Chromatic Hand Synchronisation
In a practice session, after a brief stretch warm up, I move on to synchronizing my hands. I don’t move on to legato exercises at this stage as I don’t want to put my left hand under too great a strain – it’s not had time to fully warm up (I also don’t isolate the right hand yet for the same reason). At this stage I move to a series of Chromatic exercises involving all 4 fingers on the left hand, each note alternate picked with the right hand, which are designed to complete the warm up, sharpen technical chops and bridge the gap between warm up and full on practice.
Allot of the time, guitarists don’t use all 4 fingers on the left hand so it’s easy to see where weaknesses can creep in with lesser used finger patterns. Something I discovered via another guitarist many years ago was the so-called ‘spider’ exercise. Which is a Chromatic exercise starting on the first fret of the Low E String (with the first finger) moving to the second fret (second finger) then third (3rd Finger) and finally fourth (4th Finger). This then moves across to the next string and so on until we reach the High E String. It can then be moved upwards by one fret (still on the High E String) and the exercise played in a descending fashion (High E to Low E) and so on until we run out of frets. This is a great exercise to get both hands synchronised and gain some facility as, in the early days, the left hand fingers can feel like they are flopping around in an unruly fashion. But this is only a small part of the hand synchronisation we can practice – the above exercise can be permutated many times for maximum benefit.
I’ll draw a chart listing all the combinations of the numbers 1 2 3 4. This is to show all of the possible combinations we can make with the left hand fingers (the left hand thumb is not assigned a number – in the case of it being used, it is indicated with the letter T)
Here is the chart –
To practice all of these up and down the fret-board in one session would not only take a very long time but would also be, frankly, overkill. It is logical to think that a guitarist who had mastered all of the above finger combinations could not be ‘caught out’ by any technical possibility, in a song or improvisation, but that is too scientific a view to take – technique is only one ingredient in the mix that is a complete, rounded guitarist. A more sensible approach would be to conquer these over a longer period of time. So, to take an average practice session, one might practice a handful of these (each exercise starting with a different finger) and not alter them over the course of a week or until they become/feel easy. The end goal being to choose any of the exercises at random, throughout the course of a series of practice sessions, and have a feeling of full control with all 4 fingers. It is only one way to practice out weaknesses in technique and doesn’t really sound musical (although the exercises could have application in a crazy ‘atonal’ way!) so one mustn’t spend too long in any given session on this. There are many other ways we can alter these exercises, add new dimensions and practice further weaknesses so I will follow this post up with others in a series on the same subject.
To further illustrate how to practice these exercises I’ve transcribed how a few of them look in practice here –
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