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My goal is to give you the tools and understanding you need to become an artist, not just a technician.

Free Classical Guitar Course

Right Hand Mastery Level 1: Basic Survival Skills



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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 get over the following common 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 Tonewhether 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 Powerthe 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.

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 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.
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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

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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!


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Excess Tension comes from Good Intentions.

Excess tension can lead to uncomfortableness, tiredness, pain, and in the worst cases repetitive stress injury. It also can lead to all kinds of poor guitar playing.

But it has nothing to do with being stupid or inept or lacking physical talent.  It simply comes from trying too hard, without tuning in—tuning in with enough sensory receptivity and responsiveness to what is actually going on. At its heart, excess tension comes because you’re trying to do the right thing the wrong way.

Let’s look at an “excess tension” worst case scenario. Imagine yourself in this predicament:

Your current goal is to have people swooning in their seats as you play Caprichio Arabe like it’s never been played before. You can imagine it in your head— it’s pure magic, an exotic filigree of expressivity flowing passionately from your hands, out beyond the the stage into the shadowy auditorium and directly into the audiences ears, giving them no choice but to sigh or gasp pleasurably.

But here in your practice room, you can’t get much further than the first lovely harmonic chord without crashing.

Every time you try to play that first mesmerizingly descending 16th-note passage, your right hand fingers trip over each other as they tighten up. They rip notes into twangs and pops without rhyme or time. Meanwhile, your left hand misses every shift by the exact mathematical amount needed to create the most annoying fret buzzes known to human ears. And once you’ve splatted out the final note, you notice that you quite often find your nose, suspiciously, within inches of  the 7th fret, and that your left shoulder ends up close to your left ear.

Something doesn’t feel right. This is tension. It’s not working, definitely not working.

So how do you get rid of tension?

To read more, go to my current post, 
How to Play Classical Guitar without Dysfunctional Tension


Three Illustrated Concepts: 1. The musical fingerprint: I like using the musical fingerprint as a symbol because playing classical guitar is all about touch, about using the pads of your fingers as they interact with the wood and strings in unbelievably complex ways. Hearing music is also touch—the sound waves touch your eardrums in unbelievably complex ways. And getting in touch with all of your own sensations of playing, from simple to unbelievably complex, is one of the keys to discovering your musical self, to powerful and uniquely individual self expression on your chosen instrument, the guitar. This is my musical fingerprint. What’s yours? 2. The guitarist’s key-chain: I like this guitar key-chain illustration because there are some powerful keys to learning guitar that will open up 90% of the musical, technical doors, gateways that you’re going to encounter. There are other, less useful keys that might open a few doors here and there but will also waste you years forcing your way through fences and thickets of frustration and tension. Every time you sit down to practice, you need to make sure you can find the right set of keys, so you can turn on the ignition, get rolling, and have a way to open all the gates, doors, and hidden musical grottoes that you’re going to encounter. 3. The musical clothesline: Another drawing I love is this one: a musician hanging his notes out to dry. The process of music-making takes care, time and patience and is extremely resistant to trying to get everything perfect right away. Sometimes the finished product can be pretty slick and polished, but to get there you also have to hang your notes out to dry, over and over, in a place where the sun can get to them. And quite often, where everyone else can see. So three things:

  • Find your own musical fingerprint: be yourself and ground your self-expression by staying in touch with all the sensations of playing.
  • Keep track of your musical keys.
  • And remember to hang out your notes to dry.

—-Jay 10 of the Worst Mistakes Classical Guitarists Make In my Ebook “Ten of the Worst Mistakes Classical Guitarists Make,” I share with you 10 of the most common ways I see classical guitar students slow and even sabotage their progress.Actually, I’ve managed to sneak in more than 10, because some of them come in pairs, and some of them have several variations….. I also go into a lot of detail about the most important thing of all, when it comes to mistakes: I talk about how to deal with mistakes so they help you rather than hinder you. Your relationship to mistakes is THE key to how quickly, continually, and thoroughly you improve on the guitar. Here are five important truths I’ve learned (the hard way) about mistakes, in both my playing and in my teaching: 1. Don’t Deny or ignore Mistakes. Mistakes wreak havoc over time when you don’t deal with them. 2. Don’t Fear Mistakes: Mistakes are the prime raw material of learning. Make as many mistakes as you need. 3. Yesterday’s solutions can become today’s mistakes, bad habits, sticking points or blind spots—if you don’t keep embracing new challenges as they arise. 4. Learn not to attach your self worth to mistakes: simple as that. 5.There are many, many more things that you’re doing right than wrong, Learn to appreciate everything you’re doing right, and be just as sensitive to gradual improvements over time as you are to the “mistakes” that help you get there. To learn more, type your email in the form below, click submit, and I’ll send you a copy of this information-packed ebook.