I have read on a website that "the maestro" Andre Segovia suggests these/this exercise(s) but I didn't understand a bit of how this exercise works, can anybody of you help me with it?

This is written by a user in a forum (I copied his text):

I remember reading also that Segovia appreciated the different effects of the nail and the flesh, and used both in combination. As I recall, the main thing about the right-hand excercises was the fact that you pick groups of four notes with three fingers, leaving the pinky in bed for a snooze. So a sequence would be imai maim aima imai...and so on. Also in the other direction. The benefit comes from having to accent the first note of each group of four with a different finger each time....Imai Maim Aima Imai etc I started on the top string with rest strokes down to the second, no left hand. Then work on the top two strings, then all three, all the time using rest strokes down to the string below. The rest stroke thing is important...like a 'walking upstairs' or 'downstairs', kind of action. Once mastered, this produces a powerful string damping action, and you always feel exactly where your fingers are!.Once you get going with the right, bring in the left hand, and watch it all slow down again !! Not for long. Simple, slow 1234 4321, then, with the left, then more interesting variations.......1324....4231. Obviously try to get musical as soon as you can. Also each of the three right-hand fingers on a string each. At some point, bring in the thumb to do 'thumby' things! I remember thinking....'why am I doing this?' ......when I gave these exercises a go....the rest strokes felt strange and clumsy for a while. But, suddenly, one day............. Eventually, your three right-hand fingers can roll around in both directions in co-ordination with anything the left hand chooses to do, and you can accent any note at will, at any volume. Result....has to be felt to be believed, if you've never done it.

  • @Mafii Thanks for your comment! :D how has it improved your guitar playing? And why picking strings with a finger which shouldn't pick that string?
    – watchme
    Jul 9, 2018 at 16:46
  • Well it helped me with picking in non-continuous pieces, where your fingers of the right hand go all over the place. It teaches you more control over your attack and string of use of your picking. I'm not sure why you consider it to be a "finger that shouldn't pick that string" - every finger should be able to pick every string, for certain classical pieces. See Sunburst for example: guitguid.com/files/downloads/6_0313/… - your fingers pick strings that feel quite random at some times. As said, it's a exercise for advanced players.
    – Mafii
    Jul 9, 2018 at 18:59

1 Answer 1


It is not clear what you are confused about so I'm going to dissect your post and explain several aspects. It would help if you stated, for example, what is a rest stroke?, or what is imami?, etc.

The post is describing exercises for developing the fingers of the right hand so that they are capable of independently producing different volume and tone when striking notes. There are several techniques to develop for the right hand. Two that come to mind are playing arpeggios on 4 strings while holding a chord and tremolo (playing one note on a single string very fast). There are left hand exercises that do not use the right hand, and right hand exercises that do not use the left hand, each designed to isolate the hand and develop skills without confusion. Once each hand works independently there are exercises that help develop synchronization of the hands, and of course MUSIC.

Some classic examples are "La Technica Degli Arpeggi", and the Giuliani exercises. The first are finger combinations in 4, 6, and 8 notes (at least) on open string followed by some left hand finger patterns while Giuliani provides the same with chord progressions (usually I V7 I over and over).

Technical points.

Right hand fingers (the letter is derived from the Spanish word for each, I think)

i = index

m = middle

a = ring

p = thumb

It is tough enough to get a smooth flow of finger movement but the specific point made in the post is to develop the ability to accent one of the 4 without losing the flow. The capital letter indicates accent (think of playing that one loudly compared to the others).

"Rest stroke" refers to the techniques of letting the finger or thumb come to rest on the next string after striking the string you are playing. This other techniques is free stroke where the fingers do not touch the neighboring strings. This was once heralded as a superior technique for producing a full, rich, tone with volume. The fact is free stroke can be developed to be just as strong with practice and many classical guitarists prefer free to rest. It is really a mater of taste in my opinion. But once you've spent years training yourself it will be hard to retrain yourself, you'll feel like a beginner.

As for the variety of tone produced by flesh, nail, and angle of attack... The "tone" of the note depends on the attack on the string. Much of this is understood from the physics of vibrating strings. Turning the finger just a few degrees before striking or releasing the string can radically change the quality of sound. Many guitarists will create a brighter tone by plucking the strings closer to the bridge. While the physics of this makes sense one sacrifices other qualities. Pepe Romero's book teaches that one should develop variety of tone by adjusting the right hand angle and pressure at the back end of the sound hole (typically the preferred location of the right hand) rather than moving the right hand around.

Pinky sleeps: An interesting description. We almost never use the pinky (at least it doesn't seem to be traditional) but Eliot Fisk (one of Segovia's students) has recommended doing all of Segovia's scales exercises using the pinky to develop better strength and agility in the right hand. It seems that exercising the pinky helps the ring finger.

It seems that the post you've cut and pasted is describing the whole process of 1. working the right hand on one string, 2. working differing pressure and attack, 3. Adding in the left hand. This is done systematically to help develop independent skills and eventually two hand coordination.

I've never heard the specific quote attributed to Segovia. Many young guitarists are happy enough being able to play a chord progression or a few quick runs. But in fact you have 8 independent instruments (1, 2, 3, 4) fingers of the left hand and (p, i, m, a) of the right. It is possible to produce several sounds at once with practice. You can hear that quality in people like Fisk, Parkening, Verdery, etc.

  • I'm glad it helped. I have a lot of these exercises in books. If you need more info message me in chat (if possible).
    – user50691
    Jul 9, 2018 at 15:30

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.