The secret of speedDecember 22nd, 2010
The secret of speed in guitar playing is not speed but finger independence.
Forget about ballistic movements, about explosiveness — that may work for other sports and the martial arts — but on the classical guitar, what you need is finger independence.
Think of it this way.
Try plucking four quarter notes at 152 with one finger, let’s say the ‘i’ finger, and you’ll find it’s not so hard to do. You can move that one finger quite comfortably at that tempo.
Now try playing a tremolo (four 32nd notes) at 152 with four fingers (p a m i) and you find it’s not so easy to do.
What’s changed? You’re still essentially playing each finger once at 152.
What’s changed is the added number of fingers involved. The fingers are interfering with one another as you play.
The problem comes down to finger independence.
When you have more fingers involved, each one of them will cause the others to move with them as they pluck, a phenomenon called sympathetic motion.
The real secret of speed in guitar playing is to minimize this effect as you play.
Once you can produce a sympathetic-motion-free movement in your fingers, speed automatically occurs.
Some people will try to counter the effect of sympathetic motion by brute force.
I actually took lessons years ago with one of these people. His solution to counteract sympathetic motion is to get students to practice kicking out the other fingers in the opposite direction when plucking with one finger.
I’ll let you imagine the consequences of just such an unnatural exercise.
No, you can’t fight nature, you’ll have to work with it.
There’re two ways to reduce sympathetic motion naturally.
1. Move the fingers upward in circular motion. As soon as your finger clears the string, release all tension and allow it to move upward to re-position itself for the next stroke. This will produce a circular or oval shaped trajectory at your fingertips as you play.
2. Minimize the follow-through. After you’ve plucked the string, any movement after that is superfluous and unnecessary.
There’re other factors involved in achieving speed – such as looseness, lightness, fluidity (all basic components of virtuosity as described in the AOV). All these techniques and strategies are described in detail in the AOV for Guitar too.
But the crucial factor is still finger independence – allowing each finger to move freely and without interference from the other fingers.