• Rod Howe

The Secret to Playing the Correct String Every Time

Updated: May 12, 2019


One common problem when learning guitar is co-ordinating the right and left hands to work together. As a basic rule, one hand picks or strums the strings and controls the “rhythm” and your other hand frets the notes that dictate the “pitch”.


It takes time to develop the muscles and skills to be able to play the correct string whilst fretting single notes at the other end of the guitar, and you may find that you pluck the wrong string to which you are fretting on your opposite hand.

Here are some ways to help improve this :-

  1. Be aware, your picking hand is often overlooked. Not only does it find and play the correct open or fretted strings, it controls rhythm, dynamics, tone, plus much more. Focus your attention solely to this hand for a couple minutes when you practice.

  2. Be creative with the “open” E, A & D strings. The thickness of these lower strings are easier to find and your picking hand will improve with control. Try Playing A/D/A/E strings with 4 beats on each to a slow tempo. Aim to NOT look at the strings but recognise how little your hand movement is from one string to another. Concentrate on the feel of this movement.

  3. Anchor a part of the hand to the guitar. For classical/acoustic or bass guitar finger picking use the thumb. For steel strung acoustic or electric guitar use the pinkie, 3rd finger on the guitar body, or you can use the side of your palm against the bridge.

  4. Keep your touch relaxed and practice the above little and often.

The nylon strung classical guitar is a great beginner instrument for developing this skill due to the wider neck and string spacing. These strings are also generally thicker than steel strings. Its highly recommended starting with one of these economical guitars to master these and other basic skills to begin with.


Irrespective of what guitar you have, it is only with regular practice and patience that your picking hand technique will continue to grow and you’ll begin to discover the endless ways to play the notes held down by your opposite hand.

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