The Basics of Classical Guitar

What is a “basic”?  A basic is a technique, movement, or strategy that will set you up for ongoing success.

Basics are often simple and straightforward.  Because of this, we may be tempted to ignore them.  But the more we work on the basics, the better we get.

As we progress to higher and higher levels, it’s often our basics that let us improve.  And likewise, when we find obstacles, it is most often the basics that will overcome them.

These are the highest-leverage practice areas.  Over time, we deepen our understanding of them, and they become part of our muscle-memory (our “autopilot”).  The more this happens, the better we play.

Right-Hand Basics:

Arpeggio technique – These are the movements we use for 90% of all playing in classical guitar pieces.  This is “fingerpicking” in patterns.  For the right hand, this is the number one study, and it never stops.  We can always improve and deepen our arpeggio technique.

Scale and melodic technique – this is the right-hand movement we use to play single-note melodies and scales.  Along with arpeggios, above, these two techniques are 99% of what we do.

Left-Hand Basics:

Chords – Chords aren’t just for folk singers.  Chords are the “language” of guitar.  Almost every classical guitar piece uses chords throughout. These are the left-hand patterns to know.

Slurs – Slurs are the most useful left-hand exercise.  They build strength and control.  And we also use them in pieces.  If you only have time for one exercise, slurs offer the most benefit in the least time.  Start with “hammer-ons” (ascending slurs).  Then add in “pull-offs” (descending slurs) as you are able.

Learning Pieces of Music Basics:

The 7-step Process to Learn Pieces – Follow these simple steps to learn any piece of music.  You can also use it to troubleshoot any problem-spots in the pieces you play.

Other Basics:

How to Hold the Guitar – Here’s how to sit and hold your guitar.  Do this well, and you’ll avoid pain and discomfort.  Your hands will move more easily, and learning guitar will be easier for you.

Common Mistakes – Here are five common mistakes guitarists make.

Basic Movements – Here are a few overarching guidelines to keep in mind.  They will help you stay on track and avoid common pitfalls.

Full List:

As you explore these basics, questions will surely arise. For more on each of the basics above, and for other questions, see the Site Index.