Practice Techniques: “Thunk” Practice

Ever made that cool muted sound where you lay your left hand fingers across the guitar strings? That’s “thunk” practice.

For the Right Hand

Try just laying your left hand across the strings, muting, and play any right hand arpeggio pattern. This is a great way to hear and correct any rhythmic unevenness in the fingers. It works great while changing note durations to achieve a more even, consistent rhythm.

This works best with repeated patterns and is solely for practicing right hand things. The second method is more about the left hand.

For the Left Hand

Another good way to use thunk practice is to the play the piece as normal, but don’t actually apply any pressure, just let the fingers tips rest in place on the strings. Be sure to strive for super accurate placement–left hand finger tips right behind the frets, etc. If there’s an open string just let it ring.

This produces a great feeling of lightness in the left hand which carries over to the next time you try the passage normally. I’ve been using this technique a lot on a particularly challenging section of Bach with a lot of bars and awkward position shifts. It’s a great way to get rid of excess tension in the left hand.

Posted on in Guitar Practice Techniques


  • Christian Culleton
    Christian Culleton

    I initially learned this technique from my teacher, Norman Ruiz. I make “thunk” practice habitual in my daily studies for my right hand.

    Because I’ll be practicing this technique for 10-15 minutes at a time, I want my left arm and hand completely out of the equation, although for spot practice I would certainly dampen the strings with my left hand. I carry a couple of squares of soft cloth in my guitar case. I like the microfiber cloths. By folding them into less or more thickness, and depending upon where you use them to dampen the strings, you can achieve different gradations of string dampening depending on close to the bridge saddle you place a cloth, how close you place a cloth towards the nut, or using a cloth in both places. Even minute adjustments of the cloths will produce a completely different feel in the right hand because of the change and amount of vibrating capacity in each string.

    Particularly for practicing Bach on the guitar (he is my favorite composer), I will gradually reduce the folds in the cloths so that notes can actually be discerned when played. To do this, I remove the cloth near the nut (because I will be fretting notes), and apply a thickness to the bridge saddle cloth that will reduce the vibrations of the string but still allow pitches to be heard. Here, again, small adjustments to the cloth, forward and back, thickness, etc., will produce very noticeable changes in how the strings feel under your right-hand fingers. Essentially, it’s pizzicato practice. I’ve learned that if I can connect my notes in a linear and musical fashion, my interpretation with the cloths removed will have much more vigor.

    Does anyone else practice like this?