Donovan Raitt

Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitarist

An emerging new voice in the world of modern fingerstyle guitar, acoustic guitarist Donovan Raitt incorporates percussive techniques, strong melodic hooks, influences ranging from Jazz to Rock and Classical music, and innovative performance techniques to create a unique sound all his own. Based in Orange County, CA, Donovan has released two albums of solo acoustic guitar music, his latest album, 2014's "Pursuing the Horizon" was produced by fingerstyle guitar virtuoso Antoine Dufour.

Right Hand Technique Introduction

In this first installment of the five minute fingerstyle video series, I wanted to discuss the  proper right hand position and how to get started with fingerstyle guitar. This is one of the most frequent questions that I receive from guitarists who have played with a pick for most of their lives and wanted to explore their right hand technique for the first time.

As a pick-sytle player who only relatively recently shifted over to fingerstyle playing, I can speak from experience when I say that this is one of the most difficult transitions that you can make with the guitar. You’re essentially re-learning how to play the guitar when you start dealing with your right hand fingers, and this process is somewhat tedious and requires a lot of dedication, practice, and time for your technique to develop. Don’t be surprised if you stay on the first few lessons for several weeks before you fell confident enough to move on. Your fingers will need time to develop the techniques and implement them effectively in your playing.

Hand Position

Your hand position should be as natural as possible. This means that you shouldn’t have any extreme bends in your wrist, and it should be a natural extension of your forearm. If you can draw a straight line from your elbow to your knuckles, you’re on the right track.

Your thumb should be extended in front of your other four fingers, and should rest parallel with the strings. If you clench your fist with your thumb resting on your index finger, and then relax it, this will give you the proper finger position. Start with what we call the “Home position” which means your thumb (Hereafter referred to as “P” will be resting on the 5th string, and your index, middle, and ring (referred hereafter as “I, M. and A” respectively) fingers on the top three strings.

The most important thing to remember about moving your fingers through the strings is that the motion is from your knuckle, not your fingertip. You should keep your fingertips relaxed through the process and use the stronger knuckle joint to move your finger through the string. Your fingertip should bend across the string when you move through the string, rather than pulling the string with your finger. This will create a more natural “bell-tone” sound and will have a softer attack than plucking with your fingertip.

Take some time to get started with this basic hand position, and in the next lesson we’ll look at the forward arpeggio technique.