Most of us find certain technical aspects of playing come easier than other technical aspects. Some technical aspects come pretty naturally and we have to expend little energy in developing them. And some technical aspects we find we have to keep plugging away with – we progress for sure, but a greater deal of effort may need to put in to bring a particular element up to the same level as the rest of or the majority of our technique.
I’d say that is pretty normal (whatever that may be!). After all we’re all constucted differently with different hands, fingers, arms, joints, skeletons and muscles. It figures that we all move slightly differently and so develop our techniques in slightly different ways or at different rates.
One of these particular technical elements for myself, I don’t mind sharing with you, is left hand slurs. And slurs involving the third and fourth fingers in particular. Without concerted work on these and keeping om top of thr technique they sound weak, feeble and pretty terrible to be honest! Hah hah!
That’s not to say I don’t know what I’m doing with this technical element or what I’m looking for. After twenty-odd years of playing and several of those teaching others on the contrary. I’m only too well aware that I need to work consistently, or at the very least do some focussed work on them when working on a piece that requires their use.
As you may know, dear reader, I’ve been rather busy traveling here, there and everywhere of late. As such when I get back home and sit down to practice with my guitar I like to do a few technical exercises to get the hands and fingers moving in the right way before asking more of them in practicing a place. I also like to do this in order to “check in” with particular aspects of my technique, i.e. those elements that can be a little more troublesome for me without keeping on top of.
As such, this week, I’ve been working on my left hand slurs. So I thought I’d share with you today some of thoughts, ideas, observations, top tips and general musings in working on and developing this aspect of the classical guitar technique.
* Get nice and warmed up, or at least moving reasonably well, with an easier aspect of the technique. For example, I’ll kick things off with slur exercises between first and second fingers. This gets this moving and also relays a message to the brain that “right, ok, we’re working on this kind of movement”.
* Observe what’s happening in terms of vertical and horizontal movements and the resultant sounds made when exercising this easier element of the technique. Use this observation then to think about and apply to what you’re doing in a trickier element, i.e. for me slurs involving the third and fourth fingers.
* Don’t spend heaps of time, however, on the easy stuff! That’s not practice 😉
* Think about (and do!) move your left hand slurring finger as pulling across the string, rather than pulling off or up.
* Create a counter tension or pressure on the string by adding a tiny little bit extra tension in the non-slurring finger holding down the string (i.e. directing a little towards yourself).
* Keep relaxed! Smooth, fluid slurs happen best when you’re feeling smooth and fluid across fingers, hand, arm, neck, head, while body.
* Spend only short amounts of time doing these kinds of specific exercises. This minimizes the chance of over use injury, stops you from driving yourself crazy and prevents repetition zombification setting in (practicing stuff mindlessly).