Imagine your self at a guitar concert. The music is beautiful, and you’re lost in it. There you hear a terrible buzz — a missed note — and your reverie is broken.
Most of you have probably been to a concert where this has happened, and perhaps some of you have been the ones making the buzz (I know I have). Are those buzzes and split notes true mistakes? Or are they one of these errors:
1. Moving All at Once
Most classical guitarists come from some sort of rock or popular music background. So think back to your first guitar lesson. What did you do? Chances are you played some chords.
Then you tried to move those chords around, and your teacher said that you should try to move all your fingers at once.
Moving all at once is not necessary in much of the classical guitar repertoire. Our textures are different, and we don’t really have a lot of instances where block chords need to land all at once. The solution is sequencing.
Put fingers down as you need them. Don’t worry about nailing the block chords; start thinking, “where can I add fingers later? Do I need to have every note of the chord down right away?”
This one little change makes a huge difference in how legato and consistent your sound is.
2. Not Preparing & Carrying Around Excess Baggage
This goes hand in hand with sequencing. Good guitarists find ways to prepare for the next movement before it happens.
In other words, think how you can prep unused fingers for the next shift or movement. You could extend the first finger to prepare for a barre or hover an unused finger over the string where it will be placed next.
The other half of this is keeping unnecessary fingers down. Unless a finger is fulling a musical (controlling open strings, respecting note values, etc) or technical (a guide or pivot finger, etc) purpose, it probably shouldn’t be down. Why do we do this? Because it’s easy to be lazy and not worry about picking fingers up before we have to.
But the truth is that, while it is easy to keep left hand fingers down, often times those fingers create problems in shifting and legato later on. So drop them. And try to incorporate those newly freed fingers into your preparations for the next move.
3. Ignoring Hand Position
Hand position matters a lot for the left hand. Does your hand need to be angled or straight?
Sometimes it’s easier to do one or the other. But the real value in paying attention to your left hand positioning is not that it makes things easier.
Find a left hand position that works well for a given passage or motive and you’re able to replicate it in practice — you can getting into and out of this new hand position instead of leaving it to chance. That’s awesome.
Awareness is King
All of the above have one thing in common: they involve being aware. They involve you stepping up your practice focus and getting your left hand to do the things you need it to do.
The good news is the more you pay attention now, the more good habits — like sequencing, preparation, and good hand position — take over and become the default.