left hand position

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Beatriz Martin

Re: left hand position

Postby Beatriz Martin » Wed Aug 14, 2013 7:38 pm

Wow, very good explanation Robin, as sweet as I need to find the sweet spots, this is gonna be interesting, here I am moving my elbow here and there, up and down, straight wrist, fighting tension, these techniques are driving me insane :lol: :merci:

I actually find kind of comfy to put my thumb the way like Larry McDonald explains.

Larry McDonald wrote:for beginners, the thumb should be behind or to the left of the first finger (or behind the first fret). This thumb position is a companion to the 4th finger approach (which is the practice of using the 4th finger on the 3rd fret of the treble strings, again, for beginners.)
Here is a more detailed explanation from my site.
http://larrymcdonaldguitar.com/instruct ... sample.pdf

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robin loops
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Re: left hand position

Postby robin loops » Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:26 pm

Try experimentation during warmup. Use scales, chords, and arpeggios and other simple elements to help.

Also never "fight tension" as that in itself may cause tension. A philosophy we learned in kung fu was, "the best way to win a fight is to avoid it". This is also a good philosophy for addressing tension.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
-James-

Beatriz Martin

Re: left hand position

Postby Beatriz Martin » Thu Aug 15, 2013 7:57 pm

Thanks Robin, good advice, I will think about this when the time comes.

minorkey
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Re: left hand position

Postby minorkey » Fri Feb 03, 2017 3:24 pm

This explanation and the Gallagher video are very useful. I've been playing on the pads too much in my attempt to keep my hand relaxed. His illustration of how to flex the first finger to reach the lower string of with the third finger is key. Thanks for this thread.

kmurdick
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Re: left hand position

Postby kmurdick » Sat Feb 04, 2017 5:24 pm

Sorry to repeat a post. I didn't think this had made it.
Last edited by kmurdick on Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

robert e
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Re: left hand position

Postby robert e » Sat Feb 04, 2017 6:41 pm

Re the thumb position:

Based on my own recent starting-from-scratch hyper-attention to technique, I find I agree with Larry MacDonald and robin. I would add that the natural position for the thumb is going to depend on the orientations and relative positions of hand, shoulder, elbow, wrist and plane of the fretboard. If the guitar neck was curved to maintain consistent distance and height with respect to the shoulder, we could probably talk about a consistent thumb placement, but it isn't, so the thumb will shift slightly as the hand moves further and closer to/from the body--generally leftward nearer the nut, inward nearer the body. Nor should the thumb be forced to be pad-on sqare to the neck, or vertical, or parallel to the frets, etc. And what the hand is doing--playing a scale vs making a 9th chord, for example, will matter as well.

The thumb's vertical position will also change with need, and also depend on anatomy and neck shape. Watching videos of virtuosos, I often see the left hand thumb position change quite a bit along the vertical, from being visible over the top of the neck all the way down to almost slipping off the bottom of the neck. John Williams and Marcin Dylla are good examples. Williams is minimalist yet still shifts the thumb considerably. Dylla's thumb is quite mobile.

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robin loops
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Re: left hand position

Postby robin loops » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:44 pm

To keep my thumb from being too 'static' and planted in one position I try to think of it as 'just another fretting finger' that I use on the back side of the guitar... Considering placement in relation to every note played in the song (as opposed to occasional repositioning with position changes, or making adjustments for this fingering or that, or for a stretch, etc.). However, that doesn't mean it needs to change constantly, as much of the time it does have the same positioning. But even when it doesn't change, I consciously make that decision continually, as opposed to not thinking about it until it needs to move/change, if that makes sense. When its position doesn't change for a period of time, to avoid it becoming to 'static' (and at risk of tension), I release pressure as needed. So while the function and technique is different than the fretting fingers, the mentality and approach is the same...
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
-James-

kmurdick
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Re: left hand position

Postby kmurdick » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:49 pm

A lot of good information here, but here's how I would answer your question: 1) no, 2) no and 3) no.

In my videos, I do not talk about the thumb because if your hand is in the right position for a particular passage, the thumb will find its own position depending on the size of you hand. Watch these videos on the left hand, they might help. A picture is worth a 1,00 words, a video even more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwNJ2It ... 59&index=7

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3CPVWz ... D7FA3F7B59

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFQUtSb ... 59&index=9

kmurdick
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Re: left hand position

Postby kmurdick » Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:03 pm

Whatever you do, don't try to hold the finger tips at a constant 90 degree angle to the fret board. This is a "red herring" that sounds like a good idea, but isn't. Although it usually doesn't do any harm, it is a waste of time and effort, IMO.

Watch David Russell who has one of the best left hands in the world. Sometimes his finger tips are perpendicular, sometimes not (especially the 1st and 4th). Occasionally, he even collapses a fingertip .
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZdM9Rp_e0o

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twang
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Re: left hand position

Postby twang » Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:45 pm

Some thoughts on placing the thumb....

To see where the thumb should be, place the fingers on the fret board without using the thumb. Once the fingers feel secure then bring the thumb down.

Try playing without using the thumb at all; when you can do that, add it back in for added stability-- it will be obvious where to place it.

Think of the thumb as a fulcrum (the pivot point of a see-saw). Experiment 1: Place your index finger on a fret without the thumb, then bring the thumb onto the neck where it feels like it will best counter the force from the index finger. Hint, this will be right behind the index finger. Experiment 2: Place the index finger and pinky on the fret-board four frets apart without the thumb; again bring the thumb onto the neck where it best counters the forces of the two fingers. This time the thumb will land between the two fingers in order to balance the forces. That's what you want, balanced forces.

A final thought, any time you're having any kind of left hand problem, remove the thumb.
"An amateur is he who takes up the study of an instrument as a relaxation from his serious occupations." -- Sor

kmurdick
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Re: left hand position

Postby kmurdick » Wed Feb 08, 2017 6:53 pm

You got it twang, you just place you thumb where in feels comfortable. You put you hand in the correct position and the bring a relaxed thumb to the neck.

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Larry McDonald
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Re: left hand position

Postby Larry McDonald » Wed Feb 08, 2017 7:40 pm

kmurdick wrote:You got it twang, you just place you thumb where in feels comfortable. You put you hand in the correct position and the bring a relaxed thumb to the neck.


+1. What he said.

Lare
Dr. Lawrence A. McDonald, D.M.A., Art Kaplan Fellow
Author of The Conservatory Tutor for Guitar
2008 Michael Thames Cd/Br
Royal Conservatory Advanced Guitar Instructor
Royal Conservatory Advanced Theory Instructor

dtoh
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Re: left hand position

Postby dtoh » Thu Feb 09, 2017 6:04 am

Question for the experts. How much should the joints of the thumb be flexed?

robert e
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Re: left hand position

Postby robert e » Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:40 pm

Not an expert, but minimizing tension and effort and maximizing relaxation means the thumb can be allowed to flex or extend but shouldn't be forced to. (This has become my primary criterion for neck thickness and shape--how relaxed my thumb is, which in turn affects how relaxed my hand is.)

Also, for most people, the thumb-near-index posture talked about above puts the thumb's tip and middle joints' plane of articulation closer to parallel to the neck than perpendicular the point of contact often being the side of the tip knuckle, which means that the degree of flex of those joints will have little effect, and we're free to let those joints find their natural positions. [EDIT: this was an egregious generalization written in haste; truth is, thumb angle will vary with angle of neck, position on fretboard, thickness of neck, size of hand... but the point is that flexion is best left to occur (or not) naturally, and the knuckle--side or front or in between--is an excellent contact point. I apologize for the temporary (I hope) insanity!]

Allow me to share a video that changed my life. It's the documentary "John Williams at Ronnie Scott's", and unusually for recital videos there are frequent long shots that include the back of the guitar neck--enough to show how a thumb can be relaxed, dynamic and stable at the same time (and less clearly the [sometimes] side-on angle and contact at knuckle in most situations). Terrific performances too, of course. Hope the link works:

Youtube


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