Thumb plucking a bass string on the classical guitar
Proper right hand position for fingerstyle guitar

Before you can start fingerpicking like a pro, you need to use the picking hand correctly. In this article, we will discuss four common mistakes beginner fingerstyle guitarists make, and the steps to achieve the perfect hand position for fingerpicking on guitar.

There are several common errors that guitarists make when fingerpicking. This article will provide tips to avoid common mistakes such as improper hand position and bad technique.

Here are four common beginner mistakes when performing Fingerstyle guitar and how to correct for them.

Using the wrong hand position

If your wrist is bent too much, you will perform rest stroke on the guitar. This technique is used successfully by electric bass players and by flamenco guitarsts, but is less common in Fingerstyle Guitar. Rest stroke involves having a sharply bent wrist.

If your wrist is bent and your finger is resting against an adjacent string after plucking, you may be performing rest stroke. This technique is acceptable for playing fast scales, but is not suitable for playing fingerstyle guitar songs.

Here is what the wrist and hand look like when the wrist is bent and the finger is performing rest stroke.

Fig. 1. Right Hand performing Rest Stroke on a bass guitar. Notice the position of the wrist.

Proper Right Hand Position for Fingerstyle

The hand should be positioned so that the wrist is flat or bent slightly. The movement of the finger originates from the knuckle and the fingertip should swing towards the hand. When plucking the string, the tips of these fingers should set the string in motion. You can grow your right hand nails to improve the contact or the tone of the guitar when you pluck it.

Here is an image of the proper right hand position. Notice the position of the wrist.

When you are practicing fingerstyle guitar, be aware of your hand and wrist position at all times.

Moving the Right Hand Too Much

If your right hand exits the guitar as you play, this will cause problems with proper positioning. You will be constantly resetting your hand position and landing on the wrong strings.

Study the proper finger movement for playing fingerstyle guitar, including making the fingers move more efficiently. If you find that you need to pull away from the guitar in order to get more volume, your finger is likely not plucking the string at the correct angle.  

Remember that failure to use the correct hand position can result in inaccurate and imprecise picking, as well as discomfort and fatigue in the hand. It may take some practice to get used to this hand position, but with time and patience, you will be able to pick each string accurately and with precision.

By practicing and refining your hand position and picking technique, you will be able to achieve the desired sound and control when fingerpicking on guitar.

Using the Same Finger Too Many Times

If you use the same finger too many times, instead of using alternate picking, can cause fatigue and a sluggish performance. Make a habit of using alternate picking when playing Fingerstyle guitar. Practising scales or simple melodies can help a lot with developing your right hand technique. 

Another error to avoid is sweeping the finger across the strings, like sweep picking. In most cases, this is a bad idea. It’s much better to use an arpeggio picking pattern.

Not properly coordinating the picking hand with the fretting hand

This problem mostly arises from a bad fingering in the fretted hand. If your fretting hand fingering isn’t properly worked out, it will cause problems when you add in the right hand fingering.

For instance, an awkward position change in your left hand will cause you to exert undue attention on the left hand. This will mean you will not be able to coordinate the movements of both hands.