Friday, October 31, 2008

Free Music Lesson #3 (Coordinating the hands)

I'll start this blog by promoting my November 15th guitar workshops at Dusty Strings (   These workshops are called "Playing the Guitar with Ease."  Well, I'm not sure that's actually possible but by trying we can improve our sound.  The first workshop is Saturday from 10:30-12:30 and will focus on sitting positions, posture, and muscle tension (see lesson #1.)  The second workshop, from 1:30-3:30,  will look at exercises to help play relaxed and strategies to work on technique issues.  Come check it out.  Now, Coordination.

It's arguable that the most technically difficult aspect of playing music is the coordination of the left and right hands.  I once saw The Earl Scruggs movie and in it he mentions that this is really important and difficult. It is.  Take it from Earl.  Developing a seamless flow with both hands separates the good players from the great.  As my own playing continues to develop (hopefully) I am spending more and more time on this technical issue.  Especially as I try to push into faster and faster speeds.  How can we make the two hands work as one.

Maybe, try this.

  1. Go Slow!  You can't hear this enough.  The only way we can make the hands do what we want is by very deliberately telling them what to do.  This can only be done by going slow. Play something (slowly) you know very well and focus on getting the smoothest cleanest tone you can.  This is where we get the hands to work together.   
  2. Consider the details.  For example, should this finger stay down a little longer, should that one lift sooner.  Should you shift the position of your arm a little bit to reach that note over there.  Play close attention to the way your hands feel as you play.  Try to remember that feeling and recall it the next time you play.  
  3. If you're making lots of mistakes ask why.  This is important.  If you don't figure out what went wrong with a wrong note you can't fix it by just trying to play it again.  Analyze what's going on with the hands.  Find the sequence of movements you're looking for and play that section over and over.
  4. Play scales.  Learning scales is a great way to get to know your instrument.  Its also a great way to build technique.  It happens to be a great exercise for getting the hands to work together.  Maybe some of you know a couple of scales but how well do you really KNOW them.  If you know one scale learn another in a different position, key, or place on your instrument.
  5. Go slow.
Hope it helps,

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