March 23, 2017

A very common technical issue for all guitar students is the problem of separating fingers 2 & 3. Every time the 2nd finger is used, the 3rd finger squeezes against it! This will cause problems with just about everything you play.  This problem shows itself especially in scalar playing, and for people using The Principles, it often appears as an obstacle when working on the Walking Exercises.

One student put it this way: “The “All aboard” concept (placing all fingers on the 6th string with equal curvature and spacing of all fingers) is moving along but for the life of me I can’t seem to get a space between my 2nd and 3rd finger. They bunch up continuously (and I do feel I am relaxed). Will this separation happen naturally as muscles progress? This happens at the 7th fret…so I tried the 10th, same deal.”

Anyone having this problem will find the following technique very useful. It is called “The Touching Technique”. It teaches a finger to stay relaxed while the finger next to it is playing. Keep in mind, when you make a fundamental improvement in your fingers like this, you see all your playing improve!


Try practicing 1 and 2 across the strings while doing this:

  1. Start in the “All Aboard” position on the 6th string, 1st finger down, and the other fingers lightly above and close to the strings. Play the 1st finger note.
  2. After playing the 1st finger note, and BEFORE playing the 2nd finger note, LIGHTLY touch the 3rd finger to the string, at its fret. Keep it there as you reach with the 2nd finger, press it to its fret, and play its note. WATCH the 3rd finger, make sure it stays in contact with the string during the process of applying pressure with the 2nd finger.
  3. Once the 2nd finger is down, play the string. It will be a dead note because the 3rd is muting it.
  4. Hold 2 and 3, and move 1 to the next string. Play 1.
  5. Remove 2 and place it on the 5th string, but keep 3 lightly touching the 6th string. Play 2
  6. Keep moving across the strings playing 1 & 2 on each string, while keeping the 3rd fingers always lightly touching the string behind.

Doing this consistently, every day for 5 or 10 minutes, with no tempo, posing, and all the other “Tools” in The Principles, will cause great improvement.

The problem becomes more intense as we approach the 1st string. We must understand a little fact of guitar playing life: the higher the string, the more tension in the fingers. The reason is simple: to play on the higher strings, you have to flex your fingers more. This means the muscles in the forearm which flex the fingers get more and more contracted as you continue to flex the fingers to reach the higher strings.

This is why we practice “whole body awareness”, keeping the whole body relaxed as we play. There is no getting away from the fact that we need “tension” to play the guitar. However, we only need about 1/10 of the tension most people are playing with!

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  1. I am 58 years old and I am trying to learn to play the lead guitar. It sure is hard for me to understand the notes and coordination, along with the chords. Can anybody give some pointers to help me along.

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