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common classical guitar mistakes

5 Top Classical Guitar Technique Mistakes

The Usual Suspects: Common Guitar Mistakes

Throughout my teaching, I have noticed time and again some common mistakes that many beginning players make.

These mistakes are especially common with self-taught players.  The fundamentals of good classical guitar technique aren’t always instinctive.

5 Common Guitar Mistakes

1. Poor alignment:

Extreme angles in any joint will likely lead to problems later, and create excess tension.

Ideally, every joint between the shoulder and fingertip finds a neutral position at its mid-range.

To make it simple, try to keep your wrists straight or with the big knuckle slightly lower than the wrist.

Ideally, you use a good sitting position, and stay aware of your positioning and form.

2. Bracing:

Bracing is touching the top of the guitar with the right hand pinky or ring and pinky.

Bracing one or more fingers restricts the motion of the others, and also creates considerable tension.

If you want to play well, and progress more advanced music, you’ll eventually need to “float”.

3. Bicycling:

“Bicycling” is hooking the strings with the right hand fingers and pulling up, snagging the strings (extremely common).

This creates a thin tone and excess tension, and is also a cause of Bouncing (below).

Bicycling often results from the palm and wrist staying too close to the strings and guitar.

You can tell whether you’re bicycling if you use your left hand to touch the middle knuckle of the right hand while preparing to play a note.

When you play through the string, the middle knuckle ideally moves directly into the palm, instead of away from the palm.

If you feel the middle knuckle push on your left hand fingers at all, you’re bicycling.

4. Splayed fingers:

Right hand fingers are widely separated from each other. Again, avoid extremes.

Excess distance between the fingers creates tension. It also makes it very difficult to close your hand, with the fingers coming all the way into the palm.

As an analogy, try running with your legs very separated.  Not so effective.

5. Bouncing:

Bouncing is the habit of lifting the right hand away from the strings upon playing a note.

This takes your hand out of optimal position, and increases the likelihood of missed notes.

Constantly having to reposition creates a low-grade stress, and generally increases tension.

This usually goes hand in hand with “bicycling”, above.

There are more common mistakes than just these, but ensuring that you’re clear of these will be a huge step in the right direction.

Also mentioned…

Also mentioned in the video was the Gitano Guitar Support (not an affiliate link).  It’s a guitar support that puts the guitar in a great position for playing.  It attaches with suction cups.  I am a big fan, but it is not entirely perfect.  It has let me down in performance by popping off (a harrowing experience, I assure you!).

But for most people, and for everyday practice, it’s a great solution, and a big help.  You can find more on sitting and holding the guitar, as well as several other guitar support reviews here.

Leave a comment!

How about you?  Have you struggled with any of these, or some other?  Leave a comment!

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11 Responses to 5 Top Classical Guitar Technique Mistakes

  1. jovito m sy February 7, 2018 at 11:14 pm #

    I Thank you for so much knowledge you have sent us (me and my son,lanz) thru e-mails.And felt great with new knowledge to dig on.
    While I’m studying it very slowly and my son too ,it give us guidance to learn in the best possible biginnings.We to tell you honestly have no knowledge in playing any type of musical instruments.We just listen to classical music in FM radio in our country and we love it so much!
    Hope your guidance will soon bear so much knowledge in us.God bless you” Allen Mathews ”

    Sincerely yours,Mr.Jovito Sy

    • Allen February 8, 2018 at 11:30 am #

      Thanks so much, Mr. Sy!
      All the best,

  2. Kendra St. John September 1, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

    I try to come back to this lesson to remind myself of good wrist and hand position. Thanks for the pointers.

  3. MIke January 5, 2017 at 8:48 am #

    Great info! I’m self-trained and learned a lot about my mistakes. Tnx!

    • Allen January 5, 2017 at 10:06 am #

      Great! Good luck with them!

  4. Lesley June 23, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    Thanks for all your work on putting your study into an easy format to share thru site and videos. It’s very helpful.

    • Allen June 24, 2016 at 9:17 am #

      Thanks Lesley!

  5. mark June 19, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    Thanks again, Maestro Matthews, for this wonderful lesson!
    By the way, I thought it was so cool how you talked about Bob Ross being an inspiration to you. I remember him from his PBS-TV specials. He was an inspiration to me as well. I’ve been painting for as long as I’ve been playing the guitar. And, oh yeah, I’m also into Yoga as well; I’ve been working in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and yoga instructor since 1989. Small world, eh!
    Have a musical weekend!

  6. Doha November 28, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Thank you ever so much. I probably practice the 5 mistakes. Will start working on that. Thanks again.
    I wonder if you could be so kind to help me solve my tempo problem. How to count when reading a note. I heard you on a video saying something like “1 e and 2”. Could you kindly tell me how to count or tap when playing 6/8, 3/4 and so on. This “1 e and 2” was very useful.
    Thank you again and best regards,

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