Where and with what fingerings?!
If you look at a classical guitarist’s score for whatever they may be playing, you’ll generally see tons of little numbers scrawled all over the place above and below the notes. These are fingerings, and in most cases they have been carefully worked out by the guitarist and/or their teacher. Thanks to Scott Morris for sharing his photo with us!
If you’re a flamenco player and don’t read much you may wonder what they need this for, since the music is right in front of them. But the music just has the notes – it doesn’t always tell them where to play the notes. (Open first string e or fifth fret of the second string, or 9th fret of the third string, etc…), and it almost never tells them which finger to use to play that note.
In flamenco we almost never work from a score, but we still need to make these decisions. There are two important reasons why: We need to make sure that we choose the most efficient way (for us) to play what we happen to be playing, and we need to be consistent when we practice so that we can make actual progress!
Take a deeper look at string crossings and scales.
A simple example is scales and string crossings. Sometimes if we’re having trouble with a scale it’s because of the awkward string crossing, and sometimes that problem is solved by simply starting with the other finger. In a case like this (and assuming we are strictly alternating i and m in our scales) all we need to remember is which finger to start the scale with, and the problem is fixed!
Not all problems are quite so simple, but the idea is a basic one.
Start by making sure you know which fingers you use to play the notes of the passage. If you can’t answer that question then it’s possible that you just haven’t put enough thought into what fingers to use to play the notes. Often simply making the choice and committing to it will force you to practice the passage more consistently, which will lead to the progress that’s been eluding you.
But sometimes you’ll do this work and still have a lot of trouble. If you’re trying to play scales faster than you’re physically capable of, then that’s a long-term technique issue you won’t resolve by changing fingerings. But if you just keep getting tripped up then you may want to see if a different choice of fingers in either hand will help. This may mean something like using m and a in the right hand instead of i and m. But it could also mean playing, say, the open first string instead of the E at the 5th fret of the second string. Since notes on the guitar double so often, there are many times when you can find a different place to play the same note and make a passage easier.
Making progress from practice.
It’s always good to have a teacher help you with all of this at first, but even on your own you can develop the skill of analyzing how your hands work and deciding for yourself if there’s a better way for you to play a passage. Some stuff is just hard to play, but a lot of material can be made a lot easier by taking the time to find the best way for your hands.