I come from a piano background ( and I know enough theory to read intermediate piano sheet music) and I want to learn fingerstyle guitar. but It's so difficult because there is more than one way to play each note. and the notes on the guitar is just too much.

Even though I know the melody or figure it out and when I try to transpose what I know to the guitar it I either play the whole melody on the one string or two strings and sometimes I have to stretch to reach a note. Now this is only the melody. there are still Bass and harmony in which I have to account for.

take a look at this for example

its in dadgad tuning lets say at 1:20 he plays a V chord in 6th position then resolves to one and moves to 2nd position. and sometimes he move from low to high fretboard. of course there are multiple ways to play the song but maybe because the intonations are different so you play this note instead or it's voice leading to make it sound better and smoother. I don't know the thought progress I mean this person is a professional so the fingerings must be good but what is their thought process? why play it like this? Are there just some general go to shapes in advanced voice leading?

Please help. I'm looking to be more efficient and effective at arranging fingerstyle songs

EDIT oh and most of the time I see sungha or any other guitarist they can play the melody and somehow know which chord shapes to use

  • I know Rachmaninov's C# minor on the piano. My guitar interpretation reflects what I prefer aesthetically. Consider personalizing the Canon on the piano, and find that familiar feeling on the guitar.
    – bvj
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 6:28

4 Answers 4


It's so difficult because there is more than one way to play each note.

I would look at it from another angle: it's so easy because there is more than one way to play each note! Whenever one way to play a note turns out to be unwieldy, you have several alterative options that may be easier.

As a beginner, you'll want to stick to a few default positions. Practise the C-major and E-major scales thoroughly in first position and fifth position (without any position changes), that will give you a good basis that works well for many melody runs. Also practise the simple standard chords, i.e. the open G- C- D- A- and E-major chords, e-minor, a-minor and d-minor. When all of that works quite automatically, you can start combining both – play those open chords and add some melody by putting some scale runs in first position between the chords.

Later, practise bar chords in some position and combine these with melodies in that position.

At this point you'll be able to play quite a lot of nice stuff, without actually using any position changes at all. Only then should you start accustoming yourself to such changes. By then you'll know the advantages and problems of each position and can therefore judge when some position change is appropriate.


The position that works best for you to reproduce the music is the one you should use. Most of the time that will be the same position the player on the recording used, but since everyone's hands are different, you may end up using a different position and prefer it to the original.

Initially, one uses trial and error - trying different positions and deciding on the one that works the best and feels most comfortable. With experience, one draws on that experience to more quickly arrive at the ideal positions to use in a piece.


If you learn classical guitar from scratch, at least the way I did, was like this:

  1. Play a lot on 1st fret to get the muscle memory of actually just using both hands together. Including chords around there (which, note, are different than anywhere else due to the open strings, obviously).
  2. With sheet music, slowly progress down the board over time. I.e., there might be an occasional occasion where your left hand moves down to III or V or whatever.
  3. Eventually, know all the frets pretty much by heart. They "feel" differently after a while, i.e. for me V feels quite different from, say, IIX due to the different spacing.

In the blues/jazz/improvisation world, it's all based on scales. That means you have a set of finger positions where the left hand does not move (at least not more than a fret or two, if at all). You don't care much about what actual tones you are playing, but that it makes sense in a relative way (i.e., minor, major, blues scale etc.). After you get a few of those scales internalized, it gets really easy (just like transposing a chord).

I would encourage you to look at both of those methods and see what suits your style of music best. If you wish to improvise and play by ear, scales are great.

I would actively avoid playing on only one or two strings, that does not have a real future, really...

Oh. And practice, practice, practice.


I would highly urge you to stick to standard tuning EADGBE. There a many good references to use. Give up any other tunings.

  • This does not answer the question, which is about playing position, not alternate tunings. Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 1:25

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