Finger Alternation and Scales

Scale practice develops two essential right-hand skills:

      • finger alternation on a single string.
      • finger alternation involving string crossings.

When alternating i and m on a single string, the hand needs a slight adjustment–m plays slightly more flexed to accommodate the shorter i on the same string.  With only 2-3 notes per string, all scales include string crossings which shifts the hand position either up or down across strings.

    For scale patterns with turning melodic contour or skips, string crossings can cause complications. For this reason, carefully choose an appropriate lead finger.  For example:

    Leading with i in the Ex. 1 forces awkward shifting in the hand.  

       By contrast, Ex.2 is much easier, organizing the string crossing to the natural layout of fingers in the hand.  When fingered this way, string crossings will yield better legato connection speed, and tone.


      Sojourn is a two-voice textured piece with bass and short (free-stroke) scale-runs on two strings.  Right-hand start fingers have been carefully notated to accommodate string crossings.  At mm. 27 and 43 there is an “A” on (1) played with 4; this has been approached in a very accommodating manner, momentarily putting the left hand in 2nd position.


        Invention is an easy duet which applies finger alternation with an occasional p.  Either part is student playable.  At m. 15 in the lower part, there is a string crossing on (6), (5), and (4) with m and i alternation.  Be sure to carefully pre-read, including left- and right-hand clarifications—one phrase or line at a time. For more information about the alternation and scales, see the Shearer Method: Classic Guitar Foundations, Book I, pp. 147-73.



          1. Matt Cosgrove

            Thanks for adding more pieces exercising right-hand string crossings. It’s great at recital time to have many pieces to choose from when several students are working on the same technique. And as usual, the pieces sound great!

          2. alntom

            Thanks Matt….glad you like the studies. Hope this helps students to think about organizing finger alternation–so important. Happy holidays!–Alan

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