How to Choose The Right Guitar Fingering

When learning or performing a piece, we may have the option to play certain passages or chords in different positions, with different fingerings. But which one is the right one? Each position has its pros and cons, challenges, unique tone, timbre and sonority.

One can easily get lost in the interpretation and details. Therefore, it is always good to have a holistic view when interpreting a piece or choosing the right position – just like in life.

A certain position/fingering may be easier to play but that is not all that we should take into account! One should consider from where we are going to get to that position, as well as where we are going to go after that. One cannot make the right decision about a measure/bar separately.

Things to have in mind:

Does it create a leap for the left hand, from the previous measure/bar or to the next?

Am I looking for a brighter or darker sound?

What am I compromising? The melody, accompaniment, rhythm, etc.?

Can I benefit from any open strings?

Notice the performance marks suggesting the fingering

It is not easy to play a song well when the left-hand has to jump all over the fret-board – as a general rule, a good fingering should prevent that. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Mostly, there are performance marks that suggest the string and the position. It can be helpful to pay attention to those performance marks and try them – I also suggest you not to limit yourself to those suggestions. Feel free to try other fingerings and positions that you feel may work better or give you a more beautiful tone, sorority or expression.

It’s good to have a big palette just like Bob Ross!

Say for the melody, the first string usually gives us a brighter color while the same melody (in the same register) on the 2nd or 3rd strings would give us a rather darker color. Playing dolce or sul ponticello can expand our color palette too, but that is over a different subject. Making good decisions about colors can help us to be more expressive. Being expressive can help the audience not only to enjoy the music more but also to understand it better. “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.” – Beethoven.

Sometimes, we might find a few fingerings that all work well. It helps us decide better if we ask ourselves what is the most important element here – is it the melody, rhythm, harmony? For instance, if one fingering makes the melody sound staccato while it needs to be legato then maybe that is not a very ideal fingering. The same is true if one fingering is hurting the rhythm. The music theory can come in handy to help us analyze a piece as well. Especially when we are making decisions about the phrasings or how the harmony/accompaniment should sound like, on a solo or ensemble performance.

From Prelude N.2 by H. Villa Lobos

In this example, one could play the marked E (mi) note as an open string. This would give the player enough time to change the position. However, it is still possible to play the figure up to the low F# (fa#) as well. In that case, one has to continue on the 5th string to reach to the low B (si) which will be more challenging than the first option. This figure can be played with different fingerings as well. Yet, not only will it be more challenging to play but also it will have a negative effect on the flow of the piece and the sound quality.

Taking these factors into account should open new doors for you and help you be more expressive. Hopefully, this will make practicing more enjoyable and refine the interpretations and performances.

In the meantime last year today, I released my debut solo album (Melancholies and Joys) – featuring Original, Romantic to Contemporary works by South American, French and Spanish composers.

If you enjoy Guitar and/or Classical Music, you can purchase the album on Amazon, iTunes (and similar platforms), from me directly (with higher quality) or stream (free of charge) on Spotify, Deezer, etc. Here are the links to some of the platforms: https://linktr.ee/puremusician

Also if you like to learn to play guitar, Music Theory, Composition or Analysis – I teach all levels and ages online. I have a Licentiate Diploma in Teaching Classical Guitar from the University of West London. Please click here for more info.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s