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Beyond first position

by Parris

I am newly learning to play guitar, and read standard music notation. So far I've come to understand all of the notes within the first three frets fairly well.

However, the tabbed forms of the sheet music often use notes on frets outside of the first three.

Sometimes it is annotated that the music should be played in a different position, and other times it is not.

I basically have two questions.

1)What would be the first step to learning how to play pieces from the second position and thus fourth?

2)In the case of pieces such as "Andantino by Felix Horetzky" (number three from the free lesson section), from reading the music in standard notation how does one know exactly when to fret outside of the first three frets when there's no written indication of a change in positions?

Hi Parris,

You have to learn the notes of the fretboard first because that will make it much easier to both sight read and know when or if it's even desirable to play in an alternate position.

Just because someone says you should does not always make it right for you.

Additionally, you know when to play in another position or on another string because in guitar notation the numbers 1-6 in a little circle means what string to play the note. I think this type of notation is only found in guitar music.

Look at this page to help you with learning notes on the fretboard...

And as for question 2, the Horetzky piece, it relates to the first. If you know your notes you'll often know where it can be fingered or played successfully. And as for tabbed notes, it can often be the best way to quickly find out what position the notes are in and on what string they are.

Although it doesn't give you the timing or rhythm of a piece it is great for working out note positions.

I hope this is of some help.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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guitar position

Why is the guitar held in a different position for classical vs. non-classical, and how important is it to learn classical having the guitar on my back leg with the neck laying straight vs. having the guitar sit on my front leg with the neck pointed at an upward angle.

Thanks

There are several positions you can put the classical guitar although on your left leg (for right handed guitarists) is the most common.

Actually, when the guitar sits on the left leg the right leg is also in contact with the end of the guitar, your right fore-arm is resting on the upper bout and your left hand is holding the neck via the fingers and thumb.

All this contact means the guitar is in a very secure position and if your music stand is situated properly you should be able to view your music and keep a close watch on your left hand as it fingers the notes and chords of a piece.

From this position, especially when the neck is at an upward angle, you should be able to move and reach over the whole length of the neck of the guitar without any undue stress or tension. You are in effect playing from a very relaxed and comfortable position which normally is reflected in how you play.

Of course, many people feel comfortable resting the guitar on the right leg but to me it is not as secure as the traditional position.

I hope this was of help.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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Guitar Position

by John
(Woodstock, GA)

Trevor, Even though I do not play classical guitar, I feel much more comfortable playing my acoustic guitar in the classical position as opposed to resting the guitar on my right leg.

I'm still somewhat of a beginner and all of the online lessons recommend the right leg position. Are there any drawbacks to using the classical position for all types of guitar playing? Thanks, John

Hi John,

If your body movements aren't required to be extravagant i.e. thrashing rock music etc I can't see why you couldn't play acoustic music in that position. Though I must say, if I'm playing chords in a strumming fashion i.e. just playing a song not classical, I tend to put the guitar on my right leg as well.

I think it comes down to what you're comfortable with. Sometimes when I see acoustic players playing finger style their fingers and hands are all "over the shop" as they say but they still manage to get that great sound out of it.

I hope this was of help.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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Right hand position


(J Harper)

I have a tendency to tilt my right hand over toward the thumb when playing. Is this good or bad?

Hi J Harper,

It could be a bad thing as you're getting further away from the strings and may be prone to missing notes, chords etc.

By practicing slowly and becoming aware of what you are doing in the moment is the way to build up the correct habits so that proper technique becomes 2nd nature to you.

Additionally, you may want to invest in some really good technique and theory books like Classical Guitar Pedagogy by Mr Anthony Glise which will help you to understand what and why you play a certain way.

Hope this is of help.
Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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3rd position onwards

by Derek
(Hassocks, West Sussex)

I am trying to find out what bass string changes from 3rd position onwards. My books only deal with the first three strings.

Hi Derek,

If it's the string notes you're after you can go to this page on my site.

I hope this helps,
Trevor M.

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guitar positions

by RON
(DANDENONG .VICTORIA . AUSTRALIA)

Dear Sir,

I cannot keep my thumb on back of guitar neck, it keeps wandering . Can you suggest ANYTHING?

RON.

Hi Ron,

Initially, you need to become very aware of what your thumb is doing i.e. focus on it like you would your other fingers when playing.

My suggestion would be to start off with a very simple exercise like moving from the first fret to the fifth fret with both your thumb touching the back of the guitar neck (about three quarters up on the neck not hanging over the top) and your first finger touching the sixth or E string.

The pressure you apply is very slight and you're just moving slowly back and forward touching both the string and the back of the neck.

Your concentration is on your thumb mainly to keep it in position on the neck but not "dragging" with pressure or tension.

After you have mastered this easy example I'd move on to playing simple scales in the first position but giving your thumb the same attention as the other fingers.

Later on, you can increase the difficulty and practice at a much deeper level by playing scales all over the guitar like these Segovia Scales

If you focus your concentration and, in effect, set your subconscious mind a goal as it were, you'll find over time that the subconscious will take over and you'll do this, or any action without thinking about it.

It's actually how we learn anything and it's how it becomes "automatic' over time whether it's playing a sport, driving a car or playing guitar.

The "trick" is to initially focus your concentration on the problem you want to solve and very slowly build up your competency.

I hope this helps.

Comments for guitar positions

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GUITAR POSITIONS of thumb on neck.
by: RON

THANK YOU! More scale practice seems to be helping.

RON

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Sitting position

by Andy
(UK)

I am self-taught so far on the classical guitar, but the other day I had my first lesson with a tutor who said he could teach classical guitar.

I am concerned that I may have picked up some bad habits regarding posture and fingering so I was hoping to start by getting some basic help in these areas.

I was very surprised that one of the first things he said was that he doesn't bother holding the guitar in the traditional classical manner because he finds it "uncomfortable".

Am I right in thinking that I can have no confidence in his teaching if he doesn't care about getting something this basic right and showing it properly by example?

Hi Andy,

Although there are varying degrees of opinion, I'm on the more conservative side when it comes to sitting position.

I heard it said that women, for example, should put the guitar on their right leg due to "modesty" concerns, though if they wear appropriate clothing that is easily overcome.

Anthony Glise, writing in his excellent book Classical Guitar Pedagogy, says about the sitting position

"...the instrument should be as "centered" as possible to the body. For example, while sitting at the piano, no one would sit at one end or the other, but in the middle, so that both hands have equal access to the keyboard. Likewise, for guitarists, the closer to the 12th fret can be placed to the center of the player's body, the more equally the hands will be able to work and the more balanced the sitting position will be."

Having said that, I have seen people play the guitar on the right leg quite successfully. I would feel like your teacher i.e. uncomfortable in that position, just the opposite to him! :))

So I suppose it is really up to you whether you decide if the teacher is right for you or not. You probably need to balance all your information and go from there.

I hope this was of help.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

Comments for Sitting position

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Your question about siiting position
by: Guitarafficionados

Hi,

You are right to express so much concern about the attitude manifested by your new (and first!) guitar teacher about the sitting position when it comes to play classical guitar.

My opinion is: too many 'so called' finger style guitarists are convinced that their playing is "classical" just because they are able to play classical pieces on nylon strings with their hands
and fingers (including their right hand nails).

Usually these people are not concerned by their sitting position not only because they are somewhat careless, but, more importantly because the technical level they achieved in the past is still too 'basic' to realise what would represents for them the development of appropriate habits in all and every aspects of their playing.

Instead of discussing about your teacher's playing habits, it would be a lot more appropriate to ask him WHAT his sitting position
permits him when it comes to interpreting classical guitar works with a somewhat "advanced level of difficulty"?

In fact, it doesn't matter what he is believing or saying about his sitting position : what really matters is how far he can execute complex technical passages when playing pieces from classical guitar repertory!

Simply ask him how comfortable and successful his position is when playing Sor's Study #19 in B major (Segovia ed.). You will have an answer. Then
ask him to play this very difficult left hand arpeggio study... Without an appropriate sitting position, your teacher will experience a 'helluva' bad time in doing so! This is a quite robust test for the 'appropriateness' of his sitting position as well as other 'tiny' elements of his technique ;-) .

Another example that require a well balanced sitting position and technique would be the Study no. 1 in E minor by Villa-Lobos. Quite impossible to play with a lousy position :-).

In summa, as long as the difficulty level is low to moderate, the sitting position doesn't represent a big issue... But for guitarists wishing to achieve a more complete mastery of their instrument in the long run, THEN sitting position IS as important as every other aspect of the calssical guitar technique.

Hope to have shed some light for you about this subject,

Guitarafficionados

What's Important To You ?
by: Mike W

Hi Andy,
Based on what you've said, it sounds obvious to me that you feel that the correct sitting position is important. I agree, and in fact, I feel it is part of the overall classical guitar aesthetic.
It's part of the history of classical guitar playing.
For that reason I think you should find a different teacher ... one who shares your appreciation for proper technique.

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Left hand positioning.

by Migz
(Philippines)

Sir, What is the right way of holding the classical guitar using the Left hand? Cause I have observed the thumb of my left hand pointing at the left. Im right handed.

Hi Migz,

You might want to look at the information I have on other pages as I go into some detail. You can see those pages here...

Guitar Technique Page

Guitar Hand Position Technique Page

I hope this is helpful.
Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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guitar hand position

by Ja Rock
(miri)


I want to ask about the left-hand position. Can you send me some pictures? I want to know about (G)(E)(F)and many others.

Hi Ja,

It might be a good idea to look at this page for left hand technique and this page for for overall hand positioning amongst other things.

Also, if you want to know what notes are where on the fret board you need to look at this page...

I hope this helps you.
Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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2nd, 3rd, 5th position etc

by jayne ludford
(norwich, U.K.)

Hi there, I'm self- teaching myself classical guitar. Am very confused about the different positions. I understand, for example, that at the 3rd position I move my finger to the 3rd fret. However, none of the books I have explain which notes on the fretboard (in positions other than the 1st), correspond to the notes on the stave. For example, where would the E on fret 5, 2nd string be represented on the stave? I feel I must be missing something obvious as I have been looking in guitar theory books and can't find any other info other than needing to move my finger up to the 3rd, 5th etc fret. Sorry if this all sounds confused!

Thanks, Jayne Ludford.

Hi Jayne,

You're right! There's a real dearth of information on this topic for guitar. I have created a few little resources that may help you on this very subject. You can find them here...

https://www.learnclassicalguitar.com/notes-on-the-guitar-related-to-musical-staff


https://www.learnclassicalguitar.com/support-files/notes-of-fret-board-related-to-musical-staff.pdf


I hope this helps!

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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1st, 2nd , 3rd...etc positions

I do not understand what 1st position , 3rd position, 5th position etc. means. Been playing guitar forever, by ear and tabs. Just now learning to read actual guitar music and I don't understand what is means by "Position" Can't find a good explanation anywhere on the web either. Am I just being stupid? Can you answer this simply for me?

Befuddled in Fort Bragg

Hi!

By first position it just means your index finger is located over the first fret. Similarly if you're in the 2nd position, 3rd position, 4th position etc your 1st or index finger is located over that fret.

The other fingers of the hand are either on the next 3 frets or in chord combinations that might be on similar frets. It's just that you name the position by where the first finger is located.

The different playing positions have implications regarding different keys or playing a similar key further up the fret board. Indeed, certain pieces sound different in different positions although you're playing the same notes (sometimes exactly). The piece actually sounds better in terms of timbre and sometimes even dynamics.

I hope this has been of help.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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numbered positions


(Ohio USA)

I don't know if this question is related to all guitar playing or only classical playing. I am just learning and I would like to know what the 2nd 3rd 5th and 7th positions refer to and how it is accomplished.

Thanks
Gary Buzza

Hi Gary,

This answer to that question is actually quite simple and it does indeed cover all guitars. It just means from which fret on the guitar you start and what notes or other frets are "covered" by your fingers.

In other words, if your first finger starts at the F# on the second fret of the first string, the rest of the 2nd position includes G on the third fret (your 2nd finger), the G# on the 4th fret (your 3rd finger) and the A on the 5th fret (your little or 4th finger).

If you start at the 5th position i.e. the A note on the first string 5th fret the "5th position" would include all the notes from the 5th to the 8th fret.

If you start at the 7th position on the first string i.e. the B note, the "7th position" would include all the notes from the 7th to the 10th frets i.e. B, C, C#, D notes.

The 1st position is obviously then the first 4 frets on the guitar. You could also extend that knowledge to include all 6 strings vertically of course.

This is how many guitarists learn the notes of the guitar neck i.e. breaking it up into positions and memorising the notes by rote.

I hope this has made things a little clearer.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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Numbered positions

by Sasha-Lee
(East London, South Africa)

IF A II is written above a G, when the previous note was an E on the open string and the following note is a F#, where must the G be played?

Hi Sasha-Lee,

I think you might be getting the Roman numerals mixed up. They're often used either on barre chord positions, in other words fret positions, or sometimes when denoting a chord in the scale e.g. II chord in C major = D.

Also, the note "G" on the 1st or 6th string is on the 3rd fret.

Hope this helps.
Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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1st Position Study Books

Hello. After several years away from playing, I have decided to rekindle my love of classical guitar. I studied the basics of 1st position in high school and am looking to explore 1st position more thoroughly before moving on.

Are there any good books that are simply filled with pieces for 1st position, that have both quantity and quality when it comes to selection? I'd like something with at least 30 pieces, that range from beginner to intermediate 1st position difficulty. I've surfed the web for books, but it is hard to tell which ones might suit my preferences.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

JW

Hi JW,

You might try the "100 Grade Studies" book by Fred Noad. Although it goes into more difficult studies there are numerous "first position" pieces that sound suitable for your needs.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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seated position

by Barry
(UK)

Whilst I practice classical guitar in the classical position sometimes, I do find it more comfortable resting the guitar horizontally across my knees. As I am only a home performer, do I really need to stick rigidly to the classical position?

Hi Barry,

I would do what's comfortable. If you're only playing in the home then you're playing basically for you and in the words of John Voight's character to Robert Deniro's character in the movie "Heat"...

"It's a free country brother."

Seriously though, as you're probably aware, the reason for the proper seating position is that it allows you to play with the proper technique for classical guitar.

But you can still play to your own satisfaction technically in the position that you're describing.

Indeed, sometimes my back gets tired in lessons so I shift my position and place my guitar on my right leg to ease the tension for a while.

It's not as if I'd play like that in a concert situation though. Maybe you can shift between positions like I do to get the "best of both worlds", so to speak.

I hope this has been of help to you.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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Welcome!

A Bit About Me...

Welcome to LCG! I'm Trevor Maurice, owner of this site. I hope you find inspiration in these pages to help you with  your journey of learning to play the classical guitar. You can read more of my story here...

Classical Guitar
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