The sensationJuly 22nd, 2012
As I look back to my old posts, I realize I’ve been repeating myself quite a bit. Concepts like the automated engine, walking the fingers, snapping through the strings, kept on showing up in my posts.
Well, at least I’m consistent.
And it does point to one thing — that playing the guitar is really quite a simple matter. All you have to do is to understand the basic concepts behind the techniques and there’re only a few of them.
It’s one reason I haven’t been writing much about technique lately.
I’ve said most of what I wanted to say (with perhaps one or two exceptions which I’m reserving for my books).
But one of the concepts that I’ve been referring to, and which I haven’t written in detail yet is that of the tactile sensation at the fingertips.
To me, the sensation at the fingertips is everything.
When I first discovered the tremolo technique, all I could remember is that of the sensation at the fingertips. It was an unusual sensation. I remember the moment I found that sensation, my tremolo smoothed out immediately.
I was so excited by my discovery I decided to transfer the sensation to all my other techniques. It was a conscious effort. I had to re-practice all my techniques to get the sensation into my fingertips when I played them.
I remember that to get the sensation, the nail length had to just right and I had to make sure I hadn’t washed my face that day, because if I had washed my face, there wouldn’t be enough grease on my face to oil my fingertips. (Yes, part of the sensation is that the fingertips should be able to slide past the string effortlessly, with minimum resistance, although with a slight catch in the finger nails.)
So what’s this sensation?
It’s the sensation of complete relaxation at your fingertips. (I’m talking about the tip joint here.)
You feel as if you have full control over your tip joint. No matter how fast the tempo, you’re able to place your fingertip on the string and pluck each one of them individually and deliberately.
This gives you great control over every note, at any tempo.
You feel a slight give at the fingertips, you allow it to relax, and you snap away at the moment of plucking.
As the finger snaps away, you feel the string sliding past the fingertip with a slight catch just before it clears the string. It all happens easily and effortlessly.
Perhaps the most important of these factors is that you have to focus your movements not in the knuckles, but right at the fingertips when you play.
The beauty is of the technique is there’s absolutely no hurry. Even at the fastest tempo, you feel as if you have all the time to pluck the strings.
So if the tactile sensation is such a crucial part of finger plucking technique, how come no one has ever mentioned it before?
It’s a good question. I’ve often wondered about it myself.