In this video I talk about practicing the six basic four string arpeggios with four right hand fingers and the importance of planting for beginners. Planting will stabilize the right hand and will help deepen your hand’s relationship to the span of the strings.
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I wrote this for the Tonebase blog a while ago and thought I’d share it here. Hope it helps!
A crucial aspect of right-hand technique is the ability to control the stroke of each finger when it interacts with the string. During this interaction, the energy of the stroke determines the volume of the note and, if well done, does not displace the other right-hand fingers in the process. This requires right-hand finger independence. To this end, I like to walk students through a series of activities utilizing a fixed right-hand finger with the focus of keeping the hand and inactive finger calm.
During the sequence and patterns, watch the right hand as carefully as possible for any extraneous or micro movements. Ask yourself whether it is possible to pare these movements down to stillness. Does the thumb stroke overwhelm the hand? Are there any fingers or combinations that are more uncomfortable or weak? Is the stroke efficient?
To start, place all right-hand fingers (p, i, m ,a) on the 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st strings respectively. I recommend using a metronome (quarter note = 60).
While keeping the inactive finger on its respective string, starting softly, play the following patterns. Go slowly and spend enough time on each pattern (a minute or two) before moving to the next one. Focus on keeping the same volume in both the thumb and the fingers that are alternating or working together. Note:a should remain fixed on string 1
Repeat Step 1 but impose the metrical accent. Think: 1 and 2 and 1 and 2 and, etc. Weak beats (the ands) should be slightly softer. For fun, drop the strong beats to the background and play the weaker beats with more energy. Watch your hand with curiosity to see how it behaves. Make deliberate adjustments until it feels groovy, balanced, and comfortable. Experiment with volume. Experiment with tempo.
While keeping the inactive finger on its respective string, starting softly, play the following patterns. Take your time to feel. Focus on keeping the same volume in both the thumb and the fingers that are alternating or working together. Note:m should remain fixed on string 2
Repeat Step 2 but impose the metrical accent. Keep weak beats softer. Watch your hand with curiosity to see how it behaves. Make adjustments until it feels right. Experiment with volume and tempo.
You know the drill. Take your time to feel. Focus on keeping the same volume in both the thumb and the fingers that are alternating or working together. Note:i should remain fixed on string 3.
Repeat Step 3 but impose the metrical accent. Keep weak beats softer. Watch your hand with curiosity to see how it behaves. Make adjustments until it feels right. Experiment with volume and tempo.
It is nice to follow these three steps with some arpeggio etudes.
If you’ve been working on right hand arpeggios or etudes and find that alternation between m and a is not as comfortable as i and m (or i and a) then you’ve come to the right place. The exercises below will help remedy this problem. Simply because of our hand anatomy, independence between m and a is more difficult to develop, so I often suggest adding a bit of extra mama to the basic patterns most students use to develop their right hand position and their arpeggios. Adding a little bit extra mama consistently will pay off over the course of weeks, so keep at it.
Here are the six patterns I encourage students to practice regularly:
Here is pima with extra mama (I like to add some activity in the left hand but it is not necessary):
pima + mama
Continue through the other patterns in a similar way. As always, use a metronome, strive for a consistent sound, and relax your right hand.
The Best Right Hand Exercise You are Not Doing by Leo Garcia
If you’ve worked through both Part 1 and Part 2 to improve your right hand confidence, you can add this exercise to the bunch. I teach this one to students who are working on developing tremolo. But, it’s very useful for mastering the subtlety of string crossing with other right-hand fingerings. Use it to develop your basic right-hand fingerings im, mi, am, ma, ia, ai in both rest and free stroke, and pi, pm, pa for free stroke. Then try the basic pattern for tremolo pami or even go nutty with ami and ima. : )
Don’t forget to start slowly, with a metronome, and enjoy discovering which right-hand fingerings are your strongest and which ones need work.
Creeping Tremolo Exercise
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Improve Your Right Hand Confidence, Part 2 by Leo Garcia
The most important movements to confident right hand technique include alternation between pairs and groups of fingers and how these fingers move across strings. Now we’ll take the idea a bit further than we did in Part 1. Remember to use these exercises consistently as part of your daily warm-up. Try the next several exercises using various speeds and the most common right hand fingerings: im, mi, am, ma in both rest stroke and free stroke. If you have extra time, add in the following fingerings in free stroke: ia, ai, ami, pi, pm, pa.
Here are several key practice points:
Strive to play with a sense of pulse, resisting the urge to play every note with the same intensity.
Focus on the quality of sound and whether it is consistent from finger to finger.
When not using thumb (p), rest it lightly on the lower string adjacent to the string that is played. Experiment with resting it two or three strings away and sense the subtlety of how it influences the alternating fingers.
Stay close to the strings.
Use a metronome. Record your progress in terms of tempo.
The following exercises shift the downbeat after the crossing. Maintaining a sense of pulse for the quarter note is essential to reap the benefits of this exercise. Keep focus on the downbeat. Again, use a metronome and work on basic right hand fingerings im, mi, am, ma, ia, ai in both rest and free stroke, and pi, pm, pa for free stroke. Push your tempo only after you are secure and solid.
And now we’ll take the idea into sixteenths. Speed is not the goal. Instead focus on groove and the subtlety of crossing at different moments in the beat.
Hope this helps.
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Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Twelve Etudes form part of the foundational pillars of modern guitar technique. Etude Nº1 in E Minor begins the cycle by setting an impressionistic harmonic stage for the evolution of the remaining eleven.
This particular etude has right-hand fingerings suggested by Segovia which over the years I’ve used but I like experimenting and have recently found that I like a different pattern. Each pattern yields a slightly different feel. Here I am using p m p i p m p i p m p i p i p i but also warm up using many others. I love working on this etude and come back to it often when I have lots of time to practice. Try these patterns to see if any work or to simply improve your command of the instrument.
p i p i
p m p m
p a p a
p m p i p m p i p m p i p i p i – I use this one in the video above.
p m p i p m i a i a i m p i p i – I find this one to help with the transition into each measure. Honestly, I think it is the best one for me but I need to be warmed up for it to feel great.
p m i a p m i a p i p i p i p i – I think this one is nuts but I saw someone do it really well.
p m p m p m p m p i p i p i p i – This one retains the natural right hand finger position in relation to the thumb.
Any others that you all use?
I’ll try to get a video post of chaining to show how you can practice at tempo. It’s a valuable practice technique for a piece like this.
To conclude our video series covering right-hand technique development in Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Etude N°1, I’ll explore how to use the concept of bursts (another rhythmic manipulation) to develop speed and further strengthen right-hand rhythmic precision, right-hand preparation, control, and clarity.
After repeated requests for more videos, I’m eager to share this post and upcoming video series on Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Etude Nº1. In this first part I’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of the standard fingering that Andrés Segovia wrote in the published edition. I’ll then offer some options for practicing the Etude. In Part 2, I’ll go through some options to overcome the disadvantages and finally arrive at my preferred fingering.
Watching legendary guitarist Pepe Romero teach tremolo was a revelation to me. One of his key points about finger movement in tremolo is timing the reload or return of a after m plucks (as if a and m were alternating) and not after i. As he explains the motion, the movement from a to the string is deliberate or active and from the instant after a plucks our attention moves to m while a unconsciously or passively relaxes. Essentially, the act of doing nothing releases a back to its place to ready for its next stroke. This is counterintuitive, as it would seem more natural to let a remain flexed after m due to the basic sympathetic motion of the fingers. But it is precisely in the case of tremolo that developing independence between a and m, and timing their return, can lead to a better sense of both rhythm and overall movement.
Of all the techniques in Mastering Tremolo, focusing on timing the return of a, even for a little bit, has been most helpful to me in evening out my tremolo and reining in the gallop that often occurs into the next beat when playing at high tempos.
One aspect of Ángel Romero‘s edition of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez is that every single scale is fingered optimally for string crossing so that m almost always reaches towards a higher string when blazing through the scale passages (i.e. when going from string 2 to 1, it is fingered i m and not m i). And while you could employ slurs or shifts to maintain optimum string-crossing, if those solutions are not musically in the cards there is a finger standing on the sidelines waiting eagerly to help: a. Using a to switch from im alternation to mi alternation without skipping a beat is an important skill to develop for situations where you would want to maintain optimum string-crossing for the right hand. Here are a few exercises using a to develop this technique.
Keep the following points in mind when going through these.