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How to Master String Crosses or String Crossings or String Changes on the Classical Guitar, Part 2

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Classical Guitar Technique

HOW TO MASTER STRING CROSSES OR STRING CROSSINGS OR STRING CHANGES ON THE CLASSICAL GUITAR, Part 2 of 2



By Douglas Niedt

Copyright Douglas Niedt. All Rights Reserved.
This article may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.


Anticipatory Planting and Staccato Practice of String Crosses, String Crossings, or String Changes

Some teachers recommend anticipatory planting and staccato practice as an essential part of mastering string crosses. Both types of practice are designed to impart a feeling of security and stability by preplanting a right-hand finger on the new string before plucking it.

These are practice strategies to master string crossings and are not usually used in actual pieces, especially in fast passages.

Anticipatory planting with FREE STROKE

These techniques are a little easier to learn with free stroke at first. Let's look at Example #1:

Example 1 String Crosses executed with anticipatory planting, playing each note 4 times free stroke
As you can see, at each string cross, the next finger (in this case, "i") is preplanted on its string before it must pluck its string. This imparts stability and confidence that the string cross will be executed flawlessly.

Be certain to pre-plant the finger on the string with flesh and fingernail simultaneously. This will help to produce a good tone when the next string is plucked, with little extraneous noise.

Also, note that if you use thumb planting as described in Part 1, when using anticipatory planting with free stroke, it is best to preplant the finger on its string first, then reposition the thumb. (Rest stroke will be different.)

Here is the same exercise alternating "m" and "i" but starting with "m". Example #2:

Example 2 String Crosses executed with anticipatory planting, free stroke starting with m

For best results, practice the exercise free stroke with these patterns: im, mi, ma, am, ia, ai.

Watch me demonstrate in Video #1.

★ Be sure to watch on full screen. In the lower right corner, click on the 4-arrows icon to the left of the word Vimeo:

Video #1: Anticipatory Pre-Planting with Free Stroke

Anticipatory Pre-Planting PLUS Staccato

Practicing the previous exercise with staccato emphasizes the tactile awareness of anticipatory preplanting. First, a review of right-hand staccato. Example #3:

Example 3 Right-hand staccato for string crosses

Right-hand staccato is executed as follows:

  1. Pluck a string with finger "x".
  2. Immediately damp the string with finger "y" by planting "y" on the same string.
  3. Keep finger "y" on the string.
  4. Then, finger "y" plucks the string.
  5. Immediately damp the string with finger "x" by planting "x" on the same string.
  6. Keep finger "x" on the string.
  7. Repeat the process.

When the damping finger lands on the string, it is important that it not contact the string with the fingernail first. If the fingernail touches the string before the flesh, extraneous string noise will be heard.

Watch me demonstrate right-hand staccato in Video #2:

★ Be sure to watch on full screen. In the lower right corner, click on the 4-arrows icon to the left of the word Vimeo:

Video #2: Right-Hand Staccato for String Crossing Exercises

Now, let's apply the staccato technique to the anticipatory planting exercise. Note that in this exercise, the last note before a string cross will ring freely into the next measure. It will not be played staccato. Also, remember that if you use thumb planting as described in Part 1, when using anticipatory planting with free stroke, it is best to preplant the finger on its string first, then reposition the thumb. (Rest stroke will be different.) Example #4:

Example 4 Anticipatory Pre-Planting plus Staccato Free Stroke

For best results, practice the exercise free stroke with these patterns: im, mi, ma, am, ia, ai.

Watch me demonstrate anticipatory pre-planting PLUS right-hand staccato using FREE STROKE in Video #3:

★ Be sure to watch on full screen. In the lower right corner, click on the 4-arrows icon to the left of the word Vimeo:

Video #3: Anticipatory Pre-Planting+Staccato FREE STROKE

Anticipatory Pre-Planting Plus Staccato Practice with REST STROKE

The anticipatory planting plus staccato practice exercises should also be practiced rest stroke. The tactile feel of the techniques with rest stroke is very different and there are a few subtle differences in execution. If you use thumb planting as described in Part 1, one of the differences with using rest stroke with anticipatory planting is at what moment you reposition the thumb. When using rest stroke, the preplant of the finger on its string and the repositioning of the thumb should be done simultaneously. On free stroke the finger is planted first, and the thumb is repositioned second.

The sound of Example #4 with rest stroke will vary depending on whether the guitarist has thin fingers or thick fingers. See Example 4a:

Example 4 Anticipatory Pre-Planting plus Staccato Rest Stroke

Watch me demonstrate Exercise #4a using anticipatory pre-planting PLUS staccato with rest stroke. Video #4:

★ Be sure to watch on full screen. In the lower right corner, click on the 4-arrows icon to the left of the word Vimeo:

Video #4: Video 4 Anticipatory Pre-Planting+Staccato REST STROKE

You Now Have the Skills to Move on to These Next Exercises

Practice these exercises playing each string only 2 times.

Example 5 Anticipatory Pre-Planting Rest Stroke and Free Stroke, each note twice
Example 6 Anticipatory Pre-Planting plus staccato Rest Stroke and Free Stroke, each note twice

You will recall from Part 1 that playing each string 3 times can be difficult and challenging. This is because each measure will start with a different finger and each string cross will alternate between being a good cross and a bad cross. Example #7:

Example 7 Good and bad string crosses

Try anticipatory pre-planting using free stroke and then rest stroke on this exercise of notes in groups of 3. Example #8:

Example 8 Each note 3 times with anticipatory pre-planting

Now, practice groups of 3 notes with anticipatory pre-planting PLUS staccato. Learn the exercise with free stroke first, and then rest stroke. Example #9:

Example 9 Each note 3 times with anticipatory pre-planting plus staccato

Getting Bored Again?

As I pointed out in Part 1, if practicing nothing but open-string exercises starts to get on your nerves, you can certainly hold chords with the left hand for variety. Holding chords also has the benefit of varying the string tension to add a bit more reality to the exercises and thus improve the right-hand touch and control even more.

Once again, you could hold simple chords in first position. Example #10:

Example 10 Practicing with simple chords

Or, if you want to challenge your left hand, you could hold a few nasty "monster" bar chords! Example #11:

Example 11 Practicing with monster bar chords

Remember, be careful. Don't hold these chords too long and strain your hand. Also, remember the focus is supposed to be on the right hand. Don't get distracted by the left hand!

Summary

1. String crosses, string crossings, or string changes occur in almost every piece you play.

2. In order to maintain consistent tone quality and control, one must maintain a consistent hand position as one traverses the strings by moving the hand from the forearm. The guitarist may move the forearm from the shoulder (recommended) or from the elbow.

3. The thumb may be planted on the guitar or the strings as needed to provide stability and act as a spatial reference point for the fingers.

4. The exercises in this article should be practiced with im, mi, ma, am, ia, and ai with both free stroke and rest stroke.

5. The exercises in this article are an excellent beginning to mastering string crossings. They will teach you the basic concepts and get you started on the correct path.

6. But ultimately, you will also need to extract specific passages from real pieces and practice them right-hand alone and both hands together for complete mastery.

Download

This is a download from Dropbox. NOTE: You do NOT need a Dropbox account and don't have to sign up for Dropbox to access the file.

1. Download a PDF of the article with links to the videos.

Download a PDF of How to Master String Crosses or String Crossings or String Changes, Part 2 of 2 (with links to the videos).


3. Download the individual videos. Click on the video you wish to download. After the Vimeo video review page opens, click on the down arrow in the upper right corner. You will be given a choice of five different resolutions/qualities/file sizes to download.

Download Video 1 Anticipatory Pre-Planting with Free Stroke.

Download Video 2 Right-Hand Staccato for String Crossing Exercises.

Download Video 3 Anticipatory Pre-Planting+Staccato FREE STROKE .

Download Video 4 Anticipatory Pre-Planting+Staccato REST STROKE .