Anton Oparin's critique of classical fretting hand position

Anatomy lesson included.
Very interesting video.


Is Anton saying that he puts his index finger against the side of the guitar neck? I note his thumb is quite high, and sometimes over the top. I’ll say one thing about him, he’s very musical.

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On all counts, I would say yes.

He goes into more details here


I have developed a borderline obsession with his playing and technique. I know his a mixed escape 902 style player similar to a lot of other great players. But there’s just something about him and his playing which makes me perceive as almost alien compared to everyone else. Especially his string skipping licks.

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In this video MAB says there should be some light.

Seems to align with Tom Gilroy’s advice too.

Agreed. Especially the idea of activating the much stronger forearm muscles. I think they’d diverge on the idea of that “second” support though. I will say, it has helped solve the problem I’ve complained about numerous times regarding not being able to play index ring pinky combos with fluidity.

As a classical player, I think that it won’t work for a large part of the repertoire. BUT I’d also like to point out that what people always parrot about classical fretting technique is not what classical players actually do

The hardest piece I ever learned was this one (both fretting and right hand)

There are a great many parts where John Williams has a very straight fretting wrist. Plenty of places where the thumb is closer to the headstock than his index is too. So this has elements of what Anton and Tom are advocating. But it’s important to remember that the classical guitar is an entirely different instrument than (how most play) the electric guitar. There are certain things in classical where you must flex the wrist some. How that got turned into the dogma we always here of “thou shalt always use this position for all guitar playing” I have no idea. It’s certainly bad advice for most electric playing though.

It’s nuanced like all things though. There are implications of all fretting postures. I think most electric players, if they’ve been trying the dogmatic classical fretting, would benefit from Anton’s advice here.

That is exactly how I position my fretting hand. In my case, I think it arises mostly from playing heavier gauge strings—11s—while often doing a lot of bends mixed into my faster runs. I need that stronger grip on the neck.

I think having longer fingers plays a part as as well. I know having long fingers is generally seen as a good thing when it comes to guitar playing, but I believe it can result in making it harder to keep those fingers close to the fretboard for faster playing. This position helps avoid “flying fingers” syndrome.

I like the concept he explain at the end:

better strength, speed and endurance do not come from repeating the “wrong thing” 2 hours a day for 5 years (which is a common guitaristic mentality — just “practice more” and hope for the best).

You can instantly improve all these aspects by simply finding a more efficient way instead.

Honestly I have not seen much evidence that moving your fretting fingers more is necessarily a bad thing. As a rule of thumb, I’d say find the range of motion that feels most comfortable / effortless in each situation, and do that. It may not be that small!


He makes good points… if you are holding an electric guitar on your right knee.

The point of the modern classical position is that if you relax your arm and shoulder down your side, bend naturally at the elbow bringing your hand in it’s most relaxed and neutral position about 8” in front of your chest, that is where the fretboard should be. I don’t think his analysis holds true for actual classical guitar.

I use a strap to put an electric guitar in that position. Not as cool as holding down low and pointed out to the audience, but my carpel tunnel has gone away. But I play in jams with friends or in a Dad band. YMMV.


Does classical have electric-style bending of the strings? No? This might be a factor…

It amazes me how many rock players put the guitar down on their right leg, there must be some reason that they do this…. But for now it is a mystery to me. (Perhaps the right index finger is the pivot for string bending, and this leads them to want less elbow bend, hence they keep the neck down, hence the right leg?)

I agree that it would impossible to use it everywhere in the repertoire. I’ve heard him say that it can cause issues with actual classical, especially since we are polyphonic and need to let strings ring out. That second support could dampen strings.

I also agree that what’s dogmatically taught as “universal classical” technique isn’t appropriate for a lot of the repertoire. One of the best pieces of advice I got in a private lesson from a world class flamenco/classical player was for each “thing” we’re holding down, first release your thumb. Then allow it to fall where it feels the best in the context. This could also mean experimenting. This often has to be further refined depending what we’ve done immediately before and what we’ll do immediately after.

Overall I take Anton’s point that “classical” position is mostly harmful for electric guitarists and I agree. It’s certainly not something that will work in all situations and shouldn’t be thought of as the standard. Allan Holdsworth’s fretting is more challenging than even the worst classical pieces and he didn’t use “classical” fretting…

Almost never. Funny coincidence, the only piece I’ve heard it used is another of Williams’ performances:

And that’s “modern”, nothing Segovia would have played lol!

You have to stretch nylon strings REALLY far to make the same pitch changes as an electric player. Plus, again, the main point of classical guitar is typically polyphonic and that would dampen the other voices of the piece. Vibrato is done more side-to-side like a violin player.

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Woof, that was incredibly frustrating. I just can’t commit the time to picking apart everything wrong with that video and his premise, maybe I’ll come back around to this thread at some point.

edit: ok, after catching my breathe after turning a little red, a few things:

  1. Unless I missed it (I watched the vid at high speed) he does not do a good job of defining what classical fretting hand position is, so he was basically free to argue against sort of a left hand bogey-man that does a bunch of things wrong.
  2. It depends on…what you’re playing
  3. Fretting hand position doesn’t exist in a physical vacuum; it depends on where the guitar is positioned relative to the body. Yes holding the guitar on your right leg or swung down low and trying to emulate the relationship between the fretting hand and guitar neck that you see from guitarists playing in classical sitting position is foolish.

I suspect that rock bends the strings a lot so it has requirements that are different than classical; also, isn’t the classical neck wider?

…and typically has a perfectly flat “radius,” if you can even call it that when there’s none. :rofl:


The string skipping in the intro alone is incredible to watch. I’m still watching it 10 days later. Whether or not you agree with his views on the fretting hand position, the guy’s talent is undeniable.


His ability to cleanly play his lines at fast speeds is definitely impressive, and there’s no doubt that his fretting hand orientation works for him.

I certainly appreciate “proof,” but his playing examples only “prove” that his way works, and only works for the material he is playing; it does not prove that his way works better than other ways, and it does not prove that his way works for all types of playing.

I have to chalk a lot of this up to the YouTube format and the need for controversial video titles/thumbnails as a means to drive engagement. A more nuanced discussion of all things related to fretting hand position simply wouldn’t grab the attention of as many viewers.