Right & Left Hand Synchronization

Newsletter #17

December 3, 2021

How many of you have noticed that your hands aren’t totally in sync when playing? I’d bet that almost everyone would admit that, at some point in your playing, you notice that your fingers aren’t fretting the strings exactly at the same time as you’re plucking them. 

This lack of synchronization is one of the most common and frustrating parts of guitar playing. Learning to fix this, however, is something you will be very glad you did. 

Today’s lesson is a technique exercise geared toward getting your hands synced up. That means no dead notes, no buzzed notes, no missed strings and all the other symptoms of having your hands out of sync with each other. 

You’ll need to watch the video lesson for this one…click here! 

The exercise is based on a four-finger pattern of your choosing. The list of all the fingering combinations are listed below: 

1234               2134               3124               4321 

1243               2143               3142               4312 

1324               2341               3214               4213 

1342               2314               3241               4231 

1423               2413               3412               4123 

1432               2431               3421               4132 

To start, pick any random combination from the list above and pick any string and fret you’d like to start on. 

You should be playing this exercise with a metronome; try starting it around 50-60BPM. 

Let’s take the combination 1234 as the example we will use. This refers to your fretting fingers, 1 being your index and 4 being your pinky. 

Whatever fret you decide to start on will be where your index finger plays and all four fingers will line up on the following frets. This means if you start on fret 5 you will span frets 5, 6, 7, & 8 with your four fingers. 

When playing the exercise you should play all four notes as 16th notes. Remember there are four 16th notes to every beat, which means you should cycle through the four finger pattern every single beat. 

The idea is to accent each finger in the pattern, starting with the first finger. In order to do this correctly you should place the accented note on the beat. For example, if you are accenting the first finger of the pattern (in this example of 1234) the 1 will land on the beat and the 234 will be the following three 16th notes until you hit 1 again on the next beat. 

This is very easy but if you replace the pattern of 1234 with a more difficult one, say 3142 you’ll notice that things stop being so easy. 

For the picking of this you want to either use alternating index/middle fingers if you are fingerpicking or down/upstrokes if you’re using a pick. If using a pick it is crucial that the down stroke always lands on the beat. A down stroke is much easier to accent because you generate more power stroking downward due to of gravity. 

After playing the simple 1234 and accenting the first note, you should move on to accenting the second note. However, the trick here is to put the accented note on the beat, which means that the 1 that comes before the 2 must be played before the beat. 

Since each note is equivalent to a 16th note, that places finger 1 on the last 16th note before the downbeat. If you count 16th notes as “one-ee-and-uh”, this would put the 1 finger on the “uh” and the 2 finger on the following downbeat. 

Essentially you have a 16th note pickup. Instead of starting on finger 2, you must start on finger 1 and anticipate where the downbeat will fall. 

This continues for finger 3 and finger 4 as well. With finger 3 you’ll have a two-note pickup, meaning that you’ll start playing on the “and-uh” before the beat. With finger 4 it will be a three-note pickup starting on “ee-and-uh” and landing with finger 4 on the beat. 

As I mentioned, with a finger combination like 1234 or 4321 this will probably be way too easy for most of you, however many players who have trouble alternate picking will find it challenging nonetheless. 

Once you get into more difficult combinations then things really start to heat up. 

Take your time and be very conscious of the rhythm and placement of each note. Make sure to go slow enough that you can time each pick stroke and each finger placement exactly on the 16th note. 

As always, if you have questions or find this too difficult or confusing, please send me an email. I’m always here to help you out and walk you through any difficulties in your playing. 

Remember, there is no substitute for good timing! 

-Max Rich 

Hopefully you’ve found this newsletter helpful. If so please consider donating so that I can keep creating content and lessons. 

For those who are truly dedicated to the instrument, you might like to consider a private lesson. (All first time students receive a discount on their first lesson.) 

I offer discounts to all the members of the newsletter, so if you are looking for personalized help with any guitar-based subject, I’d be happy to work with you.  

In addition, any member who refers a friend who goes on to take a private lesson will receive a free 30 minute lesson as thanks for the referral.