Have you ever finished up a practice session and noticed that your left hand is feeling tired and achy? Or even worse, hand pain?
One of the usual suspects is applying too much pressure with the left hand. As guitarists, we apply enough pressure to the guitar fretboard that we risk injuring our fingers.
The exercise we’re covering today is a personal favorite and has helped many students and professionals to play the guitar with less left-hand pressure.
Breaking Things Down
The exercise is broken down into the following steps:
- Play an open string. (You can choose any tempo)
- With a left-hand finger, apply a little bit of pressure on the open string so you are playing a muted note.
- Slowly apply a little bit more pressure until you are playing a “buzzed” note.
- Finally, apply just a little bit more pressure until the note you are playing rings clearly.
In the steps above, it is important to be aware of how much pressure you are applying with your fingers.
The goal of the exercise is to ingrain the ability to play with less left-hand pressure. If we aren’t conscious of each step, it won’t be as beneficial to our guitar playing.
Playing the Open String
The first step of the exercise is playing an open string.
Practicing open strings alone is a great exercise for anything we are working on in our guitar practice. Open strings allow us to work out exactly what we are doing with our picking hand.
For this exercise, focus the picking hand on having a consistent tempo. You don’t have to think too much about it since our main focus is how much pressure we are using with the left hand.
The Muted Note
A muted note is exactly what it sounds like. We play a note on the guitar that doesn’t ring clearly.
We achieve the muted note by applying just enough pressure to the string so that we don’t hear the open string or a fretted note.
If you are hearing a “thunk” sound, you are successfully playing a muted note!
The “Buzzed” note
A buzzed note happens when we are not applying enough pressure to a fretted note.
Think about the difference between pushing a door open with all your strength, or just a light push to open and walk through the doorway.
For this part of the exercise, a buzzed note is exactly what we want.
The Clear Note
The last step is a crisp and clear note. Once you have made it to this point, you should be playing the note with just the right amount of pressure with the left-hand finger.
When we play the guitar with the right amount of left-hand pressure, we realize we do not need that much strength to get notes to ring clearly.
If you practice this exercise daily, your fingers will thank you and you’ll be able to enjoy your guitar practice more.
Variations on the Exercise
The most basic element in this exercise is using one finger at a time. But we do not have to limit ourselves to only that. You can practice this exercise with multiple fingers at once.
Feel free to apply this pressure exercise to chords, arpeggios, scales, or hammer-ons and pull-offs.
The main idea behind the exercise is to play the guitar with less left-hand pressure and avoid possible hand injuries.
If you have any questions or comments, you can get in touch with us here.