Rock Guitarist as Classical Guitarist (Part 1)

Over my six years of teaching classical guitar to rock players there seems to be a recurring problem. The right hand. Yes, the right hand. The left hand is not the culprit, it has been put through the ropes time and time again with scales, chords, so on and so forth. The right hand has never let go of the pick, and when it has the fingers usually assumed the hand position of a folk or blues player and lacked stability, accuracy, tone, volume and any real control.

The first thing we must address when conditioning the right hand is it’s position to the strings. Firstly lay the hand flat over the strings. It is important to keep the hand parallel to the sound board, for reasons which I will explain later. Next, curl the Index, Middle, and Ring finger until the Index (i), is touching the G string, The Middle (m) is touching the B string and the ring (a) is touching the high E. It is important at the time to look at the wrist. Here is a list of questions you should ask yourself at this point:

  1. Is my wrist in line with my forearm? This is important because if your wrist is bent in either direction the tendons now have to pull around a corner, this can aggravate the tendons causing pain and any number of injuries.
  2. Is my wrist flat? If the wrist is arched it affects the angle of attack of the fingers to the strings. An arched wrist can affect tone, volume, speed and accuracy. Keep in mind that a collapsed writ is just as bad as an excessively arched one.

The next thing we need to do is to bring the thumb (p) into contact with the low E string. One thing I have noticed in my years as a teacher is that as soon as this position is obtained the student begins to panic and immediately rests the little finger (c) on the sound board. The problem with this is that it restricts the use of a and also causes the hand to rotate causing the i finger to have “reach” now for the strings whereas before they were readily accessible. The same is true of rotating the hand into the guitar.

Let’s examine the right hand fingers and their relationship to the strings in terms of length. The i finger falls quite naturally onto the strings reaching them with retaliative ease. The m finger being the longest in relationship to i and a has no problem reaching the strings no matter which way the wrist is rotated. The a finger on the other hand in dramatically hindered because of it’s length. If the hand is rotated towards the guitar the strings in their relationship to the a finger get farther away resulting in an big stretch. This is why the hand must be kept parallel to the soundboard, for the sake of making the length of the fingers the same.

A good exercise to practice keeping the hand in this position is to play p on the low E, the i on the G, the m on the B string and the a on the high E, in successive order. Play this over and over in front of a mirror in order to keep an eye on the hand positioning and you have taken the first step toward a superior right hand technique.