Hold down left-hand fingers?

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micha
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Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by micha » Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:21 pm

Dear all,
In 'Classic guitar technique' by A. Shearer, Franco Colombo (1959), I read all the time that fingers of the left hand must be 'held down; they should move only when necessary'. It is clear to me what this means, but I would like to understand
- what is the general idea behind this rule?
- should I always apply it, for example, when learning a new piece? If not, what could be the exceptions?

For instance, I see that some players do not follow this rule. Consider this simple example: the first three beats of 'Moorish dance', page 42 of the book (attached). If one follows the rule, then finger 1 should be held on the 1st fret of the B string throughout the 3rd measure. For example, A. Mathews plays this piece in this video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkgFXiRRPaM, and does not do this. Why?

:merci:
Best,
Micha
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Catire
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by Catire » Tue Apr 09, 2019 11:16 pm

Probably because the effort to maintain the finger in that position is greater than replacing it when needed.
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Crofty
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by Crofty » Wed Apr 10, 2019 12:09 am

The "rule", as you've understood it and described it, is wrong.

Most likely it was only meant to apply in very specific circumstances rather than all the time.

So, in the example you show there is no reason at all that the 1st finger would need to be held down.

I hope that helps.

Paul

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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by Karen » Wed Apr 10, 2019 12:51 am

Shearer is very good for learning cg, but better with a teacher to update (or modify) some of his approaches. You are using the first version of his method; I used the third edition of the same book. In my book, he basically just states to “never lift a finger unless necessary”. The idea is to learn to keep your fingers close to the strings and to learn economy of movement. As a beginner it is probably easiest to “hold a note” if you are coming back to it. However, it took me a while to realize that keeping a finger on the string doesn’t necessarily mean you have to keep pressure on the string. As well, part of the necessary “lifting of fingers” is preparing ahead for a note so you don’t always keep your fingers on the last note played.

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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by lagartija » Wed Apr 10, 2019 6:44 am

Karen wrote:keeping a finger on the string doesn’t necessarily mean you have to keep pressure on the string.
Remember this important point. Most beginners seem to keep a “death grip” on the guitar with their left hand. :lol:
When I think back to those days, the reason for me was that I had no idea which finger should be kept in place and *when* it could be released; there was too much going on at the time to sort it out. When a note buzzed because of inaccurate positioning, the tendency was to squeeze harder with all fingers to eliminate the offending noise.
One does not want one’s fingers to be flying up in the air far from the strings, nor should they be clamped tightly to the strings when not needed.
Practice relaxing the pressure an individual finger is putting on a string, keeping it close to the string while still holding a note with another. This takes some finger independence and will come with time and practice.

FWIW, I can remember telling myself to release finger 3 and releasing 2 instead in my confusion! :lol: So keep a sense of humor and have patience... ;-)
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micha
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by micha » Wed Apr 10, 2019 7:56 am

Crofty wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2019 12:09 am
The "rule", as you've understood it and described it, is wrong.
Well, if it is wrong, then it is wrong as written in the book (as suggested by Karen's reply), not as I have understood it. In fact, the statement as written in the book is clear and non amboguous.

micha
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by micha » Wed Apr 10, 2019 8:01 am

Karen wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2019 12:51 am
Shearer is very good for learning cg, but better with a teacher to update (or modify) some of his approaches. You are using the first version of his method; I used the third edition of the same book. In my book, he basically just states to “never lift a finger unless necessary”. The idea is to learn to keep your fingers close to the strings and to learn economy of movement. As a beginner it is probably easiest to “hold a note” if you are coming back to it. However, it took me a while to realize that keeping a finger on the string doesn’t necessarily mean you have to keep pressure on the string. As well, part of the necessary “lifting of fingers” is preparing ahead for a note so you don’t always keep your fingers on the last note played.
That is very helpful, thank you! :)

micha
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by micha » Wed Apr 10, 2019 8:04 am

lagartija wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2019 6:44 am
Karen wrote:keeping a finger on the string doesn’t necessarily mean you have to keep pressure on the string.
Remember this important point. Most beginners seem to keep a “death grip” on the guitar with their left hand. :lol:
When I think back to those days, the reason for me was that I had no idea which finger should be kept in place and *when* it could be released; there was too much going on at the time to sort it out. When a note buzzed because of inaccurate positioning, the tendency was to squeeze harder with all fingers to eliminate the offending noise.
One does not want one’s fingers to be flying up in the air far from the strings, nor should they be clamped tightly to the strings when not needed.
Practice relaxing the pressure an individual finger is putting on a string, keeping it close to the string while still holding a note with another. This takes some finger independence and will come with time and practice.

FWIW, I can remember telling myself to release finger 3 and releasing 2 instead in my confusion! :lol: So keep a sense of humor and have patience... ;-)
Thanks, this looks like an important point indeed. I can definitely refer to that tendency to put pressure to eliminate offending noises :)

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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by tormodg » Wed Apr 10, 2019 8:49 am

micha wrote:
Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:21 pm
If one follows the rule, then finger 1 should be held on the 1st fret of the B string throughout the 3rd measure. For example, A. Mathews plays this piece in this video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkgFXiRRPaM, and does not do this. Why?
Why exactly do you assume that the second string C should be held in the third measure?

If we interpret Shearer to mean "hold down a note until another should be played by the same finger" then it becomes impossible to ever interpret music correctly. Especially since the chord in measure 3 is different than in measure 2, and no notes are tied into measure 3.

However, I think we can safely interpret Shearer to say that you may hold the C throughout measure 2, even though the notation calls for eight notes.
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Julian Ward
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by Julian Ward » Wed Apr 10, 2019 8:53 am

When you have taught as many beginners as I have, especially in schools, you realise how difficult it is to get them to stop letting go - killing notes - not playing with any legato. I can see why somebody would go to the extreme of saying 'don't let go'. Because actually if you start from that philosophy then it is perhaps easier to work the other way around and show how to release! Unless you are a teacher it can be very difficult to understand why things are taught in a certain way, or why rules are formed early on when we all know they will be broken. Easy to knock somebody elses teaching method or style - not so easy to sit there and teach it yourself day in, day out and be successful.
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Crofty
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by Crofty » Wed Apr 10, 2019 2:18 pm

micha wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2019 7:56 am
Crofty wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2019 12:09 am
The "rule", as you've understood it and described it, is wrong.
Well, if it is wrong, then it is wrong as written in the book (as suggested by Karen's reply), not as I have understood it. In fact, the statement as written in the book is clear and non amboguous.
That is exactly what I was saying. I wasn't suggesting you had described it incorrectly but, given that I had don't have that book and Shearer is a very established figure, I think the caveat was entirely reasonable.

Anyway, the "rule" as described is actually the reverse of what it should be: lh fingers should not press down on any string unless they are needed. In fact, when I briefly studied with Ricardo Iznaola in the 90s he advised that even arpeggios should not be prepared, in advance, as chords, but fingered sequentially, as the rh fingers are about to play.

Of course, as Julian advised, there is a real problem anyway with regard to what advice is appropriate at what time for a student.

[And - I should add - who one is receiving it from.....]

Paul

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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by guitarrista » Wed Apr 10, 2019 7:07 pm

micha wrote:
Tue Apr 09, 2019 8:21 pm
Dear all,
In 'Classic guitar technique' by A. Shearer, Franco Colombo (1959), I read all the time that fingers of the left hand must be 'held down; they should move only when necessary'. It is clear to me what this means, but I would like to understand
- what is the general idea behind this rule?
- should I always apply it, for example, when learning a new piece? If not, what could be the exceptions?
A lot of beginner guitar students, perhaps feeling overwhelmed by the complexity and the initial learning curve, tend to instinctively look for simple universal recipes. If you are reading a textbook as opposed to studying with a good live teacher who can correct and explain, the inherent limitations of the written word combined with the lack of corrective feedback make this an even more common occurrence.

That is to say, (a) you are misinterpreting the scope of validity of this statement, and (b) don't feel bad as this is almost unavoidable under the circumstances. Oh, and (c) Shearer used clearer formulations in his later 3-volume work "Learning the Classic Guitar".

So, even so Shearer used clearer formulations in "Learning the Classic Guitar" which might be a better method to use, let's stick to this 1959 method and explore what is this "rule" and what is its context and scope of validity/applicability:

In the book (volume 1), the "never lift [finger] until necessary" instruction is mentioned four times - always aimed at complete beginners. What about context?

The first two times, it is twice on the same page 18 which introduces "The Left Hand" - for the very first time. As evident from the single-string exercise on the same page cycling E-F-G-F-E (or later F-G-F-G) and marking F as the finger to "hold" (i.e. "never lift"), it is in the context of learning to keep a left hand finger down when it makes sense given the note sequence.

The third time, it is in a section on pivot and guide fingers - this is the exact context and the instruction here is almost tautological; it certainly is self-explanatory - using a pivot finger or guide fingers means you will not be lifting it/them [completely] off the string.

The fourth time, it is in a section on playing repeated chords (four-note groupings) giving instruction on how to play Etude no.12. Looking at the Etude, this instruction is applied in three contexts - the one where the top note sequence makes it make sense just like in the first two instances above; the one about pivot/guide fingers, and the one from Julian Ward's explanation of how teachers would sometimes say this when trying to prevent beginner's student from killing notes prematurely - here because all chords are repeatedly sounded several times before progressing to a different chord, so if you are keeping the C major shape don't lift your fingers between successive soundings of that same chord.

In summary, "never lift [finger] until necessary" was given as an instruction to complete beginners AND it is not applicable to all contexts but rather in specific three contexts - all to do with keeping a finger down if it makes sense given (1) the note duration, (2) the notes sequence and (3) the left-hand shapes sequence.

EDIT: In general: Any time you come across a phrase that makes you wonder or does not seem to describe what you see from fluent guitarists in practice, examine what that phrase sounds like if read not as a description of what to do, but as a correction of bad technique.

For elaboration on this see my more recent post below.
Last edited by guitarrista on Thu Apr 11, 2019 5:51 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by guit-box » Thu Apr 11, 2019 3:36 am

Crofty wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2019 2:18 pm

Anyway, the "rule" as described is actually the reverse of what it should be: lh fingers should not press down on any string unless they are needed. In fact, when I briefly studied with Ricardo Iznaola in the 90s he advised that even arpeggios should not be prepared, in advance, as chords, but fingered sequentially, as the rh fingers are about to play.

Exactly true. Sequential placement is a critical part of advanced classical guitar playing as is the ability to place and lift fingers in precise synchronicity with the right hand plucking. Looking to eliminate or minimize barres is important to relaxing the hand. The one finger in the left hand that generally improves technique when it's held in one position is the thumb. Beginners need to learn to hold the thumb position more than they usually do and to hinge from the base thumb joint. All that said, of course there are times when you have to hold a finger down, but if I have a rule it's to eliminate squeezing of any fingers unless it's necessary.
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Larry McDonald
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by Larry McDonald » Thu Apr 11, 2019 2:36 pm

Well written, guitarrista.
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guitarrista
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by guitarrista » Thu Apr 11, 2019 4:39 pm

Larry McDonald wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 2:36 pm
Well written, guitarrista.
-L
Thank you very much Larry; very kind of you.
Konstantin
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