To conclude the left hand base building stage, we’ll expand our practice routine to include three finger movements and some four finger movements. While developing four finger movements is beneficial for overall functionality of the left hand fingers, three finger movements occur with a lot more prevalence in repertoire so I would suggest focusing on those first.
As in the previous base building workouts for the left hand, proceed through the steps sequentially.
Three Finger Movements – 124, 421, 134, 431, 123, 321, 234, 432
Four Finger Movements – 1234, 4321 (obviously, there are many more possibilities but I would argue that these two are the most important)
Step 1 – Start movements without slurs (example using 124)
For the right hand, using im either free stroke or light rest stroke is fine. Using thumb (p) throughout is fine as well. Keep in mind the focus should be on the deliberate and precise placement of the left hand fingers. Do not complicate things with nifty right hand fingerings. The right hand technical workouts are coming soon!
Step 2 – Incorporate slurs (examples using 124 and 1234)
Step 3 – Build endurance
Explore these movements in several positions and you should be on your way to building a strong technical foundation to back your interpretations.
In the next installment, we’ll work on methods to build on this foundation to develop speed, flexibility, and finger independence. Stay tuned!
Assuming the previous workout has had positive effect on your control, accuracy, and finger strength, it’s time to go a bit further. Now we’re going to work on the following two-pair and compound finger movements following the same steps we took in Part 1.
Two Pair – 12 34, 43 21, 13 24, 42 31, 14 23, 32 41
Compound – 121, 212, 232, 323, 343, 434, 131, 313, 242, 424, 141, 414
Step 1 – Start all movements without slurs (example using 12 34 and 121)
Step 2 – Incorporate slurs
Step 3 – Build endurance
Stay tuned for Part 3.
I am currently working on a comprehensive technique manual ranging from base building to many advanced practice techniques. The theme for the next few posts will center around developing a strong technique base through a daily routine. We’ll start with some basic movements most students could stand to refine.
Complete steps 1-3 with all of the following left hand finger combinations. It is crucial during base building to focus on clarity, efficiency, and accuracy of both sound and movement.
Single Finger Movements: 01, 10, 02, 20, 03, 30, 04, 40
Single Pair Finger Movements: 12, 21, 23, 32, 34, 43, 13, 31, 24, 42, 14, 41
Step 1 – Perform all movements without slurs (example below using 01 and 10)
Step 2 – Perform all movements with slurs (example below using 01 and 10)
Step 3 – Build endurance by extending the time on each string (example below using 12 and 21)
Go very slowly. Listen very carefully. Do several repetitions. Explore various positions.
Try going through this every day for 2-3 weeks. Part 2 coming soon.
Hopefully, as an aspiring guitarist, the principle of precisely pinching frets with your fingertips has been engrained and you now know that it is very difficult to play well without putting this principle into practice. From slurs to counterpoint, training left hand fingers to place carefully insures the likelihood that our notes will emerge clearly from the guitar. But, as any investigative and intellectually-oriented student will discover, there are many cases where sloppy, finger pad pinching would prove the exception to the rule.
One such case would be when reaching for a bass note while playing or holding voices on the higher strings. If there are a few strings between the bass note and the voices being held, flattening the finger slightly while reaching will relax the hand more so than struggling to arch the fingertip into place.
Another case builds on this idea, what if you could use the flattened finger to silence a note on a neighboring string while simultaneously playing a note to achieve the correct musical intent of the composer or to maintain the integrity of a bass line? I’ve mentioned Bach’s Prelude in D Minor BWV999 before as a great piece to study many aspects of left hand technique so I will use a two measures from it as an example.
I’m hoping to post my edition of BWV999 soon with more pointers but for now, try to find places in your repertoire where it would be advantageous to not pinch so perfectly!