Right Hand Mastery Level 1: Basic Survival Skills
When budding classical guitar great Julian Bream, as a teenager, heard Andres Segovia play classical guitar in concert for the first time, he brought a pair of binoculars— and spent the whole concert with his eyes glued to Segovia’s right hand technique. He knew what was important. Segovia’s sound was what mesmerized his audience.
And that came largely from how he used his right hand.
When it comes to classical guitar technique, the left hand and the right hand work together in an intricate way. But it’s also true that the right hand is the voice of your guitar, while the left hand is more of a (rather flashy) “workhorse.” As soon as anyone closes their eyes and just listens, much of what they hear depends on the quality of your right hand technique.
In order to fully understand, practice and refine the essentials of your classical guitar right hand technique, you need to learn how to leap over the following hurdles:
Dysfunctional Tension —learning classical guitar without learning to process and let go of unnecessary tension—which requires adequate attention to proper right hand form–can lead to uncomfortableness, tiredness, pain, and in the worst cases repetitive stress injury. It can also, quite often keep large chunks of your technical and expressive potential stuck at square one.
Lack of Control—shakiness, missed notes, extraneous noise, and limited speed due to excess or extraneous hand or finger movement, needs to be remedied by training your right hand to both poised and responsive, so you can train your fingers to develop a confident sense of connection with the strings.
Bad Tone—whether it’s thin, inconsistent, brittle, naily, or just vaguely unpleasant, this is a great way to chase away your listener. You need to learn how to hone your tone into something that you are truly happy with.
Lack of Power—the classical guitar is already a relatively quiet instrument, but it doesn’t have be a timidly whispering wallflower—there are ways to project sound as fully as possible using the natural resonance of the instrument.
Lack of expressive versatility—Even relatively easy classical guitar music can make a bewildering range of expressive demands on your budding right hand technique. Whether you’re an advanced classical guitar aficionado wanting to fix a few sticking points, or a new student just beginning your classical guitar studies, it’s frustrating when you lack the ability communicate your musical imagination fully. Your right hand technique needs to be capable of adapting quickly and naturally to your expressive needs and ideas.
In this free section of the course, I cover the first two areas, Functional Tension, and Control, and apply them to the right hand.
These are both important fundamentals of playing classical guitar: The more you are able to incorporate them into your classical guitar technique, the more EVERYTHING else you do also begins to flow smoothly.
To get a sense of what I mean when I talk about Control, here’s a free video that explains my ideas.*
*Don’t get freaked out by the funny-looking device next to my face–it’s just a camera. I used a grand total of FOUR different cameras at once for all of these videos, and edited them together. The one next to my face gave me an awesome player’s-eye view of the right hand.
Introduction to Control: The Goal of Control is Ease
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This course is a work in progress. The tone of the videos is casual, as if I was just sitting down with you in a real lesson. But I have a lot of fun making them, there’s a lot of thought and work that has gone into the process as well.
- 4 camera views so I could show technical details from as many angles as I needed once
- carefully edited, with graphics and illustrations to get info across clearly and enjoyably
- Great sound: I used my best set of condensor microphones so the sound would be the kind of high quality sound I felt was needed
- divided into 4 progressive sections, each one containing a set of videos with detailed demonstrations and discussions of technique at the service of artistry
- the sections are based on a progressive learning template that I use in my own ongoing process of repertoire mastery as well as when I’m teaching privately. This is the first time I’ve spelled it out for use.
Level 1 Basic Survival Skills
Part One: Functional Tension
Video 1: Why Tension is Not Evil
Video 2: Identifying Dysfunctional Tension
Video 3: Right Hand Functional Form
Video 4: Principles of Right Hand Motion
Part Two: Control
Video 1: The Goal of Control is Ease
Video 2: Preparing for the Free Stroke: Ready Aim Fire
Video 3: Further Free Stroke Principles
Video 4: Practicing “Ready, Aim, Fire”
Video 5: Free Stroke with the Thumb
Video 6: Thumb and Fingers Together
So I’m really excited to finally begin sharing this material with you. There’s a lot of unedited video that I still have to get to, and almost every time I sit down to play, I think of some new things I want to add to what I’ve already created. And as I make more of these, I keep looking for ways that I could improve them in clarity, usefulness, and effectiveness The course is a work in progress that will grow with your questions and feedback.
My goal is to give you the tools and understanding you need to become an artist, not just a technician. When it’s done, each section will have a series of videos with detailed demonstrations and discussions of technique at the service of artistry.
I will also be adding a series of specific exercises for practicing everything that I talk about.
Your questions and feedback will help me to decide which exercises to post here, so please use the forms available to ask questions!