Creeping Exercise part 1

Monday, April 13, 2015 by Matt Cosgrove | Technique

The exercise explained in this post played an important role in my left hand development when I was a freshman at Pensacola Junior College (PJC). I have seen similar explanations of these principles in the Shearer method, Scott Tennant’s Pumping Nylon, and possibly a couple other places. However, it was Dr. Joe Stalllings at PJC that made these principles practical. Below is a summary of the creeping exercise as taught by Dr. Joe Stallings. I will explain the principles in the first article and then the exercise structure in part 2. So, here it is!

Creeping Exercise

The Creeping exercise establishes the correct left hand form, develops the ability to distinguish left hand muscle groups, cultivates the ability to regulate finger pressure, and implements efficiency of motion in string crossings that plays directly into scale speed. Before you can begin to progress the exercise, you need a metronome (preferably one that does not beep).  There are four steps to the creeping exercise: Press, Release, Lift, and Touch.

Before you begin the exercise each day, you should do a pressure test with each finger to teach your fingers the correct amount of pressure to use. In a good position, lightly touch the 4th finger just behind the 9th fret. While plucking the string continuously, add tiny amounts of pressure until the string rings with a buzz. This buzz is an indication that you only need to add a small amount of pressure to produce a good sound.

Flexor development

1. Press with the correct amount of pressure: This step is to develop good left hand form and helps you to memorize the correct amount of pressure. It is important to keep the hand in a very good position during the entire exercise. The fingers should be perfectly on their tips. Remember to press with the correct amount of pressure.

2. Release with a snap: In the left hand, there are two different muscle groups that are used: flexors and extensors. We used flexors in the Press step. Flexors are the muscles we use to grip with the hand. We are trained from birth in every activity to turn on the flexors quickly. However, there are very few activities where we train the flexors to shut off quickly. This step develops that ability. Just allow the flexor to shut off and the ‘springy’ quality of the string will pick up the finger. The finger should stay on the string.

Steps 1 and 2 can be summarized by simply saying: flexor on – flexor off.

Extensor development

3. Lift: You can only arrive at your potential when you are as efficient as possible. In this step you try to develop a very shallow arch in the movement from string to string (string crossing). Lift the finger no more than an eighth inch off the string.

4. Touch: Shut the extensor off as you touch the next string. Steps 3 & 4 are actually combined into one smooth continuous step.

In the next post, we will add some structure to the exercise.