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The Art Of Picking Part 1

Supportive Fingering

Well, use "supportive fingering". That´s an approach I was introduced to at the GIT. I was told that Steve Lukather is one player who uses that approach a lot (ever has been since starting out). If you watch Steve play live, you´ll notice that he hardly moves his left hand when playing fast runs. It looks as if he's only shifting his hand up and down the neck without moving his fingers at all.

Now, what is "supportive fingering" all about ?
It´s a certain kind of left hand exercises that you should do a few minutes every day. If you do, you´ll notice some huge results after a while. It´s tough to keep up supportive fingering at absolute high speeds, but if you practice that stuff on a regular base, it will help you to minimize left hand-movements.

Here is the exercise and explanation of "s.f." (supportive fingering). Take your regular 1-2-3-4 chromatic exercise. (That means, start out on the low E-string. Play the first note at the 1st fret of that string with your index finger. Then, play the note at the 2nd fret, same string, with your middle finger. Next is the 3rd fret with the ring-finger and finally, the note at the 4th fret with your pinkie. Next, you move to the A- string and repeat the whole thing. You can see a TAB of an exercise like these at the end of this article...).

Once you reached the high E-string, you can either play the whole thing descending (1-2-3-4 starting on the high e- string, or 4-3-2-1 on that same string) or move the whole exercise up the neck chromatically.

Anyway, using the s.f.-approach, we change one thing:
You fret the 1st note with your left hand. Then you fret the second with the middle finger of the left hand, while the index finger remains in place (at the 1st fret) !!!

Next, you use your ring-finger at the 3rd fret while the first two fingers stay in place. Then you fret the last note on that string, and now you have all your fingers placed on the fretboard. (index at 1st fret, middle at 2nd etc.)

OK, now it´s time to continue on the A-string. You move only (ONLY !!!) your index finger to fret the note at the 1st fret. Then you leave the finger there. Next, you´re moving ONLY the middle finger up to the A-string.

By then, the index- and middle-finger are on the 1st and 2nd fret of the A-string respectively, while the 3rd and fourth finger are still on the E-String.

Eventually, you move those two to the A-string as well. Continue the whole exercise that way. It's actually less complicated once you try it. It might feel a bit awkward in the beginning, but if you do those kinda exercises (you can also do them with diatonic exercises) a few minutes every day, you will start to use your left hand way more economically.

If you descend on the strings (4-3-2-1) you put ALL the fingers in place immediately, and then slowly remove each finger, playing 4th fret, 3rd fret, 2nd fret, 1st fret. Move the fingers to the next string once you take them off.

Another cool net-effect of this exercise is that you are kinda forced to fret really accurately, bending your fingers a bit to hit the string straight on without muting any adjacent strings...

Alright, that´s the idea behind "supportive fingering"

The right hand

Keep your right hand relaxed, too. Have your pick slightly angled (one side of it being closer to the floor than the other one). I discussed stuff like anchoring and "How many fingers to hold the pick" in my "99 Ways To Pick" article here at iBreatheMusic, so check that out, too !

The metronome is your friend

Well, I don´t think I have to elaborate on this quite a lot. The metronome is an essential tool for developing speed and accuracy. So use it. Remember that even the coolest lick ain't worth a damn if it is not in time, "in the pocket".

I also think it can be pretty motivating to work with a metronome. Set yourself some realistic daily goals, like "OK, today I'm gonna take this lick and speed it up to 90 bpm". Maybe the next day, you can get up to a 100 etc.

Increase speed in small steps, and if you feel like you´re stuck at a certain tempo, exaggerate. Turn the metronome up like 60 bpm. Then try to play along with it. You´ll most likely not be able to do so. But once you skip back to your top-speed, you might be able to push it a bit more and improve a bit more.

One great exercise a friend told me about one day:
Weave a sheet of paper between the strings, like: put it over the high e-string, then under the B-string, over the G- String etc. If you hit the strings now, they won´t have any sustain or anything. you'll hear nothing but a percussive attack, very much like a snare-drum. Now turn on your metronome, and try to play along to it. Try to "erase" the beats of the metronome by hitting the strings EXACTLY in time. Do so at different metronome-settings. This is a nice exercise to get used to working with it.

First exercises >>