Classical Guitar: How to improve your Right Hand Playing

By: Will Kalif

Your left hand determines the note and your right hand determines just about everything else from tone, to timbre, volume, texture and all the subtleties of the sound that comes from your classical guitar. Yet it is often overlooked when it comes to practice. If you want to really improve your classical guitar playing you need to start focusing on right hand technique. Here are some tips and tricks on how to do it.

Practice the types of strokes

A lot of beginner guitarists don’t realize that there are two different types of right hand strokes you can perform. The first stroke (and most common) is the free stroke where the finger doesn’t contact anything after plucking the string. The second type of stroke is the rest stroke where the finger comes to rest on the next string down after plucking. Practice your scales and arpeggios using both types of strokes.

Walking across the strings

You can set up your own exercises that will dramatically improve your right hand play and I recommend you do walking exercises at the beginning of every practice session.

Walking exercises are simply exercises where you play across all six strings in varying finger patterns.

You can do this without stopping any of the strings with your left hand (open) or you can do scales.

Heres how to do it: Simply pluck down then up the six strings alternating between your index and middle fingers. Easy enough right? You started out with your index finger plucking the bass E string right? Now change that up and start your plucking by using your middle finger on the bass E string! It feels quite a bit different doesn't it? Now do a three-finger pattern using index, middle and ring finger. And of course mix that pattern up by starting with a finger other than your index. This will probably feel a little awkward at first but keep at it. With a simple practice exercise like this your classical guitar playing will improve dramatically.

Free pdf written by a master

There is a series of studies called 120 right hand exercises for classical guitar. Matteo Carcassi wrote these studies and they are in the free public domain. The exercises vary in difficulty so are appropriate for beginners to advanced. You can slowly work your way through them over time. Using these studies is a great way to improve right hand play and also improve sight-reading skills.

A Recommended Book

If you are looking for more guidance on improving your play I recommend you get a book by Scott Tennant called "Pumping Nylon". I own it and have made it a part of my regular practice sessions. It has a lot of practical exercises for both the right and left hand. In 2006 a new version of this book aimed at beginners was published. There is also a nice DVD version available if you are a visual style learner.

Because the left hand is closer to your eyes, and because most people are right handed focusing on improvement of the right hand is often overlooked. But if you really want to take your classical guitar playing to the next level you should make a conscious effort to improve your right hand technique. Your speed of playing, clarityArticle Submission, and ability to express with the instrument will be greatly enhanced.

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