sympathetic motion

Sympathetic Motion

From Book I, Classic Guitar Foundations, Aaron Shearer writes:

The startling speed with which notes are sometimes heard to cascade from the classic guitar is likely to be an instance of virtuoso performing music consisting of arpeggios or broken chords.  This is an example of the highly developed natural functioning of the mind and hands called sympathetic movement, which results in seemingly effortless expressive power and speed.

Sympathetic motion is the motion of the fingers to move together, or in “sympathy.”  When applied to an arpeggio, the action, or follow through, of one finger, pulls on the next finger in sequence.  For example, in a p,i,m,a arpeggio, as plays, it pulls on m; as m plays, it pulls on a. 

Any pair of sequential fingers such as a-i, a-m, m-i, etc., may be organized as sympathetic motion.  The important requirement is to prepare the finger group on the strings (or at least in front of the strings for fast speeds)  before playing.

A demonstration of sympathetic motion in a p,i,m arpeggio, taken from the article, Daybreak

The following materials supplement the introduction of the p,i,m arpeggio in the Shearer Method Book 1—Classic Guitar Foundations, p. 65.

Sympathetic motion in the P, m, i arpeggio

The p,m,i  arpeggio is the similar to the p,i,m—just a different pulling order in the fingers.

  • Begin by playing p, then prepare i-m
  • Play the m, i sympathetic movement —as m flexes and follows through, it pulls on i.
  • As i plays, preapre p and repeat the whole process.
sympathetic motion

For an easy, similar m,i,p arpeggio, see Study in G major No. 2

P,m,i String Crossing Exercises

Thumb String Crossing

Sympathetic motioni and m fixed on strings ① & ② throughout.

Fingers String Crossing

p fixed on ⑥ throughout.

Thumb and Fingers String Crossing No. 1

String cross with fingers, then with thumb.

Thumb and Fingers String Crossing No. 2

string cross with thumb and fingers simultaneously

P,M,I Studies

Both Study in G major No. 3 and M-I Blues include L.H. notes only on strings ④, ③, ② ,& ①.  Theyre written mostly in open position, but require some occasional shifting.  Shifting is an arm motion, moving the hand along the neck from one position to another.   When shifting, strive to keep the left hand properly aligned with the wrist.

Shifting in these pieces opens up notes on fret V: G on ④C on ③ , E on ②, & A on ①.

Guide Shift Fingers

Guide-shift fingers—are fingers that stay on the “track,” lightly sliding along the strings for the shift. For example, in Study in G Major No. 3, m. 11, the left-hand shape—”E” with 2 on ④ and “C” with 1 on ② guide shift up 2 frets in m. 12 to “F ♯” & “D.”  Then in m. 14, the finger pattern guide shifts back down to “E” & “C.”

Study in G Major, No. 3
sympathetic motion

In M-I Blues (m. 36-38) fingers 3 & 4 stay on the  ③ & ① “string track,” shifting downward, one-fret-at-a time.

For more on guide-shift fingers, see .

M-I Blues

For more on sympathetic motion in arpeggios, see The Shearer Method, Book I, Classic Guitar Foundations.


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