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***Disclaimer-I apologize in advance to any and all LEFT-handed guitarists out there, but all my diagrams and videos are oriented for Right-handed players (players who use their right hands to pick). All of the information is still valid for lefties, but you will have to visualize a “mirror-image” for many of the graphics.
As a beginner, your fretting hand needs to perform the lion’s share of the work. The earlier you work on correct mechanics,the better. Don’t be overwhelmed by trying to remember all of these suggestions at once; concentrate on one or two points at first. After your hands “remember” these mechanics you can move on to others.
Making contact between the string and the fret is the key to producing a clean sound. If we make constant clean contact, the note will sustain as long as the string vibrates. If the pressure is removed, the note will die out. On a properly set up guitar, it shouldn’t take much finger pressure to make the connection. You should experiment to find the least amount of pressure it takes to produce a tone. Exerting too much pressure is fatiguing and could possibly pull the note out of tune on higher profile frets. Here are some helpful hints to perfect your fretting hand:
when fretting a note, get as close to the body side of the fret space as you can without physically touching the wire- touching the wire will mute the note.
keep your fingers straight with the fret wires- this will increase your stretch.
your palm doesn’t need to squeeze around the neck. Use only the fingers you need (with your thumb applying opposite pressure) to produce sounds. If you try to grip too close, you limit your stretch and cramp your hand.
don’t keep your elbow tucked into your torso- this pulls your hand out of position and hinders your ability to move up and down the neck fluidly.
Here are some easy exercises to help you with your technique:
This first example uses all four fingers of your left hand to cover a 4 fret block. Each finger will cover one specific fret across the guitar. In this case, our index plays the 5th fret, middle plays 6th, ring plays 7th and pinky plays the 8th fret. Imagine yourself drumming your fingers on a desk (from index to pinky).
* Don’t be afraid to experiment with any and all exercises. Why not try playing EX.1 starting from a higher /lower fret while maintaining the same shape?
This exercise uses the Low E (6th) string exclusively, but you should also try it on the other five strings. You will still use one finger per fret like EX.1, but now our “four-finger block” will ascend up the neck- one fret at a time. (*NOTE that whenever you hear terms like “ascending”, “up” or “higher” it means that we are headed towards the body of the guitar).
***Video coming soon!***
Most beginners feel that their hands are completely uncoordinated and independent of each other. This is a common complaint, but luckily there are several exercises and techniques that can help you to synchronize your left & right hands. Concentrate on placing your fretting hand on the correct fret while striking that same string with your picking hand. Both hands should “hit” at the same time.
Here’s an easy exercise: Start with your index finger on the Low E/5th fret. Next place your middle finger Low E/6th fret. Move over to the A string and play index (5th fret) and middle (6th fret). Follow this pattern up and down-while keeping the same fingering for the same frets.
You should get in the habit of playing every musical example forwards and backwards. Not only will your technique improve, but your ear will improve as well. Here is the same example switching the finger order . You’ll still use your index for the 5th fret and your middle for the 6th.
Now let’s try adding a third finger to the mix. Your index plays 5th fret, middle plays 6th fret & your ring plays the 7th fret:
Here is the the same example backwards (remember to keep the same fingering):
We can’t forget about the pinky, so…Your index plays 5th fret, middle plays 6th fret, ring plays the 7th fret & pinky takes the 8th fret.
And backwards (remember to keep the same fingering):
Notice that when we use all four fingers, we cover four frets (using one finger per fret). This “four fret block” is very important because it allows you to span two octaves without shifting your arm up or down the neck.
You can see how we used the four fret block in the exercises above. Let’s move it to a different fret and try to mimic the same fingering. Start on the Low E/12th fret with your index finger, then play Low E/13th fret with your middle. Next move your index to the A string/12th fret followed by your middle on the A string/13th fret, and so on. You’ll notice that this is the same fingering we did in the first example.
Try adding additional fingers until you can repeat the original exercises in this new location. Remember- you can move this four finger block anywhere on the neck…and you should. JUST REMEMBER TO KEEP THE BLOCK’S SHAPE INTACT! The same fingers should remain on the same frets throughout these exercises.
Practice these shapes on the lower, middle and higher registers, and you’ll feel comfortable playing anywhere on the neck.
*In the next lesson we’ll learn our first scale (the Chromatic Scale). It also uses the four fret block…but with a twist…
**Newbs are free to move on to the next lesson, OR stick around for some advanced finger independence.
In all of the previous examples, we used consecutive fingers to play from low-high, or high-low. Kind of like how you might drum your fingers on your desktop. Start the four fret block any where you like and try to play these sequences from string to string using:
1(index) 2(middle) 3(ring) 4(pinky)
Good Luck and be sure to take plenty of breaks!