Guitar Finger Names

You might be thinking: I know very well the names of my fingers, thank you very much. And you would be quite right! Except that in guitar playing we give our fingers very specific names . This is particularly important in classical guitar where classical guitar scores use these names to suggest to players which fingers to use at certain points. 

Guitar finger names for the left hand

Guitar finger names of the fingers in the left hand are named according to numbers.
  • 1=Index Fingers

  • 2=Middle Fingers

  • 3=Ring Finger

  • 4=Little Finger

The thumb in the next hand does not have a number as we don’t use it for fretting notes. 

The picture above was taken from Frederick Noad’s Solo Guitar Playing It’s the book most frequently used by teachers teaching beginner classical guitar. It is also a book that I can confidently recommend to any student of the classical guitar. It begins right at the beginning and takes you through to intermediate.

I've included the Amazon link as the picture on the left.

There is a more expensive edition with a CD, but really Youtube makes that redundant as you can find all the pieces on Youtube. There is also a kindle version, but it's so badly laid out and irritating to work with that I don't advise it. 

The book includes works by Teleman, Tarrega, Sor, Dowland and Bach and has favourites such as Lagrima, Romance and Adelita in its concert repertoire. 

For those who don’t have access to Amazon, or want a virtually (well, actually totally) free copy, you can click on the SCRIBD banner below and sign up for a months free account and download it from there. The version on SCRIBD is called ‘The Classical Guitar I’. It is one of the earlier version of Solo Guitar Playing. I have all the versions and there really isn’t that much difference between them, except that the later versions have a few more pieces in them. Also, there are three pages in the SCRIBD version where the scan quality is just not great. But, if it’s kindda free …

Guitar finger names for the right hand

The fingers in the right hand are named in classical guitar playing according to the Spanish words for them. 

  • p=pulgar or thumb

  • i= indico or index finger

  • m=medio or middle finger

  • a= anular or ring finger

Usually only these four fingers are named as the little finger (or pinky) is not frequently used in classical guitar. This finger, when named in classical music, is named with a c for chiquito. Even though the pinky is not often used in classical music, allowing it to weaken will in the long run potentially affect the whole hand and will limit or significantly slow down the mastering of some classical guitar techniques. My own experience of the tremolo, for example, was that until I strengthened my pinky that the tremolo sounded uneven and ragged.

Ricardo Iznaola thought it so important that he included some exercises to strengthen the pinky into his book: Kitharologus: The Path to Virtuosity. Doniso Aguado also strongly advocated strengthening the pinky so that the whole hand can be evenly strengthened. Dioniso Aguado, for example, thought it so important that he specifically wrote some studies for strengthening the pink.

The Path to Virtuosity is seen as one of the most important books that a guitarist can work through. If you don’t have a copy I strongly suggest that you get one. I’ve put a link below so that you can have a look. The exercises provide short daily routines that you progressively move through as you master them. They take about 15 minutes a day and as you get them up to speed it will take about 10 minutes. It’s a book that I bought over a decade ago and is still the one that I most use for prescribing exercises and for my own daily technique practice. The link that I’ve attached is to an e-copy that you can download and have bound. This is very similar to the original which was sold with a wire ring binding. The ring binding makes the book very easy to work with on the music stand as it opens up easily and lays flat on the stand.
Cover tiny file look inside Ricardo Iznaola: Kitharologus The Path to Virtuosity Composed by Ricardo Iznaola (1949-). Classic. E-book. 128 pages. Published by Mel Bay Publications - Digital Sheet Music (M0.95727EB).

If you don't want to pay for it (let's face it, that $23 is a bit steep), you  can get it for free by clicking on the link to SCRIBD below and signing  up for a free months membership. You can find it by searching for The Path To Virtuosity. To be honest, I don't know why anybody would pay for it as the SCRIBD version is excellent and you can ring bind which is the format in which the original sells. 

Below is an excerpt from Tarrega’s Capricho Arabe. You will see that the fingering for the left hand is marked on the score. The fingering for the left hand is only marked in places where the fingering is not ‘obvious’, i.e. where the fingering doesn’t follow the usual rules of 1 in the first fret when in the first position and 2 in the second fret and on. The fingering for the right hand is not provided for the same reason, as it follows the normal rules for the right hand. The rules for the right and left hand are provided and practiced in the Beginner Classical Guitar Lessons.

There are many cases where not all of the notes have been fingered because the pattern of fingering is repeated. In such cases you can generally assume that if a similar pattern exists that you will continue to use the fingering as provided in the previous few bars. 

You can see this is the excerpt from Carcassi's Study in A minor (Opus 60 No. 7). The fingering for the first bar has been marked on the first four notes.  The ordering of the fingering: p-a-m-i is the standard tremolo fingering which needs to be used for these first four notes. As the rest of the bar repeats the same pattern, the same tremolo fingering is to be used for the rest of the bar.  The same can be seen in the second bar. The fingering for the first four notes is indicated as being p-i-a-i. This fingering is then repeated for the next four notes and is then changed for the last eight notes of the bar. 

Guitar Basics

You might want to revise some of the guitar basics by clicking on the links below.

Guitar Parts: Start by becoming familiar with the parts of the guitar so that you know what we're talking about when we talk about the bridge or the fret.

Sitting Positions: This lesson takes you through the principles and dos and donts of the classical guitar sitting position. It introduces you to the guitar supports available including footstools, the Efel, the Dynarette, the A-Frame and the ErgoPlayay.

Music Theory: Music Theory provides an introduction to musical notation and to the basic theory that you will need to start playing.

Notes on the Guitar: Becoming familiar with the notes on the guitar is essential for any guitarist. This lesson provides guidelines and free guitar software. This is where you pick up the guitar and begin playing.

How to Tune your Guitar: How to tune your guitar. There is nothing worse than playing on an untuned guitar. This page teaches you how to tune your guitar with and without an electronic tuner.

Buying a Classical Guitar: If you need to buy a guitar or are thinking about buying a new guitar, then this page is for you. It provides useful tips on how to pick your first classical guitar.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think


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