First, a short explanation.
The engine is the mechanism in the fingers that enables you to produce speed effortlessly, without having to force it.
What do I mean by forcing?
It means trying to move the fingers as fast as possible individually.
Forcing may work to a point, but it takes too much effort and the inherent tension will cause you to choke eventually.
By tapping into the engine, it is relatively easy to get all the speed you need with effortless ease, which means there’s minimal tension.
So what is this engine?
It’s making the fingers work together so that they work as a unit.
First, consider the actions involved in plucking one note.
- You bring the finger to the string.
- You pluck the string.
- Your finger follows through.
- You bring the finger back to the string for the next stroke.
That’s just one note.
To play a series of notes, you’ll have to repeat the sequence for each note, which means we’re looking at performing up to 40 actions if we have to play ten notes.
Now, instead of thinking 40 actions, think one action.
When you do this, there’s a continuous flow of energy from one action to the next.
And here’s an important point—each action becomes a springboard to the next.
As you perform action 1, your finger is already moving to action 2, and as you perform action 2, your finger is already moving to action 3 etc.
Within the actions, there’s a sensation of constant forward motion, each action driving to the next
This forward driving energy is crucial. Not only do you have to perform the actions as one, you must also fill your actions with an energy that’s constantly propelling itself forward.
To use the idea of the springboard—each action becomes a springboard to the next.
Because all this occurring at the local level, at the points of actions, it automatically produces very small economical movements at the fingertips.
This technique not only works for the right hand (plucking hand), it also works for the left hand especially in playing hammer-ons and pull-offs.
Let’s say you have to play four slurred notes—f g f g on the first string.
Here, there’re three left hand actions after the right hand has plucked the first f.
- LH third finger hammers down on g.
- LH third finger pulls off to f.
- LH third finger hammers on g again.
Now, instead of thinking three separate actions, think of one action.
This one action goes from hammer onto g, pulls off to f, and then hammer down on g again.
All done in one continuous flow of action,
Now here’s the critical part, as the finger pulls off to f, feel it physically moving back to hammer down on g.
In other words, within the pull-off is the energy to bring it back to the next hammer-on.
To summarize, the engine comes down to one thing.
Constant and continuous flow of energy.
Supported by an aggressive and forward driving flow of energy.
From one action to the next, you’re constantly moving to the next and the next.
When you’re able to create this flow of energy, your fingers feel as if they’re self powered, like an engine working effortlessly.
All this is working beneath the surface, all hidden from view. Only the player knows what’s going on.
To the observer, it would appear as if the player is possessed of a magical source of energy.
But there’s nothing magical about it. It’s the result of years of practice. Practice that enables one to understand the body completely and make it work with maximum efficiency.