The 6 part master key
1) Flick quickly
Flick each finger across the strings quickly and strongly, regardless of the timing between the
2) Don't drag
Each finger should complete it's stroke and clear the strings before the next finger begins it's stroke. Practice very slowly at first. Get used to relaxing the muscles in the hand after every stroke. The action is not a casual drag across the strings. As a general rule the e, a and m fingers strike downwards only (from bass to treble). The upstrokes are normally produced by the index finger (i) and the thumb (P).
3) One finger at a time
Allow each finger to clear the strings before the next finger begins it's stroke. Have you seen people play pretend rasgueados with 3 or 4 fingers on the strings at once, all huddled together and digging down into the strings. I remember a scene from a Bruce Lee movie when he slapped a student on the back of the head after the student made a mess of some move. He said, "what was that?" My feeling exactly.
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4) Strike quick and stop
Push each stroke across the strings as quickly as possible, regardless of the timing between strokes. The action is not a casual drag across the strings where all the muscles are tense. This totally tense way is how some people play. I think it sucks because there is no subtlety or any discernable measure of control. Only a stressed out and uncontrolled noise.
Play a stroke - stop and relax - then play the next stroke. If you are looking for the secret to good
rasgueados then this is it. Once you have this technique under control at a very slow practice speed, you
will not have to think about it at faster playing speeds. Leave that job to the subconscious. What you are
actually doing is training the subconscious to do all the muscular coordination work for you. Your aim is
get a clean sound like rapid machine gun fire, rather than the continuous rumbling of thunder. This
training will give you that clean sound. One dance teacher compared my own early attempts at rasgueados to
shaking a tin can full of rusty nails. Constant practice is the ONLY way to get clean sounding rasgueados
and it will test your patience. Don't write to me after a month and tell me your rasgueados sound like shit
and do I have any tips on how to speed up the process. I don't. All the advice I have to give is on this
page. If there was a faster way I would have used it myself.
5) Let the finger muscles relax
Practice very slowly at first. I know I'm repeating myself, but please read on. Get used to relaxing the
muscles in the hand after every stroke. Otherwise you are wasting your time and creating an environment for
bad habits that will be very difficult to correct later. Don't worry about trying to play fast when you are
practicing. Practicing is a time to train the muscles and nerves in the hand to send a clear message to the
brain that the hands need to relax at every possible opportunity. Unlike the snail speed of conscious
thinking, the brain will send these electrical signals to the hand at lightning speeds when you are playing
at faster speeds. But it must be trained first, and the way to do that is to PRACTICE SLOWLY and
deliberately, paying close attention to the relaxation between strokes.
This type of bio feedback is all about developing instinct in the fingers so you never have to consciously think about it later. At normal playing speeds, this translates into periods of automatic "micro sleeps". I know it sounds boring, but the strength, speed and accuracy bits will develop naturally from practicing slowly and relaxing the hand between strokes. Trust me. It's not magic. It just requires a little discipline at your end.
6) How many strings to hit
Don't get fanatical about how many strings you hit with each stroke. Obviously you would aim to hit 5 strings on a 5 string chord. But if you occasionally get only 4, that's OK. I've had a quiet word to the Pope and he assures me you will not go to hell.
Part 1 - Things you need to know
Part 2 - The 6 part master key
Part 3 - Continuous rasgueados
Part 4 - Common rasgueado patterns