The Right Hand

by Logan Gabriel

About the Author

Let me start by stating what this article is not.  It is not a treatise on what we should or should not use to set the strings in motion.  What I mean by that is I will not compare the pros and cons over fingernails, fingertips or fingerpicks. I will however address some of the essential points regardless which method is used.

The first point I would like to address is that of tone.  A good tone is desirable by all.  Well, what is a good tone?  That question means many different things to many different people, and ones tone is as individual as ones personality.  All I can do is state how I define good tone, and hope that yours is something similar.

Good tone is one that is warm, and round as well as easily projected and consistent.  In order to achieve this definition of good tone here are a few points to consider:

  1. Angle of the hand in relationship to the strings.  This means that the hand should be in what Aaron Shearer called it’s mid range. The mid range is this:  Place your arm straight out in front of you with the fingers straight out.  Now, turn your wrist to the right while keeping the arm straight this is one extreme.  Now, turn the wrist to the left, this is the other extreme.  The best angle of attack is when the hand is in the middle of these two extremes.  So when you are playing and your tone begins to falter look at your wrist and see if you are in the midrange or not.
  2. From which knuckle joint does the majority of finger motion come from?  This is a question that should be on the mind of every guitarist.  The finger is broken down into sections that are separated by a knuckle joint.  From the fingertip to the first knuckle joint is called the tip segment (This is another Aaron Shearer idea), then you have the second knuckle joint, and lastly the third knuckle joint, which I call the large knuckle joint.  All finger movement should originate from the large knuckle joint.  All other knuckle movement is sympathetic to the large knuckle joint.  The purpose for this is that by observing this method the whole finger moves, this gives us more volume, better tone, and keeps the hand relaxed.
  3. The last principle to good tone I will address in this article pertains to the tip segment (from the fingertip to the first knuckle joint).  It should not be stiff and rigid, but collapse when a string is played weather it be free stroke or rest stroke.  Try this:  with the index finger of the right hand (i) place it on the high e string as though you are about to play the string.  Now, without playing the string apply pressure to the string so that the tip segment collapses and is hyper extended ( not too much you don’t want to dislocate the tip joint)  when that is achieved apply that little bit of pressure so the finger plucks the note and the string sounds open.  That is the proper movement of the finger through the string.  Try that with all of the fingers.
Some of these ideas may be foreign to some people but I believe they are some of the basic building blocks on good tone and proper right hand technique which is so important in fingerstyle guitar.    If you have any questions or comments please feel free to e mail me at A19thcentguitar@aol.com  I will reply as soon as possible.

 


About The Author

Logan Gabriel is a Classical/Fingerstyle guitarist.  He began playing on a guitar that his parents purchased at a tag sale when he was eight years old.  He studied with a local teacher who introduced him to the playing of Julian Bream, Andres Segovia, and John Williams, as well as Ralph Towner and Michael Hedges.  Logan attended Keene State College where he studied Performance and Theory with Jose Lezcano, and Composition with Craig Sylvern.

Logan's latest release is called "Tree and Leaf: original music for solo guitar", which can be purchased by emailing Logan for details.  As a composer and arranger, his arrangements of Bach are published by Productions d'OZ (the arrangements will be available at the end of the month).  Logan lives in New Hampshire with his wife Leah and their two children Mertz and Alina.