The Building Blocks of Classical Guitar Technique

There’s only a limited number of things we can include in our technical routine. So here’s some things to think about; make sure you’re not missing out on any crucial elements!

Classical Guitar Arpeggios

Arpeggios don’t get a lot of love. Which is unfortunate. Guitarists spend a lot of time playing around with arpeggio textures. Some of the most famous pieces of our repertoire include extended sections of repeated arpeggio patterns. It makes sense then that we should spend some time with arpeggios in our technique routine. The Giuliani right hand studies and other similar exercises are some of the most effective ways to practice arpeggios.

Tremolo and cross-string trills also fit into the arpeggios category. They are, after all, extensions of arpeggio technique.

Resources on the CG Blog for practicing arpeggios

Slurs on the Guitar

Slurs (aka Hammer Ons and Pull Offs) are one of the most demanding left hand techniques. And, frankly, a lot of intermediate guitarists have trouble with them. Even advanced players have difficulties with trills and other extensions of left hand slur technique. Beyond the obvious technical difficulties of them, improper slurs can often ruing the musical flow of the pieces or even destroy phrasing.

Here are some resources to help with your slur practice.

Classical Guitar Scales

Ah, scales, a guitarist’s best friend, right? Maybe not. Honestly the guitar repertoire doesn’t include a lot of passages of extended scales. And if you happen to be playing a piece with a lot of scales, it makes more sense to practice those scales instead of abstracted major and minor scales. Still, scales are an essential part of guitar technique and should be included in your routine.

Scale practice should include long, short, and burst practice. Not just long, 1 or 2 octave Segovia scales. Try incorporating some one octave scales and five-note bursts into your technical routine. My next ebook will feature some more in depth information and exercises about bursts and short scales.

Here are some resources about scale practice.

Left Hand Shifts

Shifting down and across the neck fall into this category. Honestly, this one might be better left in repertoire practice. So much of this stuff is piece-specific that it’s hard to practice it outside of those contexts. Should you want to add this to your technical routine, I suggest you extract portions from pieces and use them.

Also read Sequencing the Left Hand and Practice Techniques: Stop/Go.

Extended Techniques and All the Rest

This is the catch all for all other techniques. Rasgueado is probably one of the most important things that falls into this category. Unfortunately there’s not anything on the CG blog on the subject of rasgueado, but that’s in the works. Barre technique falls here too, but again that may be better left to piece-specific work.

Extended techniques are the weird sounds you hear from guitar sometimes. These are things like nail scrapes and snare drum effects. Again, because these are often very piece-specific, they might be better left in repertoire practice time.


  • Willem

    Great list.

    Never heard of the term `slurs’ before, but that probably shows my own ignorance rather than anything else.

    I’m just wondering, where would flageolets and other more esoteric techniques fall under? Extended techniques?

  • Bradford Werner

    Put all those PDF’s together and you’ve got yourself an awesome little e-Book. Who won’t pay a few bucks for that? Of course, free is also good.

    Anyway, this shows how busy you’ve been. It’s a mighty amount of work running a blog…

  • Larry Deack

    Harmonics might be nice to add. A lot of students are very foggy about where the natural harmonics are and then there’s more advanced stuff like playing other notes with harmonics.

    Scales done using ami with three notes per string and go well with tremolo, arps and rasqueado. These right hand techniques are synergistic not just isolated approaches.

    Don’t avoid scales or any technique because it’s hard for you. It’s all used if you are playing the advanced repertoire. Scales and arps are a good way to learn fretboard harmony which many CG students really neglect compared to other guitarists.

  • Matt of Nashville Guitar Lessons

    Man, this is a tight post. Thank you for putting all these resources together in the first place, and double thank you for compiling them here in this post.

    Can’t wait to send my students here when they need some foundational work (which is pretty much all the time for all of us, no?!).