51 Left Hand Techniques for Guitar

Everything you need to start playing guitar with great technique.
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Instructed by Brian Riggs Music / Music Techniques
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  • Lectures 53
  • Contents Video: 5 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 6/2015 English

Course Description

This course is all about developing great left hand technique on the guitar. The video lectures take you from the basics of sitting and hand position to more advanced concepts and techniques.

The course uses simple, easy-to-follow directions and terms, so there is no complicated jargon that you need to worry about. It is assumed that you have basic guitar literacy, so if your an absolute beginner (you're holding a guitar for the first time), then the course isn't for you for right now.

The course is designed for anyone who wants to improve their technique, whether you've been playing for a short time or your more advanced and play pieces from the classical guitar repertoire. Although I had a classical guitar audience in mind, you can benefit from the lessons in this course no matter what style of music you play.

The course comes with 53 video lectures (51 lesson videos, plus an introduction and conclusion), as well as PDF files of the musical examples written in both standard musical notation and guitar tablature (no note-reading is required). There are PDF files in each lecture, starting at lecture 7, and in the Introduction lecture there are 3 larger documents with all of the musical examples for each of the 3 large sections all in one place. The lectures are organized into 3 large sections, there are 20 lessons in the Basics section, 15 lectures in the Intermediate section, and 16 lectures in the Advanced section. I recommend following the lectures in order, and then you can go back and re-visit as many lectures as many times as you'd like.

This course will answer questions like, where do you place fingers on the fret? How do you play more accurately? How should you position your left hand? How do you do a barre chord without straining your left hand? What is the meaning of life? (Ok, maybe not that last one).

All you'll need is a computer, tablet, or mobile device and your guitar, and you'll be good to go. Some people find it helpful to print out the musical examples and keep it nearby, so find what works best for you. You'll find this course is a good fit for you if already play guitar at least a little bit and you want to increase the accuracy, control, and coordination of your left hand and become a better guitar player.

What are the requirements?

  • You'll just need a guitar and way to watch the video lectures. A guitar foot-rest is recommended but not required, in the beginning of the course you'll learn about classical guitar sitting position.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Play guitar with more control and less effort in the left hand.
  • Play over 50 musical examples all over the fret-board of the guitar.
  • Develop a solid foundation that will stay with you for a lifetime of guitar playing.

What is the target audience?

  • This course on left hand techniques for the guitar is for anyone who already plays guitar and wants to improve. Whether you're still working on the basics or you're more advanced, this course has something to help you get better and play more confidently with less effort. That being said, if you are an absolute beginner and you haven't learned how to play at all yet, then this course isn't for you.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction

This lecture is just the introduction to the course, so there isn't any actual instruction in this lecture. I just cover the basic layout of the course. It's worth mentioning that I know that you may not agree with me on some (or even many) of the lectures in terms of how difficult a particular lesson or technique is. Everyone's different, so if you find that something in the advanced section to be easy, or something in the basics section to be difficult, that's ok. Since this is an online course, I have to pick a section for each lecture and go with it. I recommend following the lectures in order and then later skipping around as you see fit.

Also, I have included a PDF file of each musical example along with each lecture, but here I have included 3 documents for each large section, basics, intermediate, and advanced. That way, if you prefer to print out the sheet music for each section you can have it all on one page. There are 2 versions of each file, "notes" contains only the standard notation notes, and the "tab" version contains both the notes and guitar tablature. One last thing is that the musical examples don't start until Lecture 7, which I say just so you won't think you're missing the files from the lecture before Lecture 7.

Section 2: Basics

In this lecture we'll take a look at basic classical guitar sitting position. You don't absolutely have to sit with classical sitting position, but if you've never tried I would recommend giving it a try here. I use a classical guitar foot-rest to sit with, but you can use whatever you have handy (old magazines work well). Sitting this way will help you be able to see and reach the fret-board easily. It also can give a new feeling/perspective for your left hand.


In this lecture you'll learn about some basic principles of left hand technique and formation. This is important because if you are playing with bad positioning or formation, it will be hard to develop really good left hand technique. Even if you've been playing a while it would be good to take a look at this video on left hand position.


This lecture is going to start with the opposite of playing clearly (it's very zen). A good thing to start with is to put your finger on the string and very gradually add pressure until you have a clear note. Once you have a clear sounding note, make sure to stop adding pressure with the left hand finger. A lot of left hand problems can be traced back to pressing too hard. At the time that I'm writing this, I just played an hour-long recital a couple of days, and my left hand didn't feel fatigued at all because one thing that I've worked on is making sure that I'm not pressing too hard with the left-hand fingers while I'm playing.


Where you position your left-hand fingers on the frets is really important because you'll get a clearer sound with less effort if you place your left hand fingers in the right place. This lecture will help you take a lot of struggle and frustration out of your guitar playing by putting your left hand fingers in the best specific place.

After thinking it about, I purposefully decided not to include a PDF file with this lecture because I don't want you to follow along and try to just get the notes, the point isn't the notes so much as it is to develop the technique. Don't worry too much about playing in the specific order, if you focus on the technique, you'll be getting the most out of the course.


This lecture will help you make sure that you have a clear awareness of your left hand fingers and whether each finger is using pressure to play, or relaxed. Whenever a finger is not playing, you want to make sure that it is absolutely relaxed. That way you can play longer with less fatigue.


This lecture will take a you a through a simple exercise where you'll play single notes all on the same string. Something I talk about a lot in private lessons is weight transfer, it's a subtle thing, but make sure that once a finger is done playing that it releases the pressure so it doesn't steal any power away from the next finger that's going to play.


In this lecture, we'll start to play notes that are on different strings. Changing strings always has a potential for problems on the guitar, so we'll slowly start to look at some strategies in this and the following lecture so that you an change strings accurately and with confidence.


This lecture will focus on changing strings, going towards the ceiling. The way the guitar is set up has the strings that sound lowest closest to the ceiling, so "going down" means that you will actually need to reach against gravity and go towards the ceiling. (or the sky if you're practicing outside, something you have a small window of time to do in Chicago).


In this lecture you'll learn to play a short one-octave scale starting on the 3rd string (G) and going to the high E string on the 3rd fret. You'll be putting the skills from the last couple of lectures to use, so make sure to go nice and slow and easy at first. The goal is to have each finger only move in the direction it needs to go.


In this lecture I introduce the concept of position playing. Basically, you want to have a starting point where you're covering 4 frets on the fretboard with the 4 fingers of your left hand. In real guitar music, you're not going to have to be able to perfectly cover 4 frets at all times, but it's a good idea to use a nice position as a starting point as your playing guitar.


In this lecture we'll take a look at a C Major scale. You'll need to play 4 different strings, starting on the A string and going to the B string. Make sure the beat is even and steady, once you have that the speed will come with time.


In this lecture you'll start learning about hammer-ons, or "ascending slurs" if you want to use the official term. Make sure that this makes sense, as we'll be talking about hammer-ons a lot throughout the course. We'll start by playing the high E string open, and using the middle (or 2nd) finger to "hammer" the string, giving us a new note without plucking the string a second time.


This lecture is very similar to the previous lecture, we're going to continue to look at the idea of hammering on to the high E string, this time using the ring (3rd) finger of the left hand. Try not to "wind up" and instead only move your left hand towards to the fretboard of the guitar.


In this lecture we're going to introduce pull-offs. It takes a little bit of trial and error to the get the feel of the motion that your left hand finger needs to do. The goal is to get the sound of the 2 notes to be about the same in terms of volume. You want to avoid overly "snapping" the string. It's true that you need to pull the string and get a sensation of plucking it a little bit, but you don't want to overdo it.


This lecture will continue in the vein of the last lecture, you'll continue to work on pull-offs. This exercise should have a pretty similar feel to the previous lecture. A good thing to keep in mind is that you want to keep your hand still as your doing the pull-off, don't let the hand and wrist get too involved.


In this lecture we'll go for a walk and you'll learn to use your left-hand fingers to "walk" across the strings. This is a simple but very effective way to develop strength in your fingers and accuracy in your playing.


This lecture will continue with the skill introduced in the previous lecture, this time you'll play with the 2 fingers in the middle of your hand, the middle and and ring fingers. Make sure there is never a time where are there are no fingers down on the guitar.


This lecture will continue with the concept introduced in the previous 2 lectures. This time, you'll use the index and ring fingers of your left hand to play. A good goal is to make sure that there is always a left hand finger making contact with the string. It really is like walking, where you always keep least one foot on the ground at all times.


This lecture will take a look at a common texture in guitar music. Keep in mind that the goal is not to simply the notes and call it a day, but to make sure that you are in control of your fingers and moving at precisely the right time.


This last lecture in the basics section will work on a short, 8-bar study where you will put all of the techniques that you've learned to use. Once again, the goal is not so much to simply play the notes but rather to make sure that your left hand is working in the most relaxed, efficient way possible.

Section 3: Intermediate

In this lecture we will take a look at basic barre technique. You'll see a lot more progress in your playing if you work on your positioning and finger placement as opposed to just pressing the finger down harder and gritting your teeth. Having good shape to your finger is more important than strength, so even if your not getting a clear sound at first don't abandon good form in your left hand index finger.


In this lecture, you'll learn how to play hammer-ons on the same string. Both hammer-ons will start on with the index finger playing the first note. Even though you won't be using your pinky, make sure it stays relaxed doesn't stiffen or straighten out.


This lecture will take a look at doing pull-offs using the 2 fingers in the middle of your hand going to the index finger Try to get a balance between getting a clear note on the 2nd note, but at the same time don't overdo the "snap."


In this lecture we'l take a look at playing in higher positions on the guitar fretboard. There's nothing technically harder about playing higher on the fretboard, but it's something that doesn't come up until harder pieces, so we'll take a look here.


This lecture will use the same musical example as the previous lecture, but here we will take a look at using vibrato. Vibrato is like a spice or a seasoning, it's very important but you want to use it sparingly.


This lecture will look at how to do grace notes in the form of pull-offs. This isn't something that you will use all the time, but I've found in private lessons that this is something that really helps students get the light, qucick, and easy feel that is so important for pull-offs.


This lecture will continue on the mini-theme of grace notes. Remember, it isn't so much a matter of fast movements, but of timing. It's important that the left hand finger goes in like a straight line towards the guitar, without any extra "winding up" motion.


So in this lecture we're going to take a look at 3rds, where we play 2 notes that have a note in between them Don't worry, we're not going to go into the music theory of 3rd in this course, but I think this is a great way to build left hand technique.


In this lecture, you'll learn how to hand off across strings. This is one of these things that isn't flashy, but it is super important if you want to play classical guitar pieces well. We'll look at a musical example that will get you going and help you increase the accuracy and security of your playing.


In thus lecture you'll learn how to use a guide finger to increase the accuracy of your left hand shifts. I usually only see this talked about in more advanced books, but this is something that I work on even with young beginning students. It takes a lot of hassle out of moving around, which is good because classical guitar pieces tend to move around a lot.


In this lecture we're going to build on the last few lectures and look at 6ths. These are a little more tricky because you will need to play 2 notes that aren't on strings that aren't right next to each other. By the end of this lecture, you should be able to play the musical example at a nice slow, walking speed.


In this lecture, you'll play a short study where you will keep one finger down for 4 beats while the other fingers move around. It's a great way to increase the control of your left-hand fingers.


In this lecture, we're going to look at switching notes in an arpeggio. This is a common thing in guitar playing of all styles, so it's a good thing to develop. Here, we'll look at a short musical example, but remember that it's not so much the notes themselves but the way that you switch that's going to help you get better.


In this lecture we're going to get a little more specific and look at how you can do what's called a half-barre. In this musical example, it's important to only cover the 3 strings closest to the ground with your index finger. Once again, it's more important to get the technical point of the musical example rather than the notes.


This lecture will continue with the idea of the last lecture and look at doing a 4 string barre. Being able to selectively cover only the strings you want is very important, so make sure not to skip this lecture.

Section 4: Advanced

In this lecture we're going to continue with the hammer-ons, but they will be harder as we through in some more finger combinations. These are a good starting point that I recommend, but feel free to make up your own combinations. The point is to improve the mechanics of your technique, and the exercises are a means to that end.


In this lecture we'll switch gears to pull-offs, and through in some more challenging finger combinations. By the end of this lecture you should have a good idea of how to pull-offs with all 4 fingers.


In this lecture, you will learn how to change strings as part of the hammer-on exercises. Make sure to keep an even tempo even as you change strings, the speed can come later.


In this lecture, we're going to conclude this mini-section on slurs by doing pull-offs in combinations that require you to change strings. If there is any particular finger combination that gives you trouble, then it would be good to make up your own patterns that help you work on that finger combination. The point is to do the technique like in the video, not to play the example really fast.


In this lecture, we're going to take a look at fixed finger exercises These are great for improving your technique, just don't overdo them when you're starting out. These are almost more for developing your brain than your fingers.


In the lecture, we're going to take a look at a C Major scale over 2 octaves This fingering was popularized by the great guitarist Andres Segovia, and is often called the "Segovia fingering" Scales are a great thing to play to make sure that you're doing everything right and that all of your fingers are working well.


In this lecture, we'll learn something interesting called a hinge barre This isn't that difficult, but it's a used in more advanced pieces. Besides being a great tool in the guitarists' toolkit, it's a great exercise for getting you to think about how your left hand index finger works when doing barres.


Continuing with the idea in the last lecture, here you'll get some practice getting your index finger in and out of a barre. This is a great thing to develop the flexibility of the index finger. Try to keep the left wrist and arm still in order to get the most out of this exercise.


This lecture will teach you how to do a very important guitar technique, shifting your left hand even as you play an open note. The goal of this musical example is to have your left hand only move towards the place that it is going for the shift,


In this lecture we're going to build on the skills of the last lecture and shift on an open note, but this time the shift will be a but farther. Don't worry about accuracy so much at first, if you are moving in a smooth, relaxed way, your hand will eventually find the correct note without too much trouble. The goal isn't speed, but having no wasted motion.


This lecture will show you how to play natural harmonics on the guitar. There's going to be a bit of trial and error involved in finding the way to get the clearest, bell-like sound, just make sure not to put too much pressure on the string


In this lecture we're going to do some more finger independence exercises These are harder, but it is near the end of the advanced section, so it would be good thing to spend some time doing if you feel pretty solid on the all of the material that has been covered so far.


This lecture will show you how to do multiple pull-offs. Basically, you're going to pluck the string only once but get a total of 3 notes. Try to get each of the pull-off to flow in one motion, so the fingers of the left hand are helping each other instead of working against each other.


In this lecture, you'll learn how to multiple hammer-ons. As with the pull-offs, you want to take advantage of the fact that the left hand fingers are moving in the same direction. Try to keep the first finger that you hammer down, on the string until you hammer the next note down as you play this musical example.


In this lecture, you'll learn how to play chromatic octaves, both together and broken For this example, we'll stay in 1st position, keeping the hand still, which will force your left hand fingers to do all the work. This is another intense work-out for your left hand fingers, so go slowly at first, keeping the beat smooth.


This lecture will show you how to do a technique that actually requires both the left and right hands. If you can get the technique for artificial harmonics, then you can play any note on the guitar fretboard as a harmonic, which is pretty cool I think. This lecture will round out the advanced section of the course.

Section 5: Conclusion

This is the concluding lecture for the entire course. Feel free to review any lectures that you think you could work on. Remember that lessons like these are a starting point, not an ending. The goal is make music on the guitar, and if you can do all the exercises in this course, then you'll be able to make music in a relaxed and enjoyable way.

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Instructor Biography

Brian Riggs, Guitar Teacher

My name is Brian Riggs and I am a classical guitarist and guitar teacher from Chicago, IL. I have a degree in classical guitar performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts, and I've played in master classes with some amazing guitarists, most notably Christopher Parkening at his class at Montana State University.

I want to share what I've learned from those experiences with as many people as possible; Some of my most satisfying musical experiences have been seeing students make progress and become musicians in their own right. I've taught thousands of lessons in person and I've had the great experience of helping people fulfill their musical goals and realizing their potential as guitarists.

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