To Look or Not to Look at your LH - that is the question

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To Look or Not to Look at your LH - that is the question

Post by Carl » Wed Jun 20, 2007 3:36 pm

I am a beginner to CG and I have been trying to learn by reading/playing the music and not looking at my LH or RH.

This seems like a good way to go but thought it would be good to get other's views also?

So far everything is single notes but soon I will be getting to chords soon.

Guitar Slim

Post by Guitar Slim » Wed Jun 20, 2007 4:03 pm

Just a couple of points -- first, most professional CGers that I've seen watch their left hands at least a portion of the time, so it can't be that big a sin. That's not to say that, eventually, you shouldn't know the fretboard well enough to find your way around without having your eyes glued to the neck. But it's just not that big a deal.

And it doesn't need to interfere with sight reading, either. Just keep the music stand off to the left a bit so you can see the music and the left hand at the same time (It also keeps the stand from blocking the sound of the guitar!)

Finally, if and when you start working on the fine points of LH technique, you need to watch the left hand to make sure you're getting it right!

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Post by owl » Wed Jun 20, 2007 4:28 pm

Carl, if you do a search you will find this has been covered in detail.
Hre are a couple of threads to start you off.

viewtopic.php?t=13997&postdays=0&postor ... nd&start=0

viewtopic.php?t=10982&postdays=0&postor ... nd&start=0

I think the question is subjective as beginners NEED to sometimes look at their LH... advanced players shouldn't NEED to do this but most do... particularly in a performance situation.
Generally you don't have a music stand and it's just somewhere to focus your gaze... I know I do it but I don't actually SEE my LH... I just start out by looking in that direction.

Never, ever give up!... I leave my songprint on your heart.


Post by MickeyD » Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:05 pm

Thanks for the helpful links, Owl.


Post by ronnywiesauer » Fri Jun 29, 2007 11:30 pm

there is no question: for sure you look at right or left hand while playing...especialy with big jumps: you visualize the fret you are going to land...look at differetn players and see how they move the head just before they move the left hand...

playing without looking comes while time goes on...for sure not when you are a beginner oder you start learning a new piece...

so just look ahead, ronny

p.s. for eg. take a look at my video of paganinis caoprice no 16... i postet on youtube (in " our favorite websites" you will find the link.... there are many jumps, that will proof my theory)

p.p.s the reason why to look more at the left hand than at the right is quite simple...right hand is much easier (6 strings with a combination of 4 finger....left hand 6 strings 4 fingers and 22´s a mathematical thing....with right hand you always have one point where the finger touches the strings....with left hand you have several points how to press the string.... i hope i could explain what i mean...)


Post by Rick714 » Sun Jul 01, 2007 3:45 am

I don't know if you are familiar with Jamie Andreas. I'm paraphrasing, but she writes that if you don't look at your fingers, you won't know what they're doing. You don't necessarily want to look like your studying your fingers when performing for people, but in the practice/learning process, I think it's actually quite an essential thing to do.


Post by MickeyD » Sun Jul 01, 2007 7:25 am

Well as Yogi Berra put it, "you can see a lot just by watching."
if you don't look at your fingers, you won't know what they're doing.
I not sure I completely agree that looking at the left hand is a good idea, especially when learning new pieces. It´s probably best when playing from memory a piece you already know.

I never look at my fingers when I type and I can type pretty fast. The hands have pretty sensitive nerves. There's also such a thing as "tactile memory."

I found this at ... zing+music

"Tactile is the memory system through which we can feel the music by fingering the instrument. You can remember how a passage feels and you can reach for it. Through this system you can recognize familiar patterns such as scales and arpeggios."


Post by ronnywiesauer » Sun Jul 01, 2007 11:10 am


i just want to repeat myself... ALL good players look at there hands while playing in order to minimize the chance of a mistake...(if they close eyes they do it for increasing concentration)

so just use all senses for playing guitar, we need them:-)

cheers ronny

(i´ve heard that in the brain the place of the memorization of tast is next to the place for memorizing movements, so who knows, if it doesnt affect our playing...)


Post by JoeO » Sun Jul 01, 2007 4:01 pm

Well I look. If the piece is new; I look a lot from score to hand. As I become more comfortable I stop looking, except for those long jumps, but keep reading the music. After memorizing I allways look my hand into position.

I am just a beginner, so who knows, it may change. But every book I have read about learning to play the Classical Guitar, that to develope good technique of the left hand, look the hand into proper position, next to the fret, in an upright position, with the thumb well behind the neck, etc.

This I imagine is one of the reasons that a beginner's piece is short and repetitive; so one can memorize it faster, and look at his/her hands.


Post by fifty-five » Sun Jul 01, 2007 9:50 pm

I am surprised by the division in opinions about eyeing LH movements in general.

Given a choice to sit in a classroom we would sit in the most comfortable place from the point of view of our learning system. So I think that whether we are beginners or advanced is of no relevance at all.

The question is whether our eyes are helpers or retarders in the process of gaining proficiency. It may be the case that some students need eyes the least of all other ways they use, yet it would be risky to state that they may not need them at all.

I suggest taking a very simple test of collecting a few different chairs in one room and spending some time trying to sit comfortably with closed eyes on each of them. And if that does not give an adequate physical contact, then
I suggest taking a sit in a loo with closed eyes before a performance :wink: .


Post by Azalais » Sun Jul 01, 2007 10:28 pm

All I can say is that if trying to "look" puts your hands, wrist, arms, shoulders and back in a position that detracts from your playing comfort... it can REALLY cause physical damage... I have back problems (and also wear contact lens that don't focus as well at very close range) so I play in a relaxed balanced, untwisted position, with the face of the guitar aimed at the imaginary audience instead of at the ceiling) I can't actually see my LH at all... I have little blobs of office correction fluid (white-out) painted on the side of the neck that I can see in my peripheral vision while still looking at the music... With practice, I learned the fretboard by touch only (many different sizes in fact, from 433mm-670mm) I occasionally glance at the dots to gage a long jump, but otherwise never look.

I visualize a mental map of the frets and nodes where the strings cross them. I do sometimes wonder if not visualizing my fingers may have deprived me of a possible "memory aid"... but I will say that when I started playing the lute with 25 strings... I knew that looking down at all of those strings caused mild PANIC and total visual disorientation! (double vision x25) :shock: Learning by touch was much easier! The only time I ever get lost reading is when I try to look (and then find my place again).... :oops: Maybe in another ten years I have the nerve to try playing from memory... but for now I'll stick to playing and reading without looking at my hands... at least I'm sitting comfortably, and don't get lost, which have a far bigger impact on my playing!


Post by fifty-five » Mon Jul 02, 2007 12:30 pm

So Azalais plays music looking at the music.
This is so much different from playing from memory and I can understand her point except for two things: the one regarding the position, and another one regarding wearing contact lenses.
I wear contact lenses as well and the problem of farsightedness in as close distance as the neck of the CG is familiar to me. Wearing softer lenses may help in this case. On the other hand optical glasses introduce aberrations at large angles and they could be even worse.
Azalais mentions peripheral vision and I think this is one of the crucial aspects of memory, speed and smoothness. One may not pay much attention to it as the picture is pretty blurred by definition but the eyes are extremely sensitive to movements taking place not in focus but peripherally. It may be one of the not much studied problems of music performance, playing a great role for advanced players and not so for beginners. My impression is that a lot of discussion concentrates on a proper position, things related to our muscle system, and very little in comparison to the head and its commanding role in performance.
The problem could be for instance to determine whether we react to pictures (movements) faster than to sounds and what a difference it makes in playing CG.
It seems that the control of LH is entirely different than the control of RH.
I have not noticed that I need to visualize RH movements at all. Whereas LH movements most certainly yes.
Last edited by fifty-five on Mon Jul 02, 2007 12:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by owl » Mon Jul 02, 2007 12:36 pm

fifty-five wrote:So Azalais plays music looking at the music.
This is so much different from playing from memory and I can understand his point
LOL It would be more appropriate to say HER point!

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Post by Vito Simplicio » Mon Jul 02, 2007 1:49 pm

Wouldn't it be awfully strange to have a CGist playing to the audience looking at them the whole time with a big smile on his/her face?



Post by wianno » Mon Jul 02, 2007 2:09 pm


In his excellent method book "Solo Guitar Playing I", Frederick Noad establishes two rues for the beginning guitar player.

1. Learn to count as you read.

2. Keep your eyes on the music, and do not look back at your left hand.

If you learn proper left hand fingering by feel, it will have a profound, positive, effect on your playing, though, believe me, the going will be rough at first. And yes, you will have to peek.


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