I'm practicing these studies to improve my arpeggio technique which is quite bad. :) Since there are many of them, I want to know what the proper way of playing them are. Or if there are alternatives, what the pros and cons of the various alternatives are?

The reason I'm asking is because I've seen people on Youtube play them differently from the way recommended in the book Pumping Nylon by Scott Tennant.

Here is Norbert Neunzling, playing using free strokes. Jesus Hilario Hernandez also using free strokes.

GuitarVideoPodcast using the planting technique. Scott Morris is also planting his fingers and recommending students to do the same (see video at about 4:20).

Ime, playing using free strokes is considerably easier because then the strings doesn't risk getting stuck under my nails. But it is probably not better, or is it?

  • Time, playing using free strokes is considerably easier because then the strings don't risk getting stuck under my nails. But it is probably not better, or is it? That sounds like improperly trimmed nails, – Neil Meyer Dec 21 '16 at 17:05

You seem to have a problem with your nails. Without seeing your nails it would be hard to make judgements on what your problems are. It may very well be good just to cut them off completely if they continue to give you problems.

Back to the topic at hand. Realise that the aim of the finger picking technique is to get you to play with your right hand without looking at your right hand. It is all about developing right-hand technique.

So start with open strings and only very slowly over a while add rudimentary chords to the practice routine. If you struggle at all with chord changes then simply omit them, they are the least important part of this piece of training.

Do also realise that speed comes with the mastery of the technique. Once you get the manual dexterity down you will see the speed improve but the speed is not the be-all of this technique. This is the way in which you get your four little bows to work together.

This is a rather important part of the finger picking arsenal. You will find that a lot of other finger picking techniques will be aided with these exercises. It really is the basis of a lot of classical techniques.

These are not scales, you don't do IM or rest/free stroke with them. You simply use the fingering as indicated.


Thanks for the consideration in your post and guitar studies! I am honored. And great responses also everyone!

You may plant at first, if you aren't familiar with where the strings are. However, little by little and with much practice, you'll start to notice that you won't need plant them, as Scott Morris mentions. Plus it seems that you've already got the hang of it. So, keep at it! :)


I can see you're taking your music to a "more-formal" level. However, the principle is the same, remember that technique is more important than speed. Your coordination is all.

All I can say is learn the song at a very low tempo, play it again and again very slowly but very precisely, in such a way your fingers, your muscles remember the positions, the subtle movements. Before you can notice, you will be playing the hardest pieces on their original tempo.

Good luck and please share your experience.

  • This may be useful advice, but I fail to see how it answers the question, which was mostly about practicing with free strokes as opposed to using the planting technique. – Old John Dec 20 '16 at 23:13

Rest strokes -- what you call the planting technique -- afford both dampening/muting and also more power and emphasis. In a the Carcassi curriculum, rest strokes are taught first; free strokes are addressed much later. Rest strokes are so named because the picking finger comes to rest on the (lower) neighboring string.

One of the hidden advantages of rest strokes is that the rested finger provides a reference to the next note -- whether on the same, neighboring string, or skipped string. This avoids the oft-seen reference pinky planted on the soundboard -- where it dampens the overall vibration of the guitar.

Rest strokes will require some attention to your manicure. The desired nail shape simply emphasizes the release ("snap"); the nail should not be long enough to "trap" the string.

Personally, I would echo the Carcassi Method and recommend beginning with the rest stroke. Save the free stroke for future development. Enjoy yourself!

Followup: as it turns out, the emphasis for teaching rest strokes first came from my teacher, Irvin Kauffmann, not necessarily the Carcassi Method which he also used. I recently scanned the Carcassi Method and did not notice any specific stroke advice. During Irvin's prime, he was both principal guitarist and cellist for the Pittsburgh Symphony. I trusted his teaching, and would advise you to follow his recommendation to build your foundation upon the rest stroke.

  • I think there might be some confusion here between "rest stroke" and "planting". Rest stroke refers to the fact that the finger comes to rest on the next string AFTER the note is played. Planting refers to placing fingers in contact with strings BEFORE they are played. This helps to explain: classicalguitar.org/2009/01/sequential-planting – Old John Dec 20 '16 at 23:46
  • As I mentioned in the hidden advantages, when the rest stroke concludes and rests on the neighboring string, it provides the "plant" for the next note (to be played by a different finger). – Kirk A Dec 20 '16 at 23:52
  • That is true, but planting can be done before any notes have been played, so when you say in your answer that planting is the same as rest stroke, I believe there might be some confusion. – Old John Dec 20 '16 at 23:59

From the school that got me introduced to classical guitar the "Estudio de Arte Guitarristico" in Mexico City that was created by the Argentinian guitarist Manuel Lopez Ramos, his indication was, and I believe it still is, that the ring finger should always use a rest stroke.

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