Fingering Exercises

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Fingering Exercises

Postby keener » Fri Feb 04, 2011 10:59 am

This morning I was reading through an Frets Magazine article in which Chet talks about how he uses arpeggios as part of his warm-up. The article is here: http://www.keenerliving.com/testdir/Chet_fingers_11_1983.pdf

The article is a bit hard to read, but well worthwhile.

Anyway, it reminded me that Steve Wariner demonstrated a couple of his warm-up licks (a roll and some scales) in his Secrets of a Hot Nashville Picker DVD (wishing now that I had not given my copy to my brother). Plus, last night I stumbled upon a video of Pete Huttlinger teaching some fingerstyle warm-up exercises: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47rC9f50xmo

And then it hit me like a rock that, for years, I haven't been doing any real warm-up exercises, and my playing has suffered for it. Even a tune where it looks like I do okay might not "feel" as good to me as it should because the fingers are doing their job but not doing it as well, as "comfortably", as they should.

So, I'm curious about what exercises you folks recommend, and how long each day you spend on them, and so on. It seems to me that Chet's and Pete's licks are must-do licks, and I think some sort of roll lick(s) [and maybe scales] mentioned by Steve are must-do licks, but I am curious as to whether there are other must-do exercise licks.
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Re: Fingering Exercises

Postby craigdobbins » Fri Feb 04, 2011 11:25 am

Thanks Bruce, good post.

John Knowles showed me two finger exercises years ago, and I still use them. For the left hand, make a four string major seventh chord high up the neck (on the 1st-4th strings). Then, bring the first finger back one fret, then the second, then the third, then the fourth. (Play all four strings after you move each finger, to be sure you're getting a clear sound and not "fudging.") Now you're in a major seventh position again, one fret lower. Keep doing this all the way down to first position. The frets get wider apart as you go down, and it really stretches your left hand. Again, try for a clean sound.

The other is for economy of movement in your right hand. Make a loose fist and lay your hand on you leg, fingers down, relaxed. Slowly pull your index finger back into your palm and release, then your middle finger, etc. Practice with different finger combinations. The idea is to minimize the "cocking" motion that your fingers make before they play the strings. The goal is to "pull" your finger straight back to the string, rather than bringing it up and then striking.

Hope all this makes sense...

Craig
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Re: Fingering Exercises

Postby RandeDager » Fri Feb 04, 2011 12:24 pm

Bruce, I tend to work on things that are difficult for me. This is different for everyone. I have particular difficulty
with "reverse rolls", beginning with middle or ring finger and ending with the thumb, and making it sound smooth
enough that it can fit right into a song without "identifying itself" as being awkward. I also try to analyze where my
"sticking points" are in learning a new song and then I create an exercise to smooth out that section. Of course this
is only for when I'm trying to learn a new song, otherwise I just do general exercises and scales that might be hard for me, in hopes of "neutralizing" them to where they are as easy for me to play as the things I do well.

Rande

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Re: Fingering Exercises

Postby RandyBuckner » Fri Feb 04, 2011 12:48 pm

Bruce -

I have a mixed bag of warm up techniques I use.

For the right hand, I read from the Matteo Carcassi Method published by Mel Bay. Carcassi wrote many right hand arpeggio exercises, and also scale exercises. Right hand fingers are assigned a particular string, similar to the way Jerry Reed played. There are diatonic scale exercises where Carcassi has the student play an i-m pattern, then m-i, then m-r, and finally r-m. This book is an excellent resource for anyone who plays fingerstyle guitar, and the good thing is, it's written in standard notation and tab.

For the left hand, I play arpeggio exercises I picked up from Johnny Smith's old technique books - he has the student play two and three octave scales, in all twelve keys, up and down the neck. This gives my left hand a good work out.

Finally, also for the left hand, I work from two George Van Eps books - Harmonic Mechanisms, and his old method book from 1938. In the 1938 edition, George has the student play the harmonized scale, in all three inversions, up and down the neck in all twelve keys. This really gives my hand a work out. The Harmonic Mechanisms series is great because George has the student play a chord and then move one or two inner notes to the next chord, in the manner of Ted Greene, or Lenny Breau. This will really give your fingers a work out!

Ideally, after I have learned the exercises I'll spend no more than 40 minutes on warm ups, Segovia said that our minds tend to wander after that much time. However, I have a wife, daughter, dog, students, and other distractions that sometimes keeps me from accomplishing this goal.

With my students, I introduce the techniques I've described, as well as others that I didn't have room for, then we figure out what technical exercises they respond to best. It's like picking an exercise routine - some prefer weight training, some prefer walking, it's whatever you like to do.

Finally, if there's a part of a song that's giving you problems, turn it into an exercise. Try transposing it to different keys, move it up and down the neck, and change what strings it falls on.

That's my two cents for what it's worth

Randy
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Re: Fingering Exercises

Postby keener » Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:15 pm

Craig, Rande, and Randy: thank you so much. Super, super helpful.

Craig: I should have known that John would come up with optimum exercises, and thanks for describing them. I'm a bit confused on the second one, though, because I don't follow instructions very well. When you mention pulling the index finger to the palm, do you do that by using the fingers of the left hand to pull it in (I doubt it, because I would think the emphasis would be on getting the right hand to do the work, but my mind always comes up with stupid questions that I need to have addressed before I can move on). And, when you say move to the palm, does that mean "in toward the center of the palm" or "down toward the meaty part of the palm?" This sounds like an exercise that I very much need, so I am trying to understand how to do it. [Again, your instructions are just fine for 99 out of 100 folks, but I'm the one out of a hundred that takes something simply said and complicates it beyond all belief.]

Randy, so many great exercises and resources you mentioned. I'll be googling for every one of them. 40 minutes "sounds right," but it's honestly more than I play on most days (many days I don't even play, although I am trying to get back into a habit of playing every day. If I could do a productive 15 or 20 minutes a day though it would probably make a world of difference.

Thanks again, fellas. Very much appreciated!

Update: I'm just now eyeing the Christopher Parkening Guitar Method on Amazon [ http://www.amazon.com/Christopher-Parkening-Guitar-Method-Technique/dp/0793585201/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1296839926&sr=1-1 ] and wondering if any of you have thoughts on it. The reviews suggests that he gets into fingering techniques and exercises in some depth (especially in the second volume), plus he teaches how to read notes, which is something I haven't been able to read in about 30 years (I learned how to read notes after taking some limited classical instruction at age 30, but got away from it and just completely lost the ability to do it).
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Re: Fingering Exercises

Postby craigdobbins » Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:33 pm

Bruce-
do you do that by using the fingers of the left hand to pull it in


No, just move your right hand fingers.

And, when you say move to the palm, does that mean "in toward the center of the palm" or "down toward the meaty part of the palm?"


Just tuck them under, slowly. The motion is pretty much straight back, or "down toward the meaty part of the palm" as you say. The emphasis is on a smooth motion, without "cocking" your finger upward before you pull it under.

Craig
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Re: Fingering Exercises

Postby keener » Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:39 pm

Thank you so very much, Craig. Just what I needed. Sounds like the perfect exercise for me.

All my best
Bruce
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Re: Fingering Exercises

Postby RandyBuckner » Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:46 pm

Bruce -

The Parkening book will be a great resource for you - Craig's suggestions sound cool as well.

Randy
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Re: Fingering Exercises

Postby keener » Fri Feb 04, 2011 2:26 pm

Thanks Randy. I just ordered both Parkening volumes. And, I'll definitely use Craig's exercise ... anything that helps me build a bit more finger strength and that reduces latency is a winner for me.

All my best
Bruce
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Re: Fingering Exercises

Postby craigdobbins » Fri Feb 04, 2011 5:06 pm

I've had that Parkening book since the 70's, and also the "Parkening Plays Bach" book. I never looked that cool in a turtleneck, though...

Craig

P.S. I do those right hand exercises with my left hand as well.
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