Guitar Habits 3: Correct Right Hand Form On Guitar

right hand on guitar

The 2 Right Hand Positions On Guitar

There is a basic position for playing with a pick, and a basic position for playing fingerstyle. Although pro players may use variations of these positions, we should learn these basic positions first. 

Here are the basic characteristics of each position...

Fingerstyle

Pickstyle

fingerstyle-vs-pickstyle

1. The fingers are almost perpendicular to the strings, pointing down toward the floor and cupped as if holding a ball .

2. The thumb is out and away from the fingers. 

3. The wrist is slightly arched, with a space between the wrist and the guitar. 

4. The hand is bent down slightly at the wrist. 

1. The arm, wrist and hand is flat to the face of the guitar. 

2. The arm, wrist and hand are in a straight line. 

3. The pick is held between the thumb and index finger.  

4. The fingers not holding the pick are held out. The pinky can lightly touch the face of the guitar. 

 

​​​​The 2 Fingerstyle Positions

Similar to the 2 basic positions for the left hand on guitar, there are 2 basic fingerstyle positions commonly used on guitar. They could go by many names, but we will call the first one the "classical" position, and the second the folk/country position. The folk/country position is used in styles where damping the bass strings is an essential characteristic of the style. It is often done with a thumbpick. 

Also similar to the left hand on guitar, it is best if the classical position is learned first. When the classical position is developed first by the student, full relaxation and control is built into each finger, as well as the arm itself. This is essential for all good playing. 

Classical Fingerstyle Position

1. The arm is placed on top of the bout of the guitar. 

2. The wrist is away from the face of the guitar, forming a downward arch.   

3. The fingers come across the strings in a mostly perpendicular angle to the strings

Folk/Country Fingerstyle Position

1. The arm is placed in front of the guitar. 

2. The arm, wrist and hand is flat to the face of the guitar. 

3. The fingers come across the strings in a more parallel angle to the strings than perpendicular.

If the student starts with the folk/country position it is much more likely that tension habits will dominate the technique. It is very difficult for most students to be relaxed in this position and still handle the left hand movements of their music 

However, the student who learns the classical position first has no problem learning the folk/country position. It is easy to switch back and forth in the same piece of music if desired. 

Switching The 2 Fingerstyle Positions

Students are always asking me "If I learn the classical right hand position for my right hand as you teach in "The Principles" will I still be able to use the folk/country position and mute bass notes".

In this video, I provide the answer. Watch me begin with the "classical" position and then switch to the "folk/country".


The Pickstyle Position

 The hand and arm position for pickstyle playing is radically different than either fingerstyle position. In the pickstyle position:

1. The arm is placed in front of the guitar. 

2. The arm, wrist and hand is flat to the face of the guitar. 

3. The arm, wrist and hand are in a straight line. 

How To Position The Right Arm & Hand

​In this video I show you how to position the right hand and arm for both fingerstyle (classical position) and pickstyle. 


About the author 

Jamie Andreas

Jamie Andreas has one goal: to make sure that everyone who wants to learn guitar is successful. After her first 25 years of teaching, she wrote the world acclaimed method for guitar "The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar". She put everything into this method that was essential for success on guitar. Called "The Holy Grail" of guitar books, the Principles has enabled thousands of students who tried and failed to play guitar for years or even decades, to become real guitar players. In 2012 Jamie was profiled in "Guitar Zero" (Penguin Press 2012), a study of how adults learn to play guitar. Jamie was interviewed along with some of the worlds leading guitarist/teachers, including jazz legend Pat Martino and Tom Morello ("Rage Against The Machine").

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  1. Hi Jamie,
    Indeed you’re right. The right hand is essential to play correctly.
    But I need your advise, because I had a serious accident that injured my right hand and damaged my thumb and index.
    I have been struggling for years, and so far did not find a satisfactory solution, which demotivates me.
    Would you have a specific advise for this kind of case ?

    Reply

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