Walking the fingersOctober 22nd, 2010
I just posted a response to a comment on youtube.com where I tried to summarize my approach to playing guitar in one sentence.
The sentence was, ‘Keep your movements light and small and focus on the long line.’
This basically summarizes the AOV, particularly the point about keeping your movements small.
Moving in small movements is the old concept of economy.
It’s just common sense. If you move less, you have less distance to cover, if you have less distance to cover, you can get there faster.
It’s a concept that is universally recognized, from the martial arts (Bruce Lee the finest proponent of the concept) to the new model of business efficiency, Lean Six Sigma. The ‘lean’ in the latter means doing less.
On the guitar, applying the concept is relatively easy.
All you have to do is to focus all your movements at the fingertips.
(This is a point I covered in some detail in the AOV. The concept applies to the left hand too. When you fret notes with the left hand fingers, isolate the actions right at the fingertips. The sensation is almost as if there’s a little magnet at the fingertips that make them want to ‘stick’ to the fretboard.)
When you play, focus all your actions in the fingertips.
When I play, I feel as if all the action is concentrated in the fingertips and all I’m doing is just wiggling my fingers.
It almost feels as if I’m just walking my fingers across the strings.
The concept of economy is a simple one.
Yet it’s interesting to note that some guitar teachers actually teach techniques that run counter to it.
One such technique is that of playing from the knuckle, Playing from the knuckle is inefficient because it isolates the movement at a point far from the points of action (where the actual plucking is taking place.) When you focus your movements away from the points of action (your fingertips, that’s where the action is taking place), you lose precision and economy because it’s harder to control what’s going on at the points of action.
Think of reaching out for a cup. When you reach out to grab a cup, you reach out with your hand (fingertip equivalent), not your shoulder (knuckle equivalent).
The second technique is the emphasis on the follow-through after the string is plucked. I’m not sure of the rationale behind this, but it does have the effect of exaggerating the follow-through, resulting in unnecessary and excessive movement.
If you’re not used to playing at the fingertips, it may feel strange at first, almost as if you’re not playing, because the actions are so small.
But once you get used to it, playing the guitar becomes incredibly easy, you feel as if you don’t have to exert any effort and speed just happens, you don’t have to force it anymore.
You feel as if your fingers are completely independent, as if they have a life of their own, and all you have to do is walk them through the notes.