Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Left-Hand Trouble Shooting

Do Your Fingers Seem too Short?

Problems reaching notes, especially notes on the fourth fret of the 5th and 6th strings, are usually due to poor hand position. Shortness of reach is caused when the palm is held diagonal or perpendicular to the neck, when the thumb is hooked over the top of the neck, or when a finger, often the little finger, is held too far from the fingerboard. Review the diagrams below for the proper hand position:

String Buzzes

Buzzing or muffled tones may be due to improperly set action, worn or defective strings or frets, incorrect neck relief, plucking too hard or poor finger placement. However, most beginners will find that poor finger placement is the most common cause of buzzing or muffled tones. When fretting, place your finger next to the fret, touching it but not directly on top of it. Whenever possible, avoid placing the finger midway between the frets--this position buzzes easily and requires additional pressure to make a clear tone.

If you think something is wrong with your guitar, get the opinion of your teacher or a guitar technician. If your guitar is new, your dealer should be willing to adjust it for you (adjustments are often needed for new guitars, especially cheap ones).

Sore Fingers?

Sore fingers are sometimes due to an improperly adjusted guitar, but more often than not stem from excessive finger pressure. Here's how to find the minimum finger pressure: Place your finger against the string (next to the fret), but don't press it down to the fret. Pluck the string. You should hear a muffled sound. Continue plucking and slowly increase the pressure until the string begins to buzz. Hold the pressure there--let it buzz. The pressure needed to maintain the "buzz threshold" is very small. Now, press just hard enough to stop the buzz and break into a clear tone. This small amount of pressure--a few grams--is all the pressure you need when playing!

Source Materials

Frary, Peter Kun. Beginning to Play Classical Guitar. Book 1. Honolulu: FRM Publication, 1988.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Classical Guitar Tablature – by Thomas Niemann

This is a good starting point for who doesn’t familiar with standard notation and wish to play Classical pieces.

The first music I studied for guitar included folk songs such as Freight Train. Later I tried my hand at classical music. This was a painful experience. Despite much persistence I was unable to read music. At the same time I was easily learning folk music from tablature. As an experiment I translated Étude in D to tablature. Within a month I was playing the piece fluently.

Étude in D is still one of my favorites. Another song I especially enjoy is the Gymnopedie, by Satie. I’m afraid I played this piece obsessively while I was learning it. The other pieces are fairly easy, as I never progressed past the advanced beginner stage. If you study any songs, and want to bring a smile to my face, send me some email. If you can read music, or would like to learn, I recommend Frederick Noad’s book



Sunday, February 13, 2011

Barre Chord Basics | How to Play Barre Chords

Barre chords are the scourge of the beginning guitarist. Like a bum knee, a prison record, the inability of matter to exceed the speed of light; barre chords hold us back. The next time an F minor chord messes with you, mess back with this:

  • Check your thumb placement. Your thumb should be pressing against the back of the neck, on the fattest part, behind the area where the 2nd finger’s hanging out.

  • Check your first finger placement. It should be parallel with the fret wire, so close it’s just barely touching the side. Roll your finger a bit toward the nut, so that the bony side of the finger is digging into the strings instead of the strings digging into what my student Casey calls the “chub.”

  • Stop pressing so hard. That first finger’s only responsible for fretting some of the strings, so don’t try to press down on each string with equal force. For example, when playing a standard barred F chord, press hard with the tip of your finger on the 6th string, and dig your knuckle into the 1st and 2nd strings, but let the finger rest lightly over the other strings.

  • Take heart. Often you can transpose a song to avoid barre chords. Also, some great guitarists never play barre chords–BB King, for example, played his way to greatness pretty much one note at a time. As he said in the U2 documentary “Rattle and Hum,” “I don’t do chords.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

To Produce Tones of the Masters

Guitarists, you're wondering how to make your instrument to produce the types tones that evoke emotions of listeners? If so, you'll want to look at the technique of classical guitar that the world's best classical guitarists use to make their audiences thrill of music.

A stellar operatic tenor makes his living producing sounds that send chills fans into ecstasy. If his voice was hoarse and rough, he never would inspire his listeners. Good sound is what differentiates the average of virtuoso singer. Likewise, a skilled musician to play classical guitar works to produce the best sound quality possible with the right hand. He attempts to refine your pitch to the point where no rudeness or impurity remains. Thus, the player puts out a beautiful tone in his own mind, then try to duplicate the elusive quality tone on the classical guitar.

In the classical guitar, the musician uses his nails to produce the tone, since using nails shine and creates a multitude of tone colors. The tone of the nail that guitarists produce the best show of course, round, sweet and ethereal in character. It has no roughness, scratchiness beats or clicks. This tone can completely delight both player and listener. Each and every guitarist should point to a sound so magnificent flawless. Do not be satisfied until the sounds coming from your guitar has this elusive quality that you hear from best artists in the genre. Experiment with your tone, to get the sound you want. Remember, even superior dynamic range, the tone should remain fresh and airy.

To produce such a tone, first get a clear concept of an ideal tone in his mind. The best way to get this concept is to hear one of the beautiful tones produced by a virtuoso classical guitarist, whether live, recorded, or classical guitar lessons. Listen again, each time trying to listen more subtle qualities of tone. When you have a clear concept of sound, try to produce the same quality in his own classical guitar. You'll find it easier because you have already heard that the tone should sound, a master of the art. From a technical perspective, performing the hits from the right hand correctly will also improve the quality of its production tone. Use both methods to hone their skills in this most important aspect of the technique of classical guitar.

Since sound quality is so crucial for its development as an artist of classical guitar, makes this exercise so important to your daily routine like practicing scales. You can also have their musicianship to the next level of attention to tone production. Online classical guitar lessons can help, too, can take classes as a studio.

When choosing a studio or a classic line guitar lessons program, make sure that instructors to produce sounds that move the hearts of his listeners. Look for reviews of their shows and listen to their recorded works. In addition, they must have teaching experience enough to have a registration for the quality of students they produce. Finally, make sure that teachers have a friendly way that allows them to explain the material to their students in a clear, using the student's preferred style of learning. Choose wisely and you will be producing the types of tones that moves the hearts of listeners too.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The forgotten finger: Your left thumb

In many routine activities (such as turning a doorknob or picking up a spoon) your fingers and thumb grasp together. This tendency often continues when placing your hand around the neck of a guitar, which leads to tension in the hand and other fingers. Your left thumb should normally rest gently against the back of the neck without squeezing. There are times (such as barring) when the thumb must apply a little pressure, but normally the fingers should do their own work, assisted by the lower arm as needed. Imagine a large rubber band from the back of your elbow to a wall behind you, gently pulling your arm back and helping to keep the fingers firmly against the fingerboard. It's also important to keep the left wrist loose as there is sometimes a tendency to bend the wrist inward towards the fingerboard to help increase finger pressure.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to Practice Scales

Classical Guitar Scales

Scales are probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think of practice and technical development. The idea that practicing scales makes you a better musician seems to be universally accepted yet in the case of the classical guitar the 'mythology' of scale practice seems a little over-rated. Scales occur frequently in music written for violins, flutes and piano however, they come up rarely in the guitar repertoire. A full octave scale is actually quite hard to come by in much of the literature and when there is a long scale passage in a work it stands out partly because it is so rare. Violin and piano repertoire on the other hand is absolutely littered with virtuosic scale runs that span genres from the Baroque to the present day. It stands to reason, then, that we do not practice scales to be prepared for the occasional scale run in a piece.

The process of running up and down a scale, which is a very common way of practicing scales, is pointless.

So why do we practice scales ?

Scales are tools. They are simple frameworks that we can use to hone in on specific technical elements. Once those elements have been worked on in isolation they can be incorporated into music making, which is the ultimate goal of any technical work.

The process of running up and down a scale, which is a very common way of practicing scales, is pointless. Without a specific focus to practicing a scale then the time is wasted without any goals being reached. The scale itself may become familiar and fluid but seeing as there are few actual applications of a scale in a piece the process really is, pointless.

Scales are incredibly useful, however, if assigned a goal and function. One function might be to practice crescendo and diminuendo another could be to practice staccato articulations yet another is a variety of rhythms. As you may start to realize, the ways to use a scale to work on technical aspects is almost as diverse as your imagination. A more complete list of scale suggestions is written below and I encourage you to come up with your own uses for scale practice.

It could be argued that scales are useful for becoming acquainted with the fingerboard and learning key centers. This could be absolutely true although the common tendency to memorize scale 'patterns' on the guitar prevents any real development of these skills. If you doubt this, ask the next scale wiz that you come across to sight read some Bach ;)


Here are some suggestions on how to apply your scales:

  • Crescendo
  • Diminuendo
  • Terraced Dynamics
  • pp,p,mp,mf,f,ff

  • Dotted Rhythms
  • Triplets with duplets
  • Groupings of 5,6,7
  • Accellerando
  • Rallentando
  • Lento, Andante, Allegretto, Allegro, Presto etc.
  • Ponticello
  • Tasto
  • Pizzicato
  • Harmonics
  • Slurs
  • Stacatto
  • Legato
  • Tenuto
  • Sforzando
  • Accents (place accents on different notes)
  • im, mi, ia, ai, ma, am, ami, mia, ima, pima, amip, pi, ip etc.

  • Shifts
  • Fixed fingers


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