The anchor finger technique

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The anchor finger technique

Post by twistedblues » Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:17 am

From Douglas Niedt's subscribers page

"One of my students recently returned from the excellent master class (part of the Bowdoin International Music Festival) given annually by Ricardo Iznaola in Bowdoin, Maine. Ricardo encouraged my student to make more use of the anchor-finger technique. It's a technique I began using unconsciously many years ago. But, no one ever mentioned it. It was never written about in books or magazines. Teachers never brought it up. Since I never heard anyone talk about it, I thought maybe it was a crutch, and I shouldn't use it. Finally, I heard Christopher Parkening remark in a master class that he used the technique. So, I finally felt vindicated. Since then, I've heard it mentioned a few times, but it seems to receive little discussion.

The anchor finger technique may be defined as placing a right-hand finger (usually the "a" finger, but sometimes the pinky or "m") on a string while playing other strings. Setting the right-hand thumb on the guitar or on a string while playing other strings with the fingers, is a more well-known use of the anchor technique. I will describe it later.

Be sure to place the anchor finger in ready-to-play position—string in contact with flesh and left side of fingernail. This is important, because many times, the anchored finger will eventually pluck the string on which it is set.

The use of anchor fingers differs from the planting technique in that the anchor finger might not play the string on which it is anchored. Or, if it does play the string, it happens sporadically, not in a pattern. Planting on the other hand, is done with the express purpose to have the finger on the string as preparation to pluck the string. It is usually used as part of a pattern of execution such as, most commonly, an arpeggio.
The Benefits of Using Anchor Fingers

Anchor fingers lend stability to the right hand, resulting in security and confidence. In situations such as public performance, the hand may shake from nervousness. The use of anchor fingers helps keep the hand steady, greatly increasing accuracy and confidence, thereby lessening performance anxiety.

At the same time they provide benefits such as stability and speed, anchors provide ancillary benefits such as string damping to clarify melodic lines or eliminate unwanted dissonances.

Increased right-hand stability often translates into increased left-hand accuracy.

The anchor finger serves as a spatial reference point, resulting in more accurate playing by the other right-hand fingers.


Enhanced touch for better control of dynamics.

Control of tone color changes.

Improved tone quality.

Provide stability for the execution of descending slurs ("pull-offs").

Provide stability for the execution of ornaments.

Provide spatial reference points and stability for execution of harmonics.

Provide accuracy, security, and improved tone quality for strums with the thumb.

Provides stability for melodic passages executed by the thumb."

Anyone on here use this technique

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by Steve Langham » Tue Mar 14, 2017 2:30 am

Douglas Niedt has an article on it: ... cument.pdf

Can't say I've ever tried it but does seem intuitively like it would be a good thing.

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by Robin » Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:26 pm

I read the link to Douglas Niedt's essay. I understand his rationale but I would exercise caution in implementing this technique unless you have a teacher who is skilled in using this approach guiding you.

My primary reason for concern is that Mr. Niedt's approach has the "anchor" finger placed four or more measures in advance. This adds to the complexity involved in the physiology of playing. It adds an additional challenge to the coordination and independence of the fingers which could easily translate into increased tension in the right hand. Increased tension would ultimately compromise all those "advantages" cited. I think that a pre-requisite to implementing this type of a technique, is a very refined right hand technique. Personally, I wouldn't do it or teach it. I do pre-place fingers but never more than a few beats ahead of where they are needed --and only in certain circumstances (ie transitions between phrases or tricky parts that I'm having trouble with). I carefully plan this into the mechanics of each piece I'm learning.

The term "anchor" implies a weighting down. I believe this technique could lead to the risk of a tense, inefficient right hand function. That's not to say that right hand fingering should not be planned, mapped out, learned independently and pre-placement in key areas implemented. My word of caution is to people who are not being guided by a skilled teacher and who don't have the right hand skills in place to execute this.

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by georgemarousi » Tue Mar 14, 2017 2:30 pm

Well, I have quite an opposite view, regarding this technique and results.

I believe that, generally, the principle of the placement of fingers on strings ( or at the guitar top - which i find quite similar ) although is forms a type of "crutch" for the RH and may add to stability/easyness at first, could be a bad habit that would affect speed and/or RH variety of moves and capabilities later on..
All my CG teachers of course were/are by all means against something like that.

Personally, I also feel that even at difficult RH parts, it's better to focus and work on the stability of the whole hand without a reference point (finger) on a string or the top. I feel that I am correct, and even when - very seldom - find myself looking for a place to rely my RH on, I avoid it and focus on the stability that I get from the whole RH.

Let me also explain a personal experience with a similar ( I believe ) habbit I used to have after being self -taught on accoustic / electric a long ago; While play with the guitar pick, I was using my RH pinky as a "crutch", laying down on the soundboard at times. Then showing/listening to my instructor, I saw that he was right - I was lucking speed, variety of moves and independence - while he was speed-as-hell having an independent RH..
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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by guitareleven » Tue Mar 14, 2017 7:49 pm

Though you do differentiate, the "anchoring" does read to me like a hyper-extension of planting technique in principle, with an expansion of purpose. Many consider planting to be axiomatic to playing-- which is a many of which I am not one, though I have nothing particularly against it, provided one gets past what can be some undesirable artifacts of its usage. I may sometimes employ a preparatory "anchoring", in accordance with how it is defined above, ahead of a spot like an arpeggio or block chord that calls for an unusual or spread out configuration of the right hand fingers in their distribution on the strings, but generally I side with those who have previously commented who avoid an unnecessary fixation of the hand, and like the flexibility of a free technique. But, its always good to have some extra tool in the technical tool box to hold in reserve for use, even if on rare occasions.

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by Luis_Br » Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:41 pm

I use a lot keeping thumb touching some string that shouldn't sound, which gives the "anchor" feel. I think the thumb is the best finger to use this, since it is completely detached from other fingers. It was specially useful when I changed from traditional position to Galbraith's style of floating right arm, so I don't have the arm touching the guitar reference for finger/hand placement. With time I got used to another reference, the whole arm from shoulder, and now I don't need this reference from thumb as much. But I always find it useful also to mute unwanted sympathetic string vibration as well as it works as finger preparation.
I am not so sure anchoring "a" is good all the time, since its tendons are attached to m finger and when not using "a" I find it useful to move together with "m" to release tension, as well as to move "c" (little finger) together with "a". One thing it to plant, which I think is ok and useful, but to "anchor" as a basis to other fingers I would keep it to thumb only for tension release reason.

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by Tim522 » Wed Mar 15, 2017 7:09 pm

Carlos Bonell puts the anchor finger to good use....

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by Karen » Thu Mar 16, 2017 11:24 pm

I am being taught to "anchor" either a or the thumb when possible. It felt awkward at first but it certainly helps give confidence to my playing as well as steady my hands. It is now part of my figuring out how to play a piece of music as to where and when I can anchor. This is the way my teacher was taught so I guess it's been around awhile. And he certainly doesn't have trouble with speed!

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by James A. Showalter » Fri Mar 17, 2017 1:07 am

I've wondered for a long time if the uncertainty in my inexperience was the motivation for me using an anchor. I started the technique on my own initiative and it gave me confidence in my play. From that perspective it is a worthwhile technique and I've anchored the thump and index finger at differing times. I've also found myself motivated to free up the anchor - to metaphorically set my RH adrift. It feels good and commanding until I've lost my way and then noise. So I think I am arguing in favor of the technique and at the same time wanting to express the freedom I've found just being free handed with my picking.

Realize that I am a complete novice to this site and not very mature on guitar but I would ask one question of the group:

I began playing by applying the "PIMA" technique with the "pinky" resting on the soundboard. I've felt on occasion that the pinky could contribute and have migrated away from the rigid application of "PIMA" and let my index finger play the D-string and wanted to let the pinky play notes on the high E-string while shifting the "M" & "A" fingers to corresponding strings. Is it a typical technique among CG's to allow the pinky to own a string?

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Fri Mar 17, 2017 1:16 am

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by astro64 » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:53 am

I would watch out too. I have seen very good players do this in some pieces, e.g. Barrueco. At the same time, the a and m fingers move sympathecially and arresting that motion would make me concerned about things like tension, or maybe even focal dystonia. For sure, I am less fast alternating i and m when anchoring a than when not. That may well be because I never learned to play with a finger anchored down. But at this stage I prefer to keep all tension out and leave these techniques to those who have been used to it for a long time.

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by Tim522 » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:57 pm

Is it a typical technique among CG's to allow the pinky to own a string?[/quote]

Charles Postlewate has dedicated his right hand technique to using the pinky as a plucking finger. He has written several books on the subject.

At the very least I think CG should have 4 finger rasgueado's as part of a daily warm up routine...

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by James A. Showalter » Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:13 pm

There are a lot of new guitar concepts here that are not part of my awareness. The contrast between simple finger picking and rasgueado is indicative of this. I am very interested in taking the complete Delcamp series of lessons but am cautious about beginning in the middle of a course sequence. I find reading this forum to be enlightening and look forward to when I can get more involved with classical guitar.

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:21 pm

Yes, I use anchor fingers a good deal, have done for years.

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Re: The anchor finger technique

Post by Henny » Sat Apr 01, 2017 6:42 am

i fully agree with Luis_Br about using the thumb as an anchor.
awareness of the thumbs position and full awareness of damping strings give my right hand
more relaxation and steadiness. it took some time for me to adapt this technique but with time it feels more relaxed when playing.

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