About Right Hand Positioning.
When you begin to finger pick your right hand
will need to be stable or "anchored".
(If you are left handed and play chords with your right hand then
applies to your "left" hand) When you're picking your
finger picks must come up
on the string just right each time you go to pick a string. Not only just hit the
intended string but you want to play them in a consistent way. This is done by using
your little finger as a reference
or a "picking anchor." Place your little
finger on the
top of the guitar near the bridge and pick guard. Use this as your anchor
By having this "picking anchor" on the top of the guitar you will be able to
you are" in relation to
the strings without looking at your hand.
At first it
doesn't matter because your just getting started and you will want to be
looking at your hand.
However, as you
progress, it is BEST to practice without
looking at your picking hand.
Learn to "listen" to what you are doing.
for mistakes, "listen" as you make those corrections and learn to "feel"
how to make those
corrections without looking
at your picking hand. That's why
you have the picking
anchor. Learn to rely on that
picking anchor. Learn to trust
it and use it. This
will help you later as you learn to "listen" for "Picking Patterns".
Basically what you want to do is to "LEARN TO LISTEN
Note the little finger is "anchored"
Top view as you would see it.
on the top of the guitar in front of
Again, note the
the bridge. This is your "picking
is "anchored." Learn to rely
on and trust your picking anchor.
You can move this picking anchor as you need to when changing picking patterns.
In the patterns on the page "Picking Patterns #1- 4"
you will place your picking anchor
so that your first two fingers come up on the "b"
and high "e" strings. Your first finger
on the "b" string and your second finger on the
"e" string. In this position those fingers
are "dedicated" to those particular strings.
That means that when it is time to play one
of those particular strings you will use the finger
that is "assigned" to that string.
I will refer to this position as the
Note the 1st finger is on the 'b' (or 2nd) string. The 2nd finger
will be on the 'e'
(High or 1st) string. In this "FIRST POSITION" you will
not be using your 3rd finger
at all. It just floats. Your thumb will be covering the bass strings, the 'e,
a, d, and g'
(or 6th, 5th, 4th and 3rds strings). In most picking patterns your thumb will only be
the 'd and g' strings and occasionally the 'a' (or 5th) string. There are some songs
that when using this position I will reach up to the top bass string the 'e' (or 6th) string
with the thumb, but that is a rare exception. I mention this because as you improve you
too may want to do that.
To help you find your "picking anchor" at
first, simply place the finger picks on the
respective strings for the "Position" you will be in (for example
- 1st POSITION, touch
or lay the 1st finger pick against the "b" string and
the 2nd finger pick on the "e" string.)
and then "anchor" your little finger on the top of the
guitar. As you improve, this will
just happen without giving any thought to it at all.
It is not critical where you place your anchor finger.
Generally you will have your
anchor somewhere between the hole of the guitar top and the bridge.
may be close to the bridge, other times it may be further up, even over the
Please notice there is a change in the sound of the strings as you move your hand
position along the strings.
This is because picking a string near the bridge causes
the string to vibrate differently
then when picked over the hole. Near the bridge you
hear more "overtones" in the sound.
When its picked over the hole you hear more
of the full strings vibration, which makes for a fuller
bass sound. This makes for
a nice variation in the quality of the sounds the guitar makes. You will see any
good artist make good use of these different sounds. So you will want to
move you hand back and forth along the strings as you play to make good
these differences. This can be
done while still "keeping your anchor," because your
anchor "slides" back and forth on the top
of the guitar, helping you to "find" the
strings as you go.
As I mentioned before, you will also move your anchor "up
and down" as you
to when changing picking Patterns. On picking Patterns #5-9 for example you will
to move your anchor "up" towards the bass strings so that your fingers are located
correct "assigned" strings.
I refer to this position as the
Note the 1st finger is now on the 'g' string. The 2nd
finger on the 'b' string and now
in this SECOND POSITION the 3rd finger will be
"dedicated" to the 'e' string.
In this position the thumb will now be covering the three bass
This 2nd POSITION is the one that you will be using the most.
In this position all six
strings of the guitar will be used on a regular basis.
For example, in Patterns #6, and
#10-13 you will be using this picking anchor position.
Another position that is sometimes used is
Note that the 1st finger is now on the 'a' string.
Sometimes when I use this position I don't
use my 3rd finger at all, but just the 1st an 2nd fingers and let the
thumb cover the 'e'
and 'a' strings. This is a pattern that is occasionally used when
highlighting a bass
program or a run that is not used much at all. At other times this position can be used
when lighting a melody line as I do towards the end of the 1st video on the page
WHY learn finger picking guitar? And HOW to learn!
I don't show any Patterns for this
third position on my Patterns pages because of its
infrequent use but I'm still showing this position here because I wanted you to know
that you can do some interesting things in this position if you would like.
could use some of the same patterns for the 1st
POSITION in this Position too or you
make up you own patterns.
On the other pages you will be moving your anchor point up
and down on the top of
the guitar to position your fingers on the appropriate strings for those patterns.
must learn to move your anchor as you vary your picking patterns while
to play. The goal is to be able change your anchor back and forth
the different patterns with not even a hint of any change or a pause at all in
musical flow. There should be no interruption in the rhythm at all even when
points. I suggest some exercises on the picking pages that will help
you develop this
skill. You will need to work on this once you have mastered a
number of the patterns.
If you're just starting to learn to finger pick, don't worry
about all that just right now. Learning
to move your anchor will come in time.
At first just get used to the patterns, and as you improve start
getting used to moving
your hand around.
Now let me point out some common mistakes in hand
position so you won't do them.
It's important that the right hand be in a relaxed position with
the fingers having a
slight curve. If you are sitting with the guitar, the wrist
should be relaxed with a slight
bend downward. Keep the palm of your hand up and away
from the bridge or the
top of the guitar and strings.
Do not flatten the hand and curl the fingers too much.
These tense positions will
make for fatigue and cramping in the long run, not only in
your hands but also in your
style of music and sound. You need to be relaxed
and let the music flow from your
hand and your finger picks.
Note the fingers are cramped and
Again the hand is cramped and
the palm is too close to the top
the thumb is too cramped too.
of the guitar - NOT GOOD!
Palm too close to guitar top.
To correct this problem pull the hand away from the guitar top
more so that the
picking hand is in a comfortable and relaxed position.
Imaging a small ball in
the palm of your hand is helpful. With a small ball in your hand your fingers
would have a natural curve around the ball.
That is the basic shape you want
your hand to be in. Of course,
keep it relaxed.
Note the slight curves in the
Here you can clearly see the
fingers because the palm of
relaxed position of the hand
the hand is up away form the
THIS IS GOOD!
top of the guitar. (Tennis ball)
Wrong Finger Movement
Another common problem that beginners sometimes have.
They may tend to exaggerate
the finger movement of their picking hand. Extending the
fingers out almost straight
while picking is not good. If your fingers go way out and
around until they come
back up onto the string then your technique is not good and needs
to be corrected.
NOT PRACTICE IT WRONG! Slow down and correct your
To correct this problem keep that
slight curve in your fingers (like you see in the photos
above) as you play. Your fingers only need to move enough to
pluck the string and that
is it. Your fingers
should never straighten out but should always have that curve in them
only move no more then an inch or so towards the palm of your hand while plucking
string. This is done so that the tip of your fingers make little circles. How
Well, no bigger than a quarter (25 cent piece). If your fingers are making bigger circles
like the size of a half dollar, and your fingers are straightening out while picking, then you
work on your technique. This exaggerated finger movement will make for
the road and should be corrected as soon as you can.
Now lets talk a little about the wrist position because this
is important too. The amount
of curve in your wrist can vary somewhat.
This is in accord with your personnel taste
and the way you like to hold your guitar
while playing. For example some like to have
their guitar down by their hips when
standing or while using a guitar strap. They think
"cool." If that's what you prefer then your right hand position will be different
sitting down on a stool. If your guitar is down at your hips you will need to
the wrist slightly upward. If you are sitting down or your strap is holding
guitar higher up around
your chest, then your wrist will need to bend slightly
So the wrist position is depending on your guitar position.
The Goal With Wrist Position
What you are trying to accomplish with this angle in the wrist
is to have your finger
movement to be perpendicular (Right
angle or at 90 degrees) to the string. Also the
picks should come up on to the strings so that the "tongue" of the pick
hits flat against
the string. Please keep in mind that you will probable never have your
to the strings at exactly "right angles. "Look at it like
this - it's mealy a goal. The closer
the better. If your finger movement is somewhat parallel to the strings then your picks
"scrap" the wound strings as you play. NOT GOOD!
This is what you're trying to
avoid. Using plastic finger picks will help "mute" this problem some
what. Twisting the
slightly on the tip of the finger will help too. (Shown below) However,
BEST results, your picking technique
needs to be correct. Your technique needs to
be such that the finger movement and picks are coming straight up onto the strings.
To accomplish this your wrist
position is the KEY!!! Twisting of the pick is just
"fine tuning." (See below)
The reason for for having to bend the wrist is you must compensate for the position
elbow. The higher the elbow is over the bridge - the greater the need is to bend the
upward. The further back the elbow is from the bridge - the need to bend the wrist
downward. When the elbow is somewhere in between - the wrist can be
With the guitar up by the
chest the elbow is bent and it's back behind the bridge - so the
wrist bends downward. With the
guitar down by your hips or waist the elbow is straighter
and over the bridge - and so the wrist must
bend upward. With the guitar at your belly
area the elbow is in between and so the wrist can be straighter.
Personally, I feel that with the guitar down at my hips my guitar
playing is hindered
because the guitar is too far away from my upper body. In that
position the left hand
wrist is forced to bend too much. This doesn't feel comfortable or
natural for me. I like
the guitar to be closer to my chest. That way the left hand is
"more relaxed" allowing for
more freedom for left hand guitar work (very important to me).
Of course I've always
been more concerned about sounding good then looking "cool."
The position you choose
is a matter of personnel taste but the rule is you must feel comfortable and relaxed,
endurance will suffer and so will
Just remember the goal is to have your finger
movement at right angles to the strings.
Below are some photos of what the wrist should be like in
different playing positions.
Note the thumb position in all these photos is with the thumb
extended out and the
thumb pick FLAT against the string.
Here the guitar position is with
Here the guitar neck is down more,
the neck pointing upwards so
so the need for a slight bend
the wrist is almost straight
downwards in the wrist
Here the guitarist is standing
Here the guitarist stands with the
with the guitar at his waist.
guitar down by his hips. Note the
Note the slight bend in the
need to bend the wrist even a little
wrist going upward.
Just remember what you're trying to accomplish. You're
trying to have your finger
movement to be at a "right angel" to the strings as you
finger pick. Depending on
how you hold your guitar, you may need to bend the wrist to make
How to Wear
Plastic Finger Picks
Remember the purpose of wearing picks is so that you
can improve the sound quality
and gain volume. So an important thing to remember is that
you don't want your fingers
to actually touch the strings as you play. If they do touch
while you're playing that will
tend to "mute" the sound and take away from the clarity,
and quality of the sound. So
avoid this by adjusting the finger picks on the tip of your
fingers. Below are some photos
of how the picks are worn on the fingers and different things you
can do to adjust them on
your finger tips.
Something else to help with the way the picks hit the strings
is how you wear
the finger picks on your finger. Here are a couple of ways
you can "adjust"
the way the pick is worn on your finger tip.
Cock Your Picks
Note the tip of the pick is in
middle of the
finger tip about 1/4" out from
This is something that can be adjusted
according to personal preference.
the goal is that you want only your
to touch the strings as you
play. If your finger
actually touches the strings as you
you need to adjust this. You may
"cock" the pick upwards
slightly to get a
position you like. In this photo the
part of the pick is not at a right angle to the
finger but it is "cocked"
Twist Your Picks
See how the finger pick is twisted
slightly on the finger so that the pick
tongue is not on the same plane as
the finger nail. This
"twisting" of the
pick is something else you can do to
help the picks to come up flat upon
Each Pick Twisted Slightly Different
You can see the slight "twist"
three of the finger picks here.
that the 3rd finger has more twist
than the 2nd finger, and the 2nd
than the1st. (This is how I
wear my picks - it works
pretty good for me.)
The amount of twist on each finger may vary from one finger to the
on the position you're in with the guitar, just like I explained
about the wrist position
in the section above. If your wrist position is bent
slightly downward, you may find
that you should have slightly more "twist" on the 1st
finger then on the 2nd and more
on the 3rd then on the 2nd. This is because the hand has a
natural curve to it (like
around that tennis ball) and therefore while picking, your fingers
are not all coming onto
the strings at the same angle. The "twist of the
pick" is a way of "fine tuning" in
compensating for that angle. Both the "wrist
position" and the slight "twist" of the pick,
are merely done to make sure the pick comes up
"straight" and "flat" against the string.
*** If you purchase picks form Paul
Smith Music you will receive more
information about how to adjust the picks themselves in the
Steps Before Playing.
1. Get in your favorite position you like to be in while
playing the guitar.
2. Anchor your picking hand and have all the picks
lay up against the strings.
3. First, adjust the wrist so the your finger
movement will be at "right angles"
to the strings. (Get as close as
possible and still be comfortable)
4. Look at the way each pick "tongue" lays
against each string.
5. Fine tune, by twisting the picks so that the pick
tongue hits "flat" against the string.
After you have done these steps a few times before playing, you'll
find that you won't
need to do them anymore. When you put your picks on you will
already know how
you like to wear them and you'll just put them on that way and
begin to play. Of course
if you change the way you hold your guitar you can always go back
and do these steps.
Summary - keep it
Now let's cap off this page about your right hand position,
and the way you wear your
finger picks. The most important thing to remember is
that your hand must remain
relaxed. If it doesn't feel natural or
comfortable for you then make whatever changes
necessary so that it does. Also make sure that
your finger movement comes up as
close to right angles to the strings as you can and that
your picks are "flat" against the
strings as you play. Finally you don't want your fingers (or thumb) to
touch the strings
at all, but only the finger (and thumb) picks. If you
can keep these few things foremost
in mind, the rest will fall into place.
Now that you understand about your finger picking
hand position you are
now ready to start with learning the patterns. I suggest
starting here - Patterns #1-4