Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Coordination issues

I’ve been playing guitar for many years but I still feel like the biggest thing holding my speed back is keeping my left and right hands in sync. I just can’t seem to to get past it. Is this a common issue? Any suggestions on how to fix this would be great.

Btw, I love the new site!

Howdy cuspclub,
First off, I’d like to say that you are not alone. For me, coordination between my right hand and my left hand improved gradually over time with practice. Repeating a song enough times that you don’t have to think about what you are playing is generally a huge part of that for me. As long as my brain is engaged in the process, I generally am more clumsy.

Another thing that has helped me is learning to be more efficient with my selection of fingerings and mechanics. When I am learning a new song, I try to take the time up front to learn what is the most efficient way to do something. I am still going to bump up against a speed wall eventually, but trying to learn it “right” the first time saves me time down the line and it probably makes the speed that I start to top out a bit faster. In the principles of learning, this general concept is called the “rule of primacy” and in my experience it is a fairly powerful thing. I wish I was more aware of this early on. I was self taught on guitar and in a short amount of time I established some habits that are taking years to undo.

I wish I could provide better insight and an easy fix, but I don’t know of one. I suspect there will be some great help coming your way on this forum from some of the other members shortly. Best of luck.

I have to agree with Mike …it’s just taking the time to learn things slow enough that you do it right …and efficiently as possible …believe me …Im no expert at it but ive found that to be the key along with relaxing your wrist and right hand …tension is the enemy of speed …sorry i cant be more help but as Mike says there are lots of fine folks here who can offer some really good advice im sure …

Do you have a good guitar? When I move from a properly setup guitar to one that has bad action, my left hand suddenly feels uncoordinated and clumsy.

Thanks everyone for the tips so far. I wish I could say it’s the instruments, but it happens on both my Collings D1 and my Eastman mandolin and they both play quite well. I have noticed if I can keep the tension in my body low, it helps a little. I like the comment about keeping your mind under control. I feel like it gets worse if I think about it to much.

If anyone knows of any other tips or exercises that have helped them out, I’d appreciate it.

It doesn’t matter what I am doing… I generally try to blame all my deficiencies on equipment :smiley:

You asked about exercises… I think playing simple fiddle tunes (without many embellishments) that cross strings is probably good for getting the right and left hand syncing up. In particular, songs that have a fairly constant difficulty level throughout. If you are into drills, chromatics up the strings and down are pretty standard coordination exercises. I started to type them out, but I suspect you know what I mean… if not let me know. Also, I think if doing drills like that, it’s not a bad idea to spend about half your time starting with an upstroke.

I posted a request for suggestions for a specific problem and ended up getting a bunch of helpful tips that would probably apply:
I ended up significantly changing my practice habits, goals and mindset. I am playing cleaner than when I started the change, and I didn’t realize it, but that was my goal (as opposed to speed in and of itself). I haven’t tried maxing out on speed in a while, and that’s ok. My goals have changed. Also included in that topic on about page 3 is a fiddle tune that Dave supplied. It may be worth a look for you.

Coordination issues are common with most players. I took up the guitar because I was extremely uncoordinated. Years later, I took up slight of hand magic for the same reason.

Here are a few things I teach my students to help them build coordination and speed. Keep in mind that you have two hands that need to move in sync to produce one note or chord. This in an important distinction over the piano. Consider that one hand may learn more slowly than the other (as Mike has mentioned above). Here are some tips for gaining coordination and synchronization between your hands.

[ul]*Practice slowly and evenly. You should play slow enough that you do not make any mistakes. Use scales, melodies and riffs as your source for what to practice.
*Listen to the attack of each note. There should not be any premature attack or false sound by either hand during the playing of any note.
*Listen to the release. The note should be played legato (long and connected to the next note) during practice. Do not release the note so that they sound staccato (short and choppy).
*If you have a metronome, use it. Set it for a speed that is extremely easy to play cleanly. Add 2 or 3 beats per minute to the speed each week so that you are playing 150 beats per minute faster at the end of a year (you will be amazed!).
*Learn which hand is the slower one. Do exercises to improve the speed of that hand. For example, if your left hand is slower than the right, try some left hand calisthenics (e.g. fingers 1,3,2,4 across each string starting at the 5th fret, or 1,4,2,3 or 1,2,4,3 or 2,3,1,4…etc.) Do these exercises for a few weeks and your left hand will be able to out play your right. If your right hand is the slow poke, try double or triple picking during your scales or exercises (e.g. fingers 1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4 across the strings or 1,1,1,3,3,3,4,4,4…etc).
*When you start to feel like your hands are giving out, try touch technique to lighten and speed up your picking while giving you a clear idea how your hands are working together. The way this works is that you practice your regular exercises/scales, but instead of actually pressing down the string with your left hand, you just touch the string lightly with your left hand fingers. You will still hear a sound, but instead of a clear string ring, you should hear just a short muted “thunk” in it’s place. If you actually hear a clear tone, then you are playing too hard. What this does is teach you how to play with a light EVEN touch and also allows you to hear when your two hands are not in sync.[/ul]

Well, there are a few tips I have taught over the years. There are lots of other things you can do, but in a generic situation such as this, I cannot actually see what your specific concerns might be.

Good Luck!


Years ago I had a test of electrical signals and they found that my left hand is somewhat slower than my right. it is due to bone spurs in my neck and there are times when it is so out of whack I can not play , one of the reasons I would never play professionally . I have had two back surgeries so surgery is not an option at 69, I intend to fight it and keep playing . I can go for weeks and not have a problem and then for about two or three days I may as well not play but I do any way and struggle until I get it back.I really think you have to work out any problem you have by playing and don’t give up . I have also found that when learning a new difficult piece sometimes it is better to take a break for a day or two so it will sink in. It only takes one compliment for me to make it worth while . Keep playing what ever you do .