Anticipation and plantingSeptember 20th, 2010
The concept of anticipation is well-known in guitar circles. It is the basis of the technique of planting or preparation. (Planting or preparation refers to a technique of positioning your finger on the string before you pluck it.) To prepare, you have to anticipate.
In itself, preparation or anticipation is indispensable to good playing. It ensures accuracy and control. However, to be effective, preparation must be done correctly. (“Correct” here meaning delivering optimal results.)
The traditional practice of preparation is to place your finger on the string before you pluck it. This may work at slow tempos but it is ineffective at fast tempos because it stops the flow of your action.
At fast tempos, it’s crucial that the act of preparation does not stop the motion of your plucking. When you place your finger on the string, you must keep your finger moving even as you prepare each finger on the string.
Stopping your stroke in mid-action is inefficient. It slows you down because you lose momentum. Think of driving, imagine if you have to constantly stop at one red light after another, you lose momentum and you lose speed.
But how do you plant your finger without stopping your action?
The answer is in the tip joint. You allow it to give slightly at the moment of impact. This will enable you to stay momentarily on the string even as you continue to move through with the rest of the stroke.
Try this. Move your ‘i’ finger towards the third string. As the finger meets the string, allow it to flex slightly at the tip joint, producing a slight give at the tip joint. This give in the fingertip will allow the finger to stay on the string for a split second before it clears the string. It’s important to note that you must control the amount of give in the fingertip. Don’t allow the fingertip to give completely. There should a springy feeling in the fingertip.
This kind of preparation is dynamic. It produces a relaxed and fluid stroke and will give you effortless speed. That’s because there’s no loss of momentum. You’re able to continue with the stroke without ever having to stop to prepare.
Three more points about preparation.
In fast playing, this kind of planting is very minimal, so minimal as to be almost imperceptible. The only hint that you’re planting will come from the sound. You will hear a slightly detached quality in the notes. This detached quality is actually highly desirable and essential for fast playing. It will give your playing the clear sparkling quality that you hear in all the good players.
Never try to force preparation. Allow the technique to evolve naturally in your playing through constant playing and practicing. In my teaching, I’ve found that most students develop preparation naturally, without having to practice it consciously.
Avoid doing full plants in ‘p i m a’ or ‘p i m a m i’ arpeggios. Full planting is putting all the fingers on the string before you play the arpeggio. It almost always results in choppy arpeggios. It doesn’t take much to understand this. Just place your thumb on a bass string and your fingers on the first three strings (full plant). Then pluck them ‘p i m a.’ Put the fingers and thumb back on the strings again, and play the arpeggio again. Keep on repeating the cycle. You’ll find that the arpeggio will be choppy and blocky. Planting in these kinds of arpeggio patterns should always be sequential
Finally, think of preparation as a dynamic process. Incorporate it into your plucking and most importantly, never allow the planting action to stop the flow of your plucking motion.