I very recently started learning classical guitar and I have some questions. I am trying to play following piece:

enter image description here

In the second-to-last measure of the second row, my fingers on the strings alternate like i, m, i, i, m, i rather than strictly alternating (i, m, i, m, i, m). It just feels very natural. However, the book that I am studying advises that one should alternate i and m fingers when continually plucking one string. What is the correct technique? I urge you to try and play this piece and see that what I am doing feels very natural. I guess there's something very habitual about both index fingers going together.


3 Answers 3


I do see why you prefer the imiimi fingering, you are following a pattern where your fingers are used to three notes on each string, and that feels good. There are some rare but serious classical guitarists that use a three finger technique (imaima) that get a similar feeling without the problems that I discuss below and @Matt also stated. It can be an even faster alternative, but it is also trickier in my experience (some strings break your pattern for many scales).

@Matt is correct that the imimim fingering is faster because alternating is always faster (your m finger can strike while your i finger is recovering, when you use the same finger twice you have to wait for recovery (where recovery is getting your finger in position to strike)). He is also correct in suggesting it as the correct and standard way for classical guitarists to deal with that and similar phrases.

I suggest you stick with imimim when ever practical (it is not always practical) even when some alternatives seem easier. This way you are not as often practicing different techniques for specific pieces, but rather the same technique for all pieces in most cases. This has a multiplying effect of your practicing and skill for all pieces.

Serious typists use all ten fingers to type. 'a','q', and 'z' are assigned to your left pinky finger. 'o',and 'l' are assigned to your right ring finger. As a typing student you observe that it is easier to type "all" by using only your index fingers. The difficulty comes from the fact that you are studying how to type more than this one word, and other words will need these skills from the other fingers. In the same way, it is good to be consistently alternating between i and m, where the rhythm is constant, across all or most of the pieces you ever practice/learn/perform. There are correct alternatives, however they all violate the principal of consistent technique as a practice multiplier, and they are all considered more advanced in their execution.

An exception is when there are breaks in the rhythm. Lets say you have the rhythm: quarter eighth eighth quarter eighth eighth. This should result in a right hand pattern: i-imi-im. This is a moment where you can repeat the same finger, because the timing suggests to your hand a missing note (where the dashes are) that would have been m, had it been there.

In a similar thread of thought, I suggest that you also try to be consistent about which finger plays the beat. In your example i always plays the beat. This is consistent with my thinking, but I have seen others prefer m as the beat without serious consequences.

Some will advocate a different approach where you are not motivated by rhythm but by the pattern with which you play the strings. This could mean that when you switch strings you plan to switch fingers in a special way, where you would favor lower numbered strings with m and higher numbered strings with i where the strings are numbered 654321. Othertimes it could be raking as described by @Matt. I mostly recommend against this although sometimes I find an advantage to this thinking as well.

One last thought: When you do not alternate your fingers it is at least a little more difficult to be consistent in your rhythmic accuracy.


In this case I see no reason to deviate from alternating between m and i. Your way of playing this phrase limits fluency and speed. Imagine playing the same phrase much faster. Will you still be able to pluck two consecutive notes with your index finger?

There are indeed cases where it is easier or more natural (for most players) to use i or m for two consecutive notes, especially when going from one string to the next lower (in pitch) string. However, in your case I cannot see any advantage in doing so.

If you ask me what is the correct technique, the answer is definitely that you should alternate. If you ask me for practical advice the answer remains the same.

  • 1
    Consecutive use of one finger "when going from one string to the next lower" is called raking, at least for bass that term is established. Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 1:07

Your fingering is not necessarily more or less "correct", but you will get a slightly different sound. The suggested fingering will have a more even delineation of the notes, while your fingering will add a little variation in the shaping of the phrase.

So,it's a matter of musical interpretation. If you are changing the fingering because you prefer the way it shapes the phrase, then that's great. If you are changing the fingering to make it easier to play, just be advised that it will slightly change the sound you produce.


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.