Tips for developing an accurate and fast left hand technique
Tips for Developing an Accurate and Fast Left Hand Technique Almost every guitar player worth their salts will expend a lot of effort on developing their left hand technique. This is one area where the effort invested really pays off; nothing does more for a guitar player than getting their left hand technique down solid.
- Practice Makes Perfect
This is an old saying that fits left hand technique perfectly. Quite simply, the more you practice, the better you will get. Ask any long term player, either a serious amateur or a professional, how many hours they have spent practicing left hand technique? They will probably just smile and reply something like “forever”. The simple truth is that every hour, day, week, month or even year spent practicing left hand technique will improve the player. Practice, practice and then practice some more.
- Perfect Practice
Just as the frequency and duration of practice sessions has a bearing on developing a great left hand technique, then so does the accuracy of the exercises carried out in the practice sessions. Sloppy practice leads to sloppy playing. It is much, much harder to break bad habits than it is to not form them in the first place. Always ensure that everything you do in your practice sessions is carried out to the best of your ability. No sloppy chord fingerings, bad scale runs, fret buzz or inaccurate dampening. Play it perfect, practice perfect.
- Build Your Strength
Two things influence left hand technique directly. Finger strength and finger reach. Build your finger strength through away-from-the-guitar exercises. There are some excellent little gadgets available, you can buy them in most good music shops, and they are like an exercise machine for fingers. They have four sprung pads, which the four fingers of the hand rest upon, and they can be depressed individually. Keep on in your pocket and exercise your fingers to build strength wherever you are!
- Build Your Reach
Just like finger strength, finger reach has a direct impact on left hand technique. Perform stretching exercises to extend your reach. These exercises are very simple to do. Take your left hand, open a gap between the first and second finger. Place your right wrist, sideways in to that gap, and then twist the wrist, stretching the fingers apart. Repeat this for the gap between each finger pair.
- Develop a Regime
So now we have four very important techniques described for developing that perfect left hand technique. It is time to put this all together in to something similar to an athletic workout. First of all, when you are about to embark on a good practice session, don’t just grab the guitar and start running scales. Spend a little time limbering your fingers up; perform the stretching exercise outlined above several times. Once you do begin to actually play during your practice session, e sure to take brief breaks. As soon as your left hand becomes painful due to the stress of playing, take a short break, never keep playing past the pain, this is dangerous. You will find over time, that the time between the breaks will lengthen, and eventually you will not need to take a break at all.
- How to Improve Left Hand technique
We have covered practice quite deeply, so let us now move on to actual things you can change about your playing style to improve your left hand technique. There are several possible ways in which a guitar player can perfect their technique, this is doubly true for people who have been self taught, as they may have developed bad habits already.
- Thumb Position
It is vitally important that the thumb of the left hand is in the correct position, if you are serious about developing perfect left hand technique. Vertically, the thumb should be placed either right in the middle of the guitar neck or slight under the middle. Horizontally the thumb should be placed right in the middle of the hand. Imagine the guitar neck is transparent; you would be able to see your thumb positioned between the forefinger and the third finger. Making sure you have your thumb position perfect is one of the primary ways in which a player can improve their left hand technique.
- Don’t Back Fret
When fingering a note, make sure that you are pinching off the string as close to the fret in front as possible. This will mean that less pressure is required to form the note, and that fret buzz will be minimised. So many guitar players get lazy with this, and as a result, actually end up expending more effort than is required. Back fretting, along with a bad thumb position, are the two main mistakes that players make when developing their technique. If you have developed either of these bad habits, then you should try and break it now, before it becomes too hard.
- Don’t Ignore the Hardware
So many guitar players think wrongly, that having a good left hand technique is solely about how well they can play. However, consider the fact that even the most skilled musician cannot play to 100% of their capacity if the guitar itself is out of shape. Pay special attention to the neck, making sure it is clean and free of grease and dirt. If the strings become dirty or grimy, then change them. Also remove any build up of dirt on the finger board, although care should be taken whilst doing this. Keep your guitar clean and you will find that your left hand technique will reflect the effort you have taken.
So there we have it, some tips designed to help every guitar player, from beginner to experience musician, develop a better, smoother and faster left hand technique. The key, as is highly evident from this short article, is practice. There is no short cut to building good technique, practice and perseverance will see the guitar player slowly improve, to a level that they are comfortable with, continued practice will maintain this level.