I am learning to play classical guitar. And I'm following the famous book Arenas: La Escuela de la Guitarra. I am stuck on Lesson 18 of book 1.

Book has its convention. "m" means the middle finger and "i" means index finger. You should pull the string with that finger with your playing hand. And the numbers before the note also show the finger for pressing the fret. 1 for index finger, 2 for the middle etc. If you don't have to press any fret it is shown as (0). I don't know if this is a universal convention so I thought I had to explain it.

Lesson 18

My question is, how should I play the first two notes?

I can see a Mi and a Do. Mi is on the 4th string pressing the second fret with my middle finger. Do is on the 2nd string pressing the first fret with my index finger.

All set!

But how can I pull the two different strings with my middle finger simultaneously? Or is this a pinch? I mean do I have to use my thumb and middle to pull two different strings at the same time?

A professor shows how to play it. But I can not tell how she is playing this piece:

  • All due respect, but I cannot understand how it's not obvious from the video, and from a logical point of view. Or indeed, that it hasn't occurred before.
    – Tim
    Dec 29, 2022 at 11:09
  • 2
    I watched the video several times. I slowed down the video, zoomed in and couldn't see it. But after your explanation, I watched it again, now I can see it :)
    – fkucuk
    Dec 29, 2022 at 15:43

2 Answers 2


As a general rule, playing from guitar music, the notes with stems up are fingered, whilst those with stems down are played using the thumb. This then gives, or can give, a slightly different tone, as the thumbed notes will often have a tone more suited to the accompaniment, which is what they are here.

So, the fingers will be pulled upwards for the pluck, and the thumbs moved downwards over the lower strings.

m and i refer to middle and index, while p would refer to thumb, not needed to be told, as that's what we do anyway.

  • 2
    So for the first notes, we use our thumb and index finger simultaneously, like a pinch move?
    – fkucuk
    Dec 28, 2022 at 13:08
  • That is exactly how those notes are played.
    – Tim
    Dec 28, 2022 at 16:39
  • You can play even more strings at once, theoretically up to 5 - one for each finger, though that's somewhat rare. But chords are often played with 4-6 strings, not necessarily all at once but very quickly in a strum. Dec 28, 2022 at 20:21
  • 2
    For completeness, it should be noted that for right-hand fingering you'll see p, i, m, and a. These correspond to your thumb, index finger, middle finger, and ring finger, respectively. Generally, your pinky will not be used.
    – ibonyun
    Dec 28, 2022 at 23:28
  • 2
    @ibonyun True indeed. However, there are proponents of playing using all 5 fingers of the right hand. See e.g. Štěpán Rak, who got his tenure for his work on this technique. Dec 29, 2022 at 10:19

You have to use your thumb for the base notes (mi, re, fa, mi, sol).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.