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

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Vito Simplicio
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Post by Vito Simplicio » Tue Jul 24, 2007 10:57 am

Guitar Slim wrote:
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!
After reading this thread I realized that when learning a new piece, I rarely look at my left hand. It's only until much later that I concentrate on figuring out exactly the right fingering for me. I may be waiting too long and putting my fingers in a position to re-learn where and when to go.

Vito

Nick Cutroneo
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Post by Nick Cutroneo » 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.

During a performance, I don't feel there's a right or wrong way. Some people get distracted by the left hand movement thus don't look at it. The only thing is absolutely hate, are people who look out into the audience. It creeps me out.

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owl
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Post by owl » Tue Jul 24, 2007 1:15 pm

Guitarshreda wrote:The only thing is absolutely hate, are people who look out into the audience. It creeps me out.
Aaarrgghh!... I totally agree... and I cannot do that either! :oops:
It's OK when you introduce the music... and that's hard enough, but I could not begin playing like that :roll:

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

Nick Cutroneo
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Post by Nick Cutroneo » Tue Jul 24, 2007 1:57 pm

It just unprofessional for whatever reason, to my eyes. My roommate often looks up when he's playing, and it creeps me out. There's sorta this 'blank' look that's in their eyes, and creepy. At the same time, it only in classical music when it bothers me, a guitarist in a rock band can look into the crowd or whatever, and that's fine.

Double standard, eh?

GEO

Post by GEO » Tue Jul 24, 2007 1:58 pm

Guitarshreda wrote: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. ..
I wonder about that, GS. At my last CG lesson, I arrived a bit early to discover my teacher playing his '57 Hauser with a blindfold on. I discovered that he'd been doing this for more than an hour. He said he didn't want to look at his hands, his LH in particular, as he wanted to get more closely in tune with his instrument. When he does advocate looking at hands, he somewhat emphasizes the RH not the LH.

There's a lot of controversy about this practice. Makes me wonder if other factors are more important.

Cheers,

geo

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Post by Nick Cutroneo » Tue Jul 24, 2007 2:13 pm

I'd be he wasn't focusing on accuracy in left hand movements. If you are making sure you're shifting correctly, fingers arched, no weird LH movements, you HAVE to look at the left hand, it gives you a visual confirmation of what's going on. I don't care what a given teacher says, thats why you'd look at your left hand...simple.

It's like when you're asked to count out loud while playing. Has your teacher ever explained it to you? If her/she hasn't, there's a problem there, but that's not what this thread is about. But the reason why you count out loud while playing is because it give you an aural confirmation if you're playing the rhythm the right way. We can count in our head (we can 'visualize' the left hand moving), but if there's no aural confirmation, you could be mistaken in what you think the rhythm actually is. Looking at the left hand is the same as counting out loud in this degree.

Now, to what you're teacher was actually doing blind folding. At a certain point, and depending on the piece that you're playing, not looking at the left hand helps. As I said earlier in the post, as the left hand becomes more complex, a player may become "hypnotized" by the finger patterns that are occurring (this has happened to me numerous amounts of time.) At this point not looking at the left hand helps, because you are relying on the memory that you've created and established in the playing (by practicing right and left hand movements, proper memorization and visualization, etc...)

Pan The Man

Re:

Post by Pan The Man » Thu May 29, 2008 6:30 am

jayc636 wrote:Yep, if John Williams can stare at his hands for a whole piece then can't really argue with that!
Yep.
When I'm alone and playing, sometimes I'll just close my eyes so I can be sucked into the piece, but when I'm playing in front of people or even for a camera, I try to just watch my hands (mainly my left), simply because I don't know where else to focus my eyes and like Guitarshreda and Owl have stated, it's often quite awkward to be looking at your audience while you play. I personally feel creepy when looking at someone while I play, like I'm saying "LOOK. WATCH WHAT I'M DOING. ARE YOU WATCHING??"
Back when I played other styles of music on electric or bass guitar, I could've just worn sunglasses if ever in that kind of situation and it would've been perfectly fine. It'd be weird to do that while playing classical though. :roll:

~Ted

grwagner

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

Post by grwagner » Thu May 29, 2008 8:15 am

The answer is, "it depends".

When I'm learning a piece, I look at the music so as not to get lost and let the fingers find the frets on their own. Once in a while I have to look down to make sure that the position isn't too far off, but generally speaking I can get by. This is step one, getting the program loaded into memory, so to speak.

When the notes and positions are pretty much memorized, I spend more time watching the fingers to make sure they are as close to the frets as the position allows. This is where I focus on the tone of the piece. Using visual feedback on the fretting hand (in my case RH) allows me to devote more concentration on the playing hand (in my case LH) to get the right tone and volume for each note. By the end of step two, the piece typically sounds pretty good.

Next is to repeat step one, matching the tone exactly to the notation markings, relying on muscle memory and building "active" cognitive memory of the music itself. The idea is to get the notes on the page running in my head while my fingers do the work. At the end of step 3 the piece is well and truly memorized.

Once a week I practice after dark with the lights off, playing the pieces I've memorized. It's a kind of test. What I notice is that I get all the notes but the tone doesn't sound quite right. The visual feedback on precise finger positions seems to be valuable, at least for me.

And - on fret markers - I've got a piece of tape on the back of the neck at the 7th fret. It's a habit from the electric guitar where you've got fret markers (that you can never actually see when playing) and 18 frets before the neck meets the body. That way I don't have to look when making a long jump up the fretboard. But I usually do. :wink:

sandollars

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

Post by sandollars » Thu May 29, 2008 11:59 am

Being a beginner myself, I play a LOT better when I glance at my LH.

"A player may play on his instrument with this or that fingering, in this or that manner,
he may even help along with his nose on the fingerboard;
what matters in the end is the music produced."
Michael Praetorius, 1620

cerusin

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

Post by cerusin » Thu May 29, 2008 1:19 pm

I think if you are playing in one position there is no need to look. Generally I don't look. The only time I feel tempted to is when there is a major shift, such as from the 1st position up to the 7th or 9th. And this is where it gets tricky because without a dot on the edge I often can't tell exactly where the 7th fret is when I look. Yet my hand can usually find it if I don't look. I see nothing wrong with looking if it works for you.
I disagree with the guy about having dots. I have none at the moment but I am going to have side dots put in at the 5th and 7th frets of both of my guitars.

Rique

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

Post by Rique » Thu May 29, 2008 2:02 pm

A funny thing about this fret markers- why is everyone (the ones that use markers) talking about putting them on the 7th fret?? :( I've always had mine on the 5th fret, and I thought this was the most natural place for them, since it is the middle of the neck (the exposed part, I mean...)
It just shows you need all kinds of people to make up a forum... :mrgreen:

cerusin

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

Post by cerusin » Thu May 29, 2008 2:10 pm

Well for me Rique the 7th is harder to nail when I am looking. 5th not so much.

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

Post by micklerd » Sat May 12, 2018 5:30 pm

I'm finding this an interesting thread to discover, as I begin my journey learning classical guitar, but coming from guitar from years of advanced classical playing on a woodwind instrument (clarinet). With many orchestra instruments, you can't see where you place your fingers, so you are forced from the outset to learn the instrument by feel, and always look at the music. I'm finding looking at both my LH and the music while I play very distracting, so I tend to focus on just the music. It's frustrating and very slow going, but I think it is ultimately the right approach for me.

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

Post by Smith » Tue May 15, 2018 12:27 am

I use a mirror designated for my practise corner. Turning my head and craning my neck to see the fretboard gets harder with age. Looking straight ahead at mirror so much easier, plus overall balance much better.

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

Post by Smudger5150 » Wed May 16, 2018 1:02 pm

This is a confusing topic because of the sight reading aspect, and, because the pros (as people have mentioned) do look at the LH at times.
John Williams has mentioned, as maybe others have, the guitarists are not the greatest sight readers and that he and Julian Bream were among the better CG sight readers out there but still were nowhere near as good as those who played other instruments. And there is film of JW looking at his LH whilst playing....and also reading music whilst playing and not looking at his LH.

Personally, my goal is to be able to play from music and the main problem for me is shifting position. I speculate that if I can get that off to a tee then all that I need (to aid this) is maybe for the music to be notated with what position to be at - something I could do if it's not on the sheet music already.
So maybe it simply comes down, like most things, to your objectives. If you want to be able to play a lot more music, more easily, then work on playing from music and not looking at your LH. If you want to memorise pieces as you go along and can't/don't want to use music to remember the piece then you can look at the LH as much as you like.
Maybe the only reason most Pros look at their LH is just to give them that extra bit of help to really ensure they give the best performance they can i.e. they could play with their eyes closed (Raphaella Smits and Hubert Kappel come to mind but I might be wrong...) but they choose to look just as a safety net.
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