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.

In case you were Wondering…

In this video, I was using 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.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

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