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