A strong left hand

March 6th, 2010

I’ve always advocated having a strong left hand, and pressing down firmly with the left hand. It’s something I learned from Karl Herreshoff. His advice was always:

“Maximum pressure left hand, minimum pressure right hand.”

I understand this approach runs counter to current thinking in left hand methodology, which is to use minimum pressure in the left hand.

Of course, I’ve always believed that if pressing down lightly with the left hand is working for you, that you should keep on doing it.

But to me, pressing down firmly with the left hand is the key to a secure left hand. It’s absolutely essential if you want to develop strength and agility, especially in hammer-ons and pull-offs.

In my AOV for guitar, I included a simple left hand slur exercise for developing strength in the left hand, but any slur exercise will do.

Success in developing a good left hand is absolutely contingent in making a habit of pressing down firmly with the left hand. This pressure should not be dead and unvarying but should be alive, like a vibrato, one moment pressing down firmly, the next relaxing that pressure. It’s almost like you’re singing with the left hand.

I want to thank Andre de la Torre for pointing out to me that Casals made the same point about pressing down firmly in the left hand in one of his masterclasses.

I have tried to google that statement or any other statement by Casals made in reference to the left hand but so far have been unable to find anything, except for references to Casal’s “strong” left hand.


Just received an email from Andre and he provided me with this quote from the masterclass in question:

I have him on video telling a student that “the percussion (of the left hand) puts vibration in the string and the sound comes easily. When a string is (thusly) put in vibration then the sound comes easily, naturally. If the string is not put in vibration, it is more difficult to have a clean sound.” Casals demonstrates this.

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