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Left Hand Technique (Guitar Lesson)

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Danny Voris

Left Hand Technique

Danny covers the basics of left hand techniques for classical guitar.

Taught by Danny Voris in Classical Guitar seriesLength: 20:19Difficulty: 0.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (09:48) Introduction Welcome back to the Phase 2 Classical Guitar series with Danny Voris! Lesson 4 provides a brief crash course on proper left hand technique. Technical exercises are also included to help you improve your left hand skills.

Left Hand Guidelines

A. Preparing the Left Arm

1. In order for the left hand to be positioned correctly, the entire body (especially the shoulders) must be positioned correctly. Before proceeding to the remainder of this lesson, review the proper posture guidelines for classical guitar that were discussed in lesson 2. Remember to keep the spine straight and the shoulders relaxed!

2. Keep the left hand in a natural, relaxed position at all times. Do not squeeze the neck!

3. Let the left arm hang limp at your side. Your left shoulder and arm should feel completely relaxed. Then, slowly bring the left hand up to the fretboard at seventh position. Seventh position is a perfect location to work on technique since the left hand is directly in the line of vision. Also, the frets are not far apart like they are in the lower positions on the fretboard.

B. Thumb Placement

1. Keep the thumb perpendicular to the neck. Do not curl the thumb or bring it up over the top of the neck. Also, Do not turn the thumb so that it runs parallel to the back of the neck. This greatly limits the range of motion of each finger.

2. The thumb should rest on the neck directly behind fingers one and two.

3. The thumb may move up and down slightly in order to accommodate various left hand positions.

C. Palm Placement

1. Keep the left hand palm parallel to the bottom of the neck. Do not allow the palm to make contact with the bottom of the neck. This technique will allow each of the fingers to access all six strings without moving the entire hand. Economy of movement is one of the most important components of proper technique. Wasted movement limits speed, endurance, and accuracy.

Watch as Danny holds his hand at an angle to the fretboard at 02:00. Notice how his range of movement is greatly limited, especially with the third and fourth fingers. When playing with this faulty technique, the entire wrist must be adjusted in order for these fingers to reach the lower strings.

D. Finger Placement

When fretting any note, always follow the guidelines listed below.

1. Fret the strings with the very tips of the fingers. Arching the wrist outwards will help accomplish this goal. Utilizing this technique will prevent you from bumping any of the adjacent strings. Making contact with adjacent strings will prevent them from ringing clearly.

2. Position the finger as close to the fretwire as possible without being directly over top of it. The least amount of pressure is required to push the string down in this position.

3. Keep all left hand joints slightly bent. Do not flatten any of the knuckles.

4. Keep the left hand fingernails as short as possible.

5. Keep the wrist slightly bent.

6. Keep the fingers as close to the fretboard as possible at all times. This will ensure that each finger is prepared to play when called upon.

Note: the technical guidelines that Danny discusses in this lesson are not exclusive to classical guitar. These guidelines should be followed regardless of which styles of music you play. Your technique should only deviate from Danny's when performing electric guitar techniques such as bends.

Technique Tryout

Place all of the left hand fingers on the fretboard in seventh position. Remember the proper fingering rules within any position. Each finger is assigned to a specific fret. The first finger should angle slightly back towards the headstock. The pinky knuckle should point in the opposite direction towards the bridge. Watch Danny in the lesson video at 05:15 for a clear visual demonstration of finger positioning. Positioning the wrist and fingers in this manner will allow a single finger to access all six strings while the remaining fingers remain fixed on another string. Classical guitar requires a high level of independence between each of the fingers. This level of independence cannot be achieved with faulty technique.

Left Hand Exercise 1

Tablature and standard notation to this exercise can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Begin with the B note fretted by the first finger at the 7th fret of the first string. Pluck this string slowly in eighth notes. Alternate the "I" and "M" fingers (index and middle) while doing so. Then, leave the first finger planted while repeating the same process with the note C at the eighth fret. Continue to leave all fingers planted as a new finger is added to the fretboard.

Once you have completed this exercise on the first string, perform it on the remaining five strings. When beginning a new string, make sure that your left hand technique has not altered from the guidelines lifted above. Also, the tempo must remain stable from string to string. Play with a metronome to ensure that you are playing in strict time.

Do not rush through this exercise. It is not designed for building speed. Focus on maintaining flawless left hand technique. Also, make sure that each note sounds with a clear tone.
Chapter 2: (04:01) Economy of Movement As mentioned in the previous scene, economy of movement is one of the most important factors in accuracy and speed. The smallest amount of movement and effort must be used at all times. This will allow you to play comfortably, accurately, and with maximum speed. Economy of movement becomes increasingly more important as the repertoire you work on continues to increase in difficulty. Consequently, you must develop a sound technical foundation from the very beginning. The guidelines Danny discusses in the lesson must be followed regardless of how difficult a piece is. However, like Danny mentions and other instructors have mentioned, economy of movement is something that you will work on for the rest of your life. It takes a long time to train the fingers to form tasks that they are not used to performing.

Note: For more information on this topic, please visit Matt Brown's first Phase 2 Rock lesson.

Economy of Movement Exercise

Repeat the exercise presented in the previous scene. This time around, focus all of your attention on keeping the fingers as close to the strings as possible. Most likely, your pinky finger will have a tendency to straighten itself out. Ideally, the fingers should be no further than 1 cm from the fretboard at all times. Work at this process slowly! Practice this exercise for about ten minutes a day to begin with.

Watch at 01:40 as Danny repeats the exercise. Notice how close each finger stays to the fretboard. Also, notice how fingers are not tucked under the fingerboard. If they are positioned in such a manner, they will not be ready to play when called upon.

Exercise Variations

If you get bored of this basic exercise, feel free to change up the rhythm. For example, each note in the exercise may be repeated twice instead of four times in eighth notes. Or, each note can be repeated three times in a quarter note or eighth note triplet rhythm.

Note: For an additional economy of movement exercise, check out the first lesson taught in Matt Brown's Phase 2 Rock series. This exercise is the fourth exercise taught in scene 2. It is labeled as "The Most Important Exercise Ever" under the lesson information section. This same exercise is taught in lesson 3 of Kris Norris' Phase 2 series of lessons.
Chapter 3: (06:28) Playing Relaxed Many classical pieces are as long as 15-20 minutes. In order to make it through a challenging piece of this length, the entire body must remain as relaxed as possible at all times. To remain in a relaxed state, you must be aware of small periods in music where one or more fingers have an opportunity to relax. Allowing a finger to rest for half a second will continue to add up over a piece of this duration. If your fingers do not stay relaxed, you may not have the stamina to make it all the way through the piece. Also, if you have to fight the guitar while you are playing, your playing will inherently sound less fluid and musical.

Play - Relax Exercise

Return to seventh position. Play each note in the position for a quarter note. Then, during the next beat, allow the hand to relax completely. Repeat this exercise with all fingers on all six strings. Focus your attention on the relaxation period between each note. Relax the entire hand as much as possible during the rest.

Watch at 02:56 as Danny demonstrates the exercise. Notice how much his left hand relaxes during each rest. During each rest, the left hand still remains very close to the fretboard. The relaxation period does not double as an opportunity to let proper technique slide.

Do not ignore this exercise because of its simplicity! As Danny begins to introduce repertoire, the time you have spent with the exercise will yield surprising results.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Supplemental Learning Material



Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

tomorrowtomorrow replied

Hi might you help me by giving your thoughts on the possible fingering of a bar I am having trouble with It Is 4/4 time 1st 1/4 g2+b3 simul 2nd 1/4 g3 then 1/8 f3 1/16 c4 1/16 b3 1/16 a3 f2 simul. 1/16 b3 1/8 d3 thanks _________________________________________________ _________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________

jackie134jackie134 replied

Thanks for this lesson. Really helpful and how important! We all have a metronome provided to the right of the progress tab! These are the kind of exercises where simplicity and minimalisism are quality and life time practice. Thanks again

evilhedgehogevilhedgehog replied

excellent lesson! can't wait for the next one! you're absolutely right, it is so much more relaxing if you make a conscious effort to just move the individual finger instead of the whole hand! i'm so used to playing chords i never really thought about it ... :)

Classical Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

The origins of the classical guitar date back to the fifteenth century. The vihuela, lute, and baroque guitar are the early predecessors of the guitar. With its origins reaching deep into the past, the classical guitar repertoire spans over five hundred years worth of material. Danny Voris explains the techniques necessary to mastering this timeless art form.

Overview of the Classical GuitarLesson 1

Overview of the Classical Guitar

Danny provides an overview of the topics that will be discussed in this lesson set. He also explains the origin of the classical guitar.

Length: 5:57 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Preparing to Play the Classical GuitarLesson 2

Preparing to Play the Classical Guitar

In this lesson, Danny covers proper posture and how to hold the classical guitar. He also explains how to shape the nails in order to produce the best tone possible.

Length: 19:44 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Installing Nylon StringsLesson 3

Installing Nylon Strings

Danny demonstrates how to install nylon strings on a classical guitar.

Length: 12:58 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Left Hand TechniqueLesson 4

Left Hand Technique

Danny covers the basics of left hand techniques for classical guitar.

Length: 20:19 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Finger Independence Lesson 5

Finger Independence

For lesson five, Danny discusses left hand finger independence. He also discusses hammer-on and pull-off technique.

Length: 17:06 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Right Hand TechniqueLesson 6

Right Hand Technique

In lesson 6, Danny discusses and demonstrates right hand technique for the classical style.

Length: 24:26 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
ArpeggiosLesson 7


Lesson 7 is all about arpeggios. Danny provides discussion and exercises designed to build your right hand skills.

Length: 8:43 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
The Importance of ScalesLesson 8

The Importance of Scales

Lesson 8 covers scale exercises in the classical format. Danny provides a few patterns that focus on finger independence and position shifts.

Length: 6:26 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Renaissance PeriodLesson 9

Renaissance Period

In lesson 9, Danny begins discussion of the five different musical periods of classical guitar music. He starts with the Renaissance.

Length: 40:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Robert Johnson's AlmanLesson 10

Robert Johnson's Alman

In lesson 10, Danny takes a more in depth look at a Robert Johnson's "Alman." This lesson contains a detailed explanation of fingering.

Length: 27:36 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Behind the Scenes with Danny VorisLesson 11

Behind the Scenes with Danny Voris

Danny Voris discusses the major music periods and the advent of tonality.

Length: 7:19 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Baroque PeriodLesson 12

Baroque Period

Danny discusses and demonstrates a piece from the Baroque period.

Length: 22:17 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Classical PeriodLesson 13

Classical Period

In lesson 13, Danny discusses the Classical period of music.

Length: 20:53 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Romantic PeriodLesson 14

Romantic Period

In lesson 14, Danny discusses the Romantic period of music. He demonstrates a famous piece from this period commonly referred to as "Romance."

Length: 21:11 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
The 20th CenturyLesson 15

The 20th Century

In this lesson, Danny discusses the 20th century influence on classical guitar.

Length: 22:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Danny Voris

About Danny Voris View Full Biography

A unique guitarist in the region, Wright State alumnus Danny Voris, musically fulfills audiences with a mixture of exciting guitar playing and talented compositional skills. After graduating WSU in 1989, Danny obtained a teaching position at Sinclair Community College. In the fall of 2000, Danny obtained a scholarship to the graduate program at The University of Akron. After graduating the University of Akron in 2002 with a Master’s degree in Classical Guitar Performance, Danny returned to Dayton. There he began teaching at Jim McCutcheon Music Studios and at The Miami Valley School in Kettering, Ohio.

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