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

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Post by JoeO » Mon Jul 02, 2007 2:28 pm

wianno wrote:Carl,

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.

Yes and later in the book he says:

"To play a piece with complete accuracy and confidence it is amlost essential to to comit it to memory. This enables you to watch your left hand and check that the fingers are right up to the frets. It also prevents any division of concertration between the score and the instruments."

So we should be able to read the music and play at a reasonable level, but to play it well ya gotta look.

I've seen basicaly the same thing written by Segovia, and Parkington, that is good enough for me.


Post by Bentkey » Mon Jul 02, 2007 2:29 pm

Well I've gotten a lot of mileage out of looking at where a difficult set of fingerings should land, and then seeing that they land just there. Once a passage is learned, yeah I can pretty much close my eyes and make it happen automatically. But learning? I think accuracy is best built by looking.

Richard Jernigan

Post by Richard Jernigan » Thu Jul 05, 2007 9:05 am

Clearly, people differ in their approach. What I relate here is personal experience.

When working for speed or on a difficult formation or jump, I find that closing my eyes and concentrating on the feel helps greatly. The sense of touch is a far better gauge of how close you are to the frets than are the eyes. Concentrating on the feeling of the left hand diagnoses excessive tension far more readily than the eyes can. Learning to feel the jump is what a trombone player does--he has no fret markers. He has no frets! They say they develop "notches in their arms."

Admittedly the trombone player's right hand and arm have simpler tasks than the guitarist's left.

In fact, people rely so much upon the eyes in every day tasks that I think having them open is a distraction from the kinesthetic sense, touch and listening. One well known guitarist has an utterly reliable technique and a very expressive sound. He plays in public with his eyes closed much of the time.

I don't look at my hand to see that it's doing the right thing. It's the other way around. Once I have mastered a hard spot by feel, I look and note that my hand is relaxed and efficient.

Do I play for others with my eyes closed? You've got to be kidding! But for me closing my eyes and concentrating on touch, the feeling of position and the sound can be a big help in mastering difficult passages, gaining speed and maintaining technique.



Post by Brent » Thu Jul 05, 2007 6:04 pm

Richard Jernigan wrote:...for me closing my eyes and concentrating on touch, the feeling of position and the sound can be a big help in mastering difficult passages, gaining speed and maintaining technique.
I think this is an excellent suggestion some of the time, and especially once you have achieved a certain facility with the instrument.

On the other hand, the original poster said he is a beginner classical guitarist. I would suggest playing slowly and deliberately to make sure the fingers and hands know exactly where to go. With eyes open, concentrate on how these correct movements feel. Once the muscle memory is built, the eyes can close or look away, and the player can let the music flow more freely.



Post by Derry » Thu Jul 05, 2007 6:45 pm

if ya need to look then look,, I do both and never give it a thought,,


Post by J-W » Tue Jul 10, 2007 1:52 pm

Look at Ana at [Youtube, search for "Vidovic Asturias"]. Her technique is probably as good as it gets (If she would only play less mechanical...) and still she is STARING at her LH.


steve jones

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

Post by steve jones » Wed Jul 11, 2007 12:54 am

Carl wrote: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.
I tend to watch my left hand while learning a piece, but the better I get at it, I find myself watching less.

The point?

Dont worry! How it sounds is the important thing. When it sounds great, then you can concern yourself with such things.



Post by zeroeffect » Wed Jul 11, 2007 6:19 am

Does it really matter? If you sound sound good. Now that matters.


Post by jayc636 » Wed Jul 11, 2007 7:23 am

Yep, if John Williams can stare at his hands for a whole piece then can't really argue with that!

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Post by Malcolm Kavalsky » Wed Jul 11, 2007 7:38 am

Do you watch your legs when you walk ? Try it next time and see how it confuses you, especially if you make a conscious effort to move each leg perfectly. This is similar to what a ski instructor once told me, "Look ahead not down, otherwise you will fall". I find it best to trust my fingers.

Once I have a piece memorized and reasonably under control, I find that it is distracting to look at my hands,(apart from some big jumps), and when I feel I am losing it, the best thing is to close my eyes for a second or two to get back on track.


Post by Square » Thu Jul 12, 2007 1:09 am

Richard Jernigan wrote:One well known guitarist has an utterly reliable technique and a very expressive sound. He plays in public with his eyes closed much of the time.
My old guitar teacher was quite a player, and he always performed with his eyes shut (he also breathed heavily but inaudibly and rocked back and forth in his seat as if making lo... I've said too much). Shame I tranferred schools and don't get to take lessons with him anymore, he was a really good teacher.


To Look Or Not To Look?

Post by Guy » Mon Jul 23, 2007 12:43 am

Notwithstanding that, once a piece is thoroughly learned, I myself and everyone else does, my view is that you shouldn't. You certainly shouldn't need to.

Every muscle in the human body except one* is blessed with a sense that tells the brain where that muscle is in space, or more accurately where it is relation to other muscles. Close your eyes, put your hand above your head, behind your back, out to the left or down to the right and you will know exactly where it is. This sense is known as proprioception. Guitarists in particular and musicians in general use it all the time and if you are serious about your playing, you should do what you can to develop it.

Think a moment about what senses, fundamentally, are used when playing a guitar; touch, proprioception and hearing. Unless you are reading a score or communicating with other musicians sight does not enter into it - so why introduce this unnecessary mental activity into the process? Particularly when, if you are not using it, the most important sense, hearing, immediately becomes more acute.

Don't take your eye off the score to check that your left hand is in position. It causes a mental, and therefore musical, delay. You are in effect training your left hand to not move until your eye gives it permission to - excuse me while I contact my visual cortex and have a moment of uncertainty...wait: second finger, b flat, eighth fret, (de-tuned) sixth string...o.k that's fine, go ahead. Sorry but the moment has passed and the music now has a big ugly dent in it. It would have been better to miss the note but continue playing in time.

As with most rules, there are exceptions. One, paradoxically, is to do with a series of single position changes. Starting in the first position play an ascending chromatic scale of minor thirds on the second and third strings alternating with an open fifth string (such as is found towards the end of the D Major Prelude from the 5th Cello Suite by Bach). Try to do this with your eyes closed and you will soon find that you loose your place. With concentration it can be done but I would never risk it in any practical situation.

Position of the music stand:

No question. Straight in front of you. Not off to the left, not down on the floor, not off to the right. Straight in front of you. If in doubt, sit with a guitar in the classic classical position: left leg up, upper bout below you chin. Relax, look straight ahead - that's where the stand goes.

Dots on the neck of a classical guitar:

Never. There are only eleven frets before the body joins the neck. Eleven equal frets. The fifth and the seventh are no more important than any of the others so why draw attention to them? They are just distractions.

* That muscle is of course the tongue, and that is why, comrades, we feel so compelled to stick it out and bite it whenever we do something vaguely tricky!

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Post by Nick Cutroneo » Mon Jul 23, 2007 12:53 am

Personally I don't care. The only time that looking at my left hand becomes a problem, is when I become hypnotized by it. At that point, I stop thinking about the actual piece I'm playing, and instead just watch my hand do whatever, then causing a brain fart.

I've seen great players look at their hands, play with their eyes closed, look off to the side of the stage pasted the guitar, looking at their right hand only...if the piece is well learned it doesn't matter what you're looking at.


Post by LazyStrings » Mon Jul 23, 2007 1:23 pm

Guitar Slim wrote: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!
Maybe I am little weird, but when I read the title of this thread it reminded me of keyboarding. Look or not to look while typing?

At first I have to look at the keyboard to learn home row and where they letters are. Over time I am looking more at the screen and less at the keyboard. Now with many years of practice, I don't need to look unless it is a hard word or name I am trying to put together.

I think it would fall into same deal with the fret board. Instead of using my eyes to gauge my work on the computer screen while typing. I use my ears listening to the notes and their pitch. Leaving my eyes open for reading music or whatever.

Just my opinion lol I could be wrong.

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Post by Carl » Mon Jul 23, 2007 6:15 pm

Thanks to all that offered their help on my question. Great place for advice and discussion.

I think I will continue to look at the music sheet and not try to watch my LH or RH. This feels comfortable to me and since the opinions are quite divided it should not prove a big no-no to keep this approach (or switch to the opposite one or something inbetween).

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