how to play the Classical Guitar

Have you identified yet the best way to have fun playing the classical guitar?

Hopefully, you are ready to start playing after you’ve bought your classical guitar – what is next? Learning how to play classical guitar will probably be a very good start… This portion of our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning the Classical Guitar’ will start you off in the proper track.

How To Play The Classical Guitar

Posture And Footstool

Firstly you’ll need a guitar footstool. Adjust it to what feels like a comfortable height and put your left leg on it. Your left leg should come straight out from your hip pointing directly forwards. Your right leg should be angled out at a 45-degree angle to it. Make sure both of your feet are flat in connection to the floor and the footstool. Your shins should also be vertical.

Put the instrument on your left leg, and tuck the guitar in close to your body. Try and point the strings straight out at the wall of the room you’re in rather than at the ceiling. It might be easier to see where your left hand is on the fingerboard with the strings pointing up, but you’ll have to bend your wrist too much to hold the notes down comfortably.

The guitar neck should be ideally placed at a 45-degree angle between horizontal and vertical. A good guide for this is to look in a mirror and line the closest tuning peg on the top side of the guitar with your nose.

How to play the classical guitar

The Fretting Hand

Put your right-hand index finger on the bridge. Trace it backwards in a straight line to the side of the guitar and then halfway across the guitar’s side put your elbow on the guitar. Palm facing forwards put your hand up – as if you were back in school and asking the teacher a question in class.

Then let the arms flop down over the soundhole, putting your thumb on the string closest to you, and your fingers on the first string. Try not to move around too much once you’ve done this, this is fundamental in your playing position. Your wrist should be arched and high up off the guitar. Try not to let it drop, even if you feel tempted!

Walking Fingers and Using The Thumb

Put your first finger on the first string – the one closest to the floor – and push it down towards the soundhole, feel the pressure build-up under your finger, soften the tip joint and let the string release.  Your finger should then be resting on the second string. Congratulations, you just executed your first rest stroke (apoyando).

Try and do the same thing with your middle finger. Once they both feel comfortable in isolation, try alternating between them, your fingers will look like they are walking if you’re watching in a mirror! Oh and make sure your thumb is still resting on the string closest to you and your wrist is still up!

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Using The Thumb

Now it’s time to try using your thumb. Try not to hook underneath your thumb underneath the string and pull it to make a sound.

Instead, the thumb should come off the string, straight out from the body and slightly downwards towards the floor. 

Fretting Hand Technique

Now we can incorporate the fretting hand. Take your index finger, and put it by the 1st metal fret (strip) on the 1st string (closest to the floor).

Using the tip of your finger and keeping it arched, apply pressure to the fret but don’t let your finger collapse. Then pluck the string with your right hand. 

This technique is the same for all of the fingers on your fretting hand. Having a good fretting technique is simply a matter of building up this coordination and strength in each of the fingers of your fretting hand.

So what can you do to develop this finger strength? Here’s a short exercise.

Fretting Exercise

Remaining on the first string, repeat this process with the 2nd finger on the 2nd fret, 3rd finger on the 3rd fret and 4th finger on the 4th fret. Following that. Try it on all of the different strings – they all feel slightly different to one another. Then try and reverse the order, go backwards – 4321, change the order of the notes – e.g. 1324, 4123, 3124 etc.

These tips will get you off to a great start with some technical fundamentals for guitar playing. But to really kick start your learning it’s a great idea to go to a teacher.

See our article recommending some different ways to learn from a great teacher and find out which way will help you most of all.

How To Play the Classical Guitar - Summary

By now, you should be able to:

  • Know the right posture and how to use a footstool 
  • Know the right position of your fret hand
  • Do the walking fingers 
  • Use your thumb properly 
  • Know a few techniques in fretting 

Now it’s time to improve your technique…

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