I hope you find the emails and my thoughts useful…
Today we have two very interesting and varied questions about “training your fingers like dogs” and how to be more committed to the guitar!
“If you do not look at the fretting hand, how do you not have awareness of poor techniques like fingers rising too high with increasing speed, or pinkie curl when finger 3 is used, or fingers wanting to squeeze together.
How do you avoid the fingers behaving like untrained dogs?”
This question was in response to a lesson I taught about NOT looking at your hands as much when you play.
It’s a good question and I’ve clarified this before in my lessons, but it’s well worth answering here.
Firstly, you do indeed need to train the fingers so they act like well-behaved dogs.
To do this, you must first spend time looking at the fretting hand fingers to ensure all the technical principles are correct.
This includes not letting the fingers drift too far from the fretboard, that you’re curling the fingers, and you’re spreading them out from the base of the hand so they’re not bunched up together.
…But after a while, you need to let the dogs off the leash, so to speak.
In other words, once the fingers are well-trained, you need to avoid looking at them as much.
That will help you start to use more muscle memory as well as your senses of touch and hearing.
…And this will allow you to really connect with the music and let it “flow” more.
Of course, every now and then you have to put the dogs back on the leash.
That means you occasionally need to once again watch your fingers to ensure bad habits don’t creep in.
An easy way to do this is to video record yourself playing while not looking at the fretting hand.
That was a great technical question, now let’s move on to a question about commitment…
“The main thing I struggle with in my guitar journey is commitment. I just don’t spend enough time playing/practicing/learning on a regular basis to make the kind of progress I would like. I recognize this is a personal problem and only I can solve it. But any ideas that would help me to be more committed would be appreciated. I must acknowledge, you do provide many practical ideas in your teachings around breaking things down, goal setting and pacing advice. The problem for me is application. And that is my main goal for 2023.
I want to compliment you on the thoughtful, methodical approach you present in guiding us on this journey learning to play the guitar. As a retired schoolteacher of 35 years, I appreciate many of subtleties you display in your teaching. You clearly have a passion for teaching, and you do it well.”
First up, that’s a nice compliment to get from a teacher of 35 years, so thanks to Peter.
It’s a great question, and what Peter mentions is pretty common.
So how does one commit more to the guitar?
There are no easy answers to this as we’re all different (I’ll cover more tips soon), but to start with:
Find a reason to pick up and play each day
Learn to play something that truly excites you so much that you can’t help but play.
Make it so you’re almost like a kid sprinting home from school, heart racing with excitement to read his or her new comic book or watch their favourite TV show.
Once you find this piece of music, practise it each day, and fall in love with it.
This piece can be a song or a style such as blues or fingerpicking.
It can be something you jam, or a riff or a fingerstyle song you love.
It doesn’t matter what it is.
Just know, if the piece of music makes your heart sing when you play it, you know you’re on the right track.
Then, to make more progress with the “nitty gritty” technical stuff that is so important, try to “sandwich” this piece with working on the things you know you need to.
That’s simple advice, but it’s something a lot of people forget.
There’s an infinite amount of music out there for you to choose from.
To discover the songs that have been most popular with my students over the years, you might want to check this out:
It’s highly likely if you love classic songs and fingerstyle…
There will be at least a few tunes in this collection (if not more) that will make your heart sing.
P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.