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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Good Left Hand Fingering Is Not Rocket Science

It is the happy compromise between the ideal, the possible and the musical. And what’s so hard about that?

It is a curious fact that guitar music is profusely fingered no matter the difficulty. There is no distinction between beginners' pieces and state-of-the-art solos: the reader is confronted with a profusion of indications referring to strings, fingers, positions, whole barrées, half barrées, and slides (confusingly indicated in the same way as glissandi). In a world of my making I would insist on thorough fingering for simple pieces but progressively less fingering as they become more difficult, although this may seem at first glance the opposite of what you might think appropriate. My thinking goes something like this: beginners need all the help they can get, but advanced players only need a rough fingering since we must assume that they already know their way around the fingerboard.

My problem with excessive left hand fingering indications is compounded by the alarmingly uneven quality visited upon them. It matters not whether it is a Bach fugue, an Albeniz arrangement or a much easier piece, there is no trusting the fingering. Some arrangers appear to wilfully devised awkward and unmusical fingerings, although it is more likely they know no better. And yet, good left hand fingering is not rocket science. It is no more and no less than the happy compromise between the ideal, the possible and the musical. And what’s so hard about that?

So here is a pocket guide for starters. I mean it as just that – for starters. Then we can take it from there. You may think it all rather obvious, but I am witness to the fact that even the grandest arrangements and editions often fall short of these common sense suggestions:

Guide fingers
For awkward shifts and changes slide with a finger along the same string.

Sliding along the neck
This follows on from the use of guide fingers. The strongest fingers for sliding up or down a string are the 2nd and 4th fingers.

Avoid jumps across the strings in the same or adjacent position with the same finger you have just used

Whenever possible avoid holding down two notes by stretching 3rd and 4th fingers in the same position
The stretch is much easier between 2nd and 4th, and 2nd and 3rd.

Slurring is best avoided between 3rd and 4th fingers

Avoid a consecutive movement of the first finger from holding a single note to holding down a barrée
It is much smoother and easier to land on the barrée from another finger.

Consecutive movements from half barrées to full barrées are difficult, especially in the same position. Avoid if possible

This has been my introduction and rough guide to left hand fingering.

4 February 2014, London

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Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=3047 .
© 2019.

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