A model-based study of left-hand fingering on the classical guitar

H. Heijink and R.G.J. Meulenbroek

Nijmegen Institute for Cognition and Information, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

A piece of music can be played in many ways on a guitar: almost every note can be stopped in several locations on the guitar neck, and four fingers of the left hand can be used. The result of deciding on a location and a finger for each note is called a left-hand fingering. Even for three notes in a row, there are thousands of possible left-hand fingerings, but when preparing a piece of music for performance, a guitarist considers only a small subset of these fingerings.

In this study, we investigate the influence of the distance the hand has to travel, the initial shoulder angle, and the finger spread on the biomechanical complexity of the fingering. We have designed a model that predicts a ranking of fingerings according to cost functions based on these biomechanical complexity factors. To gain support for this model, an experiment was designed, in which professional guitarists play short musical sequences. The distance the hand has to travel, the initial shoulder angle, and the finger spread are manipulated by prescribing different fingerings. While the guitarist is playing these scale patterns, the three-dimensional movement of the fingers of the left hand is monitored using the OptoTrak system. The sound of the guitar is recorded simultaneously. The design, as well as some preliminary results will be presented.

Paper presented at Measuring Behavior 2000, 3rd International Conference on Methods and Techniques in Behavioral Research, 15-18 August 2000, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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