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3 Tips to Make You a Master of the Fretboard

By Edited Oct 18, 2015 0 0

Is there a song or piece you simply love and can play entirely aside one or two measures?

Every guitar players knows this feeling too well. Below are three things that will take your playing to the next level.

1.) Don't look where your fingers are, look where your fingers need to go.

Slowing the piece down to half or quarter speed makes this much easier to do.  Always practice slowly and deliberately using perfect movements if you can. After you feel more familiar with the passage speed the piece up slightly every time you repeat passage until you get a normal tempo. While doing this watch your fingers always being mindful of the next fret. Often times you can focus on just one finger and the rest will just fall into place because you are so familiar with the piece. The root note of any chord should be given priority placing left hand fingers. The root note will most often be the lowest note of a chord.

If you are overwhelmed with notes in a line of music and have a difficult time watching your left hand and  tab or notation at the same time you can make that much easier just turning your head long enough to land that first finger on the lowest note of the chord and using that same note as a point of reference for your other fingers. Some instructors insist upon keeping your eyes on the music if reading notation. However, in the practice room sometimes a little extra attention from our eyes goes a long way on hard piece of music. Looking at your fingers will eventually lead to muscle memory on the fret board as well. Not too mention , it is much more likely to memorize entire songs this way.

2.)Use minimum effort by using the perfect amount of pressure.

 Pressing the frets too hard adds tension in the left hand and makes transitions more difficult. In the next paragraph I will describe a technique that will improve left and right hand independence by getting rid of unwanted tension in your guitar practice.

Choose a piece of music you are fairly familiar with but still have some difficulty with maybe one or two phrases. Try planting your left hand on the strings above the frets of the first chord and don't press down with your fingers. With your right hand play the strum pattern or arpeggio as normal. You should  make a percussive sound rather than have the notes ring out. You will be essentially muting the strings with your left hand. You may notice right away that the passage becomes much less difficult.

This may be because  you are pressing down too hard on the fret board. Almost every guitarist is guilty of pressing too hard, including myself. Try to feel the weight of the left arm pulling down transferring its weight through your fingers while the thumb is just resting on the back of the neck. Press down slowly. You should hear the notes start to buzz slightly and finally ring clearly when you are using the absolute minimum amount of force. Now play the passage several times with your primary focus on maintaining that newly found perfect pressure on the fretboard. Learning to use the most efficient pressure is a huge step for any guitarist and it will greatly improve your dexterity on the fret board.

3.) Train Left and Right hand independence

Left hand and right independence is the crux of guitar technique. It is something people train years for and may never perfect. If you  have ever seen a world class flamenco guitarist play, it is easy to see the intensity of the right hand while the left hand stays light and fluid. Try this next routine as part of your daily warmup and you might play with as much ease and command as Don Cortes Maye one day.

Start by playing pianissimo with your right hand. Pianissimo means playing very softly. This helps relieve tension in the left hand. The reason playing pianissimo helps relieve tension is because our entire life our hands are trained to work in unison together. Using a less tense right hand will usually in turn make our left hand less tense as well. If playing pianissimo makes the transitions easier you will want to address your right hand and left hand independence.

The following routine has proven results in some of the most acclaimed classical guitarists of our era. You begin by playing pianissimo as described above and then slowly go into a crescendo. A crescendo is the opposite of pianissimo. As the volume increases try focusing on maintaining that perfect pressure with your left hand on the fret board described earlier in this article. Increasing volume and maintaining constant pressure is difficult to do at first but you will soon notice a difference after a week or two. It is also a great way to practice adding dynamics to your music.

In conclusion, stay relaxed and use only as much energy as needed. Getting better technique is the same as saying a more efficient approach to music. Good technique makes better sounding music as well as preserves the health of our hands and fingers. Thank you for reading this article. Please stay the course and love music!



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