Apoyando, the word used to describe rest-stroke in Spanish literally means to lend support to and whether it’s rest-stroke with the fingers or thumb, the strings should support inactive or transient fingers while others pluck out pretty passages. Between you and me, my right hand needs all the support it can get. So with that in mind, there are moments while playing where you should search for opportune moments to provide support for your right hand by resting the fingers on strings as you play. Resting right hand fingers during play imparts many technical and musical benefits:
- STABILITY – Fingers in motion gain stability as they are moving against a fixed object (i.e. try kicking a soccer ball with both feet in the air vs. kicking the soccer ball with a solidly planted foot).
- FINGER INDEPENDENCE – Though this takes more time to develop, it is fundamentally important to develop the skill of moving a finger without exerting influence on the movement of an adjacent (or distant) finger.
- REFERENCE POINT – Wouldn’t it be nice for the right hand fingers to know where they are in relation to the strings?
- REST – Fingers recently held in motion can release tension by waiting on a string.
- MUSICAL TOOL – A resting right hand finger can inadvertently or intentionally silence sympathetic resonance or a note bleeding into another note. We can harness this new found super power to control voice ringing more accurately to reflect the intentions and articulations of our interpretation or, heaven forbid, the indications of the composer while benefitting from the above points.
For example if you are playing a p i m arpeggio, could a find a string to rest on? Could you plant all fingers before executing the first note? Or in playing Villa-Lobos’ Etude Nº1, could a rest on string 1 until it is necessary for engagement and then re-plant a quarter note or half-note later? When strumming with i or m, could p rest on a lower string? Think of the analogous situation to the left hand principle of connecting two pinches. While playing an arpeggio can we both play and plant the next finger to insure that our right hand is not floating? Is an arpeggio an opportunity to plant all the fingers before execution or to sequentially plant as the fingers play?
Be on the lookout for right hand’s absolute lack of contact with the strings while playing and you will likely find many opportunities for improving your right hand’s technique.