Finger Tension

I have been noticing tension. It is something to think about, especially emphasized with the classical guitar training.

But, I noticed that I have a lot of left hand muscular tension. Especially in the spider and scale exercises (which I don’t do nearly often enough, clearly) I get muscular fatigue in my forearm and hand. Not pain or injury, just strain and soreness, like I am working out too hard or too long.

So, in my incessant perusal of all things Guitar, I was looking at the YT channel of Lucas Imbiriba, a phenomenal and animated player with some lessons and tabs that are far, far outside my capabilities at this point, not even a dreamer stage song, really.

He also has a lesson on “TFI” or “Total Finger Independence”. I looked at the sample video for the lesson, which happens to be about left hand tension.

First, he is a bit overbearing and salesman-like, with the “secret” to easy fast guitar playing. Key the “roll eyes” here. The lesson looks to be a little pricey for a short series of exercises (but only $29, so not too bad). I haven’t bought it.

However, his sample lesson was simple, but very interesting. Basically, he talks about tension in the left hand and shows a simple “check in” exercise to notice the tension. It really is just placing your fretting fingers over the first string, fully relaxed, press the index finger to fret the string, pluck it and while it is playing (so you can tell the index finger stays in the correct place) use the right hand to gently move and check the tension in each of the other fingers and thumb. Do this fretting each finger. This provides feedback to start learning to relax the tension and retrain the muscles.

He then goes on to say this and the other exercises in the lesson should be done exclusive of all other playing (in order to not mess up the muscular re-education) for probably two full weeks and that when he was in conservatory he practiced it exclusively for 5-6 hours daily. He said it was very boring.

I don’t think I could invest 60-70 hours of exclusive trading into this, that would take 6-8 weeks for me, being a working stiff and all.

BUT! I did try the little exercise (with full intent, mind you) for a 10 or so minute stretch each on the 1st and 6th strings. Then I did the spider and lo and behold, I noticed that I could do it with a significantly reduce tension, much less fatigue, just from that awareness. Of course I did the spider super duper slo-mo and with pretty serious focus on relaxation. I have a long, long way to go.

I do think there is a lot to gain from focusing on tension and taking some time to back off to simple, slow and intentional exercises focusing on relaxed movements. I wish I had 6 hours a day to devote to this!

I haven’t decided if I will spring for the full program. I am curious, and I suppose I feel that I may have already gotten $29 worth of value from it so I should pay for his intellectual property.

I have a lot of tension…


Hey Joshua,

I checked this guys video on TFI - very interesting, and a concept I havent come across before. As someone who’s always looking to play with less tension, I’m gonna give this a go and see what happens. Not sure I could stick to this guys military grade regime though :flushed:
Thanks for the share.

Cheers, Shane

Thank you for sharing this, Joshua. I also noticed an insane tension in my fretting hand (especially while playing scales), wrist and forearm. I tried to analyse what causes that tension. In my case the tension is initiated by spreading my fingers. Since I realised that, I try to be very focused to that and to relax more. I slowed down immediately, because I think I should work first on relieving tension. With such tension in my fingers I’ll never get fast on the fretboard :wink: My old fingers and hands have to speed up.
I’ll absulutely have to check out this video!

I’d have a scout around the internet and look for Udemy discount codes (just try searching with Google) as I think they’re quite common and often substantial. I remember doing an app development course and getting something crazy like 80 or 90% off!!! There must be some floating around at the moment for black friday weekend

When I looked on there were a slew of courses discounted from $89-$129 down to $9-$14 or so. This TFI course was not one of them, but I think the constant massive discount is a scheme.

Glad people found this interesting!

@sclay, I agree that, although it probably would be ideal, his recommendation is not feasible. I might consider the time investment if I were a young adult 100% devoted to music, like he was when he did this. Sigh.
But, part of my point was that I did find value in even a small portion of the training and there may be value to considering these ideas as we practice forward.

To save some time:

  1. Click on “Preview this Course”
  2. Ignore the first sample video, and play the 2nd one.
  3. Skip to the 3 minute mark, where he actually demonstrates the exercise (this was super annoying on my iPad…high speed scrubbing didn’t work properly, and the sound kept being muted)

Caveats aside, this looks like a very useful exercise. Excess muscle tension can be a huge problem for beginners, a fact that most teachers seem oblivious to…even Justin.

I can’t recall where, but I do feel Justin has discussed tension some. It is also prominent in classical teaching.

But, although discussed or mentioned, I agree there are very few if any other actual lessons with techniques to assess and reduce said tension.

Even just this one small sample lesson has changed my thinking about tension.

I will probably purchase the course. Once I have listens to the whole thing, maybe by Monday, I will report back.

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The only teacher I’ve seen that really addresses the tension issue is Jamie Andreas. I read her book “The Principles of Correct Practice For Guitar” almost 20 years ago, and found it very helpful at the time (though other problems- mainly with rhythm - kept me from continuing with the guitar until I found Justin).

Here’s a video from her “Guitar Finger Fixers” playlist:

Well, he certainly mentions that you should feel relaxed, and playing should “feel good”, but I can’t recall him giving any specific advice on how to achieve that - at least in the grade 1 - 3 courses.

I’ll be very interested to hear your comments on the Udemy course, if you decide to buy it.