Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

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Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by a guitar player » Fri Sep 21, 2018 10:49 am

I'm beginner and currently studying technique using Stanley Yates' books. During the left hand exercises, I asked myself:

Is it a good idea to train yourself to, by default, always place the left fingers so that you don't touch any neighbouring strings?

In other words: Should you always take care to not touch neighbouring strings, even if muting them wouldn't be a problem because there is currently no note sounding on them?

I'm not sure if this is a good habit or if it is too inflexible. Maybe it's better to only avoid touching other strings when it's really needed?

In case it isn't clear my question does not concern
- cases where you deliberately want to mute a neighbouring string
- cases where you cannot mute neighbouring strings because a note needs to sound on them
- full or partial barrés
In these cases, the best course of action is clear.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Richwilly

Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by Richwilly » Fri Sep 21, 2018 12:43 pm

Yes, it is a very good idea. In fact it is one of the basic fundamentals of technique.

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Randy Johnson
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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by Randy Johnson » Fri Sep 21, 2018 1:06 pm

Yes I think it is bad technique to touch the other strings and you should train yourself (by default) not to touch them.

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Tomzooki
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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by Tomzooki » Fri Sep 21, 2018 2:40 pm

While doing LH exercices I agree that we should avoid touching unplayed strings, after all it is one of the issues we work when doing those exercice, but if we are talking about playing a piece or working on a piece I strongly disagree, because it can induce a lot tensions and muscular work, and loss of energy, absolutely for nothing. Exercices are there to develop the skill of avoiding unplayed strings contact, so that while playing pieces we are able to efficiently avoid to damp ringing strings, but pieces are there to be played, and unnessary physical work and stress can hinder musical expression, LH may get tired sooner, and it can even provoque tendonitis or other wounds
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Jack Douglas
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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by Jack Douglas » Fri Sep 21, 2018 2:51 pm

No. Why add unnecessary stress to the left hand.
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a guitar player
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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by a guitar player » Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:53 pm

Thanks for the input. Grossly simplifying, so far the answers seem to be 50/50 in favor versus against.

The point you're making, Tomzooki and Jack Douglas, are similar to my own thought process. It seems like allowing your fingers to "slack off" a bit and touch the other strings when it's no problem might make for a more relaxed playing experience, allowing you to focus on other things.

On the other hand, maybe with enough technical training, you could achieve a relaxed enough position even while keeping up the "ideal form" all the time (as Richwilly and Randy Johnson seem to advocate). That could in return simplify some other things, because now you don't need to anticipate / remember whether it's okay to mute another string or not.

I'm still undecided. So far, I've been playing with the "touch anything as long as it doesn't mute anything important" approach myself, but mainly because that seems to be the natural beginner's playing style when you're struggling to even fret the correct notes ;)

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guitareleven
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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by guitareleven » Fri Sep 21, 2018 8:44 pm

The placement you describe is emphasized in early instruction, because it often is necessary to leave adjacent strings clear, and because it is an exacting placement demanding assiduous care, which has to be internalized as an autonomous response through training, whereas a less than vertical approach in which there is or may be contact with (upper) adjacent strings is a more lax and intuitive approach.

But the this doesn't mean that one ultimately must rigorously adhere at all times to this application. The assiduous care it takes to maintain this approach can then be generalized into the assiduous care it takes to depart from the approach when it may be better to do so for a variety of reasons.

The following is a paragraph extracted from a much longer post I submitted to another forum many years ago, in response to a some steel-string fingerstyle guitarists who had been collectively targeting classical technique as somehow counterproductive to improvisational ability, which untenable thesis was to some extent attached to a view of classical as so burdensomely ritualized, that as a class, classical guitarists are unable to essay various technical devices in efficient fashion, or even with out actually injuring themselves.

The particular device addressed in the passage from which this paragraph is extracted was string bends, but as it pertained to fingertip approach, it can be cited here. The tone is somewhat disputatious, because that's the direction that the discussion thread had taken, but just so you know, it all ended amicably-- I think.
=====================

"....As for the finger position itself, the suggestion that a classical guitarist would not know how to position the tip of the finger for a bend is utter nonsense, and is tantamount to an imputation of idiocy to the entire class. "R---" may perhaps have been exposed to or been told of a pedagogical preference of some particular teacher to instruct one with absolutely no experience during the very first lessons to take care that the finger tip be held vertically in pressing down on a string, but it is sheer inanity to impute to the entirety of classical practice that this as an idealized "perfection" which is then artificially all-pervasive to everything a classical guitarist tries to do. As is practical in no matter what style one plays, the fingertip naturally can, and must assume a variety of attitudes, varying in accordance to the task at hand; with whether muting of adjacent strings is to be averted, is benign, or is deliberately employed; in furtherance of any lateral or longitudinal reaches; in preparation for a downward slur taking into account the extent of outward reach and the combinant effect of other simultaneous actions; lateral vibrato; and yes, in contemporary literature, bends. I know this because I do this. I use the same technique when playing steel as I do on nylon, and have never incurred tendonitis, even when playing straight through every day and into the evening at three and four day outdoor festivals. I know this because of colleagues and others who do the same. The monstrous mis-match that has been posited between classical technique and this particular device or the genre at large with which it is associated is entirely a myth. ..."

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Tom Poore
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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by Tom Poore » Fri Sep 21, 2018 11:38 pm

Yes, you should be able to place a left hand finger on a string so that it doesn’t touch adjacent strings. That’s absolutely necessary at times. But there are times when you want a left hand finger to touch an adjacent string. It’s a common way to damp unwanted notes. For example, during a descending scale across strings, it’s common to damp an open string by leaning a left hand finger against it—this easily stops an open string from ringing against the next note in the scale.

Like all pedagogical proscriptions, everything varies by circumstance. Most rules have exceptions.

Tom Poore
South Euclid, OH
USA

prawnheed

Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by prawnheed » Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:04 am

You should be able to do so when needed, but take a look at the left hand of Julian Bream and you will see that he certainly doesn’t always. He is certainly an above average player.

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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by a guitar player » Sun Sep 23, 2018 10:51 am

It seems like most people argue that it should not be an "always on" habit.

Exercising it as technical training makes sense of course, even if only for the cases where you definitely need to sound notes on both adjacent strings. I've found that a decent exercise for this is playing any 1-2-3-4 alternation on a single string while intermediately plucking the neighbouring string(s). That makes it very clear if you're accidently muting or buzzing the other strings. I'm sure there's lots of other exercises for this topic too.

In the future when playing non-exercises, I guess I'll experiment a bit with how lax I will approach this, but won't feel too bad if I play it the way I currently am. Thanks for all of your replies.

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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by DCGillrich » Sun Sep 23, 2018 11:06 am

I recommend you look at the instructional video on this subject by Kevin Gallagher (see link below). It has some great advice on this topic, which he often reinforces in his online teaching (I have had a few lessons with Kevin). Cheers... Richard


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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by 2lost2find » Sun Sep 23, 2018 1:41 pm

Sometimes you want to touch an adjacent string because you don't want it to sound. I encourage all students of guitar regardless of genre to take a stab at playing a loud electric guitar with distortion... that's how you really learn to control sympathetic resonance! Electric guitar player get very good very early at varying finger angle depending on requirements, and that's what's needed. Instead of focusing on one or the other learn to get what you want. We had this same basic conversation in another thread about killing bass notes with the right hand to honor rests. Somebody said it was more bother than it's worth because it sounded fine with the notes sustaining, but that's not even the point. The point is being able to get what you want at all times.

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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by guit-box » Sun Sep 23, 2018 6:16 pm

a guitar player wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 10:49 am
I'm beginner and currently studying technique using Stanley Yates' books. During the left hand exercises, I asked myself:

Is it a good idea to train yourself to, by default, always place the left fingers so that you don't touch any neighbouring strings?

In other words: Should you always take care to not touch neighbouring strings, even if muting them wouldn't be a problem because there is currently no note sounding on them?

I'm not sure if this is a good habit or if it is too inflexible. Maybe it's better to only avoid touching other strings when it's really needed?

In case it isn't clear my question does not concern
- cases where you deliberately want to mute a neighbouring string
- cases where you cannot mute neighbouring strings because a note needs to sound on them
- full or partial barrés
In these cases, the best course of action is clear.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

a guitar player
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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by a guitar player » Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:07 pm

DCGillrich wrote:
Sun Sep 23, 2018 11:06 am
I recommend you look at the instructional video on this subject by Kevin Gallagher (see link below). It has some great advice on this topic, which he often reinforces in his online teaching (I have had a few lessons with Kevin). Cheers... Richard

Thank you for posting this video! It answers my question very comprehensively.

This quote from the PDF with lesson material sums it up:
Kevin Gallagher wrote: Trying to play on the tips of the fingers at all times creates unnecessary strain on the wrist and difficulty in the technique.
The general rule of thumb is this - if you need an adjacent string to vibrate, play more on the tips, but if you don’t need an adjacent string to vibrate, allow the finger to rest on the adjacent string.
Resting your fingers on on nonvibrating strings is as much part of good technique as is playing on the tips.
In the video, Kevin also gives examples where unnecessarily playing on your finger tips (avoiding to touch neighbouring strings) makes for bad technique.

richay
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Re: Should you always place left fingers "perfectly" between other strings?

Post by richay » Mon Sep 24, 2018 12:24 am

a guitar player wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 10:49 am
I'm beginner and currently studying technique using Stanley Yates' books. During the left hand exercises, I asked myself:

Is it a good idea to train yourself to, by default, always place the left fingers so that you don't touch any neighbouring strings?

In other words: Should you always take care to not touch neighbouring strings, even if muting them wouldn't be a problem because there is currently no note sounding on them?

I'm not sure if this is a good habit or if it is too inflexible. Maybe it's better to only avoid touching other strings when it's really needed?

In case it isn't clear my question does not concern
- cases where you deliberately want to mute a neighbouring string
- cases where you cannot mute neighbouring strings because a note needs to sound on them
- full or partial barrés
In these cases, the best course of action is clear.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
absolutely, it is a must. most beginners i know refuse to even do so, so its great that you asked. there are a bunch of great pdfs from the pebberbrown website with great left hand excersises for great technique. even as a more experiencd guitar player i still refer back to them.

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