Carlevaro: Cuaderno No.3: Technique for the Left Hand

Displacement of the hand on the fingerboard.

The main foci of the exercises in this book is to develop the ability to shift accurately up and down the string. In my opinion it is much better use of your time to use scales and melodies for this once the initial stages of these exercises are mastered.

Elimination of squeaks.

    This is achieved by becoming aware of the stages involved in releasing a note cleanly:

  • Relax the hand
  • Allow the finger to leave the string perpendicular to the string - the squeak is caused by letting the string slide against the finger
  • Moving to the new position and playing the next note.

MY NOTE: While elimination of squeaks is a desirable thing and should be practised until learned, be aware that this style of finger lifting between notes can be deadly to the performance of a cantabile (singing) melody line. It's main application is in chord playing - developing a clean release, attaining a neutral, relaxed hand and then moving to a different configuration.

So, as always, you need to cultivate a range of techniques to cover various musical needs.

Note: The concepts illustrated in these books are fully explained in Carlevaro's School of the Guitar.

Simple and mixed Presentation

p> There are two basic ways you approach the guitar neck - Simple and Mixed Presentations.

Carlevaro calls this a simple presentation because the fingers align on one axis.

For more complex chord shapes, where you can see two axes, place one axis first, then rotate the arm until you can place the other. During this the fingers remain quite passive. With attentive practice this process will become very quick.

Carlevaro calls this a mixed presentation because the fingers align on more than one axis.


Chords, and how to change chords quickly using simple and mixed presentation is explored thoroughly in my book: Bach's Guitar: Master Chords and Unlock Your Right Hand

Temporary displacement

Use Temporary Displacements to make those daring leaps on the neck - and land safely.

Temporary Displacements occur when you leave the thumb in place AND extend the hand up the fretboard.

Temporary Displacement on the guitar allows for accurate leaps.

They are extremely useful for making accurate leaps out of position and back again. The angle between the thumb and hand and the relation of the arm to the body give you plenty of feedback as to where your hand is.

Guitar fingering systems and peak experiences

Depending on one's strategies of memorisation and "fingering" ... a player might set up conditions conducive to "peak experiences" (refer to Abraham Maslow's works) ... or indeed he/she might develop habits of playing which actually inhibit these experiences.

You cannot separate the physical mechanisms from the states of mind experienced when playing an instrument. They are like the warp and woof of a tapestry.

Good fingering systems will therefore involve programming lots of ballistic movements - as your capacity for concentration during performance can be sabotaged from the very beginning if you have to think about fingering during performance, or if the fingerings you use are too "effortful".

Ballet at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen - image by Peter Inglis