stopping it before it has had a chance to stop on its own, this is not following through. To apply this to the free stroke, if you strike the string you must allow the finger to stop on its own without any opposable muscular force to stop it. The finger must go into the palm of the hand and stop because it has naturally expelled the energy that originally set it in motion.

This is important because if you fail to follow through, you are using excessive muscular energy, first the energy to set the finger in motion, secondly to stop it. Using proper follow through we expel energy once and that is to set the finger in motion. If we fail to observe proper follow through, this will lead to muscle fatigue, which results in lack of control, tone, balance, accuracy, and speed. Remember to keep the knuckles of the hand over the strings being played.

The second way to sound a string is by the rest stroke. To execute the rest stroke, the same hand position should be kept as far as the alignment of wrist and forearm, and arch of the wrist. The only difference is that the fingers should extend a little more. As a result of extending the fingers the knuckles will be slightly offset to the strings being played. Now we get to sounding the string. Strike the string, and this time instead of allowing the finger to come to the palm of the hand, the finger should come into the string directly behind it. For instance, if you strike the first string with i, after striking the first sting, i should come into the second string.

There is a major difference between the rest stroke and the free stroke. The free stroke has more of a gentler tone whereas the rest stroke is louder and fuller in tone. The free stroke is what we use to play arpeggios and multiple voiced passages. The rest stroke is primarily used for fast scales. That’s not to say that you will never play scales with free stroke, because you will. For example if you are playing a composition and you have a passage you are playing free stroke because it is multi voiced, and there is a quick scale passage thrown in then a quick return to free stroke, it would be unwise to make the switch from free to rest because if it is a short enough passage the switch would use to much energy. Plus, rest stroke being the stronger of the two might unbalance the line and upset the phrasing. The rest stroke will be used in the context of free stroke an example might be that you are playing accompanying arpeggios with p, i, m, and the melody is with the a finger. By, playing the melody with the a finger using free stroke would make the melody indistinguishable from the accompaniment. In such a case a would use a rest stroke which would clearly set it apart.

To practice these two strokes, run through scales, using free and rest strokes. To practice arpeggios there is no better way than by obtaining a copy of Giuliani’s 120 studies for the right hand (this can be purchased at any music store, and if they don’t have it they can order it for you.)

Well I hope you enjoyed this lesson. I look forward to next week when we will be talking about finger placement.