Beginner's Guide: 7 Techniques in Mastering Classical Guitar
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Posture and Hand Position
  2. Right Hand Technique
  3. Left Hand Technique
  4. Scales Practice
  5. Chords and Arpeggios
  6. Sight-Reading Exercises
  7. Performance Technique

Grasping the art of classical guitar can be an exciting journey. If you've always wondered how to play guitar for classical music, you've come to the right place. This blog serves as your beginner's guide—walking you through seven techniques that will help you master this beautiful instrument. So, let's get started!

Posture and Hand Position

Before you even strum your first note, it's important to understand how to hold the guitar properly. Your posture and hand position play a big role in how well you can play. Here's a helpful guide to get you started:

  • Posture: First things first, sit up straight. Slouching can make it harder for you to play and can even lead to back pain. Position yourself at the edge of your chair and plant your feet firmly on the floor.
  • Guitar Position: When learning how to play guitar for classical music, the instrument is usually placed on your left leg. This is different from other guitar styles where it typically rests on the right. The guitar's waist should rest on your left leg, while the bottom part leans against your right thigh. Hold the neck of the guitar with your left hand.
  • Right Hand Position: Your right hand is responsible for plucking the strings. Make a loose fist, then open it so that your fingers are naturally curved. Rest your thumb on the 6th string (the thickest one), and let your fingers hover over the strings.
  • Left Hand Position: The left hand does the fretting. Your thumb should be behind the neck, pointing upwards. The fingers should be curved, pressing down on the strings.

Mastering the correct posture and hand position is the first step in understanding how to play guitar for classical music. Once you're comfortable with these, you're ready to move on to learning the right and left hand techniques.

Right Hand Technique

Now that we've got our posture and hand position down pat, let's move on to the next technique in mastering how to play guitar for classical music: the right hand technique. Remember, your right hand is key in producing the sound on a classical guitar. It's all about plucking the strings in the right manner. Let's break this down:

  • Picking the Strings: We use our fingers to pick the strings on a classical guitar, not a pick. The thumb (notated as "p") plays the top three strings (E, A, D), while the index (i), middle (m), and ring (a) fingers handle the bottom three strings (G, B, E).
  • Rest Stroke and Free Stroke: There are two main ways to pluck the strings: rest stroke (apoyando) and free stroke (tirando). The rest stroke is when your finger plucks a string and then comes to rest on the next string. The free stroke is when your finger plucks a string without touching the next one. Both strokes produce different tones and volumes, and mastering them is a big part of learning how to play guitar for classical music.
  • Consistency: Aim for a consistent sound across all strings and fingers. This requires control over your finger movements. Try to use the same part of your fingertip each time you pluck a string.

Keep in mind that these techniques might feel a bit awkward at first, especially if you're new to classical guitar. But with enough practice, it will start to feel more natural. The key is to stay patient and keep trying. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are guitar skills!

Left Hand Technique

Alright, let's take a look at the other half of the equation — the left hand technique. Now, if you're wondering how to play guitar for classical music, you can't overlook the importance of a well-trained left hand. It's responsible for pressing down on the strings to create different notes and chords. Here's how you can start mastering it:

  • Finger Placement: The fingertips of your left hand are responsible for pressing down on the strings. Make sure you press the strings just behind the frets, not on top of them. This will give you a clear, ringing sound.
  • Thumb Position: Your thumb should rest on the back of the guitar neck, not wrapped around it. This gives your fingers more reach and flexibility to play those tricky classical guitar pieces.
  • Pressure and Release: Press the strings just hard enough to get a clear sound. Any more pressure than that and you risk straining your hand. Also, remember to release the pressure when you're not playing a note to give your hand a break.

Remember, developing a good left hand technique takes time and practice. So, don't get disheartened if you don't nail it right away. Every guitarist, from Andres Segovia to John Williams, had to start somewhere. Now, it's your turn. Keep at it, and soon, you'll be playing beautiful classical guitar music with ease.

Scales Practice

Next on our journey of mastering the classical guitar, we'll be diving into scales practice. Now, you might be thinking, "why do I need to learn scales?" Well, practicing scales is like doing push-ups for your fingers. It helps build strength, dexterity, and speed — all of which are key when asking how to play guitar for classical music.

  1. Start with Major Scales: Major scales are the foundation of all other scales and modes, so they're a great place to start. Try practicing the C Major scale first, as it uses only the white keys on a piano, or in our case, natural notes on the guitar.
  2. Practice Slowly: It's essential to practice slowly and accurately. This way, you can ensure that every note rings out clearly and your fingers are moving efficiently. Remember, speed is a by-product of accuracy.
  3. Use a Metronome: A metronome is a device that keeps a steady beat. Practicing with a metronome will help you develop your sense of timing and rhythm, an integral part of playing classical guitar.

And there you have it! By dedicating a portion of your practice time to scales, you'll start to see improvements in your overall playing. It's not the most exciting part of learning how to play guitar for classical music, but trust me, it's worth the effort!

Chords and Arpeggios

With a good grip on scales, let's move on to the next step in your journey of learning how to play guitar for classical music: mastering chords and arpeggios. Think of chords as the backbone of any piece of music and arpeggios as the way to add color to those backbones.

  1. Understand Chords: A chord is a group of notes played together. The most common chords are Major, Minor, and Seventh. Start with these fundamental chords and then gradually explore more complex ones.
  2. Learn Arpeggios: An arpeggio is simply a chord where the notes are played one at a time instead of all at once. Practicing arpeggios will help you better understand the structure of chords and improve your finger dexterity.
  3. Practice Chord Changes: Changing from one chord to another quickly and smoothly is a skill that takes time to develop. Start slow and gradually increase your speed. Remember, it's all about precision, not speed.

By practicing chords and arpeggios, you'll add depth to your music and open up a world of creative possibilities. After all, playing classical guitar is all about expressing yourself through music, isn't it?

Sight-Reading Exercises

Moving on, let's address a technique that often intimidates beginners but is quite important when learning how to play guitar for classical music: sight-reading. Sight-reading is the ability to play a piece of music you've never seen before, and it's a skill that will serve you well in your classical guitar journey.

  1. Start Simple: Begin with simple pieces, focusing on recognizing the notes and rhythms. It's okay if you make mistakes. The goal is to keep moving and not to stop to correct every little error.
  2. Work on Rhythm: Rhythm is the heartbeat of any piece of music. Use a metronome to help you maintain a steady beat. This way, even if you miss a note or two, you'll still stay in time with the music.
  3. Practice Regularly: Like any other skill, sight-reading improves with regular practice. Aim for short, consistent sessions rather than long and infrequent ones.

Keep in mind, sight-reading is not about playing perfectly—it's about exploring new pieces, understanding musical structures, and improving your reading skills. So, don't worry too much about the mistakes. Remember, every great classical guitarist started out just like you—struggling with sight-reading!

Performance Technique

Finally, let's turn our attention to performance technique. This is the icing on the cake when it comes to mastering how to play guitar for classical music. It's not just about hitting the right notes, but also about communicating the emotion and beauty of the music to your audience.

  1. Know Your Piece: Understanding the piece you're playing is vital. This doesn't just mean knowing where your fingers go. It means understanding the story the music is telling and the emotions it's meant to convey.
  2. Practice Performing: It sounds strange, but practicing performing can be as important as practicing the music. Try to create a performance-like scenario at home. Stand up, announce your piece, and play it through without stopping, just like you would in a real performance.
  3. Watch and Learn: Watch performances by professional classical guitarists. Pay attention to their posture, their expressions, and how they communicate with the audience. They are rich sources of inspiration and learning.

Remember, playing classical guitar is a journey, not a destination. So, take your time, enjoy the process, and don't be too hard on yourself. With these techniques in your toolbox, you're well on your way to mastering how to play guitar for classical music. Break a leg!

If you found this beginner's guide helpful and are eager to expand your artistic skills even further, check out Daisie's classes. By exploring a variety of disciplines and techniques, you can enhance your creative journey and grow as an artist in multiple areas.