Guitar Tips for the Beginner to Advanced Player
Weekly Tip #3: The Most Important Thing to Know and Remember About Pull-offs! Improve Your Pull-offs Immediately!
When attempting to execute a pull-off slur (slurring is the action of a hammer-on or a pull-off), whether it is a 2-1, 3-1, 4-1, 3-2, or 4-2 (not a pull-off to an open string, in this case) slur is that the finger you are pulling off to (the 1 in a 2-1 slur, for example) must be down before the pull-off finger starts its motion. This may seem like an obvious point, but you would be surprised how much it is forgotten or not given the attention it deserves.
We can practice our slurs for hours and hours strengthening the fingers like a body builder, but if the finger you are pulling-off to is just a little bit late or unstable (most likely because it is late in preparation), than you will not feel secure in the execution of the slur. You can have the best form and perfect curve in your fingers, but if the finger you are pulling-off to is not anchored down and secure before you begin the slur, than you will most likely have a weak slur (if your lucky) or miss the slur all together.
Go through your pieces with pull-offs in them and make sure the finger you are pulling-off to is set before you start the motion. I highly recommend getting both fingers down at the same time. If you have a 4-3 pull-off, put your pinky and ring finger down at the same time. This keeps your ring finger from being late and making the slur feel week and insecure. I guarantee your pull-offs will feel much more secure and be easier to execute just by doing this. Try it and let me know!!
Weekly Tip #2: Mastering tremolo
Uneven tremolo is the biggest problem that students struggle with when tackling the technique. It has been my experience that the only way to create an even tremolo is to subdivide the rhythm with a metronome. You need to practice with a "click" on the thumb stroke and a "click" on the middle finger stroke. All too often, the metronome is used with a "click" on the thumb only, and that creates too much room for rhythmic error. I have even practiced tremolo with a "click" on every finger! It is a very practical and fail-safe approach to mastering the technique.
Start the metronome very slowly and work through a section of a tremolo piece or a tremolo exercise. If you can follow the metronome perfectly, move the metronome up 1 to 2 "clicks" only. Mastery will come from very slow and gradual increases in tempo. Do this process until you reach a metronome speed that is out of your technical range. At that point, bring the metronome back at least 50-75% and work your way up again. I would recommend starting with a "click" on every finger first (thumb, ring, middle, index) and then go to a "click" on the thumb and middle finger.
To maximize this training technique, practice all the different finger options possible. Work on pima, pimi, pmim, pmia, piam, pmam, pama, paim, etc. This will develop greater finger independence. (P-thumb, A-ring, M-middle, I-index)
Lastly, one must SEQUENTIAL PLANT each finger (including the thumb) and always play the index, middle, and ring finger notes in a f (forte) dynamic level. This is very important! Sequential planting in this technique is an absolute must for control and tone production. If you find yourself hitting the wrong string when playing tremolo (like hitting the first string when playing tremolo notes on the second string), this is especially important for you.
In order to avoid having a tremolo that is really quiet when reaching full tempo (a common problem), building tonal strength by playing the fingers (not thumb) in a forte dynamic at all practice tempos can give the melodic line power when playing at faster final tempos.
**To hear a sample of my tremolo, go to the Media page and listen to the first movement of Sonata I by the Mexican composer Enrique Santos. The tremolo section begins right after the 3 minute mark, although, please feel free to listen to the whole movement of this significant new work.
Weekly Tip #1:
Every able classical guitarists needs to learn Francisco Tarrega's Recuerdos de la Alhambra!!!! There is no other piece that is so versatile. You can use it for every possible situation from professional concert programs to all types of gigs and even playing for grandma! You can get endless mileage out of this piece. Just learn it! It's worth it!
My tips for mastering tremolo will be next week!!