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Tutorial - Economy of Motion

Economy of Motion - Left Hand Efficiency

Rick Graham 210 lessons


  During the past 10 years as a guitar teacher, I have experienced a wide ranging degree of capability amongst students. Some were naturally gifted players while others had to work much harder to achieve their goals. Despite this, I would say that 100% of my students did not exercise maximum left hand efficiency whilst playing and consequently he/she would exert far too much energy on fairly simply chord shapes and scales and as a result make mistakes and/or run out of steam far too early. I feel that this basic function should be understood and implemented fairly early on so that common problems such as dead or inaccurate notes or tension in the left hand can be eradicated.


I first came across this neat way of gauging left hand efficiency while I was immersed in studying the classical guitar. In fact, there are some extremely useful principles which I initially discovered during my classical studies which, when applied to the study of electric guitar, adapt exceptionally well. I will be including some of these throughout my series of columns.

Start by fingering the g note on the 3rd fret of the 6th string and play the note as you would normally. Take a mental note of how much pressure you are applying to the string to produce the note. Now release your finger from the fretboard all while making a mental note of how much pressure you applied to make the note sound cleanly. Now place your finger back on the same note but do not apply any pressure to the string yet (the finger should be touching the string but not applying any pressure). Now SLOWLY and steadily begin to apply pressure to the string in small increments. Keep doing this until you reach the EXACT point that you are able to produce a good clean note. I'd wager a bet that you are probably applying half the amount of pressure that you initially applied to get the note. Well, it doesn't take Einstein to work out that there is some serious wasted energy here! The general premise of this exercise is to be as efficient as we possibly can be so that we only use the EXACT amount of exertion needed at any given time. If this method is applied correctly, with practice, you will begin to develop a completely new command over your instrument.

The first step forward is to apply this energy saving principal to our daily practice regime.


Remember that each fret has it's own 'sweet' spot where we can apply the minimum amount of energy to produce a resonant, clear note which is completely free from buzzes and other unwanted sounds. You will, more often than not, find this spot directly behind the fretwire that seperates the frets. Poor left hand positioning is a very common problem amongst guitarists yet it is a problem which is very easily rectified. Once you find the sweet spots you will be amazed how little energy you need to exert to get great sounding results.

Remember less = more. I cannot emphasize that enough.

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