Guitar Technique tutorial. (fragments)

(not only for 8 strings and not only for acoustic guitar)


right hand (from chapter 6)

How fast can your right hand be?
Put it on the table and try to tap for a couple of seconds "m"-"i" or "a"-"i" sequence as fast as you can. Now take the guitar and try the same on the strings. Some difference in the speed? :) I'll help you to overcome it!

Put your hand on your lap and try to scratch it as if you are playing on one string m-i-m-i-m-i-m-i-m-i-m-i-m-i-.....or a-i-a-i..........
Actually the speed should be very close to that as when you tap the table. If it is not the case, try it once again and compare. It must not be absolutely identical, but very close. Now you see that you can move your fingers with the "tapping speed" and the type of the movement is close to that on the guitar.

tapping on the strings (nothing to do with the TAP)
Now put your hand on the 1st. string. Relax ;) . Try to tap with your nails on the string, just like you do when you tap on the table. The hand position and nail position to the string should be the same as if you play, but the light movement of the finger stops on the string when the nail reaches it. Now try to remember this feeling of light tapping of your nails on the string. Put your hand on your left knee and scratch it again . Keep the feeling as if you were doing it with the string. Now try it on the string at last with sound and keep feeling as though you were doing it with your knee.
I bet, you've got a pretty good speed! But it is still far from tapping on the table. So we'll carry on.

ti ti ta, ti ti ta ...
Here come a couple of exercises.
I wouldn't use the pictures of notes for such simple things, so watch my notation: ti = Sixteenth note, ta = Eighth note.
Try it all at highest possible speed:
1. With one finger on one string: ta ta ta ta ....
(that's another way to know your highest speed: with two fingers you should do it with a double speed, but we'll come back to that later)
2. With two fingers on one (or two) strings: ti ti ta, ti ti ta,...
3. With two fingers on one (or two) strings: ti ti ti ti ta, ti ti ti ti ta,...
( you should return from time to time to 1. or 2. and compare the speed of the eighths, don't stop the movement , just insert in your "ta ta ta ..." some rhythmical groups of two or four "ti". Help yourself with the hand rotation , specially in "a-i" sequence. By the way, it's the method of flamenco.
4. Prolong the "eighth"-sequences as much as you can without losing the speed. Return sometimes without stopping to 1.,2. and 3.
I hope, after doing that you can play both tirado and appayado on the open strings in temp "a la Paco de Lucia" ;).
But this is only the first step. There is left hand , too ....

Speed in accords
In the beginning of the previous paragraph we have discussed the upper speed of the right hand in the passage technique. The procedure of the determination of the upper speed for playing accords is similar but has some peculiarities. Let us compare these two things:
1. Tap with only one finger (say i) on the table with maximal speed, the rest of the hand shouldn't move.
2. Tap now with the whole hand (as if you were playing drums)
You will probably notice , that the second speed is higher than the first one, so your whole hand can strike faster than your fingers.
What does it have to do with accords ? Well, if you were playing the piano , your accord speed would be close to that of the whole hand, and if you'd be playing guitar , alas it would be close to that of one finger ( at best ;). Poor guitarists: even the violinists can play accords with their bows much faster than us, because they use the movement of the whole hand! ;). Opposed to this , every classical guitar teacher would tell you: don't jump with your right hand playing tirando ...
THAT'S WRONG! you may jump! ;)
A promise to achieve the speed of the whole hand in guitar accord technique would be a little bit unreal, but you can count on something between these two speeds.
How to get it? For example you play thirds with accords. To move the whole hand at every accord would be impossible, but you can do it at the first note of every third . Use "the whole hand movement" to give your fingers a break and "the only fingers movement" to give your hand a bit of rest . The analog to this trick for the left hand you can find in "one finger" scales


mordents and trills
Imagine, you have to play a trill at "forte" for 20 seconds. You start bravely with the first note of the trill at forte and try to keep these dynamics. After the first 3 seconds you notice , that it's not forte any more, and after 10 seconds your left hand hurts and the tempo of the trill is not a trill-tempo... You can make your trill audible and excellently fast if you play it like a tremolo with your right hand on two neighbor strings. The trick is  to hold your m-finger close to the p-finger on the low string and the i,a-fingers on the high one. The sequence is that of a standard tremolo: p-a-m-i. You can hear an example of this trill in "Cats" before the reprise. You can also practice on Pujol's Bumblebee (begining: p-6th, a-3d, m-2d, i-3d, and so on).

When you play mordents or trills as they are usually played, the first note is taken with the right hand and the rest with the left one. The timbre of all sounds will be very different. What should you do if you need to emphasize the last third note in the mordent and this last note should have a good apoyando-timbre? You push both notes on neighbor strings just like it was described in the previous paragraph and play them with the i-m-m sequence whereas m-finger slides up (down in the tone) on the neighbor string and so you can take all the 3 notes of apoyado in mordent! With some experience you can do even 5- or 7-notes mordents apoyado: i-a-a-m-m or i-m-m-a-a. It sounds smoothly and equally. It's useful especially for playing in an ensemble (from my quartet experience).


left hand(from chapter 7)

one useful exercise
Russian "Zek"s ( convicts, criminals ) often play the following game with a knife. They put their left hand on a wooden table , the knife in their right hand, and stab with the knife between the fingers into the wooden table. They do it pretty hard and very fast. If they miss , they hurt their finger. What's interesting for us here is the sequence in which they change the knife position, which is:
1,2,1,3,1,4,1,5,1,6, 1,5,1,4,1,3, 1,2,1,3,1,4,1,5,1,6,1,5,... and so on. Here 1 means knife position down the thumb, 2 - between the thumb and the next finger (I don't want to call it the "first", because it's actually the second:) and so on, 6 - next to the little finger. The cycle repeats until the first error. No, you don't need to try it for playing guitar. :) , but if you use this sequence for tapping on all the strings with only one finger of your left hand, you'll get your hand warm very soon and you'll have a good feeling of the finger-board. Do it with all your four guitar-fingers in turn, 1st finger on the 1st fret 2nd on the 2nd fret and so on. Then do it in higher positions . You can start with the 6th string,  too: 6,5,6,4,6,3,6,2,6,1, 6,2,6,3,....
These exercises help if you have a concert in 5 minutes and you weren't able to play for a couple of hours (e.g. if you have just arrived), or if you have to play at a concert on somebody else's guitar (which normally shouldn't be the case).


gentle fingers
It is no excuse , that your left hand does all the hard work compared with the right one:
It has to stay SOFT. Make your callosities thin with the pedicure grater.
Wash your hands after playing too. Ask your girl/boy-friend , touch of which hand is for her/him better...
If she says - right, then you have lost something with playing guitar, try to improve this situation ;) .
So GENTLE means: soft and sensitive.

When you practise, learn sometimes only the left hand, it helps especially in the scales (see below).
Tapping on the table (or smth. else) with your left hand fingers is good, too.


chin(from chapter 18)

If you have any doubts of aesthetical nature about using it , see chin in "newTechnic" , or listen to Organ Preludium by Bach in which the whole part of  feet is played with the chin. I think , the chin technique can be useful for jazz improvisation, because you can play the bass with the chin without thinking about your left hand. For old music (Baroque and earlier) it can be useful for "bezifferten Bass" improvisation: once learned bass with the chin you can change every time your cords and figurations.

Here are some exercises for this STRANGE "playing limb":



Choosing a teacher

(this chapter only deals with guitarists who want to play classical music)
Go to a piano teacher.
Of course you need a guitar teacher too , but only as far as the guitar technique is concerned.
One needs a good school tradition for playing music, and that has any instrument, but the guitar.
Why do I recommend piano? Not only because of my own experience and not only because piano
is a universal instrument. Piano and violine have the best world school that comes down the centuries.
Piano has more polyphonic posibilities than violine, and piano has a lot of things in common with guitar.
(e.g.: on both you cannot influence the sound volume after striking the key / string , which is the case on the violine).

What a regular guitar teacher cannot give you :
1. LEGATO in the common musical sense.
2. PHRASING in the common musical sense.
3. Playing polyphony with keeping good LEGATO and PHRASING.
5. Good musical TASTE (in the common musical sense :)

The list can be continued if we get into details.
You are not a regular guitar teacher if you can at least one item of those listed here ;).

The best way to get a piano teacher is to learn playing piano and learn it very seriously. You can't help it . ;)
By the way: playing the piano is very good for your hands (in guitar sense :), it makes your hands soft and sensitive.

The ideal situation would be: you come to your piano teacher with the guitar and you work through your guitar pieces together.
If he refuses to do it with guitar , don't be confused, just play the piano. You need to work through a couple of Bach pieces on the piano if you want to play Bach on the guitar, and you need to go through sonatas of Mozart if you're looking forward to playing Sor works ( understanding the original is important for understanding an imitation ;) . Just listening to great pianists won't help you much: you'll hear only what you can do yourself or you'll listen and ask yourself: "how is this guy doing it , that it seems as if ...." and so on ... The piano teacher helps you with all that.

It helps not much, either, if I would have now precisely described what good LEGATO or PHRASING is, or if you found it and read in the whole pile of theoretical books. You should go through it note after note, phrase after phrase with your good piano (or violine/viola/cello) teacher. After that you simply can't play badly any more. ;) There is musical culture and there are guitarists that do not belong to it now. If you don't believe me, ask your piano teacher. If he tells you , that Segovia was very temperamental or even a great musician, that's OK , but if he tells you, Segovia is a high cultured musician, I don't recommend you this teacher. (There are always exceptions in the rule: after the concert of Segovia in Moscow conservatory one famous violinist and pedagogue said to his students: you should all learn from this genius-guitarist to play the violine ! )


Trimming fingernails:
The working edge of nails should be polished with a smoothed stone (marble, e.g.).
It's not enough to do this only with a nail-file. The surface should be absolutely smooth. It improves both the sound and the speed.
The working edge of i-m-a fingers should have convex form everywhere and p-finger --not concave form. Every concavity, even a little one, makes a double attack which of course should be avoided. The curvature of the edge shouldn't change abruptly. So in mathematical terms the function of the surface should have first 3 smooth derivatives. :) There is one old simple principle about i-m-a fingers: the form of the nail repeats the form of the finger.So if you hold your fingers in the perpendicular plane , the form of the nails looks like the form of the finger edges. It does not mean that the visible (from this point of view ) length should be the same. You can correct the length of each nail by trying different exercises for the right hand and watching the equality (both rhythmic and dynamic) of sounds.
With p-finger the matter becomes complicated because of big differencies in the form and hand position. It's very individual ,so you have to find it watching what your p-finger and p-nail do while you play. Make a very very slow apoyando and tirando with only p-finger and concentrate on interaction between the nail and the string. Don't be afraid to make absolutely strange forms of p-finger , seek and you will find! There is one more subtle trick that can help you to find a good sound for all fingers: if you start the contact with strings at the left side of the nails (which itself is strongly recommended), you can make the slope of the right side steeper, so that after releasing the string by the sound attack it wouldn't take any contact with the nail.


scales & arpeggios(appendix II)

I recommend 5 fingerigs in "one position" for natural major scales:

from 1.tone
from 3.tone from 4.tone
6. 1   2   4     1 2   4   1   2   4  
5. 1   2   4     1   3 4     1 2   4  
4.   1 2   4     1   3 4     1 2   4  
3.   1 2   4     1   3       1   3 4  
2.     1   3 4   1 2   4     1   3 4  
1.     1   3 4   1 2   4     1   2   4


from 5.tone
from 7.tone
6. 1   2   4     1 2   4  
5. 1   2   4     1 2   4  
4. 1   2   4     1   3 4  
3.   1 2   4     1   3 4  
2.     1 2   4     2   4  
1.     1   3 4   1 2   4  

Play it "up and down" with "m"-"i" or "a"-"i", thirds: a-m-i. Play it with figurations:
1,3,2,4,3,5,...and so on. OR: 1,2,3,1,2,3,4,2,3,4,5,3,... and down 8,7,6,8,7,6,5,7,6,5,4,6,... and so on.
With thirds: 1,2,3,2,3,4,3,4,5, ... and down 8,7,6,7,6,5,6,5,4, ...
(figures here mean tones of the scale)
That helps you significantly to read the notes and develop improvisation skills.
Invent your own figuration sequences.

! Don't forget to play it with the musical feeling ! One of the posibilities to do it: play UP - crescendo, DOWN - diminuendo.
In sequence 1,2,3,1,2,3,4,2,... watch the intonation in every "fours"-group.

"one string" scales
Playing scales on one string helps to develop jumping technique and horizontal fret feeling.

"one finger" scales
Play the same using only one finger of your left hand . There is one trick: make the first jump with the hand shift and the next one with the arm turn. So you alternate the movements and can get a good speed. Oscar Peterson can play quick passages with only one finger on the piano, why shouldn't we be able to do that on the guitar?

"two strings" fingering arpegios
There is a tradition with acoustic guitarists to play arpegios tirando. If you want it to sound louder or clearer, you can try it with apoyando but then you need a good fingering for the left hand, too. Now look, between the 1st and the 2nd string is a quart , between the 3d and the 4th - a quart , and between the 5th and the 6th - a quart. If you manage to split your arpegio or figuration so , that each part of it can be played on only 2 strings, then you just need to transfer your hand and play the same "two strings" fingering in other position and on a different pair of strings. For example: E major septaccord : e, g#, b(h), d, e, ...
frets , numbers are fingers
6.       1     4          
5.         2   4          
4.           1     4      
3.             2   4      
2.                 1     4
1.                   2   4

It is very convenient for the right hand too, because there are exactly two notes on each string, and for apoyando it's ideal.
Change finger pattern in the left hand , and you get all possible arpegio figurations. (you can stretch you hand so , that it will cover 5-fret patterns)