Lesson: Right Hand Position for Classical Guitar

Video lessons and technique reference photos for the right hand position and technique for classical guitar. This is for my students of classical guitar to help supplement their lessons. Just remember that this is a reference for guitar and not necessarily how you will position your arm. Everyone’s body is different so you’ll have to experiment to see what works for you (within the guidelines). However, as a basic reference these photos should guide you in the right direction. Thanks to my student Sofia for helping with the photography. Find more articles at the Lesson Archive Page. For free lessons, sheet music, and pro videos join the Email Newsletter. Like these lessons? Please consider supporting the site.

Right Hand and Arm Position for Classical Guitar
YouTube HD Link


Right Hand Thumb Position
The below videos discuss the position of the right hand thumb which should also give you some good ideas on hand position as well. Here’s the HD Youtube Video Link. I also cover a left hand exercise near the end of the video. The book I mention can be found on Amazon: The Bible of Classical Guitar Technique by Hubert Käppel which is an amazing 245 pages of exercises and text. When adjusting your hand and thumb position remember to also consider your guitar position, footstool height, and all the other variables.

Also see the below video by Gohar Vardanyan giving a lesson on right hand thumb position and movement. Brought to you by Strings By Mail and their excellent YouTube channel. This is a great lesson for beginners and review for intermediates. As she outlines, make sure to start with posture and position first because there is not much you can do if your position is off.


Right Hand & Arm Stabilty
Below, a discussion and lesson about right hand stability for classical guitar via my Youtube channel. The question was regarding a “bouncing right hand” issue. I review some right hand technique and posture ideas and then talk specifically about how to stabilize the right hand.


Photos & Tips: Basic Right Hand Position 

  • Your right arm contacts the guitar below the elbow but well before the wrist
    • this will vary based on your size and the guitar size
  • Your right hand should be somewhere near the rosette (especially beginners)
  • Your right wrist is straight, that is, in-line with your forearm

Right Hand Position - Classical Guitar

Again, the align your spine and head with the Y axis and your shoulders with the X axis. If you didn’t see it before check out the other article on basic sitting posture for classical guitar: Basic Posture and Sitting Position.

Line R shows how your right wrist is straight, that is, in-line with your forearm.

Right Hand Position Diagram- Classical Guitar

Basic Right Hand Position

Same as above, although I’m male and a bit shorter than Sofia so there are some minor alterations.

Right Hand Position - Classical Guitar

Right Hand Position Diagram- Classical Guitar

The Right Hand Arch

You can see in this photo that the right wrist has a natural and relaxed arch. This is very important. Don’t force the arch or over-do-it just let it naturally arch.

Right Hand Position (Arch) - Classical Guitar

Line A refers to the contact point below of the arm on the guitar. It contacts below the elbow but well before the wrist. Line B indicates the natural and relaxed arch.

Right Hand Position (Arch Diagram) - Classical Guitar

Right Hand Arch

Generally the same as above but a slightly different camera angle and my shorter arm.

Right Hand Position (Arch) - Classical Guitar

Line A is the contact point of the arm on the guitar. Line B is the natural and relaxed arch to the wrist. Line P shows the thumb extended naturally away from the fingers (more on this when we get to the right hand article). Line I is the direction that the I finger will move (in toward the palm). Again, I’ll cover this in a separate article.

Right Hand Position (Arch Diagram) - Classical Guitar

A Closer Look at the Right Hand

The next three photos hows my hand in three different places: ponticello (near the bridge, bright sound), by the rosette (balanced sound), and tasto (near the fingerboard, warm sound). You can also make changes to the sound by changing the angle at which the fingers approach the strings but that will be in a later video.

Right Hand Position (Ponticello) - Classical Guitar

Right Hand Position (Rosette) - Classical Guitar

Right Hand Position (Tasto) - Classical Guitar

Here’s Sofia’s hand, you can notice that her thumb nail is very different than mine. You might want to check out my article: Fingernails for Classical Guitar: How I Shape My Nails, everyone is a bit different.

Right Hand Position (Thumb Angle) - Classical Guitar

The next two photos show how the fingers move in toward the palm and inside the thumb. This is from the player’s perspective so you should be able to imitate the motion (also see the above video for a more clear explanation).

Right Hand Position - Classical Guitar

Right Hand Position - Classical Guitar

Right Hand Position - Classical Guitar

Right Hand Position - Classical Guitar

I’ve included two more photos here just for your reference. You should notice the curvature in the fingers. Every joint and knuckle create a new angle.

Right Hand Position (Finger Position) - Classical Guitar

Right Hand Position - Classical Guitar

More free lessons: Lesson Archive for Classical Guitar
Books by Bradford: Visit the Sheet Music Page

More Free Lessons:

  1. Posture and Sitting Position for Classical Guitar – Video, Photos, Tips, Diagrams
  2. Left Hand Position for Classical Guitar – Video, Photos, Tips, Diagrams

Books to consider:

Happy Practicing. Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this or have advice to share.

 

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15 Comments

  1. Hello Bradford,
    thank you for your very informative and useful site. My question is about how to correct this right hand bad habit in a young learner.

    My 13 year old daughter has been learning guitar for a year now, taking a weekly lesson with a classical guitar teacher, and practicing. She has made decent progress.

    However, her right hand position seems terrible to me (I am a very amateurish amateur). There is hardly any distance between her wrist and the strings, so the thumb is completely parallel to the string it plays, and the base of the thumb is almost touching the string. This results in a thumb movement that has to go outwards from the string, making a very long trip before it returns. I don’t even understand how she can manage to play that way. I keep telling her to arch the hand by separating the wrist from the strings so the thumb meets the string at an angle, not parallel to it etc. She does it for two seconds and immediately goes back to her old ways. I am afraid this may become a habit impossible to correct.
    If you have any suggestions as to how to go about correcting this, I’d appreciate it.
    thank you.

    • Hi, your daughter is clearly very wise as she is correct, the thumb and indeed the fingers should contact the string at their central tips, with fingers straight, this is correct, playing with the thumb taking a crazy side swipe as most players do is ridiculous as there is no way that the thumb nail can contact the string like this unless it could be persuaded to balloon out to the left and this is of course impossible. The side swipe technique will cause circulation trouble (pins and needles) and painful injury while the parallel position it sounds like your daughter has allows for a superb apoyando that should be the primary means of expression.

  2. Have her constantly demonstrate to you and her teacher the correct AND incorrect hand position so she clearly understands what to do and not do. Constantly have her correct her hand after every singe phrase in the music. If it has to be said 100 times do it. You can make a funny joke or saying to keep it fun. If they are young, I call the flat wrist and hand “the crab” and every time I see I simply say the word CRAB!

    • Steel-string players often rest their pinky and historically some early music players might as well. However, in general, classical guitarist do not rest their pinky as they are aiming for maximum relaxation and dexterity int he hand. Support for the hand comes from the forearm contact point on the guitar and the weight of the arm by way of gravity.

  3. Hi,
    is it safe to assume that your books: “Classical Guitar Method Vol. 1” and “20 Favorite Exercises”, along with the videos, is a great place to start out on classical guitar? I know a dozen chords or so, but I can’t play a whole tune, so I am basically total newbie. 🙂

    Thanks in advance!

  4. How do we know what fingers to use when we play a piece that both has chords and melody? I see some fingerings in the textbook and I’m confused as to how you chose them. What is the logic? I feel lost in my right hand technique. I can play the notes left hand but each time I play right hand it feels different.

    • Good question. My first answer is to study technique exercises a good deal. The ones at the back of my free book are a good start. Technique exercises not only train your fingers in good habits but also inform them as to which fingerings are efficient. The rest depends on the context of the piece you are playing. You said something about a “text book” but which one are you using? Are you talking about my method book vol. 1? If so, I discuss most fingerings in the videos for each piece.

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