All fingerings and thumbs

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Tim22
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All fingerings and thumbs

Post by Tim22 » Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:40 pm

It seems the more I practise and the more I think about technique, the more I believe I am a much worse player than I thought I was. Here are two questions that are concerning me:
1) I am concerned that my left hand thumb positioning may be wrong and, through habits formed over years, may be hard to correct. How much should I worry about this? I mean, how will poor thumb positioning limit or hinder me? And what even is a good thumb position? I think my thumb might sometimes extend too high up the back of the neck, but I'm not sure. I realise this is kind of 3 questions...
2) How strictly should I aim to adhere to the fingerings printed on the score? I recently came across a piece I had played when I had lessons at school. My teacher had written 'Ignore fingering' on it. I think this may have inadvertantly set me on a bad course for life. I think I have been largely ignoring fingerings ever since. I am trying to relearn some pieces with the correct fingerings, but in terms of my fluency and accuracy this is setting me back. But I am hoping there may be some reward in terms of my overall playing ability in the long run. I'd be interested to know people's thoughts. Thanks.
Tim, in the UK, playing an Almansa 434.

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Julian Ward
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by Julian Ward » Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:55 pm

Difficult to answer without seeing you but I can tell you the left hand thumb position is incredibly important. There needs to be lots of clearance under the neck and this is all governed by the thumb. I have spoken (on here) about this before but it surprises me how many players are not aware of its importance. A lot of it stems from how you sit and how you hold the guitar. But anyway - a good teacher and a few lessons will be really what you need. :)
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Christopher Langley
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by Christopher Langley » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:09 am

I'll go against the grain and say allow your fingers to do what they want and just focus on the music.

I have been approaching it both ways and I'm personally seeing more success if I focus more on the music than my fingers.

Like you, the more I think about my fingers.. the worse I play.

That's not to say that I ignore my fingers or fingerings, I work them out while I practice, but I don't think about them while I play and if that means a few sections wind up played a little differently than suggested, so be it.

Some times the fingers have a mind of their own, and as far as I'm concerned it's actually desirable.. we won't get anywhere if we have to think about every little movement all the time.

Again, I say focus on the music. Don't ignore technique, but don't live for it either.

If you can afford a teacher, that's obviously always a good idea.

I really don't know what I'm talking about, self-taught.

:bye:
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SleepyheadRooster
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by SleepyheadRooster » Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:24 am

Fingering markings can be helpful, and I assume editors are more capable than me. Still, I sometimes change fingerings when it makes sense.

I think being deliberate about fingering choices is important, but don’t get so dogmatic about it that it frustrates you to the point of agony.

2 cents from another struggling musician. Best luck!
Best,
Chuck

Terpfan
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by Terpfan » Thu Mar 14, 2019 5:35 am

It is difficult for a novice guitarist to make their own fingering. However some of guitar score has horrible fingering. However there are so many information available. You can check out YouTube to see how other players play them. Or if you have q question, you can always ask here and many are willing to give their opinion.

celestemcc
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by celestemcc » Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:56 pm

If you're a relative beginner then usually (not always) it's worth following the fingerings, or of course if you can find a better way if some fingering or another is really impossible. But well-edited pieces will have the most efficient fingerings, and worth using as you progress.

Try not to obsess about perfect technique -- it takes time to develop. Work on it, of course, but remember technique is not its own goal: it's to help you play better. It may not seem it at times, but you'll get to a point where you realize, "Oh, THAT'S why my teacher said 'do it this way'!"

Left hand thumb is indeed important, and it's part of good technique. Properly positioned, you'll have better access to the fingerboard. It's more a guide and balancing point than something to help exert pressure on the strings. But again: takes time! If you can get some lessons it'll help you a lot. Cheering you on!
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Rick Hutt
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by Rick Hutt » Fri Mar 15, 2019 2:11 pm

In general the LH thumb should be positioned behind the 2d finger about in the middle of the fretboard. Thisis what I was taught and what i teach. Of curse it is not a hard and fast rule but I think it's a good rule of thumb. )Sorry)
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Terpfan
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by Terpfan » Fri Mar 15, 2019 3:49 pm

My thumb is behind my index finger. I really don't remember how we were taught and as Rick mentioned above, it seems logical to place under the 2nd finger. However later on, when the guitar become second nature, left hand thumb does not require the force that once used by less experienced player. Just my opinion.

Desperado
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by Desperado » Fri Mar 15, 2019 4:02 pm

I would look up classical guitar left hand position and you'll probably find umpteen videos on basic position.
Simple pieces normally have simple fingerlings so I would try to stick to the editors choice. Personally, I think the best way to improve technique is to choose short simple pieces and memorise the fingerlings for both hands and practise slowly without mistakes.
The problem about not having a good teacher is that you'll find it difficult to develop a good right hand technique which imo is the harder part of classical guitar playing.
Find a good teacher.

SleepyheadRooster
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by SleepyheadRooster » Fri Mar 15, 2019 5:04 pm

Rick Hutt wrote:
Fri Mar 15, 2019 2:11 pm
In general the LH thumb should be positioned behind the 2d finger about in the middle of the fretboard. Thisis what I was taught and what i teach. Of curse it is not a hard and fast rule but I think it's a good rule of thumb. )Sorry)
A lot of people are teaching something different than this. I’m not a professional classical guitarist. But a few years ago I was doing it this way and found it very uncomfortable and awkward. (Much like the bent plucking hand wrist depicted in older guitar methods.) My thumb now moves where it is most comfortable and I’m happily making progress.

Just my 2 cents. I know some people have strong feelings about this. People with more expertise and experience are of different minds on this subject. I only know what has allowed me to progress a bit.
Best,
Chuck

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Fri Mar 15, 2019 7:03 pm

Tim22 wrote:1) I am concerned that my left hand thumb positioning may be wrong and, through habits formed over years, may be hard to correct. How much should I worry about this? I mean, how will poor thumb positioning limit or hinder me? And what even is a good thumb position? I think my thumb might sometimes extend too high up the back of the neck, but I'm not sure. I realise this is kind of 3 questions...
SleepyheadRooster wrote:
Rick Hutt wrote:In general the LH thumb should be positioned behind the 2d finger about in the middle of the fretboard. Thisis what I was taught and what i teach. Of curse it is not a hard and fast rule but I think it's a good rule of thumb. )Sorry)
A lot of people are teaching something different than this ...
Tim22 - try this:

Allow your left arm to hang loosely by your side - keeping it totally relaxed, take a peek at the position of the thumb. This is a guide to its optimum position when you raise the hand to its playing attitude. For many the thumb lies just outside the span of the fingers i.e. to their left.

The idea that the thumb should stay directly opposite the first or second finger, somehow "balancing the hand" is how I was first taught - it is an old fashioned, unexamined concept, needlessly rigid, paying little regard to individual physiology and often a cause of dysfunctional tension. It is possible of course that, for some, it is indeed a natural position which is fine - but for most this is not the case.

There are many who will argue against the above and equally many (including myself) who are perfectly capable of playing well under that old regime - which however does not prove it to be the best way for all. The fact is that there is not one and only one best position for your thumb - it should be mobile; indeed if your technique is well formed it is possible to remove the thumb altogether and continue to play.

I suggest that you read Glise, Berg and Urshalmi on technique. I seem to remember that Larry McDonald (forum member) once posted some free guidance online - maybe he will respond if he sees this.

Crofty
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by Crofty » Fri Mar 15, 2019 9:27 pm

Just to concur with the last two posts. Most people's thumb will close into the thumb side of the adjoining index finger with ease. You can *make* it cross over as far as the little finger but each further movement away from the index is increasingly effortful and uncomfortable to hold.

My own, default, position is as Mark described and fairly low at the back of the neck: but is also mobile and will adopt a different position, angle etc, depending on the demands of the left hand fingers.

Paul

ps The positioning argument in favour of the lh thumb being behind the middle finger is reminiscent of the idea that the knuckle of each right hand finger should be directly above the top of each fingertip.

[That is usually accompanied by a video of an *expert* doing something completely different...]

The best teachers are your own body, hands and fingers responses and sensations in my view.

Tim22
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Re: All fingerings and thumbs

Post by Tim22 » Sat Mar 16, 2019 9:24 pm

I would just like to thank everyone for their sensible advice. It really is nice to hear from so many people who are being helpful, supportive and encouraging.
I have resolved to try to stick to the suggested fingerings as far as seems reasonable and I have started to make adjustments to my left hand thumb position, which I think has been benficial, particularly when, say, having to hold a c on the 5th string and then hit an f sharp on the 1st (in the 1st position). But at the same time I'm seeking not to be too rigid in terms of the thumb, and to bare comfort in mind too. I heartily agree that I could do with a couple of actual lessons, so I may well look into that. Thanks again all,
Tim.
Tim, in the UK, playing an Almansa 434.

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