Getting back to basics on the guitar

This post follows on quite nicely – well, I think so anyway! – from my earlier post on taking a step back and taking some reflection time.

Just like a little time to step back and notice the world around us, so too can getting back to basics with our playing give us renewed vigour, and help us to check potential bad habits that may have crept into our playing.

So, when I say getting back to basics I mean just taking a bit of time to reassess the fundamentals of our technique. That, after all, is the bedrock and the foundation upon which we build our playing, so it pays everyone and then to do a wee survey and a check of how those foundations are holding up.

So then – how do I do that exactly, huh?

Well, I’d recommend going from “large” to “small” in terms of getting back to basics with your set up with the following checklist:

Posture – ask yourself how am I sitting? Is my back straight when playing? No undue strain on the back, legs, arms? Are the arms feeling nice and relaxed? Are the feet rooted to the floor and/ or foot stool? Legs in a good solid position, bent at the knees around 90 degrees?

Left hand and fingers – are you holding the neck in a relaxed fashion? Is the thumb at some kind of funky angle that causes tension? Am I using the arm to leverage pressure into the strings or is it all coming from the hand and fingers? Is there any extraneous movement or undue tension in the hand when making certain movements?

Right hand and fingers and tone production – how’s my tone quality and consistency in producing the sound I want?  What’s my angle of attack with my nails? Are my nails shaped and polished to maximum effect for the tone I want to create? Is my right hand playing in a neutral position from which I can move around to create different tone colours?

I’d then recommend going from “small” to “large” in terms of reviewing your playing:

Open string tone production – have a look at the above dot point. Same applies here!

Scales and arpeggios – excellent medicine for all guitarists! How’s your clarity, control, speed, left/right hand finger co-ordination, right hand finger combinations. What movements are extraneous? What else in your body is moving, perhaps unnecessarily, when playing?

Studies – this is application of our technical stuff (scales, arpeggios and other little exercises) in a more “musical setting”. Be sure to check what’s relevant to the piece or pieces you’re playing at the moment? Key? Rhythms? Movements and textures – i.e. arpeggios, chords, movements in thirds, sixths or octaves?

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