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Lesson 11 - Right and Left hand techniques

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Previous page: Lesson 10 - How Chords work Next page: Lesson 12 - Modes

Lessons of The Week was a series of guitar lessons circulated in "News", in the pre-web days of the Internet. 29 lessons were written before it died out, and I happende to write the first three. They represent a little bit of internet history, as they may have been the first guitar lessons written for the internet.

The lessons were all written in txt format - they were written around the same time as Tim Berners Lee were sitting in Switzerland specifing the first version of html. I have converted them to html, and may have added a few links from the lessons.

Lesson: 11

Title: Right and Left hand techniques

Level: beginner - intermediate
Style: theory (etc.)
Instructor: Tim Fullerton

This is part three in a series of how to develop good right and left hand technique for pick-style guitar.

PART III -- left hand position (cont.)

This series is the approach that I use to teach pick-style technique to all of my students. For best results, take these articles to an educated and experienced teacher who is stylistically broad based and who knows this approach, so that (s)he may coach you.


This approach is to attain the maximum possible cleanliness and articulateness in ones tone. Also, it will give, ultimately, the greatest speed with the least health risk. I am careful never to say that it is the CORRECT way to play. There is no such thing, and many people do great things with really sloppy technique. Wherever possible, though, I will indicate the exact benefits of each technique.

If you are left handed, please excuse my right-handed bias, and reverse all of the relevant direction and hand indications.


The palm of the left hand should be parallel to the underside of the neck. Untrained people tend to place their hand so that the bone leading to their index finger is much closer to the neck than the bone leading to their pinky. This forces the pinky to reach. A way to exercise this out is to place the bone to the pinky AGAINST the underside of the neck. Try this as you play the pseudo-chromatic exercise presented in lesson II. Understand that this is an EXAGGERATION so that one may get used to how it feels when the palm is parallel to the neck. Play with the bone to your pinky against the neck just while you practice until the awkwardness is gone; play with your palm parallel when you play.


It should be CLOSE. Addressing the problems in "D" usually halves the distance that the pinky stays from the neck. Nonetheless, people invariably still have problems with left hand pinky height until they tackle them.

In short, always keep your pinky less than an inch from the neck . Not only that, keep it directly over the fret for which it is responsible.

If this is a challenge, treat the pseudo-chromatic exercise in the following manner:

While you ASCEND, keep your pinky FRETTING the string that you just finished playing. Don't pick it, just keep it there.

like this...


While you DESCEND, place your pinky on the next string AS SOON AS IT IS DONE WITH THE CURRENT STRING.


Really, all of your fingers should be less than an inch from the neck, but if you concentrate on your pinky, that should take care of them all.


It places less of a burden on your pinky when your palm is parallel to the neck. It also makes it easier to keep your pinky close to the strings.

If there is less of a distance for your pinky to travel to fret a note, then you can ultimately achieve higher speed because of the travel time. Not only that, it is easier to coordinate your picking with your left hand because there is less margin for error.

Class Assignment:

Do the pseudo-chromatic exercise from Lesson II with the following criteria:

A) Guitar Position (see part I)

B)1. Left Hand Thumb Position and range of motion (midline [G string] to edge... see lesson II)

2. Left Hand Thumb Pressure (NONE! PERIOD! again, see lesson II)

C) Left hand wrist. (straight as a ruler, palm away from the neck... again, lesson II)

D) Left hand wrist. (parallel to the underside of the neck)

E) Finger placement. (close to the neck)



more to come...

copyright 1993 by Tim Fullerton. Used by permission.

by Tim Fullerton
   1987 Upper Chelsea Road
   Columbus, Ohio 43221
   (614) - 488 - 9322
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