Articles → Playing techniques
Now let’s say a couple of words about guitar playing technique. Let’s assume everything is clear with chords: the left hand is supposed to press note combinations onto the frets, that is, to prepare the chords. Avoid applying too much force, otherwise your hand will get tired too quickly, and not all strings can take the pressure – they may just snap. The effort must be just enough for the strings to sound clearly and no more.
Generally, when playing the classical guitar, you must not use the left hand thumb, but in practice the thumb is often needed to press the bass string. When using the thumb, there’s nothing that can be said about the right position for the left hand...
But what is the right hand for, then? It has to make the instrument sound, by either striking or plucking the strings. There are three ways of obtaining a sound: with the fingers, with picks, or with a combination of the two: fingers and picks. The methods are quite different from each other.
Using the fingers gives speed and flexibility; using picks gives a brighter and more clear-cut sound. Some rhythms are better produced with the fingers, and others – with picks.
Describing various rhythms (or beats) in words is complicated and inefficient; you’re better off asking for a demonstration from a representative of the guitar-playing world. There’s nothing better. The same is true of finger style (or finger picking) – you can’t get a clear idea of what it is from a verbal explanation.
The only advice I can give is never to give in to the temptation of playing finger style with one-finger. It is a very pernicious habit that is hard to break, but for ease of playing it can’t be compared with using all of your fingers. Use the thumb (p) to play bass strings (4, 5, 6); the index finger (i) – for the third string; the middle finger (m) – for the second string; and the ring finger (a) – for the first, thinnest string. The little finger (ch) is not usually involved in the work of the right hand. When playing rhythm the strings are struck by the index finger (i). For pizzicato (muting) the entire palm is used.
It’s also worth mentioning that in using your fingers to make the sound, you can use either the pads of your fingertips or your fingernails. The latter option is similar to using a simplified pick. Remember however, that in this case you must take care of your nails, keeping them the required length and filing them. Each player decides on the optimum length for their nails, so that the string doesn’t get stuck between the nail and the finger pad, and a good sound is produced without difficulty.