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Right Hand Technique (Guitar Lesson)


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Danny Voris

Right Hand Technique

In lesson 6, Danny discusses and demonstrates right hand technique for the classical style.

Taught by Danny Voris in Classical Guitar seriesLength: 24:26Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (02:51) Introduction Welcome back to the Phase 2 Classical Guitar Series with Danny Voris! In lesson 6, Danny switches gears from left hand to right hand technique.

Right Hand Positioning

In order to position the right hand correctly, the rest of the body, especially the shoulders, must be positioned correctly. If necessary, review all of the proper posture guidelines presented in lesson 2 at this time.

Make sure that the shoulders are relaxed. Do not shrug the right shoulder to adjust the height of the right hand. If the guitar is not sitting at the ideal height for you, adjust the height of your footstool.

Forearm Position

The upper forearm must rest on the body of the guitar where the side and lower portion of the soundboard meet. This allows the entire forearm to pivot up and down like a crane.

The elbow must sit behind the edge of the body. It should not make contact with the guitar at any point.

Hand Position

The most powerful tone is produced when the index finger lines up with the back edge of the soundhole. The remaining fingers relax as they rest on the strings. The thumb extends beyond the remaining fingers. The strings respond best when the hand is positioned exactly halfway between the bridge and the neck. Also, this position allows vibrations to escape from the soundhole and travel throughout the room. Playing directly over the soundhole produces a quieter tone since some of the vibrations are blocked by the hand.

Throughout the course of a piece, the right hand may shift from this primary position to achieve various tonal colors. Playing close to the bridge, produces a bright, sharp tone. When the hand is positioned close to the neck, a much warmer, darker tone is produced. Watch Danny's performance of Tarrega's piece "Capricho Arabe" in the Entertainment section. Notice how he alters his tone to highlight specific passages.

Technique Tryout

Rest the tips of the fingers on the strings in the method described above to get a feel for this hand position. Rest the thumb on the low sixth string. Rest the I, M, and A fingers on the treble strings.

Wrist Position

The wrist must remain as straight as possible at all times. Do not angle it from side to side. Also, do not arch the wrist at a steep angle. A very small arch in the wrist may be desirable for some players. Arching or angling the wrist at awkward angles smashes the tendons against the edges of the carpal tunnel. Consequently, the finger muscles will become sore and fatigued in a matter of minutes. Keeping the nails as short as possible will prevent the wrist from arching excessively.

To illustrate this point, try a simple exercise. Bend your wrist at a steep angle. While doing so, make a fist. The tendons are contorted within the carpal tunnel, causing great discomfort. Playing with this faulty technique can potentially lead to permanent injury.
Chapter 2: (05:45) Free and Rest Strokes Two different right hand strokes are used when playing classical guitar. These two strokes are referred to as "free strokes" and "rest strokes" or "tirando" and "apoyondo" respectively. Each type of stroke produces its own unique sound and has its own applications. The free stroke is used far more often. It is used for the vast majority of material that you will play. Many guitarists don't even begin to use the rest stroke until they have significant experience playing classical guitar. The rest stroke produces a louder and slightly rounder tone. It is used to highlight scale passages or important melody notes.

The proper technique for both strokes will seem very awkward at first. Do not be tempted to cut any corners with these techniques. The quality of your tone is largely determined by the quality of your plucking technique. Practice right hand technique exactly as explained in the lesson video.

Free Stroke Movement

When performing a free stroke, the finger plucks through the string on its way towards the palm. The plucking movement must originate from the knuckle joint. This produces the loudest, most desirable tone possible.

Note: The three joints in the hands are called the base joint, middle or knuckle joint, and tip joint. Memorize these names. Danny will periodically reference them throughout the course of this lesson series.

Hand Positioning for Free Strokes

The base joint of the hand must hover directly over the string that is being plucked. This positioning produces the loudest tone, because it allows the finger to displace the string as far as possible. If the joint is not positioned above the string, you will experience problems with accuracy.

Free Stroke Exercise Guidelines

-Practice playing four free strokes on each string.

-Do not even worry about rhythm at this point. Focus your attention on the mechanics of the right hand.

-Exaggerate the free stroke movement by pulling the plucking finger all the way towards the palm. When playing rapid scale passages, this exaggerated movement is not always practical. However, practicing in this manner will enhance your tone and the strength of the right hand fingers.

-Practice this exercise several times each day to get acquainted with proper right hand technique.

Rest Stroke Movement

The positioning of the fingers must change slightly when a rest stroke is performed. However, the overall positioning of the hand should not change at all. The finger is held slightly straighter when performing a rest stroke. A slight bend is made at the middle joint.

When performing a rest stroke, the plucking movement still originates from the base joint. The base joint should hover two strings above the string being plucked. For example, if you are plucking the first string, the base joint should hover above the third string.

Regardless of whether a rest stroke or free stroke is performed, the tip joint of the fingers must remain as relaxed as possible. This will allow you to play with maximum speed, accuracy, and endurance. It will also produce the best possible tone.

Components of a Stroke

Every stroke consists of three fluid steps.

1. Planting or preparation
2. Pressure
3. Release

The finger rests on the string during the planting stage as it prepares to play. Next, the nail applies pressure to the string, which in turn displaces it. Finally, the string begins to vibrate when the nail releases from it. When performing a rest stroke, the pressure is applied towards the soundboard. The string is displaced in an upwards direction during a free stroke.

Watch at 01:14 as Danny demonstrates some rest strokes on the first string. Practice rest strokes with each of the open strings.

Rest Stroke Exercise

Repeat the free stroke exercise listed above with rest strokes. Once again, focus all of your attention on the mechanics of the stroke. It is very important that you do not develop any bad habits in these preliminary learning stages. It will be much more difficult to adjust your technique down the line after you have reinforced bad habits for an extended period of time.

Free Stroke with the Thumb / Rest Stroke with the Thumb

The thumb is also capable of performing rest strokes and free strokes. Regardless of which stroke is performed, the movement must originate from the base joint. Instead of releasing up from the string after plucking it, the thumb moves down through the string and comes to rest on the higher string above during a rest stroke. The thumb continues through the string and above the next adjacent string during a free stroke.

The shape of the thumb nail becomes extremely important when performing rest strokes. If the nail is not shaped correctly, the string may get caught under the left edge of the nail. Review Danny's lesson on nails if necessary.

Practice Time

Practice playing both types of strokes on all six strings. Utilize all of your fingers. The thumb cannot perform a rest stroke on the first string, since there is no higher string to rest it upon. This technique is not practical anyway. In a musical context, either the I, M, or A finger will be used to perform a rest stroke on the first string.
Chapter 3: (02:35) Exercise Seventh Position Exercise Guidelines

1. This exercise is quite similar to the exercise that Danny discussed in relation to left hand technique. This time around, the exercise is used primarily to monitor the right hand. However, do not neglect the left hand! The first time through, focus your attention on the right hand. On the next pass through the exercise, closely monitor your left hand technique.

2. Play each note in seventh position four times. Alternate I and M. Also, practice the exercise with fingers I and A and M and A. Try to give each finger equal practice time. Inevitably, the I finger will be used the most. This is perfectly acceptable, since the thumb and index fingers are used the most in the context of most classical pieces.

3. Repeat this exercise on every string.

4. Play with both free strokes and rest strokes.

5. Do not worry about speed! Focus your attention on tone and proper right hand mechanics.
Chapter 4: (03:32) Thumb Independence If you've been following along with Jim Deeming's Phase 2 Fingerstyle series, you are probably sick of hearing the phrase "thumb independence." Within the context of fingerstyle guitar arrangements, the thumb frequently must perform a melodic voice that functions independently from what the other fingers are playing. Consequently, a high level of physical as well as mental independence must be developed between the thumb and other fingers.

Thumb Exercise Guidelines

-This exercise features a repeating sequence played in triplets. The thumb plucks every note in the exercise.

-Practice the exercise with free strokes as well as rest strokes.

-Remember to always generate thumb movement from the base joint.

-Pluck the string with the left side of the nail. Do not pluck the string with the fleshy part of the finger. This will result in a quiet, poor tone. The string should slide off the nail and make slight contact with the flesh only as the stroke is being completed and the finger passes from the string.

-Danny likes to support the right hand whenever possible. When playing with the thumb, he likes to rest the I, M, and A fingers on the third, second, and first strings respectively. This is perfectly acceptable since these fingers are still prepared to play if called upon. When Danny reaches the third string of the exercise, he removes these fingers from the strings so they do not get in the way.

-The pattern ascends until the highest note within first position is reached (G#). Then, the pattern reverses itself and descends back down. Refer to the tablature for help with the pattern.

-Make sure that you play this exercise in strict time. You may have to go very slow at first as you get acquainted with proper thumb technique. Set the metronome to a tempo such as 50 beats per minute to begin with.

-Practice this exercise once a day as part of your technical warm-up routine.

-Watch as Danny performs the exercise at 01:54. Notice how consistent his thumb technique remains throughout the entire exercise.
Chapter 5: (03:27) Tremolo The classical guitar is a relatively quiet instrument that does not sustain as well as the electric guitar. The tremolo technique allows classical guitarists to create the illusion of a sustained note by plucking a note at rapid speeds. Since a bass note is combined with the tremolo note, this technique also provides the illusion of two guitarists playing at the same time.

Fingering Pattern

Most tremolo patterns follow a specific fingering. This is the case in famous tremolo pieces such as "Recuerdos de la Alhambra." The bass note is plucked with the thumb. Then, the tremolo is played with fingers A, M, and I in this order. When performing tremolo, think of the thumb as simply another finger. Watch at 01:06 as Danny demonstrates the tremolo technique.

Staccato Tremolo

By preparing each of the fingers, your tremolo will become faster and more efficient. As soon as one finger plucks the string, immediately plant the next finger on the string. This will create a deliberate, staccato tremolo sound. Danny demonstrates this mini exercise at 01:45. This technique is not practical in a musical context. It simply trains the fingers to move into place efficiently. As the tremolo is sped up, the staccato sound will no longer be perceivable. In order to perform a successful tremolo, each finger must remain in constant movement like engine pistons rotating.

Although tremolo is a fast technique, it must be developed slowly. Practice the staccato exercise along with a metronome each day. Focus on economy of movement. Economy of movement is key to a successful tremolo.

Also, make sure that the entire body remains as relaxed as possible at all times. If any tension builds up, you are trying to play too fast. If this is the case, move the metronome back down to a comfortable tempo. "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" is about 5-6 minutes long depending on the tempo. The tremolo technique remains constant throughout the entire piece. In order to make it to the end, the fingers, wrist, arms, and shoulders must remain as relaxed as possible. Watch at 02:35 as Danny demonstrates a very slow tremolo. You should begin your practice at this tempo or even slower.

Tremolo Exercise

Begin practicing tremolo on the first string. It is easiest to perform tremolo on this string since there are no higher strings to get in the way. Combine various bass notes from an "open" Am chord with tremolo notes on the open high E string.

Note: Tablature and standard notation to this exercise can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.
Chapter 6: (00:37) Tremolo Demonstration "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" by Isaac Albeniz is probably the most famous tremolo piece. Other famous tremolo pieces include "Reminiscence" and "Campanas del Alba." In this scene, Danny demonstrates an excerpt from "Recuerdos." A transcription of this excerpt can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

This is how the tremolo technique should sound. Notice the balance in volume between the bass notes and notes plucked by the fingers. The bass notes are slightly louder since they comprise the melody line of the piece. Also, notice how the melody line remains smooth and connected throughout. The melody must be played as legato as possible for the tremolo to sound effective. The smoother the tremolo sounds, the faster it sounds.
Chapter 7: (02:51) Rasgueado Fingering Abbreviations

Danny has already discussed the fingering abbreviations for each of the right hand fingers. Review them below.

P- thumb
I - Index
M - middle
A - ring finger
C - pinky ("C" is for the Spanish word "chiquito," meaning pinky. The pinky finger is only used when playing rasgueados.)

The rasqueado is a technique that classical guitarists borrow from flamenco players to create a percussive strumming effect. Rasgueado is produced by flicking the fingers outward from the palm towards the strings. The back of the nails strike the strings to create a bright strumming attack.

Practicing Rasgueado

Pull the fingers into a loose fist. Rest the thumbnail on the upper corner of the fretboard. Practice flinging each finger out from the palm. The forearm must rotate in a motion similar to turning a doorknob when performing a rasgueado that involves fingers C, A, M, and I. The wrist remains as straight as possible while the forearm turns. Each finger stays extended until the index finger is used. Once the index finger is used, all of the fingers return to the palm of the hand.

At this point, try to strike only the four highest strings. Eventually, you will need to perform this technique with various chord voicings that contain different strings.

Muscle Development

Do not practice this exercise for long periods of time at first. Your fingers are not used to performing this motion. Consequently, they will tire quickly. Do not push them to the point of excessive fatigue. This may cause injury. Immediately take a break if your finger muscles begin to feel sore. Remember, exercising small muscles is not the same as exercising large muscles. Pain does not equal gain when it comes to developing guitar technique.

Practicing rasgueado is an excellent way to work the extensor muscles. Your scale and arpeggio speed will improve immensely by practicing rasgueado technique a little bit each day. Right hand speed is determined by how fast the fingers pluck the strings and how fast they are able to return to the strings. The extensor muscles are responsible for returning the fingers to the strings.

Adding the Thumb

In advanced rasgueado patterns, the thumb is also used. In addition, each of the fingers may perform upstrokes in addition to downstrokes.
Chapter 8: (02:43) Rasgueado Demonstration Rasgueado Exercise 2

Practice your rasgueado technique with a common progression used in flamenco music. This progression features the E and F major chords. Play the exercise in 3/4 time. On the first four eighth notes, use C, A, M, and I. On beat 4, use a downstroke with the thumb. Perform an upstroke with the thumb on the "and" beat of 4. Watch carefully at 00:38 as Danny demonstrates the right hand pattern. Practice at a very slow tempo with a metronome to begin with. As you become more comfortable, gradually increase the speed. Practice with just the E chord at first. Then, add the F chord into the progression.

When you become more comfortable with this basic strumming pattern, begin to experiment with other patterns. Try to learn some of the additional patterns that Danny improvises in the lesson video. Also, check out some flamenco music to hear some examples of what is possible with this technique.

Flamenco Players to Check Out:

Vicente Gomez
Juan Serrano
Paco Cepero
Pepe Habichuela-Solea
Gerardo Nunez
Paco de Lucia
Flavio Rodrigues
Pepe Romero
Paco Pena
Oscar Herrero
Jesse Cook
Carlos Montoya
Ramon Montoya

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


waynegarnwaynegarn replied on December 15th, 2013

does anyone else have printing problems with the lessons?

1998bogdan1998bogdan replied on July 15th, 2011

i thought this was easy but then the rest stroke

severlysnapedseverlysnaped replied on May 18th, 2011

Is there any specific notation or mark on sheet music that would indicate which type of stroke to use while playing?

evilhedgehogevilhedgehog replied on June 18th, 2009

excellent lesson as usual!

stikmanstikman replied on March 25th, 2009

great lessons. I used to study classical a few years back and now I want to again.

SylviaSylvia replied on March 20th, 2009

Ole'!

Classical Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

The origins of the classical guitar date back to the fifteenth century. The vihuela, lute, and baroque guitar are the early predecessors of the guitar. With its origins reaching deep into the past, the classical guitar repertoire spans over five hundred years worth of material. Danny Voris explains the techniques necessary to mastering this timeless art form.



Lesson 1

Overview of the Classical Guitar

Danny provides an overview of the topics that will be discussed in this lesson set. He also explains the origin of the classical guitar.

Length: 5:57 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Preparing to Play the Classical Guitar

In this lesson, Danny covers proper posture and how to hold the classical guitar. He also explains how to shape the nails in order to produce the best tone possible.

Length: 19:44 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Installing Nylon Strings

Danny demonstrates how to install nylon strings on a classical guitar.

Length: 12:58 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Left Hand Technique

Danny covers the basics of left hand techniques for classical guitar.

Length: 20:19 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Finger Independence

For lesson five, Danny discusses left hand finger independence. He also discusses hammer-on and pull-off technique.

Length: 17:06 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Right Hand Technique

In lesson 6, Danny discusses and demonstrates right hand technique for the classical style.

Length: 24:26 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Arpeggios

Lesson 7 is all about arpeggios. Danny provides discussion and exercises designed to build your right hand skills.

Length: 8:43 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
Lesson 8

The Importance of Scales

Lesson 8 covers scale exercises in the classical format. Danny provides a few patterns that focus on finger independence and position shifts.

Length: 6:26 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Renaissance Period

In lesson 9, Danny begins discussion of the five different musical periods of classical guitar music. He starts with the Renaissance.

Length: 40:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

Robert Johnson's Alman

In lesson 10, Danny takes a more in depth look at a Robert Johnson's "Alman." This lesson contains a detailed explanation of fingering.

Length: 27:36 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Behind the Scenes with Danny Voris

Danny Voris discusses the major music periods and the advent of tonality.

Length: 7:19 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Baroque Period

Danny discusses and demonstrates a piece from the Baroque period.

Length: 22:17 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Classical Period

In lesson 13, Danny discusses the Classical period of music.

Length: 20:53 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 14

Romantic Period

In lesson 14, Danny discusses the Romantic period of music. He demonstrates a famous piece from this period commonly referred to as "Romance."

Length: 21:11 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

The 20th Century

In this lesson, Danny discusses the 20th century influence on classical guitar.

Length: 22:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Danny Voris View Full Biography

A unique guitarist in the region, Wright State alumnus Danny Voris, musically fulfills audiences with a mixture of exciting guitar playing and talented compositional skills. After graduating WSU in 1989, Danny obtained a teaching position at Sinclair Community College. In the fall of 2000, Danny obtained a scholarship to the graduate program at The University of Akron. After graduating the University of Akron in 2002 with a Master’s degree in Classical Guitar Performance, Danny returned to Dayton. There he began teaching at Jim McCutcheon Music Studios and at The Miami Valley School in Kettering, Ohio.

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