Better Guitar Technique

Learning Better Guitar Technique  

Guitar Fingering Rules

There are 3 main rules when it comes to finding the best fingering for any passage you play on the fretboard of the guitar. I call these the “Rules of Superior Guitar Technique.” They are as follows:

When At All Possible – 

  1. When you skip a fret, skip a finger.
  2. Never use the same finger twice in a row (unless shifting or sliding). 
  3. Never Shift twice in a row.

Notice i said “when at all possible.” As with any rules, there are always exceptions. There are times when the fingering of a certain melodic pattern necessitates break one or another. But trying always to adhere to these rules will ensure you’ll be choosing the best possible fingerings at all times.

Where did i get these rules? Well, I’ll tell you – after many years of playing through pieces written for the classical guitar, which had had fingering indications written by such guitar greats as Andres Segovia and Julian Bream, and asking myself “now why’d he choose to do it that way?,” i noticed certain recurring techniques, and that in turn led me to formulate these rules. 

Guitar Fingering Tips

Take a look at rule #1, above. Skipping a finger is sound practice for a few reasons. You’ll be able to keep track of where your hand is on the neck of the guitar. You’ll save yourself some work when it’s not necessary. But there is on other very important reason: forcing a stretch between the 2nd (middle) and 3rd (ring) fingers can actually cause damage to the hand when done over and over again over a period of time.

Moving across strings.

Keep in mind that the side of the hand which is strongest is that side closest to the thumb. Make those fingers the ones that need to reach further whenever fingering two or more notes on different strings, but on the same fret. 

Try applying these rules while playing through the Modes For Guitar in the Modal Guitarist books, and while using some melodic patterns while playing through the modes and arpeggios. By doing so, you will train yourself to be able to instinctively choose the correct fingering for any musical passage. 

Holding the Guitar

Sounds, simple, right? the fact is, many people conform the way they hold the guitar to where it is, rather than putting the guitar where their hands will find it easiest to reach and play. Try this experiment: while sitting in a chair, without holding the guitar, try placing your hands where it would be easiest to reach the guitar. Take note of where tboth hands are. Then, when you pick up the guitar, move your kness and legs to a position where they’ll keep the guitar in that position – or use a guitar strap – or both.

As a general rule, you’ll find the left hand can more easily reach the fretboard when the headstock of the guitar is at about eye level. The reason for this is simple: holding the hand that high means you’ll have your elbow bent at an acute angle. The more your elbow is bent, the straighter you can keep your wrist. After all, elbows are made for bending, but the wrists are more for twisting the hand, and to much bending at the wrist will impair the fingers’ ability to function optimally. 

Another reason for having the headstock that high is that the neck will then be more or less at a 45 degree angle. With the neck of the guitar parallel to the floor you’ll find your wrist is twisted about as far as it’s construction allows. The further from that horizontal angle of holding the guitar, the better. 

The Left Hand Thumb 

The best place for the left hand thumb is in the center of the back of the guitar neck, behind the fret at which the 2nd finger will play. Often, guitarists put the thumb behind the index finger, which, ironically, needs the least amount of help, since it’s the strongest finger. Placing the thumb on the guitar neck behind the fret at which the 2nd finger plays will allow it apply opposing pressure equally whether squeezing with the index finger (1st finger), or the 4th finger (pinky).