A tip I want to pass on to everyone

I think so many of us are taught or have been taught to play with curved fingers. Even looking at drawings in method books shows this.

But the problem that can happen with that is you may find a finger that wants to be in the air too far up. Then this slows you down and causes bumpy playing.

What I do when I see that problem is play with flat fingers.

Playing with flat fingers puts your finger tips closer to the strings, thereby reducing the distance that finger in the air has to travel.

The famous pianist from New York Vladimir Horowitz also played with flat fingers most of the time.

I just wanted to share this with everyone.

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I agree with you man, posted about it awhile ago.

It’s something I’ve started doing the past few days actually, though for different reasons.

With forearm you get muting virtually for free with very low effort, not the case with wrist DSX but a super flat first finger has been having great results :slight_smile:

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Do we have different definitions of curved and flat? While the distal inter-phalangeal joints of his fingers are sometimes straight/flat, his proximal inter-phalangeal joints are almost always bent to nearly 90 degrees. To me this seems not to be a case of someone consistently choosing generally flat fingers over generally curved fingers, but someone with generally curved fingers who pragmatically allows the overall curves to modulate, even if that means the distal inter-phalangeal joints will sometimes “flatten”.

I think this only applies when you first start playing guitar. As you get more skilled - your fingers automatically compensate for any “Air time”. Me personally I play 13 notes per second and my fingers (3rd & 4th) flap around however they please, usually visually uncoordinated mess lol - doesn’t affect smoothness one bit. Because fretting usually is not the limiting speed factor - picking is. using all four fingers I can probably hit 20 notes per second easily.

No need to start resorting to complicated anatomical techno-babble. Flat means flat man.

Your meaning may be clear to you, but it’s not clear to me, hence my response to a post that appeared to agree with you. I can think of at least two interpretations of what you might mean by “flat fingers”, and I don’t see how either of my interpretations would offer an advantage over what “curved fingers” brings to mind for me. If the video linked by @WhammyStarScream isn’t a good illustration of what you mean to describe, is there some other video that is? Or maybe you could throw together a quick demonstration video of your own to make your meaning (and how it is advantageous) less subject to misinterpretation?


It’s where the contact is on the strings, flat fingers is mostly the first joint not being excessively curved, or even flat. If mag has a different idea then idk.

Tho for me not being on the finger tips all the time helps a load.

Hmmn, I don’t know about this… I mean, when it comes to playing guitar I’ve learned over the years that absolutes really kind of get a person into trouble; For every example that you “think” follows a rule you can almost find at least several really excellently played exceptions to that rule. And of course, the idea might look great on paper, but one’s physiology may not lend itself to certain technical proclivities.

I guess if somebody’s having success with a concept, then for sure - run with it. Myself - I need to be open to possibilities, but not at the expense of what I can already do. Everything needs to work together… you know?

My .002 Have a good one, guys!


Photos would be great of what you like and dislike.

The logic for me, and it works in practice, is theres more flesh to fret when you do the flatter first knuckle. That means you can be far less accurate compared to always fretting with your finger tips.

Pretty much the entirety of this website is dedicated to breaking technique down into its core and most basic components and getting very specific.

To me saying “Use flat fingers” is like saying ‘angle your wrist’, it’s too broad a statement.

You understand it, but its your idea. We don’t understand it in the same way at all, so we ask questions.


Might work for some stuff, doesn’t work on guitar for me. Can’t bend with flat fingers, mutes notes I don’t necessarily want to mute especially when cross picking. Rejected it immediately as not a useful technique.

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Also legato feels pretty much impossible. In fact, I can’t see any benefit to flat fingers at all…

That’s my take on it. Great for some stuff, not for others. Definitely any complex chords, we need curvature to not mute the other strings in the chord. I do think for single note playing flatter fingers are useful. Eric Johnson uses very flat fingers for his solos, yet his bends/vibrato are among the best in the business. I’d have to check his playing and see how he negotiates the change required when bends come up.

Pulloffs…yeah. That’s gonna be hard. The “all hammers” legato technique that Marshall Harrison, Rick Graham et al use…probably possible and we’d get the needed dampening help that comes from flat fingers that’s so important. In this videos, I’d say Marshall’s fingers look pretty flat:

But, I guess that’s where the technical mumbo jumbo comes in, because I’d call this flat relative to the curved fingers classical guitarists have to use in the bulk of their playing. Maybe to someone else, Marshall’s fingers don’t look flat at all.

Same thing here, Rick’s fingers look flat-ish to me,

but that’s just “relatively” speaking. I don’t know I’ve ever seen anyone play with their fingers completely “straight” so, I don’t know how flat we’re talking here. The above 2 monsters don’t use what I’d call “curved” fingers though.

At any rate, there’s probably going to be very few times anything is useful in all situations.


Yeah see to me, they look… normal… whatever that means haha. Flat-ish index for muting, but the slight curve in the others. This really all depends on what the op means by flat. I’m taking it literally, and I don’t think that would be a good idea.

Agreed. Flat like a pianist might use at times seems….odd.

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A pianist might want to use flat fingers to make the keys go down slower, thereby achieving a softer more mellow sound.

But Horowitz did it all the time. It simply was the way his technique was.

For piano - fine. For guitar? Without some visuals or examples it seems….really odd.

This is obviously my personal opinion and not mags tho I have thought about the “flat” finger idea for awhile. I do think it helps, but perhaps it’s not what mag is on about?