Walking fingers video

July 13th, 2011

I’ve been doing some video taping. My priority this past year has to get some of the concepts I’ve written about here on video.

Well, it’s not easy. Quite apart from the tech problems – I finally figured out how to set my camera for low light situations – it’s also the off-the-cuff speaking which I’m still getting used to.

Here’s one of my attempts at trying to explain and show the concept of walking the fingers. The audio is on the soft side which is just as well, as I don’t sound all that coherent, but the main thing is the video.

What the video doesn’t show is the actual sensation at my fingertips, and as I’ve written before, I focus all my playing at my fingertips, there’s a sense of forward motion in the fingertips, they feel as if they’re being constantly propelled forward. The focus also is on finding the next string rather than on the actual plucking, in other words, on the pre-plucking rather than the plucking.

Here’s Etude #1 by Villa Lobos — a good piece to practice the walking fingers exercise.

11 Responses to “Walking fingers video”

  1. William Bajzek Says:

    Hi Philip,
    Thanks for posting this. It’s a technique (? is it a technique or a mindset?) I’ve used from time to time and I’m happy to be reminded of it. I feel like it keeps me a step ahead of what I am about to play, and I especially like that it’s more like asserting correct intention rather than a defensive attempt of avoiding error.

    One question. This is pretty straight-forward to apply and has a musical clarifying effect when playing arpeggio passages. For passages with scales, tremolo, or where any given string is played more than once in a row, it can result in notes getting clipped off prematurely. I suppose it’s a matter of timing, but it’s hard maintain the feeling of one pluck causing the preparation for the next while letting notes ring appropriately. Do you have any thoughts on this, or a different technique that you would use in those situations?

    Thanks for taking the time to make the videos!

  2. Philip Hii Says:

    It’s a technique but it’s also a mindset. And the mindset is all about getting to the action rather than the action itself. This creates a very dynamic flow of movement in your playing, you’re always focused on the next note.

    Yes, controlling the release of the notes is all about timing. You have to know when to bring the fingers to the strings in a smooth controlled sequence and the way to do it is through rhythm. First, externalize the rhythm by vocalizing it, maybe doing a ‘rat-tat-tat-tat-tat.. ‘ with your tongue and then make your fingers follow the pattern established by the tonguing. In time, the fingers will develop incredible rhythmic precision and this will create a kind of engine in them, something I’ve written about quite a bit here.

    The other way to avoid the clipping effect is to avoid ‘preparing’ the fingers. There is an element of preparation in the stroke but this ‘preparation’ is very dynamic and quite unlike the traditional technique of preparation. The latter is static, the finger actually stops on the string to prepare. This other form of preparation is dynamic. Your finger NEVER stops moving, even during the ‘preparation.’ That is because the ‘preparation’ occurs as a natural result of the fingertip flexing on impact with the string. Sounds quite complex but it’s actually quite simple when you get used to it and part of that natural fluidity I write about in the AOV.

  3. William Bajzek Says:

    I see. I watched the first video again and realized you weren’t demonstrating what I was thinking about. It seemed to fit the idea I already had in mind, in which (taking HVL #1 as an example) you could get i on its string as p plucks, causing it to arrive early.

    I think this is more like the ‘natural preparation’ you’re talking about, not like the blocky preparation you mentioned in the latest post. Maybe I should have said anticipation rather than preparation, to keep the ideas distinct and (if I’m not mistaken) stick with the terminology as you use it in your book.

    So I guess I asked the question wrong, but you’ve already given the answer to what I meant. If the left hand fingers anticipate by constantly moving toward their next destination, so do the right hand fingers.

  4. Philip Hii Says:

    There’s a subtle difference between the two terms but I find that ‘anticipation’ has more movement and ‘preparation’ is more static. Other than that, the two words mean almost the same thing – getting ready for action. But as you say, perhaps we should keep the two ideas distinct especially since the term ‘preparation’ is already firmly established in guitar terminology to describe a specific technique.

  5. William Bajzek Says:

    I had another thought about this that I forgot to mention. You can also think about this as a way of transferring weight from one finger to the next. If you think about it that way, you can use the hand or arm to apply pressure on the strings towards the top. It makes it easy to get volume and full tone while keeping the fingers relatively loose, and I think it’s easier to get the feel for that this way than when playing something where your fingers are mostly off the strings.

  6. Philip Hii Says:

    Yes, transferring weight is a good way to describe it, so’s redirecting the energy in one stroke to the next.

  7. Jason Says:

    That is the best sounding VL Etude #1 arpeggio I\’ve ever heard. Please record and post the whole piece on youtube, I would love to see how you develop it dynamically throughout the composition. As usual, both informative and inspiring post.

  8. Slow Moe Says:

    Very interesting and helpful videos. However, when I observe the walking demonstration video, everything is as described, one finger steps and then the other. (sequential planting), but in the performance video the a finger often plants well in advance. Maybe this is still walking, but it is different than the demonstration. I’ve observed many instances like this in the guitar pedagogy. — teachers demonstrate one way, and then unknowingly perform at full tempo using different movements.

  9. Philip Hii Says:

    Very perceptive.

    Perhaps the best analogy is when studying composition, teachers are quite strict about following the voice leading rules–no consecutive fifths or octaves, for example. But in actual composition, these rules don’t matter as much. What’s important is getting the job done.

    The actual point of the exercise is to train fingers to focus on the pre plucking stage. There is a subtle difference between this and planting. Planting is a static concept–you’re making sure your fingers are on the string before you play. Focusing on the pre plucking stage is movement oriented. You’re focusing on moving the fingers to the string. The actual plucking becomes an afterthought rather than the main event.

  10. Slow Moe Says:

    In the second video where you play the entire etude, are you using the Segovia pattern: p i p i p m i a m a i m p i p i ? It’s so fast that it’s hard for me to tell, but it seems like you’re doing a different fingering and arpeggio pattern than in the demonstration video…but perhaps I’m wrong.

  11. Philip Hii Says:

    I use a different pattern:

    p m p i p m i a m a i m p m p i

    The p m p i alternations seem to work better than just p i p i.

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