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Sergio Assad’s Left Hand Independence Workout

I attended a masterclass with the great Sergio Assad. While working with a player, he recommended the following left hand independence routine.

Sergio Assad is one of the top figures in the classical guitar world today. He and his brother, Odair, have performed as a guitar duo for over 50(!) years. He’s also well-respected as a composer and arranger. And Sergio is on the guitar faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory.

He’s also friendly, warm and humble – as nice a guy as you could ask to meet.

Why Develop Left Hand Independence

In classical guitar practice, we put much emphasis on right hand technique. And this is as it should be. Classical guitar music is complex. We need a reliable and safe right hand technique to play it.

And as the right hand “speaks the words”, the left hand “chooses the words”.

The more agility, flexibility and versatility we have in our left hand, the better.

Music often demands that the left hand fingers move in complex patterns. Each finger may need to move a different distance in a different direction.

For this, we need each finger to be able to move independent of the others.

Introducing Sergio Assad’s Left Hand Independence Workout

This independence routine starts with the most basic movements: up-and-down, and side-to-side.

From there, we isolate and master the movements of each finger.

Next, we use varying combinations of fingers together. The fingers move both in parallel and in opposing motions.

As the routine progresses, you’ll need more and more independence.

One Foot In Front of the Other

Unless you’re already advanced, you will come to a point that challenges you. That’s great.

Work through as far as you can, then move on to other areas of your practice. Aim for a modest improvement each day.

Over time, you’ll develop more independence and flexibility in your left hand.

If you find a movement that seems impossible, you’ve struck gold. When you finally master the movement, you’ll have real and tangible proof you’re improving!

The Main Goals: Awareness and Attention

This will likely be one of many technique exercises you perform on a regular basis.

The goal is not perfection, but awareness and attention.

As we put focused attention into our movements, we improve.

The goal is not perfection, but awareness and attention.

The most powerful habit we can develop is the ability to pay attention to small details. When we are aware of each movement and moment, we gain the insights and opportunities to make the incremental improvements that bring our playing forward.

Exercises such as this one are not a means to an end (though they do help us reach our goals). They are an end unto themselves. We naturally crave improvement. But focusing completely on the moment at hand is the surest path to that improvement

Related: Another Left Hand Independence Exercise


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5 Responses to Sergio Assad’s Left Hand Independence Workout

  1. Patrick August 28, 2017 at 9:17 pm #

    Hi Allen, great exercise. Left hand finger independence is so important! It’s the first thing that Alice Artzt’s book on the Art of Practicing addresses (although she does not provide much useful exercise other than playing in various LH finger permutations). Just my twopence: I have found your exercises could be more effective if I tap or otherwise move my fingers together with a metronome.

    • Allen August 29, 2017 at 11:35 am #

      Thanks for the note, Patrick! I’m a fan of the metronome as well. Extremely slow practice is also useful, if we focus on moving smoothly and fingering landing at the same time, etc. But for 99% of technique practice, the metronome is indispensable.

      Thanks again,

  2. John July 12, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    Any help on the left thumb position especially relative to the fingers, nearer the index, in the middle? Where should the tip be? Should the thumb be straight and supporting the neck? Many thanks.

    • Allen July 12, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

      Hi John,
      Great question. As a rule, the thumb stays behind the first or second finger, with the pad (not tip) touching the neck. So yes, thumb straight, behind the fingers. Like you’re picking up a big messy sandwich.

      All the best,

  3. dtoh July 8, 2017 at 3:41 am #

    I developed almost the same identical exercises on my own about a year ago. Why didn’t you post this lesson back then :-).

    I’m a newbie, a spaz, and an old fart to boot so even with a year of pretty diligent practice, I’m no where near mastering them. They’re great exercises.

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