Its time to get the thumb and fingers working together, but they may not play along with each other just yet…
At this stage in your development you may not have control over each digit, this will come with time and practice. For now our goal is to play a clear block chord with several notes played at the same time. The same principles of the free stroke will apply to all the digits when playing the block chords, but not you will need to co-ordinate them together.
To make sure you have your right hand in a good position you can re-set your hand as described in Fundamentals F105 Right Hand Position. You will need to make sure that your thumb is out in front of the fingers so when it releases it will not bump into the fingers, but rather form a cross (X) with the index finger.
Just as with a single free stroke press the strings inwards towards the soundboard.
This is going to be the key to block chords, you need to release all the digits at the same time so you get one single sound for the chord. What you do not want is to hear individual notes sounding one at a time. If you are getting this sound you will need to work at the positioning each finger so that it releases quickly and easily. If a finger is catching, perhaps a nail is too long, or perhaps you are gripping the string from underneath. Experiment with your fingers until you can get a clean release.
Once again the principles of the free stroke remain: Use your reflexes to let the fingers spring back into position ready to prepare the next notes.
We can play up to four notes together as a block chord, and later you will learn how to play five and six note chords with an extra movement of the thumb. Practice playing combinations of fingers 2, 3 and 4 note chords as well as variations of fingers.
Waltz – F Carulli
Shall we dance? The waltz is a dance and its most characteristic feature is the 3/4 time signature. This means that there are three quarter notes per measure (or three crotchets per bar for all you Aussies/English out there).
This piece starts to integrate the thumb and fingers together and we also get several small chords in the B section (mm. 9 – 16). Your goal is to get the chord notes sounding exactly at the same time, and at the same volume.
Wals – D. Aguado
A waltz by any other name would sound as sweet. This is yet another waltz, just spelled differently. Hold on to your seat, because we are getting out of first position! Well, we are still staying in the same area, but we are going to break the one-finger-per-fret rule. In measure 2 you will see the numbers in circles, this is telling you which string to play the note on. Up till now we have played the b on the second string, but here we are going to play it on the third string so you can let it ring over the d on the second string. This is still technically in first position, because we are using the fourth finger on the fourth fret. It is in measure 12 that we have some shady business…
Measure 12 has a descending chromatic passage, and so make this as smooth as possible we are going to shift with 1 and 2 on beats two and three. This shift is notated with two lines, this isn’t always written in on scores, but when the composer wants to make it clear that there is a shift or a glissando they will put these lines in.
Andantino – Carcassi
Its time to get serious about developing the thumb and fingers. Up till now the thumb has often played by itself, but throughout this piece by Mateo Carcassi the thumb is playing chords with the fingers. The thumb is naturally stronger so your goal in this piece is to balance the two notes so that the melody sings clearly on top and the thumb is supporting underneath.
These techniques are covered in-depth as part of the Level 1 Technique & Musicianship Video Course in our membership packages!