Developing Coordination and Stroke Control

Whatever your musical intentions, developing evenness from finger stroke to finger stroke across various pulse patterns is an essential component to good right hand technique. One tool to develop this through scales is to pair three-finger right hand patterns (ami, pmi, ima) to duple rhythms, such as eighth and sixteenth notes, or two-finger patterns (im, am, ai, pi, pm, pa) to triplet patterns. Sort of like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time.

I’ll use the following Major scale form to illustrate.

Scale Warmup 1.jpg

Three Against Two

Step 1 – Play the following eighth notes using the following three-finger right hand fingerings: ami, pmi, ima. Focus on maintaining a clear duple pulse and a consistent tone quality from note to note.

Scale Warmup 2.jpg

Step 2 – Play the following sixteenth notes using the following right hand fingerings: ami, pmi, ima. Focus on maintaining a clear duple pulse and a consistent tone from note to note.

Scale Warmup 8.jpg

Step 3 – Once that is comfortable, you can further develop coordination between your hands by playing patterns that emphasize a duple feel continuing to use the right hand fingerings: ami, pmi, ima. Here are some of my favorites.

Pattern 1

Scale Warm Up 2a.jpg

Pattern 2Scale Warmup 2c.jpg

Pattern 3

Scale Warmup 2b.jpg

Pattern 4

Scale Warmup 8a.jpg

Pattern 5

Scale Warmup 8b.jpg

Two Against Three

Step 4 – Play the following triplets using the following right hand fingerings: im, am, ai, pi, pm, and pa. The most important fingerings to develop are im, am, and pi so prioritize there first. Like before, focus on maintaining a clear triple pulse and a consistent tone from note to note.

Scale Warmup 5.jpg

Step 5 – Time to coordinate those fingers. Challenge yourself to play patterns that emphasize a duple feel continuing to use the right hand fingerings: im, am, ai, pi, pm, and pa.

Pattern 1

Scale Warmup 5a.jpg

Pattern 2

Scale Warmup 5b.jpg

Pattern 3

Scale Warmup 5c.jpg

Good luck and go pluck.

Technical Workout – Speed and Flexibility

I’ve just published another workbook entitled A Technical Workout for Classical Guitar: Level 2 – Speed and Flexibility.

Like A Technical Workout for Classical Guitar: Level 1 -Base Buildingit expands some basic building block movements to help the guitarist develop a strong technique through the use of rhythms, extensor movements, and fixed fingers.

 

Miracle Right Hand Warm Up Sequence

Here is a warm up sequence that I used to do every morning. It is useful for building right hand endurance, finger alternation, speed, pulse, rhythm, and legato. The idea behind it is simple. Set the metronome to a very slow beat, somewhere (50-70). Throughout the whole sequence, the beat remains constant but with very slight and precise increments we increase the number of notes between the beats.

I would go through all 13 steps (using free stroke) and then go through the whole thing two more times using different right hand fingerings am and ai. So, that’s 39 steps. I actually would go all the way up to fret 12 (3 cycles) and often would use a diminished 7th chord or some left hand variation to keep it interesting. Vary what you need. As you will notice, I’ve been more detailed in the first 3 steps and little by little have resorted to short hand as the basic sequence becomes evident.

Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

Step 1

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 1.jpg

Step 2

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 2.jpg

Step 3

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 3.jpg

Step 4

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 4.jpg

Step 5

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 5.jpg

Step 6

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 6.jpg

Step 7

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 7.jpg

Step 8

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 8.jpg

Step 9

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 9.jpg

Step 10

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 10.jpg

Step 11

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 11.jpg

Step 12

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 12.jpg

Step 13

Right Hand Warm Up Sequence 13.jpg

Phew! Go back for more. You know it’s good for you.

Left Hand Speed Development, Part 1

I’m working on A Technical Workout for Classical Guitar, Speed and Flexibility, and I thought I would share a portion relating to extensor development in the left hand. I will try to post a video to support this but here is something to keep everyone busy.

Excerpt from up and coming book:

Speed in the left hand is determined by several factors but two of the most important ones are the time it takes the finger to achieve precise placement on the fret and the time it takes the finger to release and reload for the next placement. The former movement depends on the flexor muscles of the fingers which are constantly worked in an active fashion (we typically focus our attention on placement) and the latter movement depends on the extensor muscles of the finger (we typically do not focus on this aspect of the movement). In a way, descending slurs work the extensors but we can be a bit more specific and pro-active about developing extensors in our left hand.

In order to develop the extensor muscles, simply place the finger and then actively release the finger back as quickly as possible achieving a slightly sloppy staccato effect with the left hand. This work does not involve the right hand at all. This movement is more strenuous than it sounds. When done correctly it almost sounds like light slurring. Keep the left hand finger placement accurate and keep the left hand contained so that it’s not the hand that is moving away from the fretboard but the fingers.

Complete Exercise 1 below with all the following left hand finger combinations:

Single Pair Finger Movements: 12, 21, 23, 32, 34, 43, 13, 31, 24, 42, 14, 41

Exercise 1 – Focus on the instantaneous release and post relaxation after the placement of each finger (example below using 12 and 21)

slur 12 p4 extensor.jpg

Good luck!

Ricardo Gallén on Technique

I just came across some newly posted videos of Spanish guitarist extraordinaire, Ricardo Gallén, performing Leo Brouwer’s Sonata Nº4 Sonata del Pensador. The piece is dedicated to Ricardo and whether or not this is the premier or not, it is a fabulous performance.

Then, as often happens, I find myself watching more videos than I really have time for. There is too much to learn. In the next video, Ricardo gives a masterclass with demonstrations and a tremendous amount of insight. Some of the topics he discusses relate to using percussive practice in the left hand when playing fast, drawing on the metaphor of the difference between walking and running. When we walk, our feet plant fully as we balance to lift and take the next step. When we run, we are pounding lightly a bit more percussively. Translated back to guitar, if the left hand holds down and luxuriates on the fret, energy is lost and tempo slows. Ricardo plays an excerpt of Villa-Lobos Etude Nº2 to demonstrate (around minute 17). The key point is that because the left hand is acting more percussively when playing fast, part of the sound comes from the left hand, so that the right hand can relax, aiding in speed.

Another point he makes (around minute 19) is the unbalanced nature of playing guitar. Instinctually our hands want to act together (thought on this in a recent post about neural coupling), squeeze together, let go together. When playing softly or piano in the left hand but the right hand plays loudly or forte we must practice compensating for the discrepancy in energy between both hands. These are brilliant points to ponder. Undoubtably, there are more insights but I’m dying to go practice…

A Technical Workout for Guitar

Quick Update!

In addition to the kindle format, my  A Technical Workout for Classical Guitar – Base Building is now available in print via Amazon:

Stay tuned! I’ll be posting some videos to supplement the book soon.

No Numbers Challenge

The other day, I took off my heart rate monitor after my run, uploaded the data from my Garmin, and reviewed the data on graphs and charts. The graph showed progress in how my speed/mile was increasing while my heart rate was decreasing. I then would measure out my post-run smoothie ingredients (a 3 to 1 carbohydrate to protein ratio along with enough dark leafy greens to make my young boys lavish me with looks of revulsion) to make sure my recovery was on track.

Later that day, I started my practice routine as usual with a very slow, controlled warm-up of some slurs with the metronome set to 52, going from single finger pairs and doubling, tripling, and eventually quadrupling the tempo. Then onto alternation exercises, all tied to divisions and subdivisions with a metronome clicking away. Then a few harder passages played carefully, all tied to the metronome in some form, and then a few very slow run-throughs of perpetual motion movements from larger works for endurance (preludes, etudes, etc…). After all of this, I usually have a bit of time to play through a few pieces, work on trouble spots, and test where they are before I pull myself together for teaching.

Between the persistent desire to become a better guitarist (and healthy endurance runner), my day and activities seem to be dominated by times, beats, numbers, portions, patterns, paces, pulse, measures, measurements. Data.

I’ve often reflected on this and know that when we quantify, we measure, and with the data can take action and make goals. But I also know that a piece of music needs to breathe, to wax and wane. Metronomes and heart rate monitors and scales (for weight) and scales (for music) are useful tools but creating music or running on trails should also feel organic, more intuitive, more human.

So, I’m challenging myself this week to lose the numbers, lose the measurements, and rely more intuitively on my heart and my senses than let the science lab I’ve constructed around my activities provide the usual feedback.