Relating Movements

There are general guidelines to moving your hands correctly when playing the guitar. It’s always a challenge for a teacher to relate these unfamiliar movements to students. But there’s an easy way to do it: relate the movements to something we do every day.

I’m going to explain a few things I use to relate movements to students later, but first, let’s talk about why we should teach (and learn) this way.

It’s All About a Relationships

Choice Research has a lot of applicability to practicing. What you’ve read here before was about analogues: relating relatively similar things to each other.

We can think smaller than than practice events for our analogues.

When we relate movements used in guitar to movements we use every day they’re much easier to understand and master. It makes sense to take this “shortcut”, spend more time practicing, and less time worrying about whether or not we’re moving correctly.

So, with that in mind, here are some analogous movements I relate to my students.

Open the Door

Sometimes we need to use different left hand positions to accommodate passages. We change left hand positions primarily with a little wrist rotation.

If you haven’t ever tried to get a young student to rotate their wrist by saying, “rotate your wrist,” you should try it out. It’s very amusing. Most students will swing their elbow around like crazy.

Instead, relate it opening a door handle (or, for others, using a screwdriver). It accomplishes the wrist rotation without the arm movement.

Pick Something Up

Common wisdom on right hand technique is to, “move all the knuckles on the right hand in the same direction.” There’s the even better, more verbose methods of explaining it as well that involve tons of anatomy terms.

How about this: imagine you’re picking something up or wrapping your fingers around something or closing your hand into a fist. In all of these instances the knuckles of the hand move in the same direction and we avoid the dense wordage.

As an aside, I use the “one hand clap” to demonstrate the fingers moving into the palm.

Any other movements relationships you use? Post them in the comments!

Posted on in Classical Guitar Technique, Guitar Teaching


    • Christopher Davis

      All the links are fixed. Not sure what was up with that. All I did was retype the same code.

      Willem, I don’t think I get what you mean by your swatting an insect movement. So I can’t say for sure.

  • Willem

    Hi Chris, the link to the “One Hand Clap” appears to be broken, but I think I can imagine what this movement involves.

    I’ve never really thought of hand movements like that. Looking just now at how I use my right hand when playing a melody, it’s quite similar to brushing a fly/insect away from me, actually! I tend to use my wrist a lot to create most of the movement. But now I’m not sure if this is the right technique after reading your post 🙂

  • Willem

    It’s more brushing away an insect, or brushing something off your jacket kind of thing, rather than swatting. The movement’s in the wrist. Not sure but I am beginning to suspect I’m missing some formal training in this department now.. 🙂