What does a lowercase letter "a" next to the notehead mean for guitar music?

Music for guitar in both staff notation and tablature.  In the staff notation there are small letter a's and m's next to some noteheads.

1 Answer 1


I'm curious that you didn't ask about the "m"s also. They are there for the same reason. Both are indications of which right hand finger the composer or editor suggests you use to play the note.

  • p is short for pulgar, Spanish for "thumb"
  • i is short for indice - "index finger"
  • m is short for medio - "middle finger"
  • a is short for anular - "ring finger"
  • Ah, thanks! Well, I did suspect at first that m might mean "middle" finger but then I didn't know what a could mean—I didn't know there was another word for the ring finger—so I dismissed that suspicion. Then I asked in particular about the a because it happens to be the note I'm having trouble with—I didn't need help with the m ones, though I was curious about that too. Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 2:32
  • Interesting that there's no initial for the pinky. A lot of us use that almost as much as the other digits. But in classical guitar playing it appears to be taboo. Wonder why? +1.
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 7:05
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    @Tim it’s not taboo as such, but with a good, traditional, right hand position its shortness tends to limit its use. When learning and potentially needing RH finger suggestions you’re unlikely to use the little finger for classical guitar so I guess the system never ended up incorporating it. It is of course used, but often for more special-effecty things in classical guitar which you don’t see too often and don’t come with the usual finger notation.
    – OwenM
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 9:55
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    As far as I know, the names origin from Spanish, although they are indeed almost identical in Italian. In various scores, pinky notation sometimes occurs, but I saw various letters assigned to this. And although some classical guitarists use pinky, it seems not to be a part of the regular curriculum. Why? – that would be a good separate question @Tim Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 15:44

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