In this Step we're looking at hand positioning. By the end of the lesson you'll know exactly where your right hand should be placed for the best results in fingerstyle guitar.
So far in this 10 Easy Steps to Fingerpicking series we've covered a lot, and If you've followed all the previous Steps you should be comfortable playing a good few fingerpicking patterns over some simple chords by now.
Now you can play a bit, you really want to focus on where your right hand should be placed as you fingerpick.
You may have wondered about hand positioning as you've been practising the patterns. It's really important to have a good understanding of it early on because having good positioning will really help you develop better technique.
What Exactly Do You Mean By 'Hand Positioning'?
What I'm specifically referring to is where your right hand should be positioned on the guitar to get the best results for fingerpicking.
Where Should It Be Placed?
It's hard to say exactly where because it's slightly different for all players. The first thing I want you to do is to watch a dozen or so of your favourite fingerstyle players and study where they place their right hands as they play.
You'll noticed that they're all slightly different. It's the same as when you watch people who play with picks, it's always a little different from player to player. It's important to keep this in mind.
Understanding Different Areas of Positioning
Hand positioning is hugely important for all guitarists of all styles. You really want to be aware of its importance from early on in your playing.
Where you position your hand will greatly impact the overall sound of your playing.
If you play a note close to the bridge on your guitar, it'll produce a high pitched twang, a thin sound.
Play further up the strings, closer to where the neck begins and you'll get a much deeper, warmer tone.
Being aware of this will really help you develop a good tone in your playing. Sadly, this is heavily overlooked by so many players.
Having said that, it isn't, and shouldn't be, top priority for beginners. There are more important things to be focusing on in your early stages. But please do be aware of it, the sooner the better.
A Good Starting Point
A good starting point for hand positioning for newcomers, in my opinion, is slightly closer to the bridge than the neck.
Imagine a vertical line drawn down the centre of your sound hole. I believe the perfect hand positioning point is at the back half of that line - towards the back of the sound hole.
Here, for me, is where you're going to get the most even tone. Too close to the bridge and notes can become far too deep and blur together a little. Too far back and it can sound a little too stiff.
I find that at the back half of the sound hole you get the best of both worlds, the notes still cut through nice and brightly but without them blurring into one another.
Bear in Mind
As mentioned before, this is a great 'starting point' and it's where the majority of my own playing takes place.
Always remember that there are no strict rules and that we all do things slightly differently. Try this position out for a good amount of time and see how you get on with it.
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Although this is where the majority of my playing takes place, I still move my hand around all the time to take advantage of all the possible areas for picking. Sometimes you're going to want the notes to sound thin and twangy, so you move down closer to the bridge. Sometimes the deeper tone is required, so your hand positioning will move closer to the neck.
Take advantage of each and every position and in time your tone will grow into something really special.
If you watch, you'll notice that all great players move their picking hands around between the bridge and the bass of the neck as they play. It's all done to create great tone, and it works a treat.
Strive to be like the great players you admire. Steal as much from them as you possibly can, without ripping them off.
Should I Anchor My Pinky When I Play Fingerstyle?
As you've been playing your way through all the Steps in this series, you may have found your little finger sticking out on your right hand and resting on the body of the guitar. "Is this ok?" I hear you ask.
I'm going to say yes, it is ok.
The reason why people do it is to simply make their hand positioning feel more secure, and it works. Personally I did it for a long time and I found that it helped me when I was new to fingerpicking.
Some people will say that you shouldn't do it, others say that you should.
Whilst anchoring the pinky does make it feel more secure, ultimately you just want your wrist and fingers to be fully in control of the strings. So relying on anchoring will, to some degree, take that away from your wrist and picking fingers. Therefore, I believe it's better to learn not to anchor in the long term.
What Do The Pros Do?
It's rare to see a great fingerstyle player playing with the pinky anchored on the body of the guitar. They just don't need to do it, their fingers have full control of the strings and having the pinky sticking out slightly limits the movement in their fingers.
Really, playing with your pinky anchored isn't a big deal. If you find yourself doing it don't stress about it, perhaps just try it with it tucked into your hand for a while and see how you get on. It will likely stop anchoring on its own over time anyway. At least that's what happened to me, and most others.
If you're still doing it after ten years but you're getting great results, then my advice is to permanently keep it anchored. Remember, we are all different.
10 Easy Steps to Get You Fingerpicking - Step 5 Summary
OK, so there's no fingerpicking patterns or chord progressions for you to work on here. Instead go over what we've covered in previous steps and really focus on your hand positioning.
Please don't look at this as a trivial step and ignore it, it's something that all great players put a lot of time into. It will, without a doubt, lead you to having much better tone in your playing.
Make sure you also go off and study all your favourite players' hand positioning too, to give yourself a better understanding of it.
If you really want to take your fingerpicking to the next level, consider taking one of my fingerstyle courses. In the School you'll find hundreds of in-depth video lessons all aimed at helping you grow into a great fingerstyle guitarist.
I hope you've enjoyed Step 5 of this 10 Easy Steps to Get You Fingerpicking series. I'll see you on Step 6!
If you have any questions or comments then please leave them below.