Saturday, October 19, 2013

First Exercises, Pt. II - Left Hand Finger Independence

Last month I began discussing beneficial right hand picking exercises guitar teachers can use with new students. This month I’ll exam an exercise for the left hand which helps promote finger independence and use of the pinky/fourth finger – a highly under used commodity by many guitarists.


Video - Fingers 1 & 2                Video - Fingers 1 & 3
Video - Fingers 1 & 4                Video - Fingers 2 & 3
Video - Fingers 2 & 4                Video - Fingers 3 & 4
There are several ideas to keep in mind when doing this exercise: first, each exercise is done separately – it is not meant to be one continuous exercise. Second, keep the fingers "arched" (diagram 1) as they play each note – finger-tips should not “collapse” (diagram 2).This is because the natural weight of a curled finger will lessen the amount of pressure to push down on a note and have it ring clearly; a collapsed finger will require more pressure resulting in excess tension in the hand. This is not to say that as a player advances they will never collapse their finger, of course they will, but the idea is to develop good habits with the least amount of tension from the start.

Third, make sure fingers are playing on their tips and not the pads. If a finger is properly arched the finger will be playing somewhere in the middle of the fingertip. Fourth, always keep the finger playing the lowest note down on the string – do not lift it to play the next note. This helps promote finger independence and understanding that fingers playing lower sounding notes do not need to be lifted off a string if they are be played soon after a higher sounding note on the same string.

Fifth, the thumb should be placed on the neck behind the first finger and should be “collapsed” (diagram 3). Some students tend to “arch” their thumb joint which can cause excess tension. Sixth, check the students’ fingernail length! It may sound funny, but if the nail is too long it will cause the finger to collapse, resulting in the finger playing on its pad and not the fingertip. Whereas, the nail touches the fingerboard and not the flesh of the finger so the finger must then collapse back so that the flesh of the finger can play the string.
I hope this has given you some new ideas about approaching finger independence for the left hand.

Next month I’ll continue with an exercise to help the student transverse the fretboard and help create a legato sound.