One of the things that can lead to problems in playing scales cleanly at higher speeds is trouble with string crossing. This week I’d like to show you a couple of practice tips for dealing with this and other right hand problems. The first is one which is very useful for many technical problems: to practice the right hand only.

For example, the oh-so-familiar C major pattern shown below:

Practice this a few times paying close attention to the finger which ‘leads’ the string crossing as well as any hand arm adjustments which need to be made as you move up and down across the strings. Then add the left hand back in and Voila! – you’re Pepe Romero! Ok, so maybe not quite, but you get the idea.

Now let’s look at a real-world example; the first of two scale passages in Luis Milan’s first Pavan:



Again, playing right hand alone you have:




Here I’ve included several r.h. fingering choices. Try them all, choose one (I like the middle one) and again practice it several times paying close attention to the finger leading the crossing. When you really start to feel it, add the left hand back in and you should really notice a difference – smoother and more confident. You may also notice that the left hand seems sluggish now and could be lagging behind so watch out for this.

Try this important practice technique whenever you have problems with smoothness or consistency in faster scale or arpeggio passes.

Secondly, I’d like to suggest a simple exercise I use for improving scale playing in general and especially zeroing in on string crossing problems. It’s also one that I suggest for players who have trouble with basic alternation i.e. if you have trouble maintaining constant i-m alternation throughout a scale passage.













It starts off very easily, with the i-m combination moving regularly and evenly from string to string. Then, when doing the triplet groups, you need to be aware of the finger which is leading the string crossing. I think in groups of three, mentally accenting the first of each group: ImiMimImiMimImiMim…. The third variant, two on a string, is again easier with each group of 2 starting with the same finger, but the last one, one on a string, is fairly difficult to play smoothly and quickly. There are two issues here: one is the string crossing, but even more difficult is how to move the hand/arm to account for the distance you are traveling from the first to sixth string and back again. Try it: you’ll notice that you tend to want to bend the wrist or that you have to adjust your hand position relative to the strings to compensate for the hand coming closer to or away from your chin. Think about possible solutions to this problem – I’ll check in next week with my suggestions.

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