LESSON NAVIGATION

 

 

ESSENTIAL BASICS for GUITAR  © 2017

 

Lesson 1 – Technique 

Sections

  • Proper Body Position

  • Right Hand Technique

  • Left Hand Technique

 

Be it a soccer coach or a music educator, any instructor will tell you that the key to success in any activity is a solid foundation of fundamentals. This is why Guitar technique is the topic of this first section. Every guitar student will benefit tremendously from reviewing and applying the suggestions set forth in this lesson.

GUITAR TECHNIQUE

I’ve had several students complain about cramping and fatigue in the left hand when they are playing. Other students have complained about stiffness and lack of speed in the right hand. I have compiled this list of basic do’s and don’ts which should help you avoid these same problems.

The descriptions on this page are for players who grip the pick with the right hand. If you play in a left-handed style, reverse the descriptions as adequate.

“You have to learn to walk before you learn how to run.”

Proper Body Position

Proper body position is part of guitar technique and is essential to prevent premature fatigue and possible injury. Relaxation is the key sticking point. If you maintain a stiff posture, you will tire quickly and it will hinder your speed.

Playing in a seated position

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proper guitar technique will vastlyt improve your sound quality, comfort level and confidence. Plant both feet firmly on the floor in front of you. For right handed players, the left foot should be slightly ahead of the right. Pull the guitar in close to your body with the bottom edge of the instrument as close to your belly as is comfortable. Position the neck of the guitar so that the peghead is over the left knee. The entire weight of the right arm should be supported by the body of the guitar. All the muscles of the right arm should be completely relaxed and limp. The bulge of the forearm muscle should be resting over the top edge of the body, thus placing the right hand as close to the strings as possible. Sitting and holding the guitar in this manner will help you to avoid back and neck strain. Of course, some people are more prone to physical discomfort than others, but you’ll find that you are in a more optimal position overall.

Remember!

  • Relax all muscles from the shoulder down to the wrist.

  • Keep your shoulders down.

  • The entire weight of the right arm should be supported by the body of the guitar.

  • The bulge of the forearm muscle should be resting over the top edge of the body.

  • Do not tense any muscles in the shoulder or arm while playing guitar. Tense muscles will slow you down considerably.

  • Do not slouch. Keep your back straight. Straight does not mean overarched or that your back must be tense and erect.

  • Avoid resting your left arm on your left leg. (Right handed players the opposite is true for left-handed players.)

  • Do not rest elbow of your left arm against your body. Keep the elbow at a comfortable distance from your body, no more than 2 or 3 inches.

  • RELAX!!! RELAX!!! RELAX!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right Hand Technique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right hand technique is the most overlooked and neglected aspect of guitar playing. Think about it! Since the first time you picked up the guitar almost all your attention has been focused on your left hand (if you’re a right handed player) and almost no attention on your right hand. How do I play this chord form? What about this scale pattern? How does “Stairway To Heaven” go? I see this with just about every student/player I meet. Guitar players are notorious for just strumming away with no attention paid to accurate or appropriate rhythm or time. For many players, the right hand is just simply a means of setting the strings in motion. Effective right hand technique is extremely important and useful for better overall control, dynamics, variety of tonal color and texture and speed.

So many of the greatest players in history have had the most unconventional methods of playing the guitar and using the right hand in general. Wes Montgomery used his thumb, Pat Metheney holds the pick almost vertically straight up, and Jimi Hendrix used his teeth. This raises the question, “Is there really one standardized perfect method for holding the pick?”.

The truth is that there is no one perfect or “right” way to hold the pick. Many guitar teachers, guitar instruction books, videos and even music schools have attempted to create the idea that there is only one correct and proper way to hold the pick. In my humble opinion, the only criteria one should use to determine whether a technique is “right” or not is:

Does it feel natural and comfortable?

Are you getting the best sound quality and tone?

Is the technique you are using holding you back at all, inhibiting control, speed and versatility.

Although I personally don’t believe that there is only one “right” way to hold the pick, I have evolved a right hand technique for the positioning of the right hand in general. This technique seems to work very well for my students, and their overall playing skills have improved rapidly as a result of using it.

Remember!

  • Any awkwardness should go away in time.

  • Don’t rest the fingers of the pick hand on the guitar for support.

  • Use a firm grip, but not a tight one.

  • Very little of the tip of the pick should be exposed.

  • The pick should be at a 90 degree angle from the strings.

  • Glide the pick across the strings, not through them.

  • Strike the strings 4 inches from the fretboard, or directly over the sound hole for an acoustic guitar.

  • Strum and pick from the wrist. DO NOT USE THE ENTIRE ARM. Keep wrist loose and flexible! Keep your muscles relaxed at all times!

  • RELAX!!! RELAX!!! RELAX!!!

Left Hand Technique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As with the other techniques described in this section, relaxation is critical for the left hand. The thumb of the left hand (for right-handed players) should be placed parallel to the frets and perpendicular to the neck. Do not rest the thumb parallel to the neck. 

Grip the neck of the guitar lightly, not like you are gripping a rope for dear life. The thumb is used primarily as a brace. Space should be left between the back of the neck and the palm of the hand. Finger pressure should come from the fingers and the muscles just below the knuckles. Pressure should not come from the palm of the hand or any part of the arm. Use enough pressure to allow the strings to make adequate contact with the fret(s), but no more than that. Excessive pressure will cause fatigue, cramping, soreness, and limit ability to move around the neck with speed and accuracy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The upper center of the fingertip is where the finger should make contact with the string. Playing with proper guitar technique means the fingers should be arched, not straight. The fingernails of the left hand should be kept short. They should not prevent proper finger contact with the strings. You do not want the fingernails to scrape or dig into the fingerboard. (Let the fingernails on the right hand grow if you intend to use your fingers to pluck the strings.) Keep fingers positioned as close as possible to the strings and fretboard surface at all times. Do not lift the fingers away from the fretboard or you’ll just waste time and energy bringing them back again.

 

Remember: real physical distance equals real time.

 

 

Remember!  The checklist below WILL help your Guitar technique improve FAST!

  • The left hand thumb should be parallel to the frets and perpendicular with the neck.

  • Grip the neck lightly.

  • Maintain space between the back of the guitar neck and the palf of the left hand.

  • Finger pressure should come from the finger muscles, not the palm or the wrist.

  • Use enough pressure to allow clean string contact with the frets, nothing more.

  • The upper center of the finger tip should make contact with the string. (Like pressing a key on your keyboard.)

  • Keep the left hand fingernails short.

  • Keep fingers close to the fretboard at all times. Lifting them up will slow down your playing.

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Click here to continue with Lesson 2 – Fretboard Logic

 

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