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1.2 What is the best position for the right hand? (Classical Guitar Playing)




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This article is from the Classical Guitar Playing FAQ, by Joshua Weage (jpweage@mtu.edu) with numerous contributions by others.

1.2 What is the best position for the right hand? (Classical Guitar Playing)


Positioning the right hand.
--------------------------

Finding an effective position for the right hand is very important,
not only to maximize the development of technique, but also to prevent
debilitiating injuries to the hand's tendons, musculature and neural
pathways.

In discussing r.h. positioning, many people refer to two parameters
for positioning the hand:

"knuckles parallel/angled to the strings," which involves curving
the wrist upward/downward as the hand faces the strings, and

"low/high wrist (not arched/arched)," which involves arching the
wrist toward/away from the soundboard as the hand faces the
strings.

For purposes of discussion, the knuckles parallel/angled positioning
is called "deviation" and the low/high angle of the wrist is called
"arch." There is a third parameter called "tilt;" this is the degree
of forearm rotation, which will affect whether your knuckles are
parallel to the plane of the soundboard.

In adjusting arch, movement of the hand toward the soundboard to
increase the angle of arch is called "flexion," and movement away from
the soundboard to straighten the wrist is called "extension."

So the three parameters to work with are:

tilt: rotation of the forearm
deviation: upward/downward curvature of the wrist
arch: flexion/extension of the wrist

In determining your r.h. position, there are two obvious aims: comfort
and efficiency. You want to be comfortable enough to maintain the
position as long as necessary, and you want your position to afford
the best access for and make the most efficient use of your right
hand's muscular effort. To begin positioning the right hand, make
sure your shoulders are relaxed and level. Place your forearm on the
rim of the lower bout of the guitar, near the elbow. The elbow should
not hang over the rim, and the rim should not rest in the crook of the
elbow. The hand should hover directly in front of the strings. When
this is accomplished, and your shoulders are still relaxed and level,
you are ready to adjust the hand itself. Here's how each of the three
parameters should be adjusted, and the reasoning behind each adjusment:

o tilt: the forearm should be rotated to the degree where the
knuckles are parallel to the plane of the soundboard. Since the
i, m and a knuckles are then equidistant to the strings, each
finger will have equal access to the strings.

o deviation: the wrist should be positioned upward or downward to
the degree where a straight line is formed by three points: the
top of the i finger knuckle, the top of the wrist and the top of
the forearm. This creates what physiologists call "muscular
alignment," in which the muscles are aligned with the bone
segments on which they pull. (We thus derive the term deviation,
in consideration of whether we deviate from the alignment.)

Note that muscular alignment is a surprisingly simple thing which
can either make or break your technical development; following
introduction of the "knuckles parallel to the strings" concept
early in this century, countless promising students and concert
artists have had their careers ended by tendinitis, carpal
tunnel, muscle damage or other afflictions caused by the
determined application of this well-meaning but misguided
principle. There are a few who have found a way to play
"knuckles parallel" in a relaxed and efficient manner, but they
are far and away the exception.

o arch: the wrist should be flexed enough to form a slight angle.
If your fingers are adequately curled (middle and tip segments
perpendicular to the soundboard, forming the Segovian "X" with
the thumb) and your forearm is extended enough to place the hand
well in front of the strings, 5 to 10 degrees of arch should
suffice. There are two important benefits of this: first, the
fingers are positioned in what physiologists call their "midrange"
(the middle of their range of movement) which makes the most
efficient and least tense use of their muscular effort; second,
this sets your fingers at an angle of attack which will avoid
the next string, thus allowing them to effect follow-through each
time they pluck the string, which is necessary for efficient
free-stroke. During rest stroke, the arch may be reduced, but
the angle of attack (to effect resting on the next string) will
be adjusted primarily by lessened use of the middle joint in the
stroke.

Note that in order for this position to be most effective, you must
first be sitting and holding the guitar properly (which is more
involved than just raising your left leg and putting the guitar on
it). Also, players who have poorly shaped nails or who have problems
with fingerstroke often circumvent these problems by finding an
awkward postion which appears to work better, but which does not allow
for the best development of right hand technique. The position
described above is easiest to maintain and provides the most effective
foundation for development; finding and scrupulously maintaining this
position to the point where it becomes habitual will serve you well.
--
Stuart LeBlanc
gustav@mintir.new-orleans.la.us

 

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