June 30, 2022

The 2 Types Of Finger Strokes Used On Guitar

There are 2 ways that right hand fingers are used when playing fingerstyle guitar. They are rest stroke and free stroke. I will explain each one and how to develop them. But you should know from the outset that most players will only need to use free strokes in their playing. Rest stroke is used primarily for classical guitar. 

That being said, I teach all my students both types of right hand stroke in my Stage 1 Training Class. This enables my students to use their right hand to the fullest in their playing, and also to explore the beauties of the classical guitar style. 

The Following 4 Videos Will Show You The Perfect Beginning
For Right Hand Fingerstyle Training

number 1

Positioning The Right Hand

This video will show you how to position your right hand for great fingerstyle playing. 

number 2

The Difference Between Rest & Free Stroke

number 3

Training Individual Fingers For Perfect Free Stroke

the principles of correct practice for guitar

From "The Principles"

REST STROKE AND FREE STROKE (Different Strokes for Different Notes)


rest stroke on guitar

The index finger performs a rest stroke. The finger will come to rest on the string behind it after it plays.

Rest Stroke

The rest stroke involves holding the finger at about a 45-degree angle to the string. In other words, if a sheet of paper were lying flat on the strings, the finger would be halfway perpendicular to the paper. 

 The finger then pushes through the string with a relaxed fingertip, and comes to rest on the string behind. It relaxes immediately. Study the photo above. It shows how your hand should look to you in a mirror after doing a rest stroke with the index finger. The index has done a rest stroke, and the middle and ring finger are positioned to do rest strokes.


This stroke is used for maximum volume and a full tone. It is used for melodies and when special emphasis is desired. It is often used in conjunction with free stroke.

In this video I am playing a rest stoke with my ring finger and free strokes with middle and index. 

I use a rest stroke with the ring finger because I want to bring out the top melody. I use free strokes with middle and index on the middle accompaniement part to give it less prominence and help the melody stand out.  

free stroke on guitar

The hand is positioned lower and the finger has a wider angle to the strings for the free stroke. The finger goes over the next string after it plays.

Free Stroke

The rest stroke involves holding the finger at about a 45-degree angle to the string. In other words, if a sheet of paper were lying flat on the strings, the finger would be halfway perpendicular to the paper. 

The finger goes past the string behind it after playing and, unlike the rest stroke, does not come to rest on the string behind.

The free stroke is a lighter stroke, used for arpeggios and all fingerpicking patterns. It is capable of great speed when properly developed. Make sure to use the nail back technique shown in the video above when practicing it. 


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