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  • bbwood_98 7:22PM

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Left Hand Technique

BonesBones Moderator
edited October 2012 in Technique Posts: 3,130
Hi all,

I have been really working on my right hand technique lately and the whole rest stroke thing is feeling really good and getting pretty automatic.

The problem that I am having is that I think my left hand can't keep up with the right (if that makes any sense) speed wise now.

Does anyone have any advise on left hand technique. I've tried to work out efficient fingerings, etc. but I'm wondering about tips for economy of motion, etc or any left hand exercises.

One thing I have noticed is that the tips of my fingers (especially my index) get sore (almost feel bruised) if I really practice a lot so I think I may be using too much pressure for single note work.



  • JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
    Posts: 391
    Getting a good tone on an acoustic instrument does require a lot of finger pressure, unfortunately. The thing that takes longer to develop is putting lots of pressure on while still relaxed, although this doesn't sound like your problem if it's just your fingertips hurting. While I wouldn't want to say just ignore it, I think everyone's fingertips get a little sore sometimes if they play a lot (several hours) with a reasonable action. As long as it doesn't cause you any long term injury...

    In terms of improving technique and speed, I've heard something interesting recently from both a scientist and a concert pianist that has the ring of truth about it: speed and precision come entirely from the mind - not the fingers. Muscle memory is largely a myth, or at least a misnomer. Your fingers will move as quickly and accurately as your mind tells them to. The problem is mostly that we do not know either well enough (in which case slow down and be very detailed about where your fingers go each time you put them down) or fast enough (in which case you just need more familiarity with the notes you need to be playing through repetition, or in the case of improvising, with all the possibilities at every given time...also through repetition) which note to play next.

    So I guess what I'm saying (sorry to have used your question to have a rant) is that no particular exercise is the right thing to do, but the general, frequent practice of slow, ultra-precise repetition of all the material you work on. Speed comes from good neural connections, and lots of them. There are many people with weird, "inefficient techniques" who play at a world class level - like Django for instance - because they have been detailed and methodical in their practice.

    The history of the guitar through the 20th century bears out in abundance the fact that there is no one good "classical" technique, just smart, creative people with a lot of time on their hands.

    The real key to good technique though, I think, is critical self-listening. A good musician always hears what they do in a very detailed way, which means that every little thing that goes wrong is an affront to them and needs to be fixed with hard work immediately. Every note needs to be assessed for buzz, clarity, dynamic, and tone. They hear more problems, and so fix more issues, and get better at fixing them quickly through this experience.

    Also be patient - the left hand is way more complex than the right.

  • edited October 2012 Posts: 3,707
    Curious to find out your sources for muscle memory being a myth. Its a phrase that means the neuronsal pathwys in you brain have developed enough that you can perform the action subconciously.

    I personally find it doesnt take much finger pressure for me, i usually find myself thinking about less pressure not more. Certaily, beginners may not have developed the muscles that are used. At least I should say on GJ and classical guitar. flattop feels quite heavy in comparison and I havent played it in years.

    I try and fret the string so it either doesnt or just barely touches the fretboard. Still working on that one tho :D
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • to eliminate some extra pressure needed i would press the string as close to the fret as i can.
    a curiosity of mine is why do most least gypsy jazz guitarists almost never use their pinky. i was used to using 1 finger per fret, but seeing that almost all guitarists avoid using their pinky i'm trying to do this also. not sure if it's better, i feel a little tense in the hand because the position of the hand changes relative to the neck, where if i would play each fret with it's own finger, the position of the hand stays constant. not so sure about this technique but it falls into the category of economy motion.

    the problem is that i gen a stiffness in the thumb at the right hand, a pain and an immobilization, after i awake from sleep. i can't even close the thumb continuously, it just snaps to close position and when trying to open it it snaps into open position. :?
    the only work that i do with the left thumb is pressing against the back of the neck for fretting. but this problem like i said is only 1-2 min after i wake up. then i can move it. but i can feel that it's a bit not ok thru the day. have u guys ever encounter this? i guess i'll pause away from the guitar for a while.
    nothing is "sacred"
  • the thing about speed coming from perfect knowledge of what u play and not muscle memory i think it's very true and important. for me this means that the exercises for speed using a metronome are a waste of time. :!:
    and i don't think that django used or liked a metronome, in my opinion. i think he tried to play something and if it wasn't working then he would slow wayyy down to understand what to play, until one very clearly understands what and where to play. that doesn't require a metronome.
    nothing is "sacred"
  • I agree with you comletely about speed coming from knowing.

    A study was done years ago on pianists. The very best concert pianists werre timied playing one of those flourishes that starts in the middle and ends up at the tinlkly end. Non players wwere asked to do the same thing not worrying about where there fingers landed. The times were about the same.

    For those at other levels they were quite a bit slower.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • I just spent a few minutes trying to figure out what my right hand is doing on when picking first string. I dont feel any tension but imy fingers which loosely brush the top seem to act inplace of the impact string when picking on the first. The motion seems slightly longer than the others but doesnt seem to impact my speed (or lack thereof in comparison to some :shock: :lol: ) and I still get the bounce back feeling. Hope that helps

    One factor in speed is coordination of left hand with right.

    stochelo demos an exercise for strengthening and coordination on his dvd and may do the same in his online classes. I have found that to be a very useful exercise for a few minutes each day.

    I just realized I posted this in the wrong thread. I will correct when i get to a computer :oops: age ackkkkk
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,130
    Hey Jazz,

    I have the Stochelo DVD, which execise are you referring to?

  • i noticed that there are 2 types of playing with the pick. some people gently rest their ring finger and pinky down, like stochello, angello debarre etc.. and some who keep their palm closed and never touch the soundboard like romane, or yorgui loeffler or me :) and i think this is the category in which this problem occurs. and speaking of yourgui, here is an example where i think it occurs: (there's less power when going to the top string, imo. i may be wrong)
    nothing is "sacred"
  • Its the one here stating on E 6 string he plays the chromtic scale playing open stings where applicable and index on f1 middle on f2 ring on f3 and pinky on f4. Using the correct picking rules its trickier than one would think to get it smooth and crisp.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,130
    Ok I'll dig out the DVD and try that out for a while and see if it helps coordinate my left hand with my right.

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