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Does it matter about the right hand fingering of a tremolo?

by David
(France)

Hi Trevor,


I've been getting to grips the last month’s flamenco piece, Malaguena, particularly the tremolo in the last section. This is my first attempt at a tremolo so I'm not really comfortable with the technique yet (but I'll get there). On this piece, you've noted the right-hand fingering as PAMI, I've been trying hard to get that right but I naturally want play it PIMA. The instinct is hard to fight, I also find that I'm faster that way. So my question is: does it really matter which way around I play the tremolo?

By-the-way, I think the flamenco style makes a refreshing change from the 'pure' classical pieces and I can't wait to have a bash at Andalucia.

Have a merry Christmas and happy new year.

David

Hi David,

It's a very good question and of course, there are varying degrees of opinion on the matter. I myself have stuck to the conservative practice of pami.

I'd suggest you have a look at the technique ideas on tremolo by two very good names in the classical guitar field, namely: Frederick Noad and Sharon Isbin. Fred Noad says in Solo Guitar playing that...

"slow practice should help the attainment of greater speed (using pami)...what seems to happen is that a very positive and accurate habit is formed, so that there is no vagueness or uncertainty when the movement is played at a higher speed..."

And similarly, Sharon Isbin said in the Classical Guitar Answer Book that you can...

"Practice a tremolo piece very slowly using a rest stroke only for the "m" finger. Increase the speed gradually with a metronome. When you can no longer use a rest stroke, use free strokes for all fingers but continue to accent the middle finger. As the tempo increases, the accent will diminish, but the correct rhythmic placement should remain..."

These are very useful ideas and they both even go further in their books with more ideas on the art of tremolo.

I hope this has been of some help.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

P.S. Merry Christmas to you also!

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Practice the variations of at least 3 scale
by: James McCutcheon

I recommend practicing at least 1 3 octave scale form the Segovia collection of scales studies in a key that matches key you are using for Malequena.
I have several variations and transcriptions.

The reason I say this, I am left handed and I learn to play the Classical Guitar Right Handed because that is the way they say you are supposed to play it. I did not know any different.
So you can train your mind, nervous circuits to do what is needed.

Segovia was right when he did these so you have all the circuits formed so that when you need the skill it is already available.
James

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Fly Away Little Finger

by Jeff Stanley
(San Antonio, Texas)

I've been working on Giuliani's Allegro Etude (Lesson 4), and on your recommendation, I bought Scott Tennant's "Pumping Nylon." Great book, but one of the first thing he goes over is the player keeping his or her fingertips near the strings when they aren't playing a note -- within a half-inch to an inch.

I've noticed, on Giuliani's piece and others, that my little finger has a tendency to "fly away," so far sometimes that it is pointing at the opposite wall. Any tips on taming the little guy?

Thanks so much for this site. Between the Noad and Tennant books I have, and the graded repertoire and instruction that you offer here, I'm looking forward to seeing my progress in a year.

Hi Jeff,

Great to see you're doing so well and I hope you continue to improve. In terms of the little finger, I've always found if something like the little finger is not performing as it should it's almost always to do with some sort of tension (probably unconscious).

Unfortunately, once we create habits they're very hard to break. But if you are aware of what you're doing you can develop your technique properly. That's why I always advocate learning pieces in slow motion first. You can also use a mirror to watch your technique developing the right way and at the same time you're "laying down" the correct patterns of fine motor control in your brain to make it second nature, as it were.

My questions to you would be:

1. Are you trying to play the piece too fast too early?

2. Is there some form of tension and stress in your body as you are doing this i.e. in your fingers, hand, shoulders or even in your whole body?

Once you become aware of these things you, in effect, bring the underlying stress (or causes) to the surface of your awareness. An important thing to remember is we can't change ANY behaviour unless we "bring it to the surface" and become aware of it.

On a deeper level, that's why you see people making the same mistakes in life over and over again. Their unconscious conditioning from earlier in their life has them "trapped" in patterns of behaviour (physical, mental, emotional) that they're doomed to repeat unless they become aware of it, bring it to the surface of their consciousness and are then able to change it.

It's a small point but one that has huge implications for one's life. I was lucky to learn techniques for doing just this some years ago in a personal development course and I was able to relate it to my playing which helped me to improve.

I wish I had known this at an earlier age though as bad habits, once formed, are hard to break. For instance, sometimes under pressure I find my right thumb bending at the first joint quite a way. Although it was only a minor technical flaw it really used to disappoint me until I saw the famous David Russell doing it in performance.

But given the choice, I would have developed the correct use of the thumb from the beginning. Oh well, you can't be perfect :))

Sorry I have "rambled" on a bit but I hope you get something out of it.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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Hand and finger size

by Nick P
(Rochester, New York)

For a male, my hands seem to be on the small size. Especially, the fourth finger is a whole inch smaller than the third.

This makes for some difficult and sometimes impossible stretches for the left hand. I was wondering how other people compensate for this problem.

It also makes it difficult when the fingering calls for the fourth and third, or fourth and second fingers in order to make the next chord/note change easily attainable, but I need to go with the fourth and first.


(I am so envious of the long fingered players)

Hi Nick,

I understand your problem because I think I'm a lot like you. My hands are also on the "smallish" side.

Over the years I have slowly developed the ability to stretch my left hand to reach most difficult stretches (for example in bar 15 of the Bach Prelude in D Minor) although, with smaller fingers there are of course limits.

I haven't had to do this but have you considered getting a smaller guitar, say, a 5/8 or 3/4 one?

Often you can get a guitar this size with the quality and tone color of a full-sized one. An added advantage is that it could also be less expensive to buy.

I hope this has been of some help.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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Right & Left Fingers "Identification"

by Sandy
(Philippines)

I would like to know the fingers' code identification. Hence I am able to read and to use rightly my left fingers to their corresponding code in the music exercises.

Your reply would deeply be appreciated.
Sandy

Hi Sandy,

In classical guitar music they use numbers for the left hand i.e. 1 2 3 4 where 1 is the index finger, 2 is the middle finger, 3 is the second last finger and the little finger is 4.

On the right hand, they use the letters "P I M A" where P is the thumb, 'I' is the index finger, 'M' is the middle finger, 'A' is the ring finger.


I hope this helps.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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Finger Picks

by Rocky
(Louisiana)

Instead of growing out my fingernails (which my wife hates) would it be ok on the guitar to use a certain type of finger picks?

If so what kind and do you have a link to them. If not my wife will have to get over it.

I've been playing the guitar for about 2 months now and I decided I liked the classical style much better than the chords and have been using your web site for about 3 weeks now.

I am now learning Greensleeves and love it. Thanks for making this website.

Rocky

Hi Rocky,

I once tried to use fingerpicks when I was trying to learn piano at the same time but it never worked out. Some people might use them but I found it very unsuccessful for the classical style.

I also tried to use glue on nails which were more successful but there's really nothing like your own nails. Your wife might just have to get used to it! :))

I hope this helps.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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Nail length
by: Nick

I personally do not like extra long fingernails also as they tend to break, and just do not look right on a man. In addition, as the nail grows, it wants to curl down forming a sort of hook, that will want to catch the strings.

The right length for me is probably between 1/8" and 1/4" max. My gauge is this---Look at your hand palm facing you. If I can see about 1/16" nail showing, this is perfect for me.

I catch the string with nail and pad getting a decent tone, it doesn't grab the string, and I can still work without breaking it! Needless to say, you still need to shape it correctly.

Nick
Rochester NY

playing with pads
by: MIchael J king

There has always been another way to play, from the renaissance until the 19th century the pads of the fingers were mostly used for the guitar, Fernando Sor in his guitar tutor book was the last Proponents of this style, you loose out on volume and clarity but you gain a sensitivity of touch equally as well that is your own.

Check out youtube for players like Rob Mackillop who play with pads exclusively on baroque and romantic guitar you can get an idea of how this sounds.

On his video that demonstrates baroque strumming you would be hard pressed to tell that he is using pads and not nails!!

I gave up on nails years ago as it was in conflict with making musical instruments but I like not having claws on my right hand too!!

Nails
by: David Heap

Introduce your wife to the long lost art of back scratching, she will never again complain,-------- As long as it is done properly and you will be able to play your guitar without complaint

Your nails
by: Ulises

I bite my nails. Except those on my right hand which I use to play with, so my hands look very odd. Nothing like playing with your own nails. Please note that they don't have to be too long. So experiment what's the minimum length you need to grow them to play. You'll be surprised they don't need to be too long.

Sincerely

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Small Finger Control

by Aphrodite
(Hong Kong)

Hi,

I have been studying classical guitar for some weeks now, and one problem causes me inability to play music: I simply cannot play some combinations. My fingers fail to hold down the strings simultaneously, and even if they do they cannot press them hard enough, or are touching other strings and muting them.

Any advice?

Hi Aphrodite,

If you've only been playing for a short time you probably haven't built up enough strength in the fingers which could be one of your problems.

To overcome this you need to practice scales on a daily basis which will not only help your fingers to gain strength but will also help to increase your flexibility, speed and even suppleness (required for good "touch").

Also, if you're muting the strings it's probably because some part of the flesh on the fingers are touching the string. You need to bend your fingers more at the first and second joints which should move them away from the string. But remember, do this in a relaxed manner. Don't hold the fingers too tightly or it'll affect the sound and you'll be defeating the purpose.

Practicing slowly always helps to build up the right movement and procedure. It's a bit annoying at first but don't give up because after a time it becomes second nature and part of your playing, and you won't have to think about it.

Too many players give up too early but the ones that play well continue through these "rough" periods and come out the other side a better player for it.

I hope this helps!

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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classical guitar fingering
by: Susan

Some pieces require both rest stroke and free stroke, which makes fingering even more difficult to master.

Arpeggios (broken chords) I generally find free stroke (where my fingers leave the string, allowing it to vibrate) most beneficial to master, and as long as you know the Latin names of your fingers (p,i,m,a), you can chose which fingers you wish to use,

Generally, I use my thumb (p) for the bass note and my first three fingers, i,m, and a for the chord fingering.

Often I practise difficult arpeggio fingering, such as pimiaimi away from the strings and against my thumb on my right hand. This will also improve your speed for faster tempos.

However, when you are playing scales or other
notes, I find it beneficial to use rest stroke, resting my finger against the string to stop its vibration when I play quarter notes or notes that you don't want to sustain through the measure.

Also, it is helpful to move your right hand as though you are opening a bottle and position it over the opening in the body of the guitar. This will improve its acoustics and resonance.

In addition, always remember to have a small foot stool handy to lift the neck above your waist, as when you keep the guitar at waist level it is more difficult to master bar chords and to stretch your fingers to play a more difficult chord, or to carry a note over as you continue to play the measure.

Hope this helps, Aphrodite (love the name). Keep practising every day and you'll get better.

Regards, Susan
-playing 15 years

Slow is faster
by: George

I second what Trevor said. In the very early stages of learning you will build up your fingering skill with slow, accurate practice (See the Segovia scales or the "Pumping Nylon" book).

Don't even consider speed or making the tune sound like music yet. Work on those challenging movements every day for maybe 10 minutes...remember that your fine finger muscles learn movements much slower than your brain can comprehend the desired outcome or theory of that same movement..."teach your fingers well"...do some of the movements in extreme "slo-mo" until everything is smoothly coordinated.


AND don't forget that you're PLAYING not WORKING...enjoy yourself...slow progress is much more gratifying than rushing to failure.

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Which finger should I use?

by Vinh
(Vietnam)

I've have been learning the guitar for about 2 months. My teacher always tells me to play alternate fingers with the "i" and "m" fingers.
However, I don't know when should I use the "a" finger.

Hi Vinh,

You use the "a" finger as required e.g. as in arpeggio chords that use all the fingers of the right hand in succession or selected pattern.

If your inner fingers are otherwise occupied then it stands to reason that you'll need to use your "a" finger when other notes are required. When you get to play more complicated music with several "voices" you'll be able to use your "a" finger.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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How to "shred" finger style.

by Wille
(Sweden)

I'm interested in starting to play pieces like Mozart's "Rondo ala Turka", but I'm wondering how one is supposed to play the faster melodies (like the very first 4 notes for example). Just a name for this technique would be great because at the moment I don't even know what to search for. I think its called picado in Flamenco terms.

So basically, how would one go on about playing the first four notes of Rondo?

Thank you for a great website!

Hi Wille,

I have never played that piece myself on guitar but thinking about it I’d imagine that you are playing 16th notes followed by a quarter note (in probably 2/4 time) and those notes are slurred. That is you’d play the first note and the last note and the notes in between are played in a slurred fashion.

I do know the music and it’s quite fast but on guitar I’m sure you would slur those notes. So I would call them slurred 16th notes. A sixteenth note has two tails on the stem.

Perhaps someone reading this could also assist in helping Wille.

I hope this has been of some help.

Kind regards,
Trevor M.

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Welcome to LCG! I'm Trevor Maurice, owner of this site. I hope you find inspiration in these pages to help you with  your journey of learning to play the classical guitar. You can read more of my story here...

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