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Thread: Left hand movement

  1. #1
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    Left hand movement

    It seems that my left hand moves too much. I notice it even when I play slowly, when my hand is completely relaxed. My forearm doesn't move, but my fingers go up too much and I just can't control it, even when I'm completely concentrated.

    Are there any methods for this, like picking, or is it supposed to solve itself naturally?

  2. #2
    Experimentalist Koala's Avatar
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    Hmmm I dont think bad habits ever correct themselves but i might be wrong. I suggest you focus on your left hand while playing exercises (start slowly, speed up gradually) and try to keep your fingers relaxed, and keep in mind that the less they fly way from the fretboard, the more efficient your playing.

  3. #3
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    You need to

    A) Be sure your not using to much pressure fretting the left hand
    notes. One thing you can do is practice sitting a finger on the string (Don't Press) just sit it there. Now start picking away at the string your fingers sittin on. It should be totally muted cause your left hands just sittin there. Now while picking away at the string, very slowly start letting your left hand finger fall till you produce a clean sound. Boom there ya go you need no more pressure than that. Prac doing that say a min each with every finger every day.

    B) Your not going slow enuff. There's no such thing as to slow.
    You gotta go slow enuff that your finger dosen't react as it's been programed to do. You gotta go slow enuff to overide that program.
    Try setting the meternome at 60 and practice 2finger group ex.
    (1,4)(1,3)(1,2)(2,4)(2,3)(3,4) on one string playing a whole note (4 clicks for each note).
    Watch not only what thee fingers that are playing are doing, but also what the fingers that should be resting are doing. As they are resting they should be doing nothing.
    If you need to slow down even more.
    Waddever it takes to keep the fingers from flopping around.
    When your comfortable on one string try alternating between 2 and 3 etc. then repeat with the Met. set a few beats higher like 4 or so.
    When you work up to 140 or so cut the time in half and play half notes (2 beats per click)
    Keep repeating that and eah time you can hit say 140 or waddever u want cut the time in half and move to the next division of time till you can get up to 16th notes or waddever your goal may be.

    You can also prac diffrent 3 finger and 4 finger gropus and combinations. Try it with licks/ scales waddever.

    If you find whole notes at 60 is no problem
    then move it up till u notice the problem begin, then take about 10 beats off it, cause it's proably starting to begin right there.

    And no, this isn't fun.
    I have to do this with my pinky.
    I don't like it
    but I do it anyways.

    Since this can be VERY Boring. Do it a few mins at a time everyday.
    or else (at least for me) I'm out of it in about 5 mins
    "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is usually the correct one." William of Occam

  4. #4
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    But how does this help when after those 5 mins I continue to practice normally?

  5. #5
    IbreatheMusic Author daviej's Avatar
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    Try very gradually speeding up some exercises up, from whatever speed it is that is slow enough for you to have minimum finger movement. If you can eventually get this up to a speed where you can play what you would otherwise consider slow for your normal playing, and continue to try to keep finger movement to a minimum the rest of the time you play, you should find improvement. Also, if you cannot control this when you're playing normally, it seems likely that you are not relaxed enough. The exercises the Bash and I have suggested will help with this anyway, and you can find others all over the place on this site.

    David

  6. #6
    Ibreathe Music Advisor EricV's Avatar
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    I agree.
    I used to have the exact same problem. As I mentioned before, my first teacher once told me that Ed Van Halen does most of his stuff with the left hand.
    So all I worked on was hammer ons and pull offs back then. Didnt focus on picking at all. Then, when I DID start to work on picking, I noticed that my hand was moving way too much.

    I had to constantly remind myself to really relax the hand. When Id play some picking lick, and would stop picking, youd still hear the notes pretty loud, cuz I was putting too much strength into fretting... I was pretty much doing legato all the time.
    So I sat down and watched my left hand while I played picking-stuff, constantly thinking "RELAX".
    This is something that you usually cant force... its normal that your l.h. touch gets lighter the longer you play. When I do legato-stuff these days, I have a rather light touch, simply because throughout the years, I kinda unconsciously stopped using too much strength... my hand kinda figured out that less strength was needed, and relaxed.

    One other thing you could try is supportive fingering, or "The Spider".
    What you do is, you play a chromatic exercise, say 1-2-3-4 on all six strings.
    Now, you fret the first note ( 1st fret, low E ) with your index finger, the 2nd one with your middle finger ( while the index finger stays put at the first fret ! ), 3rd one with the ring finger ( index and middle fingers stay put ! ) and the 4th note with the pinkie ( now, all fingers should be on the string ).
    Now comes the tough part. You continue playing frets 1-2-3-4 on the A-String. But you move only ( ONLY ! ) the index finger there first to play the note at the 1st fret. The other fingers remain on the low E-String. Then, you move your middle finger to play the note at the 2nd fret. Right then, index and middle finger should be on the A-string, 1st and 2nd fret, and ring f. and pinkie should still be on the E-String.
    You then move first the ring-finger and then the pinkie to play the notes at the 3rd and 4th fret.

    Once you play the 1st note on the A-string, and your pinkie still frets the 4th fret on the E-string... if you hear both notes ring together, you did it right.
    The purpose of this exercise, if used in combination with your regular exercises, is to minimize left hand movement. It might feel awkward to play that way at first, but it really trains the left hand, and is a very efficient way to play.
    At a certain, higher speed you wont be able to maintain this "supportive fingering" anymore, but if you do a few minutes of this "spider" every day, it should bring results...
    Hope this helps
    Eric

  7. #7
    Acoustic Gunslinger Wyll_Watts's Avatar
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    i like what The Bash said, there is no such thing as too slow.. great point..

    I has severe problems with my pinkie finger sticking up in the air like I was a 19th century southern aristocrat drinking tea... I had to just slow things WAY down, and you have to catch your fingers BEFORE they fly off into the air.. really bear down and concentrate on this.. This problem showed up for me again when I started playing bluegrass style acoustic guitar.. the style really requires heavy gauge strings and a hard right hand attack so the left hand has to apply more pressure to prevent string buzz.. so I had to retrain my left hand fingers again.. and ,oddly enough, I did it using the Troy Stetina Speed Mechanics book using the bluegrass equipment.. it was in that book that Troy reminded me that you have to catch those fingers BEFORE they fly away.. on a somewhat entertaining note.. even though Troy really gets into how important it is to keep the fingers ready to fire just over top of the strings check out the picture on the front of the book, it's the tea cup pinkie!!!

    Wyll

  8. #8
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    THIS IS IT! Finally someone understood. My pinky straightens itself, and that's what prevents me from playing fast licks. Yesterday I tried to control this while playing 60bpm whole notes (note per sec), and it was really hard. Sometimes playing very slowly is harder than playing very fast.

  9. #9
    some guy Doug McMullen's Avatar
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    My pinky straightens itself, and that's what prevents me from playing fast licks.
    Nazgul --

    No, that isn't it. That's just a symptom! The tea-cup pinky is not, all by itself, a particularly bad thing... it's what the tea-cup pinky tells you about the way you are using your left hand. You haven't learned to use your left hand properly yet.

    Bash Eric and Wyll have _all_ understood you and all gave you great advice! Reread their posts.

    All too often inexperienced players end up coaching themselves and each other in dead-wrong left hand technique ("practice till your fingers bleed man, etc.... you need to develop your finger strength, etc.)

    For once someone is getting the actual good, correct, info.


    Many guitarists (including me) have had the problems described in this thread. I've heard Troy Stetina's speed mechanics mentioned as a course that addresses this stuff -- you might want to check it out ... I think Jamey Andreas book (Correct Principles of Practice, something like that) also addresses this stuff. I didn't use either book.

    What I did were the excercises that Bash and Eric described x10. That is, I invented several variations of those excercises... light touch, relaxed fingers which do not move unless told to move and which never stray far from the strings-- those are the goals.

    You need excercises to train toward those goals ... equally importantly you need to understand how your hand works.

    Your hand was designed by Evolution to throw rocks at hyena's and cling to branches in a tree. By nature your brain learns to use your hand primarily as a unit -- as a fist, as a door knob turner. To be a good guitarist you've got to learn to use your hand a new way... you've got to learn to use your _fingers_. This doesn't come easy. It is infuriating and frustrating to discover that you aren't in control of parts of your body you thought you were ... You think you are in command of your fingers... but you aren't, not in the way that a skilled musician really needs to be...

    You tell your pinky to move and the ring finger moves with it... HEY, you didn't tell it to do that! So then you try to stop it, and you can't.

    The first rule of training your left hand is: Nothing moves (at all! not a wiggle!) unless you tell it to! Sounds easy, but it isn't. Do the excercises that Bash, Eric and Wyll mentioned. Buttery and fast left hand technique? -- this is how you develop it.

    Fingers stay close to the strings, light touch, no excess strain or motion.

    It is very satisfying to play guitar correctly. No pain, no physical fatigue (in fact playing guitar becomes a physical pleasure -- Jazz great Jim Hall says... "if I _don't_ practice for a day it feels like someone stepped on my hand") technical challenges that seemed out of reach become acheivable.

    I played for years and years (! ugh!) like a garden variety bad weekend guitarist with the usual death-grip left hand... then a few years back I got hardcore about training my left hand and in a matter of a few (difficult) months I got my left hand to where I was like: "hey, I'm a musician! ... I've got 'musican's hands' instead of those bricks I used to have."

    The musical ear for tone and rhythm can and should be trained every bit as thoroughly.

    Bash mentioned 5 minutes before the frustration sets in -- he's right.

    Relax and do 5 minute "sets" --- 5 minutes of hand excercise, a 1/2 hour of normal practice... 5 minutes of hand excercise. You are reprogramming your brain-to-hand connection... it won't come overnight... don't worry about the 1/2 hour of normal practice ruining the gains of your hand practice... just use your hand as best you can... the real gains (the brain reprogramming) take place overnight in your sleep. See if I'm wrong... you'll notice your biggest gains not within a practice or between pracitices on the same day, but from one day to the next. You pick up the guitar on Tuesday and are like... hey, what happened, this got easier.

    I mentioned that I didn't use either the Troy Stetina method or the Jamey Andreas method... but I did use a Jamey Andreas excercise I got from an article he wrote.

    The excercise is called "finger flaps"... every practise should start with them. Just very gently with a single finger (in normal guitar grip position) touch each string "flapping" a finger onto the string very gently. Do not fret the note, the string should barely register the impact of the finger, just very lightly touch the string... while the other fingers sit lightly relaxed upon the strings motionless. Do this with each individual finger.

    That excercise should become ridiculously easy. Maybe it will start out that way, if you have naturally 'soft' hands ... but I know when I started these excercises, I had developed such a habit of CRUSHING the strings that it was literally difficult for me to touch a string without automatically mashing it to the fretboard.

    One last thing -- good left hand technique will noticeably improve your tone, too.

    Good luck,
    Doug.

  10. #10
    Central Scrutinizer
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    Great post guys,
    When I first started playing I had very virtually no guidance as to how to play correctly as far as tech goes. It was like here the pick, heres the guitar, this is a quarter note E it gtes one beat, go to town. I learned to read, count and some open chords, but as how to actually hold the inst. The pick, the fingers, No Clue. I thought the music itself was all the matters. And actually I wasnt too far off.
    I got into the Beatles and music made a lot more sense. I was tuning my guitar one day and hit the open low E string and thought hmm, sounds like Day Tripper, so I spent the next couple weeks figuring out the song. Revelation. Never occurred to me I can actually figure out a song. So I started using what little I knew and didnt know to play day tripper and write my own little songs.
    Well, I realized I had some issues with day tripper because of what my fingers were doing. Had some issues transitioning certain chords even in my silly little songs due to very poor tech.
    Ok so the music may be all that matters but ones tech. Must be up to the level of the music.
    In Hesss article he uses Kurt Cobain as an example. Now apart from what the man did to himself I kinna liked Nirvana. Not very difficult to play and sure not very good tech. Either but he had enuff tech to express what he wanted to express.
    Anyway, being into the Beatles I went out and checked out some other British Bands of the 60s like the Stones, The Who etc. and each taught me something new and made me change something regauding my tech. Ok Keith would probably die, in fact might be the only thing that would actually kill the man is to call him a Technical player. But thee is a certain technique to what he does and your fingers must be up to it in order to play it.
    Then one day I found this Band Called the Yardbirds, no clue as to what they were gonna do
    Well, kinna blew my mind cause they were playing guitar as a guitar player would more so than a songwriter. That when I fell in love with Lead guitar ripping off Old Beck, Clapton licks. Again I hadda rework my tech cause this was a bit harder than what Id been doing. From there I got into Hendrix and Zeppelin and Deep Purple and again major reworking of y tech. My fingers had to meet the challenge of what I was hearing in my head. I had always liked to make stuff up or Improvise so Id take what ever I was hearing/stealing and try to use it in my own songs or solos. My only real limit was what my mind could think of and what my fingers could do.
    Anyway this same thing repeted itself out over and over and it all comes back to what my mind could hear and what my fingers could play.
    Well once I started gigging regularly playing covers and my own tunes I kinna leveled off my tech was compatible with what I was playing. Did I need anymore? Maybe not. But after I while I got bored. After a while my mind started hearing thing my fingers wouldnt do. In order to express my self more thoughly I was gonna have to change something. Id go out and gig stuff like Nugent and Aerosmith and go home and listen to Zappa and the Dregs etc. I was kinna content in that I play like this those guys do that. However a couple years ago I wanted to be doing that myself so now Major change.

    Anyway, so much for long boring story
    The point is Im in process of actually working towards what theses guys that accomplished with there left hands and right hands for that matter. And this stuff does work. And it does take time. And I dont belive you can force the issues as it does seem to change while u sleep. As Ive found that the case for almost anything. You can struggle with a lick then next day boom you suddenly got it. Ive found with tech. Issues that progress is very slow but if you keep at it one day you suddenly make a big leap. Now you may not leap quite as far as youd like but for me theres always been a very very verry small gain then sudden leap. That keeps repeating itself out. The further you go the more time seems to elapse between the big gain. The bright side is, if your really bad at something youll notice a big gain right away. As you get more proficient those big gains are fewer and further between.

    BTW. I noticed that Stetina picture myself
    If I remember right its John Mclaughlin whos got the really wicked looked pinky
    That kinna sticks stiff out and flops all around. I might be thinking of the wrong guy, but whover it is, is amazing fast despite the fact. However, if your not John or whover Im thinking off, which Im not, you might wanna fix that if it happens to you.
    "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is usually the correct one." William of Occam

  11. #11
    Central Scrutinizer
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    How does 5 mins help

    Imagine your walking ten miles to school ever day over a hill of snow, with a wind chill factor of negative ten and only a hard boiled egg to keep your hands warm, which will be your lunch once you actually arrive at your seemly impossible destination. Now this bites.

    So, one day you get the bright idea after again walking ten miles back home, with no hard boiled egg to keep your hands warm and no lunch, cause you were so hungry from walking ten miles to school you devoured it the moment you got there, to go grab a shovel. You reason that the school is actually down the valley only 3 blocks away, but the road winds this way and that before actually bypassing the school and the only reason you take the ten mile journey, long and hard as it is, is due solely to the fact: There is no other road. Thus, the shovel.

    You decide right there to spend a certain amount of time every night, after your homework and practicing is done of course, to take that shovel and dig yourself out a new and much shorter road. Well, this is very demanding work, so you find after five minutes your beat, you need a break, so you sit down in the snow and play a few tunes on your guitar (being resource full you opted to bring your guitar, never mind its feeezing out here, cause you live in some Lovecraftian ice village). You continue this process shovel for 5 min minutes, play for a bit, shovel for five minutes play for a bit every night on and no for several months. The road seems impossibly long and the task extremely daunting, but determined you shovel on. Until one day you actually see off in the distance the school, however, unbeknownst to you previously, you also see a big mass of Tolken like trees and other evil excrescent rearing there ugly heads from beneath the frozen tomb of snow. Fortunately for you, you have prepared yourself you this moment and looking down you find your once common vairty took shed shovel has transmogrified itself into a two headed snow shoveling, battle axe wielding machine (that according to the label is designed specifically for choppin down Tolken like trees and other evil excrescent that may rear there ugly head from a frozen tomb of snow.) This is by far the hardest part of the journey, but youve spent the last several months preparing yourself for this final conflict.

    Imagine yourself with two paths:
    One a ten mile uphill journey (due to the non-euclidean construct of the small Lovecraftian village this road is always and always will be uphill, never mind the schools actually resides deep down in the valley.
    The other a downhill hop, skip and jump. Though its easier to bring your sled and just glide down the hill to school.

    Which do you take.
    "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is usually the correct one." William of Occam

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