Watching someone’s left hand bolt up and down the neck of the guitar when switching chords or soloing is a mesmerizing sight.
I won’t deny that being able to deftly shred or run through a chord progression looks impressive! But it only works if your right hand – your strumming and picking hand – is able to follow.
Generally, the left hand receives a lot of attention in many tutorials. But it’s often a greater challenge to master the motions of the right hand, especially if you want to produce clean and clear notes.
Today I’m going to change that.
Below I’ve put together a few great tips that will help you improve your right-hand skill, speed, dexterity, and technique.
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5 Tips to Hone Your Right-Hand Guitar Technique
As with all things guitar, practice makes perfect.
While the tips below will help you establish the proper right-hand technique when playing guitar, they will take some time to master. But with enough consistent practice and dedication, you’ll get your right hand up to speed in no time at all.
Try incorporating some of these tips into your regular routine and over time you’ll start to see your technique improve immensely.
1. Hold Your Pick Firmly
Knowing how to hold your pick correctly means it won’t slip out your fingers. A firm yet relaxed grip allows you to create the cleanest, boldest sound possible.
Here’s how to do it:
- Bend your index finger and place the pick on the fleshy part of the finger between the fingertip and the first joint
- Gently pinch the pick with your thumb
- Hold the pick firmly but not too tightly between your index finger and thumb
Remember that you don’t need to hold the pick with an intense grip. In fact, you should hold your pick fairly gently while keeping your arm and body relaxed.
It’s natural to find yourself tensing up while you play, especially in the beginning when you’re learning new techniques. When this happens, try to be cognizant that it’s happening and let your muscles relax before you try again.
2. Get a Feel for Your Right Hand’s Movement
The goal of this tip is to get a feel for how your hand moves while strumming, how much pressure to apply to the strings, and how your hand feels while holding the pick.
Here’s how you do it:
- Mute all the strings with your left hand
- Grab your guitar pick and strum up and down repeatedly
- Make sure to perform the movement with your wrist rather than your whole arm
Keep your left hand still and focus on the movement of your right hand. And remember, try to stay loose and not tense any major muscles while you practice.
3. Use the Correct Pick Angle
Generally speaking, you should aim to hold the pick at a 90-degree angle to the body of the guitar.
Imagine a straight line running from the tip of the pick through to the top of the pick. Then make sure that line is perpendicular to the body of your guitar.
Once you’ve got that down, rotate the pick between 30 and 45 degrees so that it’s not completely straight when it makes contact with the strings. This will ensure the pick glides off the string, producing a smooth reverberation instead of harsh, punchy notes.
When strumming or picking at this angle, it’s important to avoid anchoring your pinky or your palm to the guitar. Instead, hover your right hand along the body of the guitar as you play.
Here’s how to practice this:
- Mute all strings with your left hand
- Position the pick in your right hand at a 90-degree angle to the body
- Rotate the pick between 30 and 45 degrees
- Play three notes on each string ensuring your right-hand remains in the correct position
- Keep an eye on the position of your right hand and correct it if the pick is at the wrong angle
4. Be Aware of Fatigue
If at any time you feel your right hand cramping up or fatiguing, take a break.
Continuing to play when you can feel that your hand needs a break is one of the surest ways to get an injury – and injuries do happen!
As I mentioned above, it’s only natural that your hands are going to tense up when learning new techniques. When this happens, put the pick down and give your hands a breather.
You can also try this stretching technique to give your hand a second wind:
- Hold your hands out, palms facing away from you
- Spread all your fingers apart
- Bring both hands together tip to tip
- Gently push your hands together until you feel a stretch
- Hold it for 30 seconds or so
- Repeat until you feel your hands are stretched and warmed up
5. Practice Alternate Picking
The first four tips focused on positioning and technique, but now it’s time to look at speed and rhythm.
Alternate picking allows you to practice picking in alternate directions and is a great way to train your right hand to be more versatile and dexterous.
Here’s how to do it:
- Choose a string – in this case, let’s say the E string – and play 6 notes on it, alternating between up and down strokes
- Move on to the next string and repeat the exercise
- Next, use a metronome (you can download one on your phone if you don’t have a physical one), and play those six notes at a certain speed. If you find it’s too fast, then slow the metronome down and try again.
If you find that you’re able to perform this exercise without any trouble, then I suggest that you learn a scale or two and practice it with the metronome. This will help you develop perfect precision, accuracy, and technique for both hands.
Right-Hand Position: How to Position Your Picking Hand
Now that we’ve covered tips on technique, let’s have a look at how to improve exact hand positioning:
- Notice your posture. While it might not seem connected, your posture affects the way your body interacts with the guitar, so always maintain a nice, relaxed, and upright posture.
- Make sure your wrist is straight, not bending upwards or downwards, and has a very slight arch.
- Allow your fingers to curve naturally – the thumb should rest on the side of your index finger.
- Ensure that the back of your hand is almost parallel to the strings.
Try to focus on how each of the above elements feels when you’re playing and adjust accordingly. It’s likely that you won’t perfect your technique overnight, but over time you’ll notice your positioning getting better.
Continuing on Your Guitar Journey
After working through these exercises a couple of times, you’ll probably find the right hand is feeling much more at ease and that your sound has improved.
This means you’re on the right track!
But if you’re looking for new challenges to push you out of your comfort zone, then I highly recommend you check out my guitar workshop – Tony’s Acoustic Challenge.
It’s full of guitar tips and exercises that will help you learn quickly and effectively no matter where you are on your guitar-playing journey.
If you’re looking to build a consistent, life-long guitar practice, watch this FREE guitar class, where I show you the three secrets to faster guitar learning in 10 minutes a day.