In the Beginning

The Beginning is a good place to start, the problem always; where is the Beginning?

No matter our age; when we first started to learn, we had a guitar and no knowledge of how we move forward; from this point many of us followed different routes, some self taught, some with a teacher.

One’s ability at this stage of development differs from that of one’s neighbour as we must take into account what is often called natural ability.

Natural ability is why some will learn with ease while others struggle and take longer to reach the same level.

No matter how we choose to learn or how much natural ability we have most arrive at a point somewhere along the road of learning where a decision has to be made – Do we stay as we are OR do we look back and attempt to attain skills we perhaps should have mastered in the beginning.

The problem with travelling down this road of learning a new skill and realising that looking back would be beneficial is how far do we look back?

To the last bend in our journey; to the main junction before the bend or back to the very beginning; the start of our journey?

Most of you will look back so far but very few happily travel back to the very beginning.

Let’s look at examples of where a back to basic approach should be considered –

Looking at various tuition resources on YouTube and in discussions with students on the guitar courses I teach on, quite often the subject of right hand improvement arises.

This question of right hand improvement could follow a train of thought where one is advised to try using publications such as Giuliani “120 Studies for Right Hand” or Carlevaro, “Technique for the Right Hand” in addition to several others.

The problem here is that these studies assume you have the ability to move your right hand in a way that suits our instrument.

How do I know this?

Well all these studies work the right hand, the left hand and music (notation) at the same time therefore you are working more on the mental/physical coordination of the fingers and the hands in relation to music and not only the basic movement of the right hand.

You may ask the question do I need to look further back, right back to the beginning.

I’ll answer this question with another’ “How good do you want to be”

Let us digress a little –

Do you, or do you know of anyone who walks –

Duck Footed

duck feet

Pigeon Toed

pigeon toed 

Both are common; look them up on the internet.

Back to the question “How good do you want to be?”

Let’s say instead of playing the guitar you want to be an athlete, say a 100 metre runner.

As a child who is either Duck footed or Pigeon Toed you will be able to run the 100 metres and depending on your natural ability may be a winner in every race.

As time passes you come up against children who do not suffer from these conditions and who are starting to overtake you in 100 metre races simply because as they grow the mechanics of how their feet operate, help rather than hinder when running.

Does this mean if I suffer from either of these problems I have to give up on my love of running the 100 metres?

No it does not!

What this does mean is that you will benefit from returning to the beginning and learning how to walk correctly; training out this problem you were born with.

Learning the guitar is no different from learning to run the 100 metres or from any other skill.

The difficulty with learning the guitar is that the problems we have are small and difficult to perceive and in addition, when we look around YouTube we see many very good guitarists who play beautifully yet have right hand problems.

Seeing others who can play yet have the same problem as we have tends to make us think that we do not have a problem and it must be something else stopping us from playing as well as they do.

The person you are watching on YouTube is playing to the best of their ability, should they wish to play to a higher level this would require practice to remove the problem.

Rather than take my word for it here is a link to a Master Class by Pepe Romero teaching Tremolo.

Pepe Romero Teaching Tremolo.

The student plays nicely yet Pepe focuses in on right hand finger movement, around 2 minutes 40 seconds into the video, and identifies a right hand finger problem that requires retraining.

Basically when the student plays, the finger is taken through the string then held inside the hand, only returning to play the string again when required. What should be happening is to play through the string then relax the finger returning it ready to play again when required.

The movement of playing a string is the same it is the execution that differs –

This is correct - Play Relax - Play Relax – Play Relax -

This is incorrect - Play – Relax Play – Relax Play -

Executed correctly and you are playing from a state of relaxation, executed incorrectly and you are playing from a state of tension.

This is basic movement and is something that should have been taught at the beginning rather than having to retrain now after so many years of guitar study.

Below is a link to videos on my web site; try the first one, if you can do this correctly great move on, if not then practice as this allows you to understand how a finger moves.

Training Day Video Right Hand. 

Revisiting the Beginning is not something to be avoided it is something to embrace, a great stride forward down the road you first stepped onto so many years ago.