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

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

Post by guit-box » Sun May 27, 2018 10:53 pm

If we take the issue of sight reading out of the equation, then yes, you absolutely need to look at your hands to get the kind of feedback that is required to find errors and fix them. I'll never understand my students who insist on looking straight ahead while practicing, there's nothing straight ahead to look at, all the business is going on in the right or left hands. A mirror is good and also a small hand mirror is helpful, also setting up a laptop camera at various positions. To become a good classical guitarist, one needs to become an independent problem solver. Looking at the hand or finger and observing why the note is buzzing or muted or not getting to the string fast enough, etc., is critical aspect to correcting the issue. There may be some aspect to shutting your eyes and getting into a quiet zone where you can effectively make your practice environment feel like your performance environment, and then not looking could have some advantages, but most of the time you need to look, observe, listen, and problem solve.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

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

Post by Luis_Br » Tue May 29, 2018 12:51 pm

guit-box wrote:
Sun May 27, 2018 10:53 pm
If we take the issue of sight reading out of the equation, then yes, you absolutely need to look at your hands to get the kind of feedback that is required to find errors and fix them. I'll never understand my students who insist on looking straight ahead while practicing, there's nothing straight ahead to look at, all the business is going on in the right or left hands. A mirror is good and also a small hand mirror is helpful, also setting up a laptop camera at various positions. To become a good classical guitarist, one needs to become an independent problem solver. Looking at the hand or finger and observing why the note is buzzing or muted or not getting to the string fast enough, etc., is critical aspect to correcting the issue. There may be some aspect to shutting your eyes and getting into a quiet zone where you can effectively make your practice environment feel like your performance environment, and then not looking could have some advantages, but most of the time you need to look, observe, listen, and problem solve.
I disagree. You can also solve it not looking at the hand, through feeling the inner tenions to reach the best position for less effort. The eyes cannot tell wether some position is really easier, they just search for predefined finger conformation based on what? A great player video, maybe. In my experience, aiming some predefined "good" positioning also tends to influence hand stiffening to "fix" some posture.
So I like to emphasize non-looking practice. Let the kinaesthetic perception serach for less effort, good positioning is a consequence and you won't just try to imitate other players or static pictures of hand position.
Certainly simply looking at nothing and letting the body in "auto mode" is not a good practice. We should feel what we are doing and I recommend closed eyes to avoid visual chattering.
I wouldn't dismiss visual correction at all. It might still catch some unnoticed tension or mistake, so the next time you pay more attention in the internal feeling for that passage. But the same way the eyes can catch one unnoticed mistake (unnoticed by "inner feelings"), the "inner feelings" can notice a lot of things that are uncatched by the eyes. So the big problem is that vision should be just another tool, and not the main one. Today people are too visual and they forget their breathing, their sound and even the music. That is the reason I would encourage forgeting the eyes a little bit, so one can build up all the other tools.
Nick Cutroneo wrote:
Tue Jul 24, 2007 12:44 pm
I think the whole looking at the left hand thing depends on what level you're at. And also depends on what you're working on. For beginning students I rarely have them 'look' at their left hand while playing pieces, because they haven't built up the coordination to look away from the music and come back to the spot where they looked away. Mainly because they are still learning notes, so you want the concepts to be very cut and dry (do this, don't do that).

However, as you become more advanced, and as your practicing starts becoming better, looking and watching left hand movements is a must. Its the only want to confirm right movements vs. wrong movements. And doing it as quickly as possible (like when you starting to learn a new piece) will help you learn it faster, and help save time for more important things, like the music itself.
I also think the opposite for beginner vs pro. The very beginner, when still practicing to play a simple open string, require a lot of visualization to check hand is in place and to even avoid missing the string. A good practice to enhance feeling and avoid relying solely on visualization, is the so called prepared stroke. Some also recommend thumb laying over some unnused string when not used. Isn't it an important clue that feeling outperforms the eyes? I think that for the advanced pro, hand positioning is just the tip of the iceberg. The advanced pro develop a keen perception for the small tiny details that are hardly noticeable to the eyes. Also as I've said before, the eyes don't have the tension feedback, they don't know what is easier, they just can notice weird stuff (which a pro shouldn't do by default, or this is not still a pro).
I've seen your video #7 on Saudade practice. You are explaining the elbow movement. Who tell the eyes that not moving elbow is easier? You say not moving elbow too much is better, because there would be less tension on the back etc. Does the eyes tell this? Or is it another thing? Would a bit more wrist relaxation and mobility make things even easier? Can the eyes tell it?

Is it better to ask someone to follow some rules or to teach them how to build up the rules?

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

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Tue May 29, 2018 2:26 pm

Luis_Br wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 12:51 pm
I've seen your video #7 on Saudade practice. You are explaining the elbow movement. Who tell the eyes that not moving elbow is easier? You say not moving elbow too much is better, because there would be less tension on the back etc. Does the eyes tell this? Or is it another thing? Would a bit more wrist relaxation and mobility make things even easier? Can the eyes tell it?
Before addressing the "eyes" thing - not moving the elbow has nothing to do with tension in the back - nor did I state that in the video (from my memory recollection). However, the eyes certainly played a MAJOR role in discovery.

What I visually noticed is when making the shift it pulled my hand out of balance. For all mechanical purposes allowing the elbow to guide the shift is the "right" thing to do. However, in this particular circumstance I visually identified that it pulled my hand out of balance for the notes that occurred after the shift. From there, I realized that when I performed the movement "properly" - being defined by playing the notes correct, the left hand feeling comfortable in the movement, etc... I visually saw what my arm was doing. With this visual identification it became quite easy for me to go on my journey of reinforcing proper movement and identifying when something technically went out of wack. So can the eyes tell it - yes.

It should be noted that ALL of the above comments are directly related to practicing and identifying aspects of playing. Your eyes are a critical tool to help you ID something that you don't "understand" from a perspective of "feeling". If you could feel it, you'd already be doing it. So the eyes are the first line of defense, they also give you the ability to visually confirm if you are doing something "properly" or not.

Also, for this whole process, I had a mirror in front of me as I was watching my arm - so I do not crane my neck out of position but rather look into the mirror and assess these things.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

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

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Tue May 29, 2018 2:36 pm

Luis_Br wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 12:51 pm
Also as I've said before, the eyes don't have the tension feedback, they don't know what is easier, they just can notice weird stuff (which a pro shouldn't do by default, or this is not still a pro).
I simply do not agree with you on this point. The problem here is that you are addressing these things as singular unrelated aspects of feedback for playing. Your visual sense enhances your tactile and internal sense. If you can visually "see" what you are feeling this enhances your ability to deal with very nuanced aspects of technique. At no point in my explanations (even from 11 years ago) did I imply that you do not develop body awareness of your internal muscles/tension/etc... but rather stated that the visual is often the first sign of an issue. I'll see it before I feel it - because 9 times out of 10 if I were to feel something was wrong, I'd immediately start to fix it. Sometimes you feel something being off, other times you visually see it. If I feel something being off, I visually analyze it to get a better understanding - might lead me down a dead end path, it might actually provide more answers. But to negate it is like saying "I'm only going to play classical guitar with P and M. Yeah I've got I and A, but I'm not going to use them."

More "weird stuff" is not a non-prop only thing, to think that way is a bit ridiculous. The difference is the speed at which a pro identifies and deals with the "weird stuff" as soon as possible. Scott Tennant is a great example of dealing with "weird stuff" (RH issues - thus changing his sitting position to deal with it).
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

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

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Tue May 29, 2018 2:37 pm

guit-box wrote:
Sun May 27, 2018 10:53 pm
I'll never understand my students who insist on looking straight ahead while practicing, there's nothing straight ahead to look at, all the business is going on in the right or left hands.
I have a chair with wheels - so when a student starts doing that I'll wheel myself into their field of view, look into their direction and ask them what's interesting. Gets a good laugh (especially with kids), and my point across. Doesn't prevent it from happening again though...
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

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

Post by guit-box » Thu May 31, 2018 2:42 am

I tend to agree with Nick on this one. I don't understand how Luis_B concludes that looking translates into static hand positions, I see it just the opposite. Let's say you need to play an A (3rd string 2nd fret) with the first finger. If you are going to play that note while fingering an open position D chord, the forearm will be more pronated and the 1st finger will be coming at the note at an angle where the base of the finger is closer to the nut. If you are playing the A as part of a chromatic scale on the 3rd string the hand will be more parallel to the neck. If you're going to play the A while playing a bar with the 4th finger on the 1st two strings at the 5th fret, the first finger will be coming at the string from the opposite direction than is does to play the D chord. Same note with the 1st finger but 3 different hand and finger positions are required. It sure makes things much easier to point that out to a student if they are willing to look at their hands, and once they get into this habit, they become better problem solvers for themselves which is the ultimate goal -- teaching them to use their own senses to become better guitarists.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

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

Post by Luis_Br » Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:20 pm

Nick Cutroneo wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 2:36 pm
Luis_Br wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 12:51 pm
Also as I've said before, the eyes don't have the tension feedback, they don't know what is easier, they just can notice weird stuff (which a pro shouldn't do by default, or this is not still a pro).
I simply do not agree with you on this point. The problem here is that you are addressing these things as singular unrelated aspects of feedback for playing. Your visual sense enhances your tactile and internal sense.
I entirely agree with you. I was kind of doing the Devil's Advocate and enhancing the other way to show there are other things.
In my experience, though, to most people I deal with, the visual part actually removes the attention to the internal sense. Most people, specially beginners, cannot pay attention to all the things at the same time. While looking at something too much, they can't even listen to details. But the opposite is also true. Probably the best thing is to practice a bit with eyes attention, then a bit without looking at anyhting and interchange both approaches. Regularly even a video recording is more effective than mirror. You can watch the same video several times, one time pay attention to hands, another to body posture, another to sound etc. Through video several times the student notice other posture problems he didn't notice when paying close attention to hands only in a single shot. Then they can correct several things at once and avoid unnoticed wrong repetitions to become reflexes.
To show I agree with visual aspect being a nice tool, I also recommend students to watch, for example, John Williams videos without sound, so they can pay attention only to his posture approach and it seems to bring good results.

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

Post by Luis_Br » Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:24 pm

guit-box wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 2:42 am
If you are going to play that note while fingering an open position D chord, the forearm will be more pronated
Well, that you must twist something to make things easier to fingers is quite obvious, and I agree this is an important tip to the very beginner that knows absolute nothing. The main point is actually how do you decide wether it is better to bring arm out from shoulder or move hand from wrist? Do you decide this with the eyes? This is my point.
But your insistence on the visual part only corroborate my experience. Can't you notice the twisting or position change make things easier without seeing it with your eyes? You should know you can experiment and feel better positions without looking at your hand or fingers. If you feel your muscles feedback you can search for easier positioning without the eyse.If you can't do this without the eyes help, to me this is an important clue to recommend starting closed eyse practice. And I would correct the student through guidance with touching and voice, rather than showing visually.
Also Alexander Tehcnique or Fendelkrais teachers also mostly guide through this feelings and they avoid by all means a visual guidance.
Last edited by Luis_Br on Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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

Post by JohnB » Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:43 pm

Luis_Br wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 3:20 pm
To show I agree with visual aspect being a nice tool, I also recommend students to watch, for example, John Williams videos without sound, so they can pay attention only to his posture approach and it seems to bring good results.
As an aside to the topic - after using the normal flimsy music stands for decades, I recently bought a "proper" music stand (the Manhasset Voyager). The minimum height of the music desk turned out to be slightly higher than what I had been expecting and what I was used to and I wished I had bought their "Concertino" variant (which is lower). However, I soon discovered an unexpected benefit from using a slightly higher music stand - it markedly improved my posture - I have to sit properly. I found my posture suddenly becoming much more like John Williams.

As far as the topic is concerned - IMO developing the ability to play without looking at one's hands is immensely valuable. But the question "To Look or Not Look at your LH" poses a false dichotomy.
Hermanos Conde 1968, Stephen Frith 2007 "Guijoso", Christopher Dean 2018, Ana Maria Espinosa 2014

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

Post by guit-box » Fri Jun 01, 2018 8:59 pm

Every world class guitarist I've ever seen looks at their hands when they perform. You won't find a single guitarist who doesn't look at the hands, that's all the validation any beginning student who's asking the question "to look or not to look at the hands" needs. Occasionally I see someone shut their eyes when performing, but they open them and look when some kind of difficult shift or similar thing happens where looking will make it easier. When practicing, it's even more critical to use all your senses to learn how to place the hand/fingers. Looking is only one of those senses, sure you can feel things and that's important too, just as important, but it doesn't mean you should NOT look at the hands, that's just crazy talk. I can play just about anything I've practiced to performance level without looking, but I didn't get there by not looking, I got there by practicing the movements in a highly consistent way with lots of repetition while looking at whatever hand needed observation. But it doesn't really matter what people on a forum think, best advice comes from the world's best players, look at their youtube videos and study what they do, don't blindly follow anyone's advice on a forum, always use the best sources to verify a claim like "you shouldn't look at your fingers" to make sure you can find professionals who do that. If you can't find anyone doing it, then the claim is obviously a bogus claim.
An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

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

Post by guit-box » Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:16 pm

Keep your eyes on the prize!

An eyewitness will often only see what he already believes to be true.

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

Post by JohnB » Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:52 pm

guit-box wrote:
Fri Jun 01, 2018 8:59 pm
But it doesn't really matter what people on a forum think, best advice comes from the world's best players, look at their youtube videos and study what they do, don't blindly follow anyone's advice on a forum, always use the best sources to verify a claim like "you shouldn't look at your fingers" to make sure you can find professionals who do that. If you can't find anyone doing it, then the claim is obviously a bogus claim.
Of course the majority of solo musicians mostly look at their hands when performing. That goes without saying, though I suggest you watch Raphaella Smits's wonderful performance of the Bach Chaconne on YouTube, where she plays mostly with eyes closed or perhaps the elderly Wilhelm Kempff playing the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (also on Youtube).

When you see concert pianists giving a recital they will usually be looking at their hands. However, what all budding pianists are taught is the ability to play looking at the music, rather than their hands. It is just standard practice.

Being able to play without necessarily looking at one's hands is an important skill for any musician. How on earth are you ever going to develop sight reading abilities otherwise. (And, of course, you don't see orchestral musicians or chamber musicians constantly looking at their hands - their eyes are glued to the score.)

But it really isn't an either/or situation, nobody is saying that one should never look at one's hands. It is just an important skill for people to develop (and it really isn't that difficult).
Hermanos Conde 1968, Stephen Frith 2007 "Guijoso", Christopher Dean 2018, Ana Maria Espinosa 2014

astro64
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Re: To Look or Not to Look at your LH - that is the question

Post by astro64 » Fri Jun 01, 2018 9:57 pm

A guitarist who pretty much does not look at his left hand is Marc Teicholz. Rather amazing to see him perform. You can find various youtube videos with him performing. But, indeed, he is the exception.

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

Post by Smudger5150 » Sat Jun 02, 2018 1:47 am

When I've seen vids of Oscar Ghiglia recently on the net he seemed to be playing with closed eyes too a-la Smits unless he just looks through a very narrow squint!
I'm not an expert but I echo what others say in that it doesn't seem that it's wrong if you look at the left hand if you need to, especially on tricky bits, but it seems unhelpful if one is sight reading. Unless one is able to sight read a familiar piece by reading ahead chunks of music and glancing at the LH when one needs to be sure.
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Nick Cutroneo
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Re: To Look or Not to Look at your LH - that is the question

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Sat Jun 02, 2018 3:20 am

There are a variety of different situations where you may or may not need to look at the left hand. In general I tell students the following:

1) Reading pieces, especially in specific left hand positions - learn to let the left hand "find the notes". IE - keep your eyes on the page not on the hands. Spacial awareness is important here.

2) If you are performing and reading the music, when necessary, plan out when and where you are going to look away from the music and at the left hand. Also plan how/when/where you are going to look back at the music.

3) Dealing with technical issues - use your eyes as part of the troubleshooting mechanism.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

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