Why no focus on the left hand?


I think there are as much unanswered questions about left hand fingerings as there was about right hand before cracking the code.
The usual “use whatever is most comfortable for you!” advice for fretting is as helpful as " just pick every note!" for picking.

It would be great if there was some focus on that as well. How different players approach fretting hand fingerings. What is common and what is not efficient.


my two totally-unaffiliated-from-CtC cents - CtC started off as an exercise to decode picking technique, and while they’ve covered a tremendous amount of ground there, there’s still a massive amount of material left to cover.

Not that fretting hand technique isn’t important or worthy of discussion - I mostly get by on legato, myself, and watching the Yngwie videos has left me with a bunch of questions on position shifts I still have to sit down with, analyze some more, and then post up here to ask - but it’s kind of outside the scope of what Troy set out to do.

Still, these forums are a great resource, if you have specific questions.


We get this question every so often and I always say the same thing: Show me the problem. In other words, show me a thing that a high percentage of players somehow fails to do even after years of concerted effort, and that’s when I get interested.

I’m absolutely not saying left hand practice is easy, and I’m definitely not saying the mechanics are simple. I’m saying, I don’t get the sense that there is a huge glass ceiling there like there was in picking technique, where you have fundamental illiteracy across a majority of the guitar playing population, resulting in dedicated people who practice for years in some cases with little to show for it.

Maybe there aren’t issues of similar magnitude in fretting technique. Maybe the majority of players get by to a certain degree with simple trial and error. If that’s the case, then what’s the next level down? What is something that lots of people do fine with, but could do better?

I don’t have the fastest fretting hand in the world by any stretch, but I haven’t particularly struggled with any aspect of fretting technique. Is that true for most players, or just some? Are you telling me I could have Shawn Lane finger speed if only I did something differently? Because I don’t really need that level of speed, but if you’re saying I can have that just by altering some aspect of what I do, then ok, sure, that’s worth looking at.

As usual, more questions than answers!


No, not even close. Fretboard hand technique on guitar is almost as straightforward as piano technique ( I took classical piano lessons before taking up guitar). Not quite of course, since we have vibrato and bending, but simply put, developing an efficient picking technique is a task of herculean proportions compared to developing fretboard hand technique, because unlike the violin where each string is at a different height, so there is no problem bowing one string without accidentally hitting the other three strings on violin, on the guitar the strings are all the same height!

Why is it a big deal that all the strings are the same height? It’s a big deal because we have to figure out how to pick on one string without accidentally bumping into the adjacent strings and remember guitar strings are relatively very closely spaced together compared to violin strings too! If the guitarist used the most basic, obvious approach to change strings without accidentally hitting a string before he’s cleared it (in outside string changing) - by string hopping - he’ll wind up with an inefficient, slow technique which is also excessively stressful on the tendons of the wrist.

Finally, as a case in point, and I believe @Troy will enjoy this, just witness the people who can barely even be considered guitarists who are able to play the tapping section of Eruption. Try to find people with the same lack of ability on the guitar who can play part of a solo famous for its virtuosity except this time get them to ry to play a fast picked section, such as maybe the first high speed picking found in the “Frenzy” solo by Racer X. Do you honestly think amy f these guitar dilettantes that barely play guitar but can tap the end of eruption can play that part of “Frenzy”? Not a chance.


I mean, it’s the logical direction you would presume to go, but I think Troy’s presumption that there isn’t really a puzzle to solve there is correct.

Bass players have a huge debate over left hand technique, but that’s because of the hurtle of fret spacing on a full scale (34 inch) instrument and the two entrenched ideological camps (one finger per fret or 1,2, 4 Carol Kaye approach) that refuse to recognize the other’s benefits.

In that respect, yes, some guitarists would benefit from trying scale lengths that are a bit shorter. Even the standard Gibson 24.75 scale length is just a bit too far for my ergonomics. The Fender 25.5 is just an utter waste of my practice time. Ultimately, I’ve found the Gretsch 24.6 or PRS 24.5 to suit my hands, and thereby increase fretting accuracy and speed.

But now that this has been discovered, all I really need to do is practice.


Topics that interest me are :

  1. Left hand finger hopping- its awkward, but i see many famous players doing it.
  2. Rolls / descending rolls?
  3. choosing the right fingering, use pinky or not?
  4. fingerings playing high up the neck vs playing in the middle.

im sure theres more, but these topics always puzzled me.


I might be wrong but I think the development of classical guitar has layed a nice foundation for this topic.

What’s that?


I’m totally open to believing there are big challenges in fretting technique, but that I’m just not aware of them because I don’t know what I don’t know. Similar to players who naturally stumbled across picking technique and just assumed it would be similarly easy for everyone else, it would be really easy to generalize and say “hey, there’s nothing to see here, move along”. So if there are players out there who legitimately struggle to do certain things, bring 'em on. Maybe those things are things I might also struggle with and just don’t know it because they’re not things I regularly attempt.

What do you mean by this?

This is something we talk about in the upcoming Gambale interview a little bit. But not super extensively. He does it, he’s good at it. Are you saying you’ve worked on this and can’t get it to happen?

Personal take is that this is a non-issue. If more than one finger works, then more than one finger is “correct”. The only thing that constrains finger choice is whether or not you need certain fingers to be free based on what comes before or after. If you don’t, then I don’t think it really matters. Feel free to correct / debate.

Again, I would say, sort of a non-issue. Unless something forces you to choose one finger over another, then multiple fingerings are “correct”.

These are some of my operating assumptions anyway. So I’m stating my ignorance out loud here - feel free to poke holes in it!


By Left hand finger hoping i mean playing consecutive notes with the same finger on different fret/different string.
For example in the middle of the phrase playing 12th fret with 3rd finger and the next note is 11th fret on 4th string played with the same finger.


This seems more like a muscle memory thing, keep doing it and you will get better - this finger hopping that you are describing is just some thing you have to do - there is no other way (or play the same notes on a different place on the neck to make things easier).

I agree with most people on this thread in that there is no real mystery with the left hand. There are great videos on youtube that show things like legato (Guthrie Govan has a great one that he did for lick library thats easy to find). Most guitar players rely on legato as their picking cant keep up, not the other way round. I think your question relates more to practice quality and quantity than it does cracking the left hand code.


I come from jazz background and i work on arpeggios more than scales. My recent practice is just playing arpeggio notes and connecting them according to chord changes. This gets my fretting hand in all kinds of weird fingerings when trying to smoothly connect arpeggios.

Thats where i start to wonder should i use my pinky or not, or should i use rolls or not.


My only confusion has been middle or ring finger when playing the middle note of three note per string licks like the ones in Racer X’s “Scarified.” Ring tends to be more comfortable but it’s a stretch when going from 3-5-7.


I personally find it easier to use middle finger when playing in the lower positions (closer to the headstock) and ring finger in the higher positions (towards bridge). I usually tend to switch fingers somewhere around 7th-10th position or even higher depending on my posture and other variables. It’s just more comfortable for me.
Also, I prefer middle finger on higher strings while I do use ring finger on lower strings even if the frets are the same. If I try something harshly against these guidances, my hand tenses up and I feel some extra tension in the wrist.
Anyway, I did not deliberately plan any of this. It just came naturally. And I’m not going to suggest that other players should adopt these “rules”. I guess the story here is that I avoid doing things that clearly threaten to harm me. I think everyone should consider that.

You play 3-7-9? Wow! That’s totally beyond my capabilities. Anyway, I’d say ring seems to be more sensible solution in this case as there is a huge gap 3-7 and smaller gap 7-9. In accordance to that, I would use bigger gap between fingers to match bigger gap on a fretboard, meaning index-ring for 3-7. This leaves ring-pinky for a smaller gap.


I don’t think these are really mysteries, though.

  1. Based on how you later define this, it’s aptly named and it’s much like string-hopping; it works at slow speeds, but it becomes impossible at fast speeds, so if you want to do it, don’t. I suppose it’s possible you could do it as some sort of modified finger roll technique, where you slid as you rolled, but… this isn’t really optimal.
  2. HOW to do this is pretty well understood - the tricky thing is sort of “rolling” the point of pressure on the bar to try to mute the notes you’re not playing, but that’s just a matter of practice. If sweeping is a big part of your technique, you’ll get pretty good at this pretty quickly. If not, it’s not something that comes up often at high speed, and can generally be avoided (at low speed it’s really not challenging).
  3. Use your pinkie. Playing technical music, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t. Unless of course you don’t mean in general and you mean the relative merits of your pinkie and your ring, for example, and at that point it’s just a matter of what finger you used last, and what finger you need to use next.
  4. This is really just an accuracy problem, and like most practice makes it go away.

I think where there IS some room for debate is in some of the more “nuanced” aspects of left-hand technique - for example, one thing that jumped out at me was I noticed Troy generally seems to slide between positions with his pinkie (at least, while playing Yngwie), whereas when I took lessons from a (really good) jazz guy in college, he advocated sliding between positions using your pointer finger - on an ascending run, that would be using the slide to connect the first two notes, vs. using it to connect the last two, as Troy does. His argument was the pointer finger was the stronger of the two and therefore the most controlled… But, somehow the pinkie seems more intuitive to me. I can definitely see the merit in being able to do both, though.

Or, I’ve always thought I got a cleaner “attack” on legato playing using the very tip of my finger, rather than the fleshy part - it seems to be a "harder’ surface. Or, I could see room to discuss the merits of fretting right behind the fret vs in the center or something like that… But I feel like a lot of the technical challenges of the fretting hand side of guitar are pretty clear in how they need to be addressed…


The advice given to me was sliding with index finger when ascending and sliding with pinky when descending. I want to underline, it was an advice. Not a strict rule.

Anyway, I didn’t write this to argue. I’m just sharing a different approach and I’m not sure whether either of these options is clearly better than the others.

Since I’m writing, I’d like to chime in whether to use or not pinky. In my humble opinion, the more operative fingers I have, the better. If I could comfortably call my thumb into some fretting action, I would (according to my knowledge, Dave Mustaine has done it. Cello players do that as well). If I had some more fingers in the same row as the four that I already have, I would use all of them. Heck, speaking about playing, I’d love to have 48 fingers so that I could appoint one finger per fret and I would have plenty spare to play consecutive fourths on the same fret :v: (Now I have a clay figure imagery from some Frank Zappa clip in my mind. The was a character with a creepy number of fingers on hand)


My classical teacher gave me exactly the opposite advice.


Oh, no, definitely - this was kind of my point, that there ARE some points that I still think there’s plenty of room to debate and discuss, and a great example of that is which finger to slide with while transitioning from position to position.

But, that’s pretty minor. I think fretting hand technique is something that it’s a lot easier to intuitively grasp than picking technique is. If nothing else, the sheer number of guitarists who need to be told to alternate pick rather than just strum downward - and I include myself and Paul Gilbert in that number. :rofl:


I meant 3-5-7. Whoops.


I think for Paul Gilbert it was reversed, from his half-remembered first round of childhood guitar lessons, he thought you were only allowed to do upstrokes.


I think this is true. Anything that’s still a matter of debate is minor nuance rather than the kind of “glass ceiling” stuff CTC has taken on for the right hand.