An introuction to classical guitar

Published: 10th March 2009
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As I have been currently providing an overview of ways to get started in specific styles music. In other words, I've been creating these sort of summaries of what a beginning guitar player should investigate in order to get started mastering a specific genre of music. This article is no different, except that today we will be taking a look at classical guitar work.

The fingers

Like any style of guitar playing, you'll have to work on both the right and left hands. However, classical guitar involves finger picking as opposed to using a flat pick, so there's something to be said here.

You may not realize it, but there is a labeling system for each finger
of the picking hand, minus the pinkie finger, which is rarely used.
The system involves the abbreviations of P.I.M.A. Each one of those
letters represents a finger to be used on the picking hand.

P = Thumb
I = Index finger
M = Middle finger
A = Ring finger

P.I.M.A. is an abbreviation of the Spanish words Pulgar, Indice, Medio, and Anular.

You can use guitar tablature to practice with, but ideally a good classical guitarist can or will want to learn to read standard notation. Regardless, try to keep an eye out for any beginning classical guitar books that have the notes labeled with the P.I.M.A. system. This will help you to understand how to best pick out notes or chords, and will get you into the mindset of a classical guitar player.

I highly recommend Frederick Noad's book First book for the guitar.


Having a good and relaxed hand and body posture is very important when studying classical guitar playing. There is the classical method of seating which isn't completely necessary, but if you take classical guitar lessons, your teacher will probably prefer that you hold the guitar like this. The position that I am talking about is when you take the guitar and rest it on your left leg, as opposed to your right leg, and this is actually very good for the shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands. Some electric guitar players actually prefer
to hold the guitar like this.

Picking Hand Finger Dexterity

Finger dexterity is very important in the picking hand for the classical guitar player. Developing this kind of accuracy and flexibility takes time, but consistency is key.

A good way to get started developing this kind of dexterity is to take an open string and work with the fingers in a rotating manner. Take your index, middle, and ring finger and pick an open string like this I - M - A - I - M - A, or I - M - A - M - I. In fact you should probably work on both methods.

You can also work on plucking chords, by working with simple two note chord structures, using P and M together.

Finger Nails

Consider growing out your finger nails on the picking hand to produce the best quality sound on the strings. There is a certain method for shaping the nails with a nail filer, so that the lengths are varying and fairly even with each other.

Though it is a little strange at first, having lengthy finger nails can bring a good amount of accuracy to your picking, and produce a clearer tone on the guitar.

Final Advice

Though you can most certainly teach yourself to play classical guitar efficiently, and many have, I do advise you to seek the guidance of an experience classical guitar instructor. The benefits of doing this is that they can answer questions on the spot, show you how to change your classical strings, which can be tricky, and work with you to avoid bad habits in your playing. Plus, they'll get you started playing some basic and yet interesting pieces of classical music, and the teacher might even be very knowledgeable about flamenco guitar playing, which will introduce you to a lot more rhythmic properties, as well as some new techniques.

Tennyson Williams has been studying guitar for eight years, sixteen hours a day, and has studied many styles of music. He has played in bands, that encompassed a wide range of music. It wasn't until after eight years of piano lessons, that he made the decision to become a self-taught musician, but the journey has been well worth it for the guitarist. His sole passion is to share with others, his endless knowledge of music, in order to make their musical dreams a reality. He has recently written a guitar instructional book called The Essential Guide To Guitar Virtuosity that can be found at

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