Hold down left-hand fingers?

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by Luis_Br » Thu Apr 11, 2019 5:43 pm

I think as an exercise, keeping finger down helps improving hand positioning. Otherwise I would keep it down only if note should ring or it would play right after in a really speedy passage.

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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by guitarrista » Thu Apr 11, 2019 5:49 pm

guitarrista wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2019 7:07 pm
"never lift [finger] until necessary"
Here's an addendum to my post above, which actually applies to reading any guitar method.

TLDR: 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.

Here's why:

Shearer, as well as many other published guitar method authors, likely came up with their methods in the course of years of experience as a guitar teacher with many many students. This is important if you want to understand how to read a guitar method.

Imagine that, out of 100 beginner students, 100 made the same mistakes of lifting left-hand fingers too early, of hitting the wrong strings, of struggling with simple chord changes because they lift all fingers even when the shapes are different by only one finger.

What do you say to every one when you see this? You would use something simple, forceful, distilled - because that works - like "never lift a finger until necessary!" to CORRECT bad technique. What 'bad technique" is being corrected is either described around that phrase in the textbook or can be inferred from the context of the section or the examples given.

Why do I bring this up? Because it is perhaps the most important context in which you should be reading any guitar method - that what you see written comes from years of actual experience with beginners, and the language used may reflect directly those countless live sessions where crucial feedback is given as corrections to the student doing the wrong thing.

To read instructions like that as if they were complete mechanical descriptions of motion or position would frequently lead to frustration and years down the wrong path. However, read it as if they were corrections of bad technique, and they suddenly become very clear.

Another example: The famous "play [mainly] from the knuckle joint". Read it as a correction to bad technique (and you have to know a little anatomy):

Imagine seeing all these beginner students trying to keep the knuckle (MCP) joint "immobile" - i.e. to keep the top finger segment from moving, frozen in a position - the student trying to move only from the middle joint down i.e. moving only the finger's middle and tip segments, in an awkward way, hardly pushing the string down because of the trajectory when restricting movement like that; getting a weak tone as a result.

Knowing some hand/finger anatomy as a teacher, you know that there are no muscles in the finger joints or the fingers and the basic finger flexing movement is accomplished by forearm flexor muscles utilizing tendons as if a rope and pulley system, where the pulleys are in the joints, with all finger segments moving to some extent or another. Also, the basic finger-extending movement is done in a similar way with "ropes" running on "pulleys", but pulling in the opposite direction.

So, what happens when a student keeps the top finger segment next to the knuckle joint immobile while flexing a finger to strike a string?

They are using the muscle flexors AND the muscle extensors at the same time. The extensor works to pull up the top finger segment just enough to counteract the flexor pulling it down, resulting in apparent movement only from the middle joint down (so middle and tip joint and segments). (this is simplified but is the general idea; other muscles may also be involved)

So the teacher CORRECTS by instructing: "Play from the knuckle joint!" - i.e. stop pitting extensor and flexor against each other and just use the flexor muscles to perform the natural finger flexing movement moving in all finger segments. Doing so would feel more natural and would feel less tense - you are literally using less non-productive force and firing just the muscles you need; it would probably result in a better tone because that movement results in a less shallow trajectory and the string gets pushed into the guitar a bit more than before.

So, in summary: 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.
Last edited by guitarrista on Fri Apr 12, 2019 3:26 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Hold down left-hand fingers?

Post by kmurdick » Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:45 pm

The general rule is that you hold fingers down until you need to lift them is a good rule for beginners because it stops them from tossing their fingers around. With scales, I always tell students to hold fingers down as you go the neck, and do not pre-place fingers as you descend. of course there are many exceptions to this rule and you will need a good teacher to help you develop the left hand.

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