Friday, November 17, 2006

playing in position pt. 4: what about finger independence?

You may be wondering why, in these discussions of position playing, that I’m not talking about finger independence. If you’re used to those rigorous and exhaustive compendiums of fingerboard calisthenics (or s&m exercises), you may be asking what the reason for the relative simplicity of these exercises is.
Finger-to-finger independence is one of those things that you come across in keyboard pedagogy (and even there it is not quite as useful as sometimes made out). One of the things that differentiates the keyboard from the fretboard (excepting instruments such as the clavichord and the Ztar) is that the former has random access (you can, more or less, press any combination of keys) while the latter, in comparison, has significant restrictions in degrees of freedom (only one note per string). While the former is conceptually a set of non-latching pushbuttons, the latter is a set of single-pole, multi-throw switches (in the case of the guitar, this would be something like six SP20T switches). Nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that very, very little of a guitar player’s repertoire of gestures requires, or draws upon, the finger-to-finger independence of movement.
Generalizing for a moment, I would not recommend that any budding guitar player work specifically on finger independence unless their particular technique demands it (e.g. touch/tap playing or contrapuntal fingerstyle). Furthermore, unless you know what you are doing, unless you are mindful of your physical/physiological parameters and constraints, it may be best to take your time and approach this at a later date, and with caution. It does not help that many of the published collections of exercises range from useful, if approached properly, to pointless, and possible sources of injury.
My two cents….


11–18–06: Correct the conceptual guitar fretboard switch from a 6P20T to six SP20Ts.

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