Guitar Basic

Guitar Basic - Hand Positions

If you don't position your hands in the optimum way, learning to play guitar might prove to be an uphill struggle: playing with a good technique from the start by positioning your hands correctly, will make learning new techniques relatively easy.

Fretting Hand

The optimum position for your hand when you are fretting

The optimum position for your hand when you are fretting. Note, fingers are close to the frets, which minimizes any fretbuzz.
1. Regardless of whether you are playing chords or single notes, you should always press the fretting-hand fingers as dose to the fretwire as possible. This technique minimizes the unpleasant fretbuzz' sounds that can otherwise occur. Pressing at the edge of the fret also greatly reduces the amount of pressure that is required, enabling you to play with a lighter and hence more fluent touch.

2. Try to keep all the fretting-hand fingers close to the fingerboard so that they are hovering just above the strings ready to jump into action. This minimizes the amount of movement required when moving from one chord or note to another.

3. Unless you are playing more than one note with the same finger, you should always use the tips of your fingers to fret notes; this will produce the sound more directly and cleanly than using the fleshier pads of the fingers.

CORRECT hand position:

your thumb should be placed at the centre of the back of the guitar neck, your fingers arching over the fretboard to descend more or less vertically on the strings.

guitar basic - correct hand position    guitar basic - correct hand position

INCORRECT hand position.

guitar basic - incorrect hand position

The optimum position for your hand when you are fretting
Avoid holding the plectrum at right angles to
your index finger, otherwise your wrist may lock.

Picking Hand

1. If you're using a plectrum (pick), grip it between the index (first) finger and the thumb. Position the plectrum so that its tip extends only just beyond the fingertip, by about 1/10in (25 mm). Whilst this measurement doesn't have to be exact, make sure that the amount of plectrum that extends beyond the index finger is not excessive: this would result in a lack of pick control, making the plectrum liable to flap around when striking the strings - reducing both fluency and accuracy. Alternatively, if you find that when you try to pick a string you often miss it completely, the cause is most likely to be not enough plectrum extending beyond the fingertip.

2. Although you need to hold the plectrum with a small amount of pressure so that it doesn't get knocked out of your hand when you strike the strings, be very careful not to grip the plectrum too tightly. Excessive gripping pressure can lead to muscular tension in the hand and arm with a subsequent loss of flexibility and movement.

3. The most efficient way to pick single notes is to alternate between down strokes and upstrokes. Unless you want to achieve a particular staccato sound, this 'alternate picking' technique should be used for all melodies or lead-guitar playing.

guitar basic - E chromatic scale
Guitar basic - E chromatic scale

The E chromatic scale consists of a continual series of half steps, which means that every note in open position is played This makes the scale ideal for building technique as It uses all four fingers to fret notes. It should be played using alternate down and up plectrum strokes.

Guitar Basic - Strumming

Strumming chords forms the foundation of any guitar player's range of techniques. Strumming can be used to accompany your own or some else's singing; it can also be used to provide a backing for lead-guitar playing. Being able to strum in a variety of styles will enable you to play rhythm guitar in a wide range of musical genres.

Strum Technique

For the music to flow smoothly it's essential to develop a relaxed strumming action. It will aid the fluency of rhythm playing if the the action comes from the wrist; a fluid and easy strumming action is best achieved this way. with the wrist loose and relaxed. If the wrist is stiff and not allowed to move freely then excessive arm movement will occur, as the strumming action will be forced to come from the elbow instead. As this can never move as fluently as the wrist there will be a loss of smoothness and rhythmic potential.

Strumming Exercises, Guitar exercises

1. Begin by strumming an E minor chord using four downstrums per measure, and then experiment by inserting a quick upstrum between the second and third beats. The upstrum should be played by an upwards movement generated from the wrist as though the strumming hand is almost effortlessly bouncing back into position ready for the next downstrum. Keep practising this technique until it feels natural, always making sure that the arm Itself isn't moving up and down when you’re strumming.

basic strumming exercise


You don’t need to strum all the strings, particularly when playing upstrums. You'll often get a much clearer sound if you only strum the top three or four strings.

2. Progress to adding two upstrums per bar one between beats two and three, and one after the fourth beat After the first two bars, try changing the chord to A minor and see if you can keep the strumming pattern going If you can't change the chord quickly enough then start again from the beginning playing at a much slower tempo.

basic strumming exercise

3. To really get the strumming hand moving try adding an upstrum after every downstrum. Although this strumming style would be too busy for most songs, this exercise does provide practise in building a fluent strumming technique. Make sure that you have the plectrum positioned correctly, with its tip extending only just beyond the index fingertip, so that it does not drag on the strings as you strum.

basic strumming exercise

Guitar Basic - Finger-picking

Finger-picking can provide a really interesting alternative to strumming. The technique is not just confined to classical or folk guitarists - many rock and pop players also use finger-picking as a method of bringing melodic interest to a chord progression and as a way of introducing musical subtleties to a song.

guitar basic exercise for finger-picking

Guitar basic finger-picking hand position

guitar basic exercise for finger-picking

This is the guitar basic exercise for finger-picking


In music notation, each picking finger is identified by a letter p' represents the thumb, ‘i’ the index finger, m' the middle finger and a the third finger. (As it is much shorter than the others, the little finger is rarely used in finger-picking.)

guitar basic fingering notation

The thumb is mostly used for playing the bass strings (the lowest three strings), while the fingers are used for playing the treble strings. There are many different ways of finger-picking, but one of the easiest is to use the 'a' finger for picking the first string, the ‘m’ finger for the second string and the T finger for the third string.

Picking Patterns

Many guitarists use a repetitive finger-picking pattern throughout a song to create a continuity of sound. Picking patterns nearly always begin by playing the root note of the chord (i.e. the note that gives the letter name to the chord) on the bass string using the thumb. For example, the low E string would be the first note of a pattern when finger-picking on a chord of E minor, and the open A string would be the first note when finger-picking on a chord of A minor.

Here are more guitar basic exercises for finger-picking

guitar basic exercises for finger-picking

Guitar basic exercises for finger-picking. Exercise 1

guitar basic exercises for finger-picking

Guitar basic exercises for finger-picking. Exercise 2

If the picking pattern on a chord is repeated then sometimes a different bass Is used the second time. This will normally be another note from the chord, usually the adjacent bass string This technique can completely transform a simple chord progression, making it sound quite complex because of the moving bass line. This style of finger-picking is known as alternating bass'.


It s easier to finger-pick if you let your fingernails grow a little. Using nails to pick the strings will also give you a crisper, dearer and stronger sound.

In some musical styles, more complex picking patterns might be used on the treble strings. It is best to practise these types of patterns on one chord until the picking pattern feels totally comfortable Once you are familiar with a pattern it's relatively easy to apply it to a chord progression. You just need to take care about which bass note to pick on each chord ensuring you use the root note as your starting point

Here is one more but more complex exercise for finger-picking

guitar basic exercise for picking