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Re-learning left hand technique

Little Hawk 10 Feb 10 - 07:47 PM
GUEST,999 10 Feb 10 - 07:53 PM
Gurney 10 Feb 10 - 08:17 PM
michaelr 10 Feb 10 - 08:19 PM
Little Hawk 10 Feb 10 - 08:27 PM
Leadfingers 10 Feb 10 - 08:29 PM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Feb 10 - 09:05 PM
Leadfingers 10 Feb 10 - 09:09 PM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Feb 10 - 09:11 PM
Little Hawk 10 Feb 10 - 09:16 PM
Leadfingers 10 Feb 10 - 09:24 PM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Feb 10 - 09:27 PM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Feb 10 - 09:30 PM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Feb 10 - 09:32 PM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Feb 10 - 09:36 PM
M.Ted 11 Feb 10 - 01:18 AM
The Fooles Troupe 11 Feb 10 - 02:20 AM
Little Hawk 11 Feb 10 - 09:09 AM
MikeL2 11 Feb 10 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,leeneia 11 Feb 10 - 12:52 PM
Little Hawk 11 Feb 10 - 01:15 PM
Gurney 11 Feb 10 - 04:15 PM
Gurney 11 Feb 10 - 04:21 PM
Y_Not 11 Feb 10 - 04:26 PM
M.Ted 11 Feb 10 - 04:42 PM
John P 11 Feb 10 - 05:18 PM
Little Hawk 11 Feb 10 - 06:38 PM
GUEST,Mark Pavey 12 Feb 10 - 05:21 AM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Feb 10 - 02:30 PM
Little Hawk 12 Feb 10 - 03:43 PM
The Fooles Troupe 12 Feb 10 - 04:30 PM
GUEST,Mark Pavey 13 Feb 10 - 06:55 AM
The Fooles Troupe 13 Feb 10 - 08:46 AM
GUEST,DonMeixner 13 Feb 10 - 08:51 AM
Little Hawk 13 Feb 10 - 09:51 AM
Little Hawk 13 Feb 10 - 11:12 AM
GUEST,Mark Pavey 13 Feb 10 - 12:04 PM
Tim Leaning 13 Feb 10 - 12:06 PM
meself 13 Feb 10 - 12:24 PM
GUEST,Mark Pavey 13 Feb 10 - 12:30 PM
Little Hawk 13 Feb 10 - 12:45 PM
GUEST,Mark Pavey 13 Feb 10 - 01:01 PM
MikeL2 13 Feb 10 - 02:53 PM
Little Hawk 13 Feb 10 - 02:57 PM
M.Ted 13 Feb 10 - 03:19 PM
M.Ted 13 Feb 10 - 03:22 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Feb 10 - 04:03 PM
Little Hawk 13 Feb 10 - 04:10 PM
M.Ted 13 Feb 10 - 04:35 PM
Little Hawk 13 Feb 10 - 05:43 PM
M.Ted 13 Feb 10 - 07:19 PM
Tim Leaning 14 Feb 10 - 05:49 PM
Little Hawk 14 Feb 10 - 06:05 PM
Richard Bridge 14 Feb 10 - 06:23 PM
GUEST,leeneia 14 Feb 10 - 06:54 PM
Little Hawk 14 Feb 10 - 07:05 PM
michaelr 14 Feb 10 - 08:46 PM
John Hardly 14 Feb 10 - 08:52 PM
GUEST,iancarterb 14 Feb 10 - 09:43 PM
Don Firth 14 Feb 10 - 09:48 PM
GUEST,iancarterb 14 Feb 10 - 09:54 PM
Don Firth 14 Feb 10 - 10:43 PM
GUEST,MTed 14 Feb 10 - 11:08 PM
Don Firth 15 Feb 10 - 12:04 AM
M.Ted 15 Feb 10 - 01:02 AM
M.Ted 15 Feb 10 - 01:12 AM
Richard Bridge 15 Feb 10 - 03:25 AM
GUEST,leeneia 15 Feb 10 - 09:23 AM
MikeL2 15 Feb 10 - 09:48 AM
meself 15 Feb 10 - 10:05 AM
Little Hawk 15 Feb 10 - 10:52 AM
M.Ted 15 Feb 10 - 12:35 PM
meself 15 Feb 10 - 12:54 PM
Little Hawk 15 Feb 10 - 01:33 PM
Don Firth 15 Feb 10 - 03:51 PM
M.Ted 15 Feb 10 - 03:56 PM
M.Ted 15 Feb 10 - 04:45 PM
meself 16 Feb 10 - 09:19 AM
GUEST,Ian Gill 16 Feb 10 - 01:25 PM
Don Firth 16 Feb 10 - 02:36 PM
Little Hawk 16 Feb 10 - 03:22 PM
M.Ted 16 Feb 10 - 04:36 PM
Piers Plowman 17 Feb 10 - 02:09 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Feb 10 - 02:30 PM
M.Ted 17 Feb 10 - 04:14 PM
PoppaGator 17 Feb 10 - 04:29 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Feb 10 - 04:50 PM
M.Ted 17 Feb 10 - 08:48 PM
Piers Plowman 18 Feb 10 - 07:44 AM
s&r 18 Feb 10 - 07:48 AM
Piers Plowman 18 Feb 10 - 08:19 AM
Piers Plowman 18 Feb 10 - 08:33 AM
GUEST,Stephen Smith 18 Feb 10 - 10:39 AM
Little Hawk 18 Feb 10 - 11:55 AM
Don Firth 18 Feb 10 - 03:38 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Feb 10 - 03:49 PM
Piers Plowman 22 Feb 10 - 06:27 AM
Piers Plowman 22 Feb 10 - 07:19 AM
Don Firth 22 Feb 10 - 01:29 PM
DonMeixner 22 Feb 10 - 02:08 PM
Piers Plowman 23 Feb 10 - 02:58 AM
Piers Plowman 23 Feb 10 - 07:27 AM
Little Hawk 25 Feb 10 - 11:52 AM
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Subject: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 07:47 PM

I first started learning guitar about 40 years ago. Like almost all steel string players I know I took the line of least resistance, so to speak, and gripped the guitar neck sort of like you do a baseball bat...that is, I brought my thumb up around the side of the neck and rested the neck against the palm of my hand while forming the chords. It seemed okay to me.

This, in spite of the fact that my guitar teacher, who was classically trained, tried hard to get me to learn the classical position (thumb under the neck...nothing at all touching the neck except the relaxed thumb (which acts as a pivot) and the fingertips that are forming the chord). The fingertips apply the necessary pressure.

Nope, I was lazy. I did it the way practically everyone I know does it because it seemed much easier at the time.

Now I find that it is causing pain in some of my fingers and limiting what I can do...so I decided to rethink the whole thing and heed my guitar teacher's advice from 40 years ago!

For about 5 days now I have been playing my steel string in classical position (for the left hand, I mean). And it's working! I am slowly convincing my subconscious to let go of the old left hand patterning and take on a new one. Whew. It takes some doing.

I do find now that my fingers are far better positioned, not angled so much, and I'm less likely to unintentionally fog out some notes and get fatigued. I can reach farther and the notes are cleaner. I just have to pay a LOT of attention to what I'm doing, because the old habits keep wanting to creep in when I don't.

Has anyone else taken on this particular challenge lately? Just wondering.

* Spaw, try to resist making comments here about techniques for whacking off, okay? ;-D I need NO help at all in mastering that particular discipline...not even from an expert such as...well, I'll say no more.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,999
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 07:53 PM

After ignoring the guitar for over two decades, I HEAR YOU and feel your pain. All I can say is you have my admiration, because my guitar teacher from 48 years ago told me much the same thing. I listened to him. BUT, I went on to forget exactly WHERE my fingers were supposed to go, so there I was four years ago with great technique and no friggin' idea where to put my fingers to make chords. Keep at it, LH. It'll happen.

B


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Gurney
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 08:17 PM

Doing just the same thing, for slightly different reasons, LH. I've scrapped my old 2" neck guitar and turned to a one-and-three-quarter-inch-neck dreadnaught. I need more precise placement of the fingertips , the guitar being much more responsive than the old one.
And yes, my fingers are getting stiffer, too. The last finger-joint won't take the angles of yore. I've been playing half-heartedly for the same sort of period.

I used to be able to remember the words much more easily, too.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: michaelr
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 08:19 PM

Keep in mind that "classical position" also means that (assuming you're right-handed) the waist of the guitar sits on your left thigh (elevated by a footstool) with the neck pointing upward at about a 45-degree angle and your lower arm almost vertical. This will reduce fatigue and make it much easier to keep the thumb behind the neck.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 08:27 PM

Yes, I've given that some thought, michael. I'm not that fond of the classical position for sitting...although I'm trying it out some, and have sort of partially adjusted to it as far as how the arms are positioned.

When I play standing, though, the guitar is positioned just right, just as you describe it. And, yes, it does help to reduce fatigue and keep the thumb behind the neck.

You have to wonder about those "cool" young rockers who play the guitar hanging down around their knees... ;-) Talk about BAD position! But it looks sooooo coooool.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Leadfingers
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 08:29 PM

I was 'Self taught' , and never bothered with Barre Chords - Used to play a Five String F Major , for example !
Then I 'slightly' smashed my left wrist (19 fractures and dislocations , according to the Doc) and had to start from scratch , three months after buying my Martin D35 !
Bloody hard work , but about eighteen months later I was able to give up the day job for a six month gig playing guitar etc in Bermudaa , and Barre Chords are now NOT a problem !
Good Luck and keep with it !


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 09:05 PM

99, 100, ... oops..

I know where the door is.... :-P


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Leadfingers
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 09:09 PM

Change Hands !!! LOL


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 09:11 PM

Sorry LH, do you really think Fools take any notice of what others say?

:-)

There is much wisdom in the so called 'Classical methods' of doing almost anything - much accumulated wisdom and experience, so I have little sympathy for those so clever that they deride those of us who spent much time learning Music that way, hundreds of hours of scales, and Hannon.... :-)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Virtuoso_Pianist_in_60_Exercises

The Virtuoso Pianist (Le Piano virtuose) by Charles-Louis Hanon

First Published 1873....


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 09:16 PM

Yup, you got it right. It's pretty incredible that I had to put off learning this for 40 years...but better late than never.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Leadfingers
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 09:24 PM

Cutting Corners when learning means Cutting Ability when playing !!


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 09:27 PM

Yep -

Hanon

"The exercises address common problems which could hamper the performance abilities of a student. These include "crossing of the thumb," strengthening of the fourth and fifth fingers, and quadruple- and triple-trills. The exercises are meant to be individually mastered and then played consecutively in the sections they are placed in. Apart from increasing technical abilities of the student, when played in groups at higher speeds, the exercises will also help to increase endurance."

Of course

"One pitfall is that practising the Hanon exercises with imperfect technique will reinforce the technique errors via endless repetition. Students who don't apply the requisite keen technical meticulousness to their study of these exercises (or who lack qualified and diligent teachers) may risk 'burning in' their technical errors. More seriously, poor technique, especially when exacerbated by narrow repetition, can give rise to repetitive stress injuries - to which pianists are notoriously susceptible."

But of course if you have already been playing the guitar that way for years... ;-)


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 09:30 PM

BTW

The Virtuoso Pianist (Hanon, Charles-Louis) PDF files, Parts 1,2 & 3


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 09:32 PM

Oh - and

Complete Hanon For The Accordion
Adapted by Charles Nunzio.
Sam Fox Publishing Company, Inc.,
New York, 1941. 88 pages.
The famous Hanon Piano Course adapted for the Piano Accordion: highlighting technique, velocity, special bass rhythms etc. Essential basic studies for the serious student of the Instrument.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Feb 10 - 09:36 PM

One of the links for a Hanon based Guitar method


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 01:18 AM

I have always said that proper guitar technique is all about being lazy--the whole point is to find a way to do the most with the least possible effort.

A lot of people don't see it that way, and figure that you're not really playing unless your knuckles are white, your fingers are twisted in knots, and you're frantically pounding the fingerboard. Some of them throw in tortured facial expressions, too.

My thought is that if it hurts, you haven't got it right.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 02:20 AM

"Some of them throw in tortured facial expressions, too. My thought is that if it hurts, you haven't got it right. "

Perhaps you should change hands... :-P



I'll get me hat....


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 09:09 AM

And don't forget your coat... ;-)

M.Ted - Very good points.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: MikeL2
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 10:44 AM

Hi leadfingers

I am like you. Self taught many moons ago.
However I managed to devise a kind of "hybrid" style in that I held the neck with my thumb wrapped around it but when I wanted to use barre chords I learned to slide my thumb into almost the classical position.

I got by very well like this although I know that this is not necessarily the best way to do it.

Then some years ago when I was almost 50 I was asked by my rugby club to take part in a charity game where many ex players turned out a side to play game with our colts team.( I know....I know....)

I stupidly agreed and during this game a young 18 year old mountain stamped on my left hand and broke several bones in it.

After some time in plaster the casing was removed and when I tried to straighten out my fingers I found that the index finger wouldn't do so from the knuckle nearest the nail.

The doctor smiled and said something like "Oh dear we will have to re-break that and re-set it."

After he ducked and listened to yards of invective he retired gracefully leaving me to ponder on whether I wanted to take his advice.

I refused it because I needed to have the full ( or near full, use of my hands again.)

Some time after this I came to pick up my guitar and found that after some practice I could get back to where I was before EXCEPT that now whether I employed my thumb under the neck or around it I just couldn't manage any barre chords anymore.

I get by by playing half barres and some gymnastics with my left hand.

I am now trying to re-learn right back from basics but I still have problems with the barre......

However the exercise hasn't been totally useless I have improved my chording in other ways and I have speeded up my solos by sheer practice.

I am also learning to play the keyboard and have similar problems caused by not learning properly when I dabbled with this instrument some years ago. But at least I don't have to make barres on this....lol

Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 12:52 PM

LH, you have inspired me to try to improve my playing position.

These videos give a picture of the correct position, and I find that helpful:

http://www.ehow.com/video_2380322_introduction-classical-guitar.html

I had never heard before that the nut should be about eye level. That tip alone eliminates a lot of uncertainty.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 01:15 PM

Yes, that's right about the nut being at about eye level. It's a handy way of checking for the right position.

MikeL2 - You said "However I managed to devise a kind of "hybrid" style in that I held the neck with my thumb wrapped around it but when I wanted to use barre chords I learned to slide my thumb into almost the classical position."

That's not a hybrid position. It's exactly what everyone does if they normally play open string chords with the thumb wrapped around the side of the neck. The nature of a bar chord forces you to put your thumb behind the neck in the proper (classical) position. It's virtually impossible to do a bar chord any other way as far as I know. What you are describing in your "hybrid" style is exactly the way I used to play and what I am now training myself not to do.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Gurney
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 04:15 PM

Years ago, Davy Graham's 'Anji' was reckoned to be 'A Level' guitar.
Can it be played with the thumb in the classical position?


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Gurney
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 04:21 PM

Make that 'Angi.' And see Will Fly's video on Youtube to see what I mean.

I never could get the baserun.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Y_Not
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 04:26 PM

Just shut up you soft soft F### and PLAY and PLAY and PLAY...


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 04:42 PM

The important thing here is that the left hand should be in a position that allows the thumb to leverage the finger movements without twisting, straining, or stretching the wrist.

In addition to positioning the neck so that the nut is between shoulder and eye level, it's also
better if the neck is at a 45° angle to your chest, and that your left hand does not support the neck in any way.

If you're playing a classical guitar, the body should rest on your left leg, but that doesn't always work with a steel string, because they can have a different size and shape. This is why we have straps--so you can put the body where you need it without needing a leg to support it.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: John P
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 05:18 PM

I had to relearn the positions of both hands a few years back due to serious tendonitis in both wrists. I've learned to keep my wrists straight, which seems to be the biggest help. I think I'm somewhere between classical position and rocker penis-guitar position, but the pain flare-ups are rare and easily managed now.

I also had to learn to hold my pick differently, which was the hardest part. It turns out that, for me at least, part of knowing a tune is hand position and pick grip. New tunes were easy to learn with a better position. Tunes I already knew had to be learned over practically from scratch. The occupational therapist asked me where it hurt in my right hand and then said, "I bet you hold your pick like this, don't you?" She actually made me a brace that forced my hand into a non-destructive position.

I also finally figured out that I can play faster, more accurately, and less painfully if I don't lift the fingers of my left hand any farther than necessary to let the string ring. I used to move them an inch or more just lifting them up and putting them down. Now I move them quarter inch or less.

I was just diagnosed with arthritis in my left thumb a couple of months ago. Fortunately, it means I have more trouble picking up coins than playing the guitar, but a couple of hours of hard playing leaves me sore for a couple of days. It sometimes means I don't rehearse at all between gigs. Argh!

John


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 11 Feb 10 - 06:38 PM

Gurney - I'm sure there are a few specific riffs in certain songs that do not work well with the thumb in the classical position. Fine. No one says it must always be in the classical position...it's just better for your overall playing technique if it is usually there, rather than hanging around the side of the neck. For certain riffs you must hang the thumb around the side of the neck in order to press down the 6th string with it...in that case, it's perfectly all right to do so, I would think.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,Mark Pavey
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 05:21 AM

Davy always played with his thumb in the classical position. He always held that the classical technique is the only way to play properly and develop.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 02:30 PM

You need to be able to use both positions, as and when appropriate. Sticking rigidly to either regardless is just silly.

It's a bit like people who refuse to use a capo - or who use capos as a reason to never bother to learn any chord positioins that aren't in first position.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 03:43 PM

That's right. Flexibility is much superior to living by rigid rules.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 12 Feb 10 - 04:30 PM

"that's right about the nut being at about eye level"

M'lud, the prosecution rests.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,Mark Pavey
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 06:55 AM

Using the thumb to fret certainly gives you a fifth card, but it can severely limit the movement of the other four main cards.

Duck Baker does it effectively, but he's worked so much on "unionising" his left hand that it works. Sadly so many guitarists think that anything goes and have just cramped up their left hand for the sake of occasionally using their thumb to raise a third in the bass. I used to do that myself. I just don't think that you can continue to improve like that; without a classical default position.

Davy in later years maintained that using a capo was bad in that it prevents understanding, i.e its not good to play in B-flat and think in terms of another key. Yet he extensively used capos on his early records. By the later mid-sixties he had stopped doing this all together and you can certainly hear the benefits of this in his playing. The music develops to a conclusion. Davy always said that the ascents are more valuable than the descents..   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZWtNYDz1So

If you compare it with this example of Ralph Mctell playing (which is really just a very simple cocaine blues picking accompaniment pattern, masquerading as an instrumental): the music just seems to start out as it finishes. As Davy used to remind me; perfection is only mediocrity. Just not very good is even worse.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c6evjH_Oh4&feature=related

In the case of Anji, Davy's original version is special partly for the control of the index finger on the descending bass, and the ascending ornamentations which are led by the pinkie... In later years he played it without the capo and further embellished it.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 08:46 AM

The guitar is a complex instrument - even more complex than a piano keyboard. It is also deceptive - using styles (word chosen carefully for semantic reasons!) such as a capo base style limit one related as to what possibilities are available on the instrument due to its design & structure. You could replace 'style' with 'philosophy' to help you think of what meaning I intend. :-)

You see, with a capo, you are restricted to a cycle of relative chord positions that are always the same, no matter what relative pitch they are started in. It's sorta like dropping a frame over a piano keyboard, and you can only use what chord structures the frame allows - using an unrestricted (non-capo) style is like removing the frame from the keyboard, allowing an almost infinite (within the total limited universe the guitar provides) selection of chordal structure. Actually it's a bit like - for slightly different reasons - an autoharp - but which has a different philosophy in its design and construction

"Folkie styles" are always restricted in concept - by intentional design - if you move outside this structure, you get different things - of course... :-)


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 08:51 AM

Having learned the left hand twice now and how to play guitar three times I have some personal discoveries. Like many of us my best friend showed me chord and hand me a guitar and I made the chord and strummed the guitar and I was a folksinger. I could read the dots in the chord box OK but the song books never showed me how to do it. Just what to do. But utilizing a lot of flawed technique I made a lot of music for quite awhile.

Crushing my right wrist caused me to have to wait for therapy and reconstructive surgery to take place. About a year in a cast. I became a better singer in that time. Five years to the very day after the wrist injury I cut off a few fingers in table saw accident. These were reattached and the real therapy began. I used an auto harp to gain strength and mobility and make those wreaked fingers work again.

Scar tissues are so evident that index and middle left reach open and close about forty percent. Neither is straight and they don't go where they are aimed. It is nearly impossible to play barre chords.

I find that after years of experimentation I play passably well if I use the purest form of classical postural technique I can. It works out to be good body dynamic. Thumb well down on the back allows me to reach the bass strings where my fingers won't stretch to otherwise. Holding the guitar at about 40 degrees gives me an attack that is perpendicular to the strings. I suppose better late than never but next time if I had a choice it would be the right hand I bitched and not the left.

Don


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 09:51 AM

Interesting stuff, guys. I agree that playing up and down the neck without a capo, as opposed to using one, will eventually lead to a far more interesting and varied playing style with superior possibilities to get the most out of the instrument...nevertheless, I'll think I'll stick with using the capo for now. ;-) After all, I'm mainly a singer, not a guitar virtuoso, and as long as I can provide a nice rythm section with the guitar that's good enough for me.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 11:12 AM

This is going great. I've only been at it for about a week now, I guess, but I'm getting pretty comfortable with classical position. I don't allow myself to play the old way at all at the moment, because I'm determined to re-program my hand to automatically go for classical position without even thinking about it.

It's definitely better this way, everything is cleaner and more accurate, no more strain on the fingers...now why did I not listen to my teacher Matthew Clark 40 years ago when he told me to do it this way? ;-)

Anyone who thinks they can't change their old guitar-playing habits...don't tell yourself that! You definitely can do it. Just persist, that's all. Practice every single day and persist.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,Mark Pavey
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 12:04 PM

You get in trouble when you start to think you're getting good. The achievement is getting continuing to get better everyday. The really good players have always done that, of course this wouldn't be news to most other instrumentalists, but as guitarists we should probably start to view our practice more as a form of musical athleticism. If we seek to make the guitar easier by compromise we get further and further from the difficulties we try to master.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 12:06 PM

Great thread it all makes sense until I try and implement it. Then comes the cacophony.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: meself
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 12:24 PM

I've been toying with the idea of wimping over to a classical i.e. nylon-strung guitar - after all, Willie Nelson gets away with it. Seems to me a lot of the early (1950s) Canadian "folk-singers" (e.g., Oscar Brand) used them. I can't recall ever playing one, although I must have picked one up and messed around on it at some point in my long and frivolous life.

Any thoughts on the plusses and minusses, pros and cons, antis and uncles of the nylon-string-strung-as-opposed-to-steel-string-strung guitar?


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,Mark Pavey
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 12:30 PM

You shouldn't be freaked out by the cacophony; it will pass.   
If you put all your effort into ignoring a weakness then you can't hope to develop any true strength.
It initially seems like bad news when you realise that you have to put away all your accumulated years of undisciplined playing as if all those efforts were for nothing and become a beginner again.
There is a great dawning that takes place though when you realise you get to "begin" again and all your mistake/hang-ups/limitations seem like someone else's.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 12:45 PM

Nylon string guitars can sound wonderful if they are played properly, and there are some out there now with great electronic pickup systems in them. In general, though, I'd say they are much more suited to picking than they are to strumming. I've almost always played steel string, but I appreciate nylon strings too, and I admire those who can really play them the way they need to be played.

Melanie always used a nylon string guitar, didn't she? (actually, I think she is still out there performing). What about Leonard Cohen? Didn't he used to play on a nylon string guitar in concerts?


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,Mark Pavey
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 01:01 PM

Davy always had a nylon string guitar around. When I first met him the only instrument he had was a cheap Hohner classical. He'd been burgled some years before and it was all he had been able to afford. It was an awful instrument. He loved it.
He said that the Nylon Guitar should be seen as the feminine instrument and the Steel Acoustic as the masculine one. We bought some better classical guitars at the time but they didn't swing as well as I'd hoped. Davy didn't care much as he was more interested in his classical and untempered studies in any case.
Later; too late in fact, I discovered that a flamenco nylon string guitar, as a folk instrument, would have been much better for him. All DG's nylon stuff on the seventies albums had been done on a Ramirez Flamenco guitar. Duck Baker uses a Manuel Rodriguez flamenco guitar.
The classical technique and melodic and harmonic principle combined with the folk approach
is what Davy left to all of us. I still think its the future of music that people will want to listen to. The trouble is its hard to achieve!


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: MikeL2
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 02:53 PM

hi meself

I tried a nylon stringed guitar I picked up in Spain. I just couldn't get along with it....though I have to say that I didn't try to hard at the time.

Like others here I regret not persisting longer.

The thing that I had problems with was that the neck on the instrument I had was very wide making the strings much wider apart than on my steel stringed guitars. I have quiet small hands and my attempts to work with the nylon were not pretty.

As I was playing semi-pro in those days I really couldn't afford to take the time away from gigs to completely change my style. Looking back I think that was just laziness on my part.

I am struggling to make up now but certainly haven't mastered the classical technique as I automatically just slide back into the way I know.

Cheers

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 02:57 PM

I find the very wide neck on classical guitars bothersome too. I'd prefer a nylon string guitar with a neck about halfway between the width of a steel string neck and the usual classical setup.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 03:19 PM

Single notes, scales, and harmonized parts tend to work better on a classical guitar. Also, complex and subtle rhythms, such as those found in flamenco, bossa nova, and samba, can be developed more fully on classical/nylon string guitar because there are a lot of different ways to strike the strings.

When you move over from a steel string guitar, though, it takes a while to learn how to strike the strings, and the wider, shorter, neck takes some getting used to--


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 03:22 PM

It's kind of like taking off your work boots and putting on slippers.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 04:03 PM

I wear boots outdoors and change into sleepers indoors much of the time. Sticking to either all the time would seem a bit daft.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 04:10 PM

Yes, and most women will object strenuously if you wear your work boots in bed...not unreasonably, in my opinion. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 04:35 PM

And yet you take that noisy old Martin everywhere..


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 05:43 PM

It can't be beat, that's why. It's a Martin HD-28, nice herring bone trim, incredible sound. Still the best guitar I've ever had, and it's a newer one too, not one of those ancient Martins from way back when. It was made around 2003 or 2004, can't quite remember the exact year at the moment, but about that time.

I had Kevin Hall do up a bone nut and saddle for it recently and do a little setup work, and it's even better now than it used to be.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 13 Feb 10 - 07:19 PM

It's sounds like a very nice instrument, LH--they really do make good instruments these days, and I sincerely believe that you get your money's worth from the better Martins. I'm resisting an urge to go searching in the night for one to play;-)


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Tim Leaning
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 05:49 PM

curses!

Having read this earlier then been out to a few places playing I have started to notice how much I hold the guitar in the web of my thumb.
I guess I need to spend some time adjusting that rather than writing the damn songs.
Been trying to learn for nearly 10 years now and just as I was starting to make a nicer noise I am doing it all wrong.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 06:05 PM

Well, you can work on hand position AND write new songs, I figure. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 06:23 PM

I disavow any pretence at guitar mastery, but I do remember the late Mudcat guru, one Fielding, posting about his thumb-over techniques and what they permitted - not just the bottom E string, not just the A string (which I can nearly get in some songs) but the D string being fretted - which left the possibilities of open strings ringing on the GB and E.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 06:54 PM

I've been trying the recommended position, but the guitar keeps sliding forward, right off my lap. My clothes aren't slick.

Anybody else have this problem? Any insights?


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 07:05 PM

Using a guitar strap will help. The soundbox part of the guitar should be held vertically, the back of it resting against your body. The upper half of your right arm rest on top of the lower bout while the right forearm is free to move in front of the guitar's body. It's basically your right arm which is holding the guitar in place against your body, and wearing a strap can help with this, providing the strap is tightened enough to bring the guitar in against your upper body.

Playing standing with a strap can really help to get the guitar in proper position.

When you look down at the guitar, you shouldn't be seeing the top of it, you should be seeing the side of it. Likewise, you shouldn't be seeing the fingerboard, but the side of the neck where the position dots are. If you need to tilt it slightly now and then to check the left hand position on the frets and chords, fine.

The end of the neck where the nut and tuning heads are should be at about eye level. This means the guitar is tilted up at that end to about a 45 degree angle.

If you're sitting, then you will need to rest the guitar either on a raised right knee by using a foot rest under the right foot or by crossing the right leg over the left leg. The true classical position, on the other hand, has the legs apart and the left leg on a raised foot rest and the guitar rests on both legs, but is raised at the left side.

Look up some videos on Youtube that show classical guitar technique. There are several.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: michaelr
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 08:46 PM

Leeneia - the classical position requires the left foot to be elevated, usually by a small folding metal footrest, about 4-5". This should keep the guitar from sliding off.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: John Hardly
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 08:52 PM

I have underlings who hold the strings down for me. Especially when I've just had my nails done.

....Oh capo-boy!


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,iancarterb
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 09:43 PM

I actually have read EVERY post to the thread and enjoyed them all. They seem to me all to be right. No question that classical technique is about minimizing the kind of repetetive motions that lead to carpal tunnel or aggravate (usually genetic, no hope) arthritis when one achieves 7 or 8 decades above the topsoil. It's good to remember that most Django style chord progressions DEMAND at least one excursion of the thumb to string 6 (of course he was working with a bit of extra trouble); Richie Havens consciously decided early in life to use open tunings and his thumb to achieve accompaniments to his BRILLIANT singing that he could not have achieved without many years further study, and he doesn't regret it yet, apparently; and it's great to be able to play fluently in R flat minor because you've honored all the advice of the classical instructor you had 45 years ago, because you get to play ALL NIGHT at open mics because so many people will ask you to play WITH them; they get 2 songs, you get to jam.:)
Carter


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 09:48 PM

Good hand positions and how to find them:

Sharon Isbin is an internationally famous concert artist along with being a classic guitar teacher at Juilliard. This video is 9 minutes and 47 seconds, and for about the first three minutes, the interviewer is asking her about her master classes at the Aspen Music Festival. But about 3 minutes into it, she gets into the nitty-gritty of hand positions, minimizing tension, and matters of tone-color and control.

Guitar Lesson.

You will also note how she is holding the guitar and how solidly it sits in place. This is the position I have always used when I play and sing. Sitting erectly in this manner also allows uninhibited breath control when you're singing.

This fellow has about the cleanest, most precise technique of any guitarist afloat:

John Williams playing a Bach lute suite.

By the way, class, I don't want to hear anyone say that they can't use a standard-width classical fingerboard because their hands are too small!

Watch this and tremble!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,iancarterb
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 09:54 PM

Don, you really know how to twist the knife!


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Don Firth
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 10:43 PM

Oooooh, yeah!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,MTed
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 11:08 PM

"It's good to remember that most Django style chord progressions DEMAND at least one excursion of the thumb to string 6 " How so?


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Don Firth
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 12:04 AM

I have watched many clips of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli playing together on the Classic Arts Showcase channel, and I've never seen him use his left thumb. I'm not saying that he didn't, but I've never seen him do it.

He was severely burned in a fire when he was 19 years old, almost lost a leg, and lost the use of the ring-finger and little finger of his left hand. He worked out a way to play rhythm guitar using just his first and second fingers. His method was to play the basic notes of a chord with his two good fingers (often not playing a complete chord), and position his hand in such a way that he dampened the strings that were not in the chord.

Jazz guitarists often do this damping thing, and I once had a jazz guitarist show me how this was done. Although he swept his pick across all six strings, his fingers were angled low over the strings so that the strings he didn't want were dampened, producing only a "fump" sound. Percussive rather than harmonic. In this position (the position I've seen Reinhardt use), it would be next to impossible to wrap his thumb around the neck to fret a bass string.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 01:02 AM

Rereading iancartb's first post, I suddenly realized that it is kind of nasty--maybe you don't see the value of improving you playing technique, and have no use for minor scales, but when you make fun of the people who do, you come off like the trailer trash kids back in school who made fun of the all the sissies who did their homework.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 01:12 AM

The master of that technique that you mentioned, Don, was Freddie Green, who played with Count Basie--he played what came to be called "One note chords" because only a single note would actually sound--


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 03:25 AM

I assume you mean the left hand fingers, Don.

If I am right many rock guitarists use exactly that method to play a two-finger root G chord - using the finger holding the bottom G to damp the A string.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 09:23 AM

"she gets into the nitty-gritty of hand positions, minimizing tension, and matters of tone-color and control."

Thanks for the link, Don. I could use some help with minimizing tension. I used to notice that the tips of my left-hand fingers were white from the pressure, yet I couldn't seem to lessen it. It's better now, but could be better yet.

I'll study the video carefully.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: MikeL2
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 09:48 AM

hi don

Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Don Firth - PM
Date: 14 Feb 10 - 09:48 PM

<" By the way, class, I don't want to hear anyone say that they can't use a standard-width classical fingerboard because their hands are too small!">

Blushes.......lol

Many thanks for the clips they are quite instructive. At the moment I don't propose buying a classical concert guitar, but I am practising trying to use the classical position on my steels ones.

I find at the moment my concentration range is about 5 minutes before I slide back into my old position that served me well for over 40 years. But I am up for the challenge just to see if I can get more flexibility into the left hand.

No promises though Teacher ....lol

Regards

MikeL2


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: meself
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 10:05 AM

("the trailer trash kids"

Now that sounds a little nasty to me. Okay, back to the discussion.)


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 10:52 AM

That Sharon Isbin video is very good.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 12:35 PM

As per the trailer trash kids--We had to walk past a trailer park on the way back from school and it wasn't uncommon to have rocks, snowballs, and taunts thrown. There were occasional physical confrontations, with books thrown into the mud, papers torn, and the odd punch, kick, and slap. Kids without books were exempt.

In later years, one of the then grown "kids" walked into a shop with a can of black enamel and poured it all over a woman who was wearing a white fur coat. He didn't know her, and he wasn't an animal rights activist. We didn't see him after that.

Curiously, years later, another of the"kids" showed up a few times at a jam session I frequented. He'd learned to play some guitar while in prison. CSN&Y stuff. We did a lot
of blues, though, and he didn't stick around.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: meself
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 12:54 PM

I believe you - but I find the term "trailer trash" as offensive as any racial epithet. Stereotyping, and all that ....


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 01:33 PM

There have always been confrontations between the "poor" kids and the "rich" kids (to express it another way). The poor kids suspect that the rich kids think they are "better than us", and they're probably right. They also figure the kids from higher up the class level are spoiled sissies. Underneath that percolates resentment about social and material inequality at a whole variety of levels, probably picked up from comments they've heard their parents make about "those people", and so it goes...


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Don Firth
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 03:51 PM

Left hand. Exactly so, Richard.

Leeneia, something that might help with the left-hand fingertip thing:   I started off with a steel string guitar, and also played a bit of 12-string before I switched to a classic nylon-string guitar. By then, because of the higher tension of the steel strings, especially the double-strings of the 12-string, my tendency was to really mash the strings into the fingerboard, much harder than was really necessary. Not only did this leave me with a tense left hand, I had a set of calluses like rocks. And the unnecessary tension, of course, inhibited left-hand agility and flexibility by quite a bit. I had to take some time to learn to lighten up my left hand.

I invented an exercise for myself. It consisted, first, of fretting a single note, starting by just touching the string, and, of course, I got a muffled "thub" sound. Then, I'd press a bit harder, picking the string with my right hand, until the tone became clear. It took surprisingly little pressure to fret the string and get a good, clear note. Then I started playing some scales, slowly, and keeping the fingers as light as I could, using only as much pressure as it took to get clear notes.

Once I got that down, I started doing the same thing with a couple of notes at a time, then chords. It took a few weeks, but my left hand felt a whole lot better (no more cramps in my palm), and especially my fingertips. And my left-hand speed and dexterity improved a lot.

Another little tip that I picked up from a classic guitar technique manual. Kitharologus, by Ricardo Iznaola. Some of the first technical exercises in this may seem ridiculously simple at first, but they're very basic, and good to warm up with. And it soon moves on to some real killers! Good technical exercise for any style of guitar playing.

Applying Iznaola's instructions for each exercise to learning such things as, say, Travis picking or any other folk technique (or entire classic guitar concert solos for that matter), you start by playing something at about half the speed it should go—or even slower—until you can play it smoothly and cleanly. Then, increase the speed a bit, making sure that you can still play it cleanly. Work on it at that speed until you can. Then a bit faster, then faster still.

BUT—not all in one session. Over a week or more. As long as necessary to get the result you want.

And the ultimate goal? To be able to play whatever it is about ten or twenty percent faster than it really should go. THEN—you can back off and play whatever it is at the speed it should be played, and it should come out clean and smooth—and with ease, because you've got some velocity in reserve.

I wish I had learned that simple but sensible approach years ago! I'd be a much better guitarist than I am now if I had.

If I live long enough, I may actually learn to play this thing!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 03:56 PM

We weren't any better off that they were-- we were neighbors, and had even been friends, but at a certain point, the kids from families that care about education go a different way than the others do, and that's where the conflict starts.

As to the "trailer trash" business, well, sorry you're offended, but in recent years, especially since the publication of White Trash Cooking, it, and related phrases have been embraced as a sort of positive identity. It is often done in humor, but with a certain amount of pride as well.

I ate the food, drank the beer, wore the clothes, played the music, but it wasn't who I was, or who I wanted to be.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Feb 10 - 04:45 PM

But I can still play "Free Bird"--


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: meself
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 09:19 AM

Thanks for the comments regarding nylon strings, etc., folks.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,Ian Gill
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 01:25 PM

My, there is a lot of 'stuff' on this thread. I am 'self taught' but have only been playing for 39 years so I have the 're-learning' experience to look forward to - perhaps. What I have found over the years is that the barre chords played 'properly' works pretty well playing electric in a six piece ceilidh band with two melodeons and sax/brass but for solo or duo/small acoustic work the thumb can come in handy as an extra fretting digit. I can think of some tunes I play in this context, for example 'Sidney Smith's March', where the descending bass line in the third part of the tune utilises the 'wrapover' thumb on both 4th and 5th strings - the 6th being already dropped to D. I can't really figure out another way of doing it. Ultimately, I suppose, you do what's right for you.
    Does anyone remember - on the theme of 'self-taught' - a book called 'Play Guitar' by someone called Dan Morgan ? I spent a lot of teenage time with that when I should have been going to parties!!


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Don Firth
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 02:36 PM

I got curious about Django Reinhardt. Considering that he became one of the world's foremost jazz guitarists with two of his left-hand fingers paralyzed, the logical thing for him to do would be to try to make the most of the digits he had left. And although it might throw his hand out of position for the most efficient use of his fingers, there could very well be occasions when the easiest way for him to do it would be to use his left thumb to fret a bass string.

As I said, I've seen a number of video clips of Reinhardt on the Classic Arts Showcase channel, but in none of them did I see him use his thumb. Just out of curiosity, I check YouTube, and lo! there he was. Unfortunately, most of the videos under Reinhardt's name were sound tracks of him playing under a still photo, or someone else with a perfectly good left hand playing Reinhardt's arrangement of something.

But there was one video showing Reinhardt himself. The quality is not good because in a lot of it, there's a dark shadow on his fingerboard, yet it's absolutely fascinating to see (and hear) what he can do with those two functional fingers.

One of his backup guitarists (big oval-ish soundhole--the soundhole on Reinhardt's guitar is small) uses his left thumb a lot. At a couple of points, Reinhardt reaches over onto the basses and catches the sixth string with his second finger.

But--further along, a couple times he clearly flicks his thumb up to catch the sixth string!

Watch for the thumb!

Ah HA!!

So, iancarterb, you are indeed right!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 03:22 PM

It really is a shame that we humans aren't quadridextrous like my friend Chongo, isn't it? Just think what we could do.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 16 Feb 10 - 04:36 PM

What iancarterb said was,"It's good to remember that most Django style chord progressions DEMAND at least one excursion of the thumb to string 6"--and, though sometimes Joseph Reinhart does use the thumb, it isn't necessary to use it to play the chord.

Here is Joseph Reinhart plays Nuages from 1978. Though he is seldom discussed, as is demonstrated here, he was just as good a soloist as his brother. Check the guy playing rhythm, and you can see that his thumb is up there sometimes, too. He does use it to fret the 6th string a couple times, but it also seems to just rest the thumb up there, as well.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 02:09 PM

In case you're still interested in suggestions, you might try concentrating on playing melodies for awhile. This is something I've practiced a lot in the last couple of years and I think my playing has improved as a result. It's much easier to relax your hand if you're not playing chords. You could throw in some chords, too, if you like, perhaps higher voicings on just three or four strings.

The wide neck of a classical guitar takes some getting used to, but I think it's worth it. On the rare occasions that I get to play a steel-string or an electric guitar, I find I have to get used to having less room to manouver with my right hand.

I never fret with my thumb and have medium-sized hands. I don't think there's anything wrong with this technique, if one is happy with it. I avoid playing anything that feels uncomfortable. There's no reason ever to do so.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 02:30 PM

There's no reason ever to do so.

There are some lovely chords which just can't be played without fretting with the thumb. For example a G on third fret using an E shape, but with the G string left open. (Strictly speaking that's a dyad rather than a chord, since it's only got two notes, the G and the D.)


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 04:14 PM

Do you mean this:

T-M-I-0-I-I
3-5-5-0-3-3

G-D-G-G-d-g

If so, I think it can be played
like this:

I-x-0-0-R-P
3-x-0-0-3-3

G-x-D-G-d-g


It's true that you lose a G, but that note is a
double, and you've got the G below and
above as well, so it can be spared.

You gain an open D, instead of a fretted
one, which, to my ear, rings better, for folk music, anyway.

Even so, Piers Plowman wasn't disparaging the use of the thumb--he said this " I never fret with my thumb and have medium-sized hands. I don't think there's anything wrong with this technique, if one is happy with it. I avoid playing anything that feels uncomfortable. There's no reason ever to do so."


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: PoppaGator
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 04:29 PM

I don't know about Django, but certainly many of Rev Gary Davis's arrangements require the use of the left thumb on the bass string.

And, since the Rev gave personal lessons to so many young New Yorkers during the 60s Folk Boom (including Stephan Grossman), a lot of the available folk-guitar instruction materials (books in the old days, tapes and videos today) promote this "anti-classical" technique.

I can make barre chords, which of course demand "proper" positioning of the left thumb, but I mostly play with the thumb wrapped arounad the neck, even when not actually fretting with it.

One of the chords/positions that I used to be able to handle, but can't use effectively any more due to arthritis, is the "long A" (003335) that requires the classical thumb position and can be at least as difficult as any barre chord, if not moreso. (For me personally, definitely moreso.) I can play the chord itself, with a bit of effort and pain, but can no longer play any additional notes or "runs," bass or treble, while holding it. This has all but eliminated some pieces from my repertoire (MJH's key-of-D "Stack O Lee" and "CC Rider," for two, plus of course the devilishly tricky key-of-A "Candyman"). I do not harbor any illusitons about bettering my technique enough to resume the ability to play some of that stuff. I'm just getting old, and have to pick and choose my battles.

I think the capo is OK, and even necessary, for folk-style guitar in general. Some songs and even some genres demand the open-string ringing of certain first-position chord inversions. Playing "Freight Train" with the capo on the first fret simply cannot be duplicated effectively by trying to play in C# without the capo.

For my money, the capo is undesirable as a "crutch" only if the player is unable to play in any key except one or maybe two. If you can play in A, C, D, E, and G (plus their relative minors), that should be enough. Use the capo for the trickier keys, and also for effect; for example, you might want key-of-C chord-shape sounds, but might need to sing that particular song in a higher key (e.g., E). In this case, capoing up 5 frets and using the C chord-shapes might be preferable to playing in straight-up E major, because of the differences in chord voicings and available licks and runs involving open strings.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 04:50 PM

Easy enough to lift a finger and play that open D as well, as well as the fretted one, with that one I gave, and that's a lovely sound too.

My point is just that we shouldn't close off any options. There's stuff you can't play without thumbing the bass string, and there's stuff you can't play unless you adopt the classical position. Either/or is trumped by both/and.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 08:48 PM

It seems to me that it's really about reducing the options to the ones that enable you to do what you want to do. I don't really care whether anyone uses a thumb or not. I don't usually do it, because I've found other and, for my way of playing, better ways--even the Gary Davis stuff often can be often be done in another way.

Incidentally, a thousand "thank yous" to Don for posting the Django clip--I love the few   unaccompanied measures that he played   more than anything of his I've ever heard, and
I'd never quite understood how he did what he did with only two fingers. Now I've seen it, and it all seems so simple!


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 07:44 AM

Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: M.Ted - PM
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 04:14 PM

'Even so, Piers Plowman wasn't disparaging the use of the thumb--he said this " I never fret with my thumb and have medium-sized hands. I don't think there's anything wrong with this technique, if one is happy with it. I avoid playing anything that feels uncomfortable. There's no reason ever to do so."'

Yes, what I meant was that there's never any reason to play anything that feels uncomfortable. I don't think there's anything whatsoever wrong with using the thumb to fret. However, I think a person who finds it painful or difficult would be well advised to find some other way of playing what he or she is trying to play. Especially in folk and popular music, there is no one single right way to play anything.

I often use a capo to play in "flat" keys. I agree that there's nothing wrong with it unless it's being used as a crutch, and then only if a person really wants to learn to play the guitar better and finds its holding him or her back.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: s&r
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 07:48 AM

Long A 002225. Just being picky (G)

Stu


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 08:19 AM

I find that my runs sound better when I play them using single notes.
I do often play chord melodies, fingerpick, etc., but I've been playing more single-note runs lately. One reason was because I had to find a different way to play because of pain in my hands, but it's opened up new possibilities for me musically.

Single-note melodies can sound very thin on a guitar (especially a classical guitar), so I think a lot of guitarists tend to do other things to "fill up" the sound. Playing melodies is also not that easy, so it's very tempting to fall back into doing one's "beef stew", i.e., the stuff one can do in one's sleep and superficially seems impressive. I'm judging from my own experience here.

It's amazing what one can learn from practicing. I used to pick using patterns and was very frustrated because I couldn't seem to make the leap to shifting between patterns, mixing in bass and melody runs, and so on, i.e., playing freely. Eventually, I stopped expecting that I would be able to do it. Then, gradually, it started to happen.

What really helped me was playing chord melodies and working on playing by ear. However, all the barre chords, scales and arpeggios I practiced in the past helped, too. It's all grist for the mill.

Chord melodies are good for learning to play all over the neck. Up in the upper register, one usually plays on the top four strings only. Very good for reducing pain in one's hands.

It helps a lot to just mix in some single-note lines or thin chord voicings to relax the left hand. I used to play bar after bar of full voicings using barre chords --- can't do that anymore. It doesn't really suit the kind of music I play now, anyway. Just a short bass run can be enough.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 08:33 AM

Oh, yes. I forgot to say that starting to play wind instruments has affected the way I play the guitar. With wind instruments (excepting accordions, organs, melodicas, etc.), you can only play one note at a time. (Okay, this isn't quite true of the harmonicas, but it's the way I usually play them.) I had never really played this way because of the aforementioned thinness of the sound on a guitar when one does this. This applies to the piano, too, which was my first instrument.

Playing wind instruments has made me realize what one can do with a melody (and a rhythm, of course) and I try to apply this to the guitar. Of course, it does sound thin, if there' no accompaniment at all, but I do play melodies by themselves more than I used to. I find they're much clearer if not buried by the accompaniment.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: GUEST,Stephen Smith
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 10:39 AM

Little Hawk: It sounds to me like you have carpal tunnel syndrome. It really doesn't have much to do with the way you grip the neck, although proper grip might ease the pain a little bit.

It causes the hands to go to sleep. Wearing gloves at night, taking antiinflammatories can help.

In the end, surgery's probably the only answer. I haven't had the surgery yet but that day will probably come.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 11:55 AM

No, it's just the positioning of the index finger that is the question. You see, if I play the old way with the thumb wrapped up the side of the neck, then I am forced to place my fingers leaning at sideways somewhat of an angle when I make various chords with them.

This causes the index finger to engage the fingerboard leaning...which is a structurally weaker position than engaging the fingerboard straight on...as I can do when my thumb is in "classical" position, because it gives my fingers more reach.

When I play in classical position, the index finger does not hurt at all, because it's not leaning over at an angle, therefore it's not stressing the first knuckle (which is where it hurts when I don't play in classical position).

A simple matter of geometry. Your fingers work better pressing   straight down on something than they do leaning to one side and pressing down on the same thing. This would also be true of a pair of plyers or any kind of gripping or pressing tool. You lose strength if you don't grip or press in a balanced way...and that's what classical position is all about...equally balancing the stresses on the hand and fingers.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 03:38 PM

Piers Plowman:    "Single-note melodies can sound very thin on a guitar (especially a classical guitar). . . ."

It's kind of amazing how full a classic guitar (or any guitar, for that matter) can sound if, while playing a single-note melody line, you toss in an occasional bass note from time to time, say once a measure or so. Lots of Fernando Sor's earlier studies consist of little more than a melody line with occasional bass notes. They're easy to play, but they sound like real music. They are real music. If you can play your way through the 120 or so studies Sor wrote, from the easiest to the fingerbusters, you'll have a pretty good command of the guitar.

While cruising through a classic guitar forum, I ran across someone who posted under the name "Sor Fingers."

That's bloody brilliant! I wish I'd thought of that!!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 03:49 PM

there's never any reason to play anything that feels uncomfortable. In a sense that's true, in some performing situation. But everything you play on a guitar is uncomfortable to start with.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 06:27 AM

Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: McGrath of Harlow - PM
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 03:49 PM

"'there's never any reason to play anything that feels uncomfortable.' In a sense that's true, in some performing situation. But everything you play on a guitar is uncomfortable to start with."

That hasn't been my experience. Thinking back, some of it was unaccustomed, but not uncomfortable, except avoidable things like playing a steel-string for too long before my calluses built up. I meant things like stretches that are too long or playing lots of barre chords one after the other without a break.

When people play from written music, I think they often have a tendency to think they _have_ to play things exactly as written, even if the music isn't suited to their hands or is just plain too difficult.

I have a book of lute music by Bach arranged for the guitar. A few years ago, it was too hard for me. In the meantime, I've practiced other things (as described above) and a few months ago I gave it another try and now no longer find it difficult. I also have a much better idea of what's possible and not possible and what can be changed or left out, if necessary.

I think if one has to strain to play something, it's not going to sound good. That doesn't mean one shouldn't practice things that are difficult, but not to the point of it being painful.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 07:19 AM

Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Don Firth - PM
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 03:38 PM

"They are real music. If you can play your way through the 120 or so studies Sor wrote, from the easiest to the fingerbusters, you'll have a pretty good command of the guitar."

Not contradicting what you say, but I've found that in "traditional" music teaching there's a tendency to have students play etudes blindly, i.e., just playing the notes without paying attention to what they are and their relationships. This is how it was for me with piano lessons. I think this is nearly a complete waste of time.

I know there lots of musicians out there who can read music well, even sight-read well, and yet have no idea how to play a simple accompaniment. Without written music in front of them, or that they've memorized previously, they can't play. I think this is sad and a sign that something has gone badly wrong with music teaching in our society.

Yesterday I gave a piano lesson and I got started teaching my student (8-years-old) about playing a simple accompaniment in the left hand, tonic - chord - dominant - chord, e.g., G (single bass note) - G major triad - D (single bass note) - G maj. triad. She changed it so she played the bass notes with the left hand and the chords in the right hand, but it was a start. We went through all 5 chords in a simple song. It's sometimes hard going with her, but this seemed to capture her interest and I think she saw the use of it.

I've been trying to teach her (and her 6-year-old sister) the intervals, i.e. "What is the fifth of D?, what is the third of F?", etc., and how to play the major scales without "running out of fingers" or "having too many fingers".

Of course, I want them to learn to read music as well, but just reading isn't enough.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 01:29 PM

Piers Plowman, I agree wholeheartedly. This, of course, depends a great deal on the teacher. Or, if working alone, on the student who is teaching him/herself.

When I decided to change my major at the university to music, I don't know how many of my "folky" friends were horrified. "Oh, they'll teach you a lot of rules, and you'll never be able to play folk music!"

Ignorance. What I learned was how everything fits together, and it opened a lot of mental (musical) doors that I would never have known were there otherwise. Rather than restricting me with a bunch of arbitrary rules, it opened a whole wide field of what is possible. What musicians over the centuries have discovered works, and what doesn't. And why something either works or doesn't.

In first year theory, especially in writing four-part exercises, there are a lot rules. But as the prof told us, the reason we learn the rules first is so that, when we break them later on, we know why we are breaking them.

And music theory applies to any kind of music, folk, classical, pop, jazz. And it even helps one to understand what's going on in music from different cultures.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: DonMeixner
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 02:08 PM

I am continually looking for ways to rehab my reattached fingers. I am looking for left hand finger excersises that I can do. Always willing to learn.

Don


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 02:58 AM

Don Firth, I agree. Learning more is always an advantage and never a disadvantage. I've always found music theory to be very satisfying and interesting in itself, apart from its usefulness for playing. My problem was always that my playing always lagged behind my knowledge of music. Now I'm pushing 50 but it's starting to catch up. Better late than never. The breakthrough for me was finally sitting down and trying to learn to play by ear: something that was definitely discouraged in the music teaching I received as a child.

Don Meixner, I recommend the major scales all over the guitar, on single strings and in all the positions (that you can play comfortably). The major scales are, in my opinion, the most important exercise of all and I go back to them very frequently. I have more to say on the subject, but the (virtual) whistle is about to blow and I have to start work.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 23 Feb 10 - 07:27 AM

I've found that qi gong balls are good for the pain in my fingers. I strongly prefer the stone ones to the ones made out of metal with bells inside. Another thing I've used is a plastic football (American football, not a soccer ball) stuffed with styrofoam for squeezing. A rather boring exercise, only slightly livened up by tossing the ball into the air and catching it in different ways. I haven't been doing either of these things very much lately, but I should start again. Downstairs neighbours tend not to like the sound of stone qi gong balls dropping onto the floor, though.

I also find that playing different instruments helps to spread the strain around so that it remains bearable. I have a brace with a metal splint which is supposed to keep my left wrist from moving when I sleep. I'd stopped using it because it made my left thumb hurt, but I've started using it again because of pain in my left wrist. I suspect that holding the trumpet is the cause of this.

I'm at the point where I mostly need to take pain-relievers if I want to play the guitar. It doesn't help that I have to type a lot for my work. I try to type without using my index fingers.

I'm not really a big fan of musical exercises. I think the best "exercise" is usually to do the thing itself, e.g., to play music. If you run into something difficult, then that can be your exercise.

Like I said, I consider major scales to be important. You really get two scales for the price of one, because if you start from the sixth, you've got the relative minor. If you like modes, it's even more of a bargain.

Otherwise, arpeggios are an excellent "exercise", as are chord melodies. If you have pain in your hands and/or limited movement, you could try to find voicings that are comfortable to play. This will also help a lot to learn what the individual notes are in the chord shapes. I'm sure a lot of guitarists have a rather hazy idea of this --- I know I did. Playing chord melodies has helped me with this a lot.

If my problems with my hands were worse, I'd probably use the capo more and look more into "non-standard" tunings for the sake of having open strings that are convenient for whatever piece I'm playing.

Slide guitar (or pedal steel) might also be something to look into. If I had the money, I'd go out and buy a guitar that I could set up just for playing slide. I have a slide, but it doesn't work very well on the flat fingerboard of a classical guitar.

I hope this is helpful.


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Subject: RE: Re-learning left hand technique
From: Little Hawk
Date: 25 Feb 10 - 11:52 AM

Interesting stuff, Piers. I have some of those Qi Gong balls here (both a set of stone ones, and a set of metal ones with the bells inside). I hadn't been using them lately, but maybe I'll get back into it to help strengthen and relax my hands.


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