Playing guitar is not easy. There are so many micro-mechanisms that need to sync up just right for the tone, the speed, and the overall performance to sound as it should. With the keyboard it is as easy as pressing a single key to make a decent sound, but with the guitar, so many things can go wrong. Even just the right hand gets confusing sometimes – do we use a pick, do we grow nails, do we add a thumb-pick – options are basically endless. Whatever we ultimately choose, there are some accuracy exercises that are useful for us to integrate into our practice.
RANGE OF MOTION
Many players look at right hand picking as a way to hit the string rather than pluck. What hitting ultimately results in is a motion that is rather large, much like a clown walking, raising their legs very high. A normal step of a regular person would involve walking with a reasonably measured pace, lifting the legs just enough to produce forward motion that is smooth. Thus, when we practice fingerpicking or really any other kind of right hand plucking, we should consider practicing with the idea of a small circular return after the note is plucked. Think of it this way: prepare, pluck, return. This should be done in a small circular motion, avoiding any extra movement that is not necessary. By doing this enough you will build a good habit of preserving the movement in a controlled way.
Short note playing, or staccato, is a typical way of controlling the plucking motion of the right hand.
Short note playing, or staccato, is another typical way of controlling the plucking motion of the right hand. What staccato prevents is a large movement after the pluck is produced. When playing a scale, keep your pick or fingers close to the strings and after plucking quickly return the finger/pick back onto the string insomuch dampening the played note. If fingerpicking, consider placing the opposite finger down on the string. This would still keep the forward moving walk-like principle alive, but you will be able to control the movement by shortening the audible length of the note.
SWEEPING OR STRING WALKING
String sweeping if playing with a pick or string walking if finger plucking are basically the same concept utilizing a movement across all the strings upward and downwards. If with a pick, practice from a lower sounding string (6th string) and use your pick to fall down from string to string, and when reaching the last string do the exact opposite. Practice doing this without too much extra movement of the entire hand, starting slow and progress towards faster tempi. If string walking when plucking, you will need to use any combination of two (or even three) fingers to essentially walk the same path. If starting with the index finger on string 6, pluck your way down to string 1 diligently exchanging the fingers as if walking. When moving the opposite direction walk as if backwards from string 1 to string 6. Same as with sweeping, the movement of the hand doesn’t need to be large, but it does need to be accurate.
We hope you enjoyed this quick insert on the right hand accuracy exercises. Needless to say, there are many more, but these provide a good core for a stable progress and successful practice routine. Good luck!