Right Hand Technique
for Classical Guitar

In classical guitar, the right hand produces sound by plucking the strings. As a beginner, right hand technique can be very subtle and difficult, so make sure you carefully pay read all the guidelines on this page.

Right Hand Position

Hand Below Sound Hole

Place your right hand on the strings around the bottom of the sound hole.

This is the default right hand position for classical guitar. You will move your hand in other positions occasionally, but your hand will be in this default position around 90% of the time.

Hand Centered Over Strings

Your hand should be positioned directly over the strings, not too far back or too far forward. The large knuckles at the top of your right hand should be directly over the strings.

Keep Wrist Straight

Keep your wrist relatively straight. The wrist can hang down slightly, but not too much. This will vary some depending on your individual hand proportions. The important thing to remember is that your hand should feel very relaxed, and you should feel that you can easily move all your fingers.

Fingers Hang Naturally Below Hand

Once your hand is here, let your fingers hang naturally below your hand. When completely relaxed, your fingers should bend slightly - they should not be too straight or too curled.

How to Pluck the Strings

Step 1: Place your Finger Behind the String

First, place your finger behind the string that you want to play. This is called "planting" the finger.

If you are using fingernails, place the string on the leftmost side of the index, middle, or ring nail, or around the center of the thumb nail. The string should touch both the edge of the nail and the fingertip at the same time.

If you are using flesh (no nails), place the string just behind the fingertip, towards the edge of the finger.

Initially, you should take your time when planting your finger to make sure you that you place it in the correct position. As you get more advanced though, you should practice planting as quickly as possible, so that you can get to the string without any hesitation. This is especially important if the string is already ringing - you do not want to stop the sound by touching the string too early.

Note that when you pluck a string, only your finger moves. Your arm should stay relatively still. Also, because of the way that your hand is positioned, you will pull through the string at a slight angle.

Step 2: Push your Finger through the String

Once you've placed your finger correctly, push your entire finger through the string. There are two ways to push your finger through the string, rest stroke and free stroke.

Option 1: Rest Stroke (Apoyando)

To play rest stroke, push your finger through the string and fall gently on the adjacent string. For instance, to play rest stroke on the first string, you would push through the first string then fall onto the second string after you push through the 1st.

Note that when you play rest stroke, your hand should be slightly pulled back so that your fingers will naturally land on the adjacent string.

Rest stroke usually produces a richer, more resonant sound than free stroke. It works well if you only need to play one note at a time.

Option 2: Free Stroke (Tirando)

To play free stroke, push your finger through the string so that it does not land on the adjacent string. In other words, you finger doesn't touch any strings but the one it plucks.

Note that when you play free stroke, your hand should be slightly pushed forward so that your fingers will naturally miss the adjacent string.

Free Stroke usually produces a lighter, more delicate sound, and works well for playing many different notes at once.

Step 3: Return Finger to Original Position

After you finish plucking the string, immediately return your finger to its original position directly above the strings, so that your finger is prepared to play the next note.

General Guidelines for Plucking a String

Move Finger from the Large Knuckle Joint

Whenever you pluck a string, you should move your entire finger as a single unit so that it hinges from the large knuckle joint at the top of your hand. Why? Because the largest knuckle joint is the easiest to control. The smaller knuckle joints do not move as independently.

Avoid Collapsing the Small Tip Joint

You should generally avoid collapsing the tip joint (smallest joint on the finger) when you push through the string. This will help improve your accuracy and sound quality. You only need to collapse the tip joint in some special circumstances.

Use the Thumb as a Reference Point

Sometimes, people like to place the thumb lightly on the 4th, 5th, or 6th string when playing, so that they can use it as a reference point when playing with the other fingers.

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