Guitar Fingering Guide

An important area of guitar education, whether in a private studio or a public school classroom, is that of guitar “fingering”–the exact, well-planned, and deliberate designation of fingers to a musical passage. Knowledge, understanding, and application of basic fingering principles will aid students in such parameters as technical proficiency, expression, phrasing, memorization, and performance security. This topic supplies the teacher with a theoretical basis from which to present this important topic. The basis is built on two sets of principles: (1) the physical properties of the guitar and its tone production (guitar size, distance between the frets, sustaining quality of the strings, and varying timbre of the strings), and (2) the physiological structure of the human hand and arm (length of the fingers, alignment of hands with the strings, strong and weak finger combinations, changing positions, fatigue, and string crossing).

This guide is divided into seven chapters. The first serves as an overview of the current status of guitar education and provides an introduction to the topic of fingering. Chapter 2 describes the notation used throughout the document and defines such fundamental concepts as basic position for the left and right hand, the names of positions, stretch and squeeze positions, the bar and hinge-bar, and rest and free strokes. Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 present information that constitutes the main conclusions of this the practice. They deal with the left hand fingering of melodies played on a single string, left hand fingering of melodies played on two or more strings, left hand fingering of homophonic and contrapuntal music, and right hand fingering. Included in these areas of discussion are basic left and right hand positions, minimum movement, pivot and guide fingers, position playing, changing positions, strong and weak finger combinations, and fingerings which complement musical phrasing and expression.

Chapter 7 summarized the major concepts presented in the topic, gives guidelines to teaching the topic of guitar fingering, and supplies suggestions for future research in this subject area.