Well, answering that question would take volumes, so I can’t give you a complete answer here. But I can show you the basic movements that you will use when playing fingerstyle. Once you master these movements in your right hand (or picking hand for you lefties out there), all you have to do is to organize these movements properly in order to play music.  That’s the hard part.  Making these fundamental finger and thumb strokes is actually quite easy.  Watch the video embedded below, or read the rest of the post under the video to see how.

Let start by getting into a proper playing position.  With your shoulders, arms and hands relaxed, place your fingers on the strings as follows: put a on the 1st string, m on the 2nd string, and i on the 3rd string. Your thumb will be on the 4th string.  (See our post on the names of the fingers if you don’t know how to call them.)  Once here, you should ensure the following things:

  • your spine is naturally curved. You aren’t slouching, or leaning in any direction.
  • if seated, your knees are 5 cm or more below your hips to prevent your pelvis from rotating and stressing your lower back. I recommend that you use a guitar support or a guitar strap to aid this posture. Or you can stand, using a strap.
  • your neck, back, shoulder, arms and hands are all relaxed.
  • your wrists are aligned, free of deviation and arch.  This means they are relatively straight without bending either up and down, or side to side.
  • your fingers are curved, naturally, in the middle of their range of motion. They are not excessively curved, nor straight.
  • your thumb is in front of the fingers, so that when it plays a stroke, it will land on the side of the index finger, and not behind it.
  • your fingertips are on top of the strings, not underneath
  • your hand is positioned in such a way that if you draw a line directly out of the guitar (perpendicular to the top) the base knuckle of your index finger is above the point where your index finger touches the string.