June 9th, 2011

The concept of economy is a no-brainer, few will question the logic behind it.

If you move less, you will get to your target faster.

The question is not its effectiveness but how to achieve it.

Many people try to achieve economy simply by trying to make the body move less.

If you’re plucking strings, try to make the fingers move less. If you’re fretting notes, try to keep the fingers close to the strings.

This method works to a certain extent, but it involves too much self policing – you’ll have to constantly watch your fingers to make sure they move in small motions.

It’s simply ineffective in virtuoso situations, where events often unfold so quickly you don’t have time to think, let alone monitor your actions.

There’s a better and easier way to achieve economy – play in such a way that economy occurs naturally and automatically.

The trick is to focus your movements at the point of action.

I’ve written about this before and in the AOV for Guitar.

To gain natural economy, simply focus your movements at your fingertips and you will automatically get small movements in your fingers.

This is what most natural players do, they move their fingertips when they play.

But sometimes this natural instinct can be superseded by other factors. For instance, if you’ve been taught to move the fingers from the knuckle-joint.

Moving from the knuckle joint transfers the focus from the fingertips to the knuckles which automatically results in bigger movements at the fingertips.

As I’ve said before, I’m not in the business of converting people.

If you’re playing from the knuckles and it’s working well for you, you should keep on doing it.

But if you’re dissatisfied with your speed and comfort level when you play, you might want to re-evaluate how you play and try to focus your movements at the fingertips.

The logic behind moving from the fingertips is simple.

Imagine you’re trying to scratch an itch. How would you do it?

Would you scratch by moving your finger from your knuckle-joint or would you scratch with your fingertips?

Or imagine you have to reach out with your hand to grab an object, maybe a cup of coffee from a table, would you reach out from your shoulder joint or would you reach out with your hand?

The point is, we tend to focus our action in that part of the body that’s directly involved in performing the action.

If we have to grab a cup of coffee, we reach out with our hand. If we want to scratch an itch, we scratch with our fingertips.

It is important to note that no action occurs in isolation.

When you move one part of the body, other parts will naturally move in sympathy. That’s just how our body works.

But the primary initiator of the action must always be the part of the body that’s directly involved in performing the action.

In the case of plucking, it’s the fingertip because the fingertip is what’s plucking the string.

Focus your movements right there, at the fingertip, and you’ll get natural economy.

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