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PIM Arpeggio Pattern

PIM is one of the most common and fundamental patterns we play on the guitar.  Master this, and you are certainly on the right track.

Remember, use good fundamental movement, and avoid the common mistakes.

Note: Scroll down for a quick review video and for further study links.  This is part of a full course on arpeggios.

Playing the PIM Arpeggio Pattern

When learning the PIM arpeggio, we want to first start with our hands off of the guitar. We will master the basic motion away from the guitar, and then, afterward, put it back on to the guitar.

Full Lesson:


So first close your hand a few times gently. Make sure that when you close your hand your tip joints stay flat, if you curl your tip joints the tips of your fingers will touch your palm, we don’t want that.  We want the pads of the fingers to touch the palm. If you do this briskly you may get a clapping sound, so within all of these arpeggios we want to always make sure that the tip joints stay passive.

This makes the tone much better and lets us move faster. Most of this action then comes from the big knuckle, the middle knuckle also moves a lot but is mainly following through from the power of the big knuckle.

Once we’ve done this a few times getting this motion, then we can leave the fingers in the hand, allow just the index and middle fingers to come out. Then do the exact same action with just those.

When this is comfortable release both the index and middle (I and M), and then close first the index finger and then the middle each in turn, so they both come out and then come in one at a time. When this is comfortable, then we can add the thumb in.

The thumb is denoted by the letter P. So you may want to spend just a moment, moving the thumb as if you were playing a note with it on the guitar. We want the thumb to also move from the big joint, way back near the wrist. Again the tip joint is passive, in other words do not hook with the thumb, the tip joint should be flat.

When you get this motion, then we can add the fingers back to it. So the action that we want to get is, for the fingers to extend while the thumb is playing.

So the thumb starts in a prepared position or out, when the thumb closes you can allow all the fingers of your hand to extend, so you can just go back and forth between the thumb and the fingers.

When this becomes comfortable you can reduce this to just the I and M fingers, and just go back and forth with the thumb and fingers.

Next you can play with the thumb and extend your I and M fingers. Then close just the I (thumb does not move), and then when the M finger closes in to the hand, the thumb can prepare to play again.

So there are three distinct actions happening. First the thumb plays and the two fingers extend, then just the I finger plays, and then the M finger plays while alternating with the thumb.

Be sure to keep your actions crisp and separated, eventually this will all be very quick and natural. But for now make sure that you are articulating each of these three actions separately and stopping between each one, so that each motion becomes a single articulated action.

Further Study:


Quick Review:

  1. P Plays, I and M throw out, plant onto 1st and 2nd strings.
  2. I Plays.
  3. M Plays, alternates with P.

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12 Responses to PIM Arpeggio Pattern

  1. Jude Yeaton November 30, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

    What happened to a?

  2. eric April 12, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

    Why does your guitar have a hole in the front below the neck?

    • Allen April 13, 2017 at 9:48 am #

      Hi Eric, Yes, it’s called a “port”.
      Bradford Werner put together an interesting collection of quotes from luthiers on the subject.

    • Stevo September 10, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

      I note the tendency of my thumb and those of others to wander away from their string while the fingers play, so they have to rush back, perhaps inaccurately. It helps me to keep it near its string starting right here on this simple pattern. It has taken me many repetitions to ingrain that habit, thousands of them so far. I wish I had started that way in the beginning.

      • Allen September 10, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

        Great point, Stevo.
        It helps to decide exactly when the thumb will prep on the string. In the case of PIM, at the moment the M plays, the P plants on the string.

        Thanks much,

  3. Alex December 14, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    I have just started classical guitar can you recommend any pieces that will help me practice these arpeggios. However tempting, I don’t want to be learning Sor and Aguado songs because I feel because of my lack of skill i will just develop bad habits trying to play them.

    • Allen December 16, 2015 at 8:58 am #

      Hi Alex,
      Thanks for the note.
      I highly encourage you to proceed to playing songs you like with reckless abandon. Within reason, anyway.
      Whatever you play, it will get better with time, and you’ll learn things at each stage. If you keep awareness on your right hand, your technique will improve (so long as you look at each move of the music as a challenge to your technique and you strive to execute well).

      Of course, if the piece is too far above your level, you won’t have much success with it.

      Specifically to practice the arpeggio patterns, I suggest learning a practice progression (series of chords or shapes) that you can memorize and get your focus back on the right hand. You can use the same left hand structure with many different right hand patterns. The one I suggest (it’s not the best necessarily, it just sounds good and is fairly quick and easy to learn) is this one right here. It’s also number 6 in the arpeggio course.

      Best of luck!

  4. John June 8, 2015 at 11:51 am #

    Should the knuckles on the right hand line up parallel to the guitar strings. When I watch youtube videos of classical guitar greats such as John Williams, Chistopher Parkening, etc their knuckles are parallel to the guitar strings when they play. However in your lessons, the method you are teaching, the knuckles of the right hand are not parallel to the strings. Is this a new modern way of teaching right hand technique.

    • Allen June 8, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

      Hi John, Thanks for the question.

      There are several thoughts and methods out there. Parkening and Williams have different techniques from each other, and a lot has happened since they first learned and developed their habits. (They’re both great, of course. As with anyone great, it may be either because of their techniques, or in spite of it. So just because they are successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their technique is, generally speaking.)

      What I am presenting here is a system that works well, is fairly straight-forward, and provides good technique and results that scale. This method stems from many of the top pedagogs (Aaron Shearer, Michael Lorimer, others) and has been filtered and tweaked by my teachers, and filtered and tweaked again by me.

      I don’t really know which knuckles you’re speaking of, or what you mean by parallel to the strings (did you mean perpendicular?). Pushing through the strings at an angle gives a lusher, more beautiful tone than straight across, which creates a tinny, thin sound. Both Parkening and Williams also played mostly at an angle, of varying extent at different times for different effects. This might not be obvious from the videos.

      That said, I guess this is a new way of teaching RH technique, but I did not entirely “invent” or design it, so I can’t entirely take credit for it. I formulated what has worked for me and distilled the basic building blocks (the fundamentals), which are the primary arpeggio patterns and I&M alternation.

      I hope that answers your question to some extent. I am happy to try to clear up any confusions.

      Thanks again,

      • John June 8, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

        I was referring the the knuckles on the right hand, the PIMA hand. If you take a pen and draw a straight line connectiing the four knucles across the back of your hand, then when you place your hand in the playing position on the guitar it appears parallel to the strings in the John Williams videos. Also, in the Christopher Parkening Guitar Method, Vol 1 . the images of his right hand placement also show this parallel alignment for him as well as Segovia. Here is an image of John WIlliams right hand placement.


        • Allen June 8, 2015 at 5:52 pm #

          Ah, now I understand what you’re talking about. Thanks for clarifying.
          In my view and approach, the focus is more on how the hand moves most naturally and effortlessly, and less about what it looks like. If you reference my post on the fundamentals of movement, you’ll see where I am coming from. Every note I play and everything I teach stems from there.

          As a side note, Parkening and Williams both use footstools, which affects the angle and height of the the neck, so they compensate by also changing the angle of the wrist. Now we have guitar supports (which both of these guys also experimented with early on).

          All that said, as a rule, I tend to look for fundamental patterns of movement that can guide and inform the details, and focus my attention on staying true to those fundamentals. That way if something changes (like a low chair or footstool), you still have your technique and still move with efficiency, grace, and power.
          I hope that helps.
          Thanks again,

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