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Lesson: 1

Developing Scale Technique, Part 1


By Richard Provost

Free Strokes
The basis of good scale technique is releasing tension between the fingers. Most, if not all of us, were taught to develop a walking motion between i and m when playing scales or single note melodies. While this, in principle, is correct, the finger exchange must come from the release of tension between the fingers rather than the imposition of the exchange. The following exercise will help you see the difference. Exercise 1: Begin by placing your thumb on the third string. Place the i finger on the first string with the mid-joint over the string being plucked. Using free strokes, pluck the i finger. Immediately release the tension in the mid-joint needed to pluck the string, and let the finger return to its original position. Repeat this several times and then practice the exercise using m and then the a finger. It is important to train the pinky and a finger to move with the middle finger. This will minimize unnecessary tension. Again, make sure the mid-joint is over the string you are plucking. Always begin by placing the finger on the string. This will allow you to feel the movement and tension better. It is important to relax the tension in the finger, rather than pushing it back to its original position. Exercise 2: Begin by placing your thumb on the third string. In the first position, slowly play a chromatic scale on the first string using i and m. Remember to train the pinky and a finger to move with the middle finger. After each note is played, release the tension in the mid-joint and allow the finger to return to its original position. If you are playing slowly enough, you will see that there is no walking motion between the fingers. When you are comfortable playing this exercise releasing the tension in the finger, slowly increase the speed but continue releasing the tension in each finger. You will
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discover that when you reach a certain tempo the walking motion has returned to your finger movements. The difference, and it is great, is that the release of finger tension is now creating the walking motion. Go back and create the walking motion by releaseing the tension between the fingers. This is accomplished by releasing the muscle tension holding the finger in the hand exactly when the other finger plucks the string. When you are comfortable doing this on the first string, apply this concept to a first position chromatic scale. When comfortable, practice this exercise alternating between i and a and then m and a. Note: It can take up to four weeks of practice before you feel comfortable playing this way. Once you are comfortable, warm up with these two exercises before playing your scales. If you find that you are hitting the lower string when playing free strokes, your mid-joint is not over the string you are plucking. For more information regarding playing free strokes see my book, Classic Guitar Technique Volume 1, published by Professional Guitar Publications. Good luck and happy practice.

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Lesson: 2

Developing Scale Technique, Part 2


Rest Strokes
Part one of this series presented scale exercises using free strokes. Lets look at how the principles discussed in Part One can be applied to rest strokes. The rest stroke follow through occurs by releasing the plucking tension and directing the finger motion of the plucking finger to the next lower string. When the finger comes to rest on this string, it must immediately rid itself of the tension used in plucking the string. The following exercise will help train the release of finger tension. Exercise 1: Begin by placing your thumb on the third string. Place the m finger on the first string with the mid-joint over or slightly below (bass side) the string you are plucking. Using the m finger, play a rest stroke on the first string. Remember to move the pinky and a finger with the middle finger. After plucking, become aware of how much pressure you are using to keep the finger on the adjacent string. Practice releasing the tension needed to pluck the string as it comes to rest on the lower string. (Dont be discouraged. You are developing a greater tactile awareness of your f i n g e r s . ) When you can feel the release, practice this exercise using the i then a finger. Exercise 2: Place the i finger on the first string. In the first position, slowly play a chromatic scale on the first string using i and m rest strokes. Remember to move the pinky and a finger with the middle finger. After plucking, observe the tension left in the finger. The goal is to leave just enough tension in the finger to keep it on the next string. As each finger plays, immediately release the tension in the finger resting on the string and allow the finger to come out to its playing position. (The release should occur exactly when the string is being plucked.) When you are comfortable with this exercise on the first string, apply this concept to a first position chromatic scale. When comfortable, practice this exercise alternating between i and a and then m and a.
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Note: It can take up to four weeks of practice before you feel comfortable playing this way. Once you are comfortable, always warm up with these and the previous weeks exercises before playing your scales. It is important to keep the mid-joint of the plucking finger over or slightly below the string being played. For more information regarding playing rest strokes see my book, Classic Guitar Technique Volume 1, published by Professional Guitar Publications.

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Lesson 3:

Developing Scale Technique, Part 3


Moving the Forearm
The forearm placement will keep the fingers and mid-joints in optimum position when playing each string. There are two ways that we can use the forearm to keep the fingers in position. One, is to slide it and the other is to pivot at the point where the forearm touches the guitar. Both approaches are used by professional guitarists. Originally, I was taught to position the fingers by pivoting the forearm. In recent years, I switched to sliding the forearm. I made this change because I found that sliding kept my wrist at the same angle playing each string. Pivoting creates a greater wrist angle when playing the bass strings as opposed to playing the treble strings. Sliding also minimized the pressure that I was placing on the point where my arm touched the guitar. In my teaching, I have found that students who adopted the sliding technique seem to have a faster more fluid scale technique. If you want to learn this technique, try the following: Establish your right hand position and place your i finger on the sixth string. Raising the forearm from your elbow, lift it off the guitar so that the forearm is even with the top of your hand. (The forearm should be about two to three inches off the guitar. It is important not to change your hand position when raising the forearm.) Alternating with i and m rest strokes, slowly walk up and down the open strings. Be aware of the movement in your shoulder and forearm as you pluck each string. When moving to the higher strings, release the tension in the shoulder and allow gravity to move the hand with the fingers. Arriving to the first string, reverse the process. Returning to the bass strings requires that you raise the forearm as you move to each string. Remember to move the a finger and pinky with the middle finger. It is important to keep your thumb off the bass strings when practicing this exercise. When comfortable, practice this exercise using free strokes. Practice this exercise five minutes daily. After a week, return your forearm to the guitar but as you practice the exercise maintain the same freedom of forearm movement that you had with the arm off the guitar. If you like the freedom that playing with your forearm off the guitar gives,

and want to incorporate it in your playing you will need to find a different way of stabilizing the guitar other than your forearm. I use two medium size suction cups with hooks (the kind that you use to hang objects in your window). Place one on the right side of the guitar slightly above where the right leg rests, and the other is placed on the left side below the neck. Using twine or an old guitar string I make a loop at one end and attach it to the hooks. The other end of the string is attached to my belt. Once you have the correct length, you can cut the string and slip it on your belt each time that you practice or perform. By using a guitar string (e), I find that the audience can't see the string and have no idea how Im supporting the guitar. Using this technique, I now feel that my guitar is more stable when I play. In addition, it gives me greater freedom of right arm movement. Good Luck and enjoy your practice.

Lesson 4

Developing Scale Technique, Part 4


Positioning the Thumb In the first two lessons, I had you always place the right hand thumb on a lower string. Positioning the thumb on a lower string when playing scales adds to the stability of the right hand and serves as a preparation for learning to use the thumb to mute out unwanted overtones. (More on this in a later lesson.) When playing scales, we usually keep the thumb on the second string below the one that we are playing. Exercise 1 is a simple [Title] exercise to get the feel of this technique. You will begin playing with the [ Composer ] index finger always alternating between i and m. Exercise 1:

& # #

# #

# #

# # n b n b b

b & & & & &

Begin by placing the thumb on the sixth string and the index finger on the fourth string. Using rest strokes, play the notes in the first measure and stop. Place your thumb on the fifth string and the middle finger on the third string. Play the second measure and stop. Place your thumb on the fourth string and your middle finger on the second string. Play the third measure and stop. Continue this approach for each measure until you have completed the exercise. When you get comfortable with this exercise, slowly play this exercise without pause moving your thumb as you change strings. It is important that while focusing on moving your thumb, you are equally aware of the appropriate movement in the forearm. When you are comfortable playing the scale this way, go back and practice the exercise using free strokes. Remember to always play slowly so you can comfortably execute the movements. When practicing with free strokes, use the technique you learned in Lesson 1. When using rest strokes, use the technique learned in Lesson 2.

Lesson 5:

Developing Scale Technique, Part 5


Refining Left Hand Shifts
During the previous four lessons, we have concentrated on refining right hand. Lets look at perhaps the most critical left hand issue to developing a strong scale technique, shifting. In order for the improvements that you have made in your right hand technique to come into play, you must be able to go from one position to another easily. While shifting involves moving the hand from one position to another, the movement itself comes from the weight of the arm and not directly from the hand and fingers. To develop fluent shifts, we must work on integrating the necessary shoulder, elbow, and arm movements to support the hand movement. The wrist must never be allowed to deviate right or left. It must always form a straight line from the side of the fourth finger to the elbow. Using whatever right hand stroke that is the most comfortable, play the A on the third string fretting it with your first finger. Making sure that your left hand knuckles are parallel to the edge of the fingerboard, release the pressure on the finger and thumb but do not lift the fingers or thumb from the string or back of the neck. Release the tension in your shoulder and allow the weight of the arm and elbow to move the hand up the fingerboard. It isnt important what note you land on, but that the movement is achieved by releasing the tension in the shoulder and feeling the weight of the arm. Practice this movement until you are comfortable. Now practice the same movement from A but now stop on the fifth fret C. If you find that you are going beyond the C, you are probably using the correct movements. If you are landing before you get to the C, you are probably not fully releasing the tension in the shoulder and trying to control the movement with the hand. When shifting, either up or down, we are in effect traveling a prescribed distance. If the distance from one position to the next is accurately felt, the shift will be fluent and accurate. If not, it will be tense because you will have to stop the movement to land on the right note. (I know that this is a bit confusing, but if you work on this and think about it, it will begin to make sense.) The following are some exercises to practice to get more comfortable with

the movement. Always alternate using i and m: Exercise 1:


Shi fts using the first finge r

& 1
a. 1 3
3

b.

1 1 3

1 3 4 1 c.

1 3 4 1
d. d. 2

Shifts using th e se co nd finge r

Sh ifts 3using the f r st fing er i

& 2 4 1
a.

b.

2 4 1

c. 2

4 2

4 2
d.

b. Descending shifts work the same way but are a bit more difficult to feel 1 1 1 1 since we are working against gravity. I would suggest not practicing 1 1 1 4 1 4 3 3 are comfortable 3 3 descending shifts until you with the ascending shifts in 3 Exercise 1. We will begin by shifting from D on the third string to C. Play the c. a D using . the first finger in the left hand. Release the pressured.on the thumb b. Shifts finger. eWith your first finger still on the string, pull your elbow away and using th sec ond fing er 1 1 4 3 4 2 1 a. 2 c. 1 body and allow the hand to move stopping on C. d. is 2important 1 from your It b. 1 3 3 when3 leading with the elbow, not to lead 2 too much as excessive movement will 2 2 2 1 2 pull the 4hand out of position. Lead only as much as will allow your left hand 4 2 1 4 4 knuckles to remain parallel to the edge of the finger board. When you are 3 comfortable with this movement, practice the following exercise. When playing these exercises, always keep the first finger lightly on the string during the shift. Though you may not be using the first finger, leaving it down will help you maintain good hand balance. Exercise 2:

&
a.


c.

& &

&3
3

1
a. 1

4 2
b. 1

1 1 3
c.

1 2 3
d.

For more information on shifting see my book Classic Guitar Technique, Vol. 1, published by Professional Guitar Publications.

Lesson 6:

Developing Scale Technique, Part 6


Right Hand Balance
By now you should be noticing an increase in not only your technical facility, but the ease which you play. The next step along the road to developing a good scale technique involves balancing the right hand. You may have read or heard discussed in a master class that you need to tilt your hand toward the left when you play scales. While this is true for some guitarists, it is not true for others. What many guitarists do not realize, is that the length of our index finger relative to the other fingers in our hand is not uniform. Looking at your hand from the palm side, you will find that you have an index finger that is either shorter, the same length, or longer than the a finger. While there is some tilt of the hand when playing scales, the degree of tilt is determined by the length of the index finger. The simplest way to determine how much tilt you will need for your right hand is to place your index and middle fingers on the first string. Adjust the tilt so that you can place equal pressure on both fingers. That is the tilt you need to use when playing scales. Guitarists with shorter index fingers will need a somewhat greater tilt than those with longer index fingers. From this position, practice Exercise 1. Exercise 1

1 2 1 & 2 4 1 2 3 4 2 4 1 4 4 #
m i 3

# 1 4 & 4 2 4 3 3 1 2 1 4 2 4

Begin on the middle finger, alternating between m and i. Concentrate on Exercise 1 maintaining equal pressure & L. H. sim ile m and i fingers. Remember to move R between the pm pi the a finger and pinky with the middle finger. Listen carefully to what you are

# # # # 4 1 & 1 2 3 2 4 # 3 # # # # # # # # #

playing. If you are maintaining equal pressure, both notes will be at the same volume. If one note is louder than the next, you are using greater pressure on the louder note. Most students feel more comfortable beginning this exercise using rest strokes. It is important that you practice this exercise, with the stroke that is most comfortable. When you attain comfort with that stroke, practice using the other. Again use the principles presented in Lessons One and Two. Good luck and happy practice.

Lesson 7:

Developing Scale Technique, Part 7


Preparation Technique Preparation technique, the ability to place the finger that will pluck the next note on the string, is an important and valuable technique. Used not only for developing speed, greater right hand coordination, control, and tone, preparation will assist you in creating a greater articulation palette. When you use the preparation technique, you are actively controlling not only the type of attack you produce but the duration of the note. This allows you not only to play staccato but to produce different types of legato. By now you will have gotten comfortable with the first two lessons, relaxing the finger tension immediately after you have plucked a note. We will use this skill to develop the preparation technique. Exercise 1: Begin by placing your thumb on the third string and the index finger on the first string. Using free strokes, pluck the i finger. Immediately release the tension in the mid-joint needed to pluck the string, but this time allow the finger to return to the string. Do this several times and then repeat the exercise using the m then a finger. (It is important to relax the tension in the finger rather than pushing it back to the string. Do not be concerned if, at first, the finger goes beyond the string. If this happens, relax the finger tension and let the finger go to the string.) Now practice this exercise using rest strokes. Exercise 2: Begin by placing your thumb on the third string. In the first position, slowly alternate between i and m playing free strokes on the first string. When i plucks, release the tension in the mid-joint of the middle finger and allow it to go to the string. When m plucks, release the tension in the mid-joint of the i finger and allow it to go to the string. Practice this slowly until the movements are comfortable. (Do not be concerned if the finger produces a staccato sound. Here, we are developing the technique not controlling the sound.) Now play a chromatic scale on the first string using i and m. After you play each note, release the tension in the mid-joint of the non-plucking finger and

allow it to return to string. It is important that you maintain the walking motion between the fingers, by coordinating the release of tension between the strokes. When you are comfortable, practice the same exercises using rest strokes. Note: It can take up to four weeks of practice before you feel comfortable playing this way. Once you are comfortable, warm up with these two exercises before playing your scales. The following exercises will allow you to develop the necessary coordination to control the duration and attack of each note. It is important not to attempt these until you are comfortable with the previous exercises. Exercise 3:

# #1 2 #3 4 b3 2 b1 1 #2 3 #4 1 J J J J J J J J J J J & c0 J J J J J
Pla y Pla y Pla ce Place Simile

We control the length of the note by preparing the next finger on the eighth rest. We will be coordinating the release and placement of the finger in the same manner that we coordinated the walking motion in Lesson One. It is important to: 1. 2. 3. 4. Hold the note for its duration. Alternate between the index and middle fingers. Always have the nail resting in playing position on the string. Verify that when you pluck you are producing a good tone.

Practice this exercise using both rest and free strokes. When you are comfortable doing the above, apply the technique to a first position chromatic scale. When playing the scale, you will notice that asyou change strings the last note on the string continues to ring. This happens becuase you are preparing the next note and not stopping the note you played. Using your left hand, shorten the note to match the others played. After a little practice, this will occur naturally. It is important that you are comfortable with the previous exercises before attempting Exercise 4. Playing legato uses the exact techniques but with

greater control. Though the next exercise may appear silly, it is perhaps the most important one of the series. Exercise 4: Using the sound Ta, sing any series of scale-wise notes as legato as possible. Concentrate on when your tongue touches the back of your teeth. You will discover that it is against the teeth a fraction before the sound is produced. Contrary to what you may believe, there is always a slight space between the notes in legato. We will now practice coordinating our fingers with our tongue to achieve this space. Playing the open E string with i and m, pluck the string exactly when your tongue touches the back of your teeth. (You can do this, but its not as easy as it sounds.) While doing this exercise, listen to the sound you are producing on the guitar. Make sure it is as legato as what you are singing. When comfortable doing this exercise using free and rest strokes, apply the technique to the chromatic scale we have been using. Again, use both rest and free strokes.

Lesson 8:

Developing Scale Technique, Part 8


Developing Speed This, the final lesson in this series, will focus on integrating the various lessons into your scale technique. Assuming that you know the left hand fingering for the scales you will practice, there are two important components in developing an efficient scale technique. They are: smoothly refined finger, hand, and arm movements and endurance. The following two octave C major scale is divided into five note groups. By working with small note groups, it is easier to integrate the material presented in the previous lessons and detect any weaknesses in their application. In addition, developing and controlling the necessary motions with small note groups will begin to develop the necessary endurance to play longer passages with equal ease. Practice the following exercise using first rest strokes and then free strokes. It is important to practice the exercise equally with each stroke. The following are eight major points to observe and refine: Never play faster than you can comfortably control the finger movements. Release the tension in the fingers between notes to allow them to be come out in position to play. Prepare the right hand fingers so that the notes sound staccato. Let the finger prepare. Dont force the preparation. Keep the right hand finger movements small. Be aware of a fluent right forearm movement when playing each group. After each half note position the right hand thumb and fingers for the [Title] next group. [Composer] Be aware of the correct left hand mechanics when fingering notes or making shifts.

3 & 4
m i

Use whatever left hand fingering you have learned for this scale. If you do not know a good left hand fingering, see my book Classic Guitar Technique

Vol. 1 published by Professional Guitar Publications. Refer to this book for additional scale exercises. Depending on your level of playing and attention to details, you should expect to ultimately play this exercise at a tempo between quarter note equals 120 to 160. Good luck and continued success.

Lesson One: Pim & Pmi Arpeggios


Beginning guitar students are usually taught to play arpeggios by preparing some or all of the fingers. This is an extremely useful technique that not only allows the beginning student to develop a good arpeggio technique but a well-developed right hand position. As the student moves from the beginner stage to more advanced stages, the limitations of this technique often prevent the development of a professional arpeggio technique. The following approach is one that I have found particularly effective with my students. The key to successfully playing arpeggios is to be aware of when you release the muscle tension in the fingers needed to pluck each note. While there are several good approaches, the following is what I, and my students, have found to be both easy to learn and apply. This approach can be used with any arpeggio that moves in one direction from the thumb. The following are the most common of these arpeggios: pim, pmi, pia, pai, pima, and pami. The technique is based on releasing the the tension needed to keep the fingers in the hand each time that you pluck the thumb. Exercise 1 Playing the following exercise, begin with your fingers in the hand as if you have just finished playing a chord.

When the thumb plucks, release the tension in the fingers and let them come out and place them on the strings. Pluck the chord and immediately place the thumb on the bass note keeping the fingers in the hand. Practice this exercise until you are comfortable releasing the tension in the fingers when the thumb plucks then move to Exercise 2

Exercise 2 The following approach will work for both the pim and pmi arpeggios. Begin with the fingers in the hand as discussed in Exercise 1. When the thumb plucks, release the tension holding the fingers "ima" in the hand and let them come out as a unit. This time, however, dont place them on the strings but position them over the strings they will play. It is important that the fingers come out naturally, by releasing the muscle tension needed to keep them in the hand. Pim Arpeggios: Play the notes of the arpeggio by bringing the index finger to the string and then plucking the string. When "i" plucks, "m" is drawn directly to the string it will pluck. M plucks and p is placed on the next bass note. It is important that when you prepare the finger on the string. it is in playing position. No adjustment should be required before plucking. After the finger has played the note leave it in the hand, at rest, until the thumb plucks. When the thumb plucks, release the tension in all fingers and let them come out and place them over the strings. Note: All the fingers are at rest in the hand before p plays. When p plucks all of the fingers are released over the strings. Pmi Arpeggios: Playing a pmi arpeggio the fingers are prepared in reverse order, first m then I all other steps are the same.

For a more detailed discussion and additional exercises using this approach see, Guitar Technique Volume 2 by Richard Provost available from GSP in San Francisco, CA.

Lesson Two:

Pia & Pai Arpeggios

The approach used to play pim and pmi arpeggios will also work for the pia and pai arpeggios. Begin with the fingers in the hand as discussed in Lesson 1, Exercise 1. Pia arpeggio When the thumb plucks, release the tension holding the fingers "ima" in the hand and let them come out as a unit over the strings they will play. As in the previous lesson, it is important that the fingers come out naturally, by releasing the muscle tension that was needed to keep them in the hand. Play the notes of the arpeggio by bringing the index finger to the string and then plucking the string. When i plucks, a is drawn directly to the string it will pluck. A plucks and p is placed on the next bass note. As before, it is important that when you prepare the finger on the string. it is in playing position. No adjustment should be required before plucking. After the finger has played the note leave it in the hand, at rest, until the thumb plucks. When the thumb plucks, release the tension in the fingers and let them come out and place them over the strings Note: All the fingers are at rest in the hand before p plays. When p plucks all of the fingers are released over the strings. Pai arpeggio Playing a pai arpeggio the fingers are prepared in reverse order, first a then i. All other steps are the same.

For a more detailed discussion and additional exercises using this approach see, Guitar Technique Volume 2 by Richard Provost available from GSP in San Francisco, CA.

Lesson 3: Pima & Pami Arpeggios


The approach used to play the previous arpeggios will also work for the pima and pami arpeggios. Begin with the fingers in the hand as discussed in Lesson 1, Exercise 1. Pima arpeggio When the thumb plucks, release the tension holding the fingers "ima" in the hand and let them come out as a unit over the strings they will play. As in the previous lesson, it is important that the fingers come out naturally, by releasing the muscle tension that was needed to keep them in the hand. Play the notes of the arpeggio by bringing the index finger to the string and then plucking the string. When i plucks, m is drawn directly to the string it will pluck. M plucks and a is placed on the next note. A plucks and p is placed on the bass note. As before, it is important that when you prepare the finger on the string, it is in playing position. No adjustment should be required before plucking. After the finger has played the note leave it in the hand, at rest, until the thumb plucks. When the thumb plucks, release the tension in the fingers and let them come out and place them over the strings Note: All the fingers are at rest in the hand before p plays. When p plucks all of the fingers are released over the strings. Pami arpeggio Playing a pami arpeggio the fingers are prepared in reverse order, first a then m, i, and finally p. All steps are the same.

For a more detailed discussion and additional exercises using this approach see, Guitar Technique Volume 2 by Richard Provost available from GSP in San Francisco, CA.

Lesson 4: The Tremolo


The approach used to play the previous arpeggios will also work for the tremolo. Begin with the fingers in the hand as discussed in Lesson 1, Exercise 1. When the thumb plucks, release the tension holding the fingers "ima" in the hand and let them come out as a unit over the first string. As in the previous lesson, it is important that the fingers come out naturally, by releasing the muscle tension that was needed to keep them in the hand. Play the notes of the tremolo by bringing the a finger to the string and then plucking the string. When a plucks, m is drawn directly to the string. M plucks and i is drawn directly to the string. I plucks and p is placed on the bass note. Preparing the fingers in the tremolo will result in the second and third notes of the tremolo being shorter in duration than the first and last notes. Dont be alarmed, the notes will become even as you increase the speed. As before, it is important that when you prepare the finger on the string, it is in playing position. No adjustment should be required before plucking. After the finger has played the note leave it in the hand, at rest, until the thumb plucks. When the thumb plucks, release the tension in the fingers and let them come out and place them over the strings Note: All the fingers are at rest in the hand before p plays. When p plucks all of the fingers are released over the strings.

Some guitarist will find that as they increase the tempo to around 120 = the quarter note they seem to hit a wall tempo wise. If that should occur, do the following. Begin with ima over the first string. Pluck p and follow the steps previously explained. When i plucks release m and a over the string and place p on the bass note. Pluck p, place a, pluck a, and place m. Play m and release i to the string. Pluck i and place p releasing m and a over the string. Keep repeating this process. While this approach is a bit

more complicated, some students find this approach will produce a faster, more fluid tremolo than the first approach. When practicing the tremolo it is important to always alternate your practice between a very slow tempo and at one that you can control. The tremolo is the most unforgiving technique to learn. Any unnecessary tension in your hands will adversely affect the speed and evenness of the tremolo. For a more detailed discussion and additional exercises using this approach see, Guitar Technique Volume 2 by Richard Provost available from GSP in San Francisco, CA.