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Rasgueados for BOTH Hands: Strength and Stretch Anywhere

Most classical guitar players, outside current conservatory students or professional players, have limited time in which to practice each day.

What if there were something we could do off the guitar wherever we happen to be, that would directly help our guitar playing?

Well, as you may have guessed from the question, there is!

Rasgueados (pronounced rahs-kay-ahh’-dohs) are a right-hand strumming technique used largely in Spanish flamenco music. While you may or may not be interested in playing this type of music, rasgueados are wonderful for the hands.

The beauty in doing them off the guitar, on your legs, is that both hands can get into the act. (On the guitar, it’s solely a right-hand technique.)

How to Use Rasgueados as an Exercise for Both Hands

1. Make your hand into a shape as if you were holding a tennis ball. Now place this shape onto your leg. You should have your fingernails touching your leg, and a round space within your palm.

2. Now, flick your pinky (fourth finger) out straight on each hand, leaving the other fingers where they are.

3. Then, without retracting your pinky back in, push out your ring fingers (third fingers).

4. Next continue with your middle and index fingers on both hands, one at a time.

5. Lather, rinse, repeat.  Feel the burn!  This can be a strenuous exercise, like lifting weights.

Remember: The more downward pressure with which you push your hand to start, the more strenuous it is to flick your fingers outward.  I find it fun to play with the levels of tension in my arms and wrists in comparison with my fingers themselves.  (i.e. Can my hands be strong and my arms stay loose?)

As you get comfortable with this pattern, you’re welcome to speed up and find your top speed and breaking point.  You can also change up the order of fingers as they open from the hand.

How do Rasgueados Help?

On the classical guitar, as well as in 99.9% of everything that we do throughout the day, we are primarily using the flexors of our hands and arms (which close the hand).

Rarely do we use our extensors  (which open the hand) for anything besides getting to a point where we can use our flexors again.

What this exercise does, besides preparing us to play wickedly fast Spanish music, is to balance the musculature of the hand. This improves overall dexterity and power, as well as increasing individual finger control and independence.

It will help your scales, your arpeggios, slurs, and anything else you are faced with (at least in the classical guitar realm)

Guitar exercise throughout your day

So while you are waiting in line, or driving your car, sitting at your desk, or watching a movie, you can do a few of these and know that you are getting an extra guitar practice into your day.

To get into the habit, it may help to put a note saying “RASGUEADOS!” on your steering wheel, computer, mirror, or wherever you may encounter it and have a minute.

Related: Off-Guitar Exercises, and Guitar Finger Games

While it may seem insignificant at the time, small moments spent exercising these muscles lead to big results in a very short time.


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10 Responses to Rasgueados for BOTH Hands: Strength and Stretch Anywhere

  1. Sean Goguen August 3, 2018 at 7:12 pm #

    Wow, Allen, you are right – I started doing this exercise just 3 days ago, and I can already see and feel the improvement in my playing, especially in my left hand! I find I no longer tense my left hand as much, and I don’t press down on the frets as hard. My fretting just feels so much smoother and more relaxed. Also my right hand plucking is a lot more relaxed now. This is a great video and lesson!

    • Allen August 3, 2018 at 7:58 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Sean. I’m thrilled to hear you’re doing these and seeing good results.

      Best of luck with everything,
      Thanks again,

  2. Sylvia Moodie-Kublalsingh May 31, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

    II think it is RASGUEADOS.

  3. Richard May 18, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    A suggestion.I learned to do rasqueado also on my Levi’s but I used the side seam (now you’re using you hand in guitar string direction)to hear rasqueados done by monster players i’d listen to Juan Maya “Marote’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GhlpxlNfXw
    or Diego del gastor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaN_7uVNsec

    • Allen May 18, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

      Thanks Richard,
      Great suggestion!

  4. Steve February 15, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    This is a great exercise and has definitely improved my playing.

    • Allen February 15, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

      Thanks Steve, mine too!
      All the best,

  5. chip philbin July 16, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    I like these, they make sense. Bet it’s one reason why the Flamenco players can do such extraordinarily fast scales.

  6. debbie July 14, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    I have found rasqueados very helpful in all areas you’ve mentioned. Muscle balance with flexors/extensors also plays an important role in preventing injury. We think about these concepts applying to larger muscle groups and joints throughout our body & forget that it applies to the smaller muscles/joints of the hand also.
    On a separate issue, I think flamenco really can expand one’s knowledge/skill base. Plus another avenue of fun. 🙂 Wish I had the time to have stayed with it. Would be kind of neat if classical folks and flamenco folks came together and offered some workshops to students or worked on some musical project/ concert together.

    • mark June 21, 2015 at 5:09 am #

      Hi Debbie,
      I realize this is 2 years after you posted your original message here, and perhaps it’s old news now, but believe it or not, there are some people out there that are combining classical and flamenco styles. Just surf YouTube and you’ll find them. Edina is one really cool classical/flamenco teacher (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1C13A2C29B26F52A) and Santiago is another (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSnlpvCjc_AawILSRJoykK8-_EGq4BVLM). Niether of them go into the detail that Maestro Mathews going into here on CGS, but that’s OK. I come here for the Maestro’s detailed instruction, and I go to Edina and Santiago for a more relaxed lesson. It helps to break up the monotony and keep my guitar training fun and interesting.
      Hope you’re enjoying your training as well.

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