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The pinky that won't die...


Compact Diss

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In horror movies they usually show a hand reach out from what is supposed be a lifeless body, well if I was starring in the movie it wouldn't be my hand but my damn pinky!

 

Since I have resumed lessons my teacher has asked me to "think" my pinky down. To go very slowly up and down the fretboard 1,2,3,4 and concentrate on keeping my pinky down.

 

I know this subject has been talked about here before but why not mention it; it keeps me away from looking at the damn thing waving at me every time I press my middle finger on a string!

 

Hey look! There he is now!

:wave:

 

 

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That darn pinky. It's a struggle for some. You know the old adage: Practice Practice Practice.

 

Don, Trill: two symbiotic races of aliens in the fictional Star Trek universe.

 

I'm not sure if they had pinkys or not. :D

 

Actually, I think trilling is hitting the notes in rapid succession a few times, at least that's what I remember from piano lessons a million years ago. I think what Red is suggesting is to play a scale and trill the last two notes to work the pinky some more. Kind of like pinky pushups.

bbach

 

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

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Originally posted by Compact Diss:

Since I have resumed lessons my teacher has asked me to "think" my pinky down. To go very slowly up and down the fretboard 1,2,3,4 and concentrate on keeping my pinky down.

Not sure what the problem is...?

 

Is it getting in the way of your fingering...or is this more about esthetics?

 

When I play...sometimes it's up...sometimes it's down...it's a natural thing.

Finger movements are all tied together and how they move depends on what you play.

 

If I need the pinky...it goes down. :)

 

What is to be gained by always keeping it down?

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Thanks for the suggestions-

 

This is the funny thing in all of my past lessons, and with different teachers no one ever mentioned my pinky being a problem. Now that he has pointed it out to me I can see where it may become a problem but like you say miroslav:

 

When I play...sometimes it's up...sometimes it's down...it's a natural thing.

That's the same with me, it is not getting in the way of my playing...

 

All of the magical formulas to play the guitar are answered right here by Bbach1:

 

Practice Practice Practice
Thanks for listening...

 

 

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Originally posted by miroslav:

Originally posted by Compact Diss:

Since I have resumed lessons my teacher has asked me to "think" my pinky down. To go very slowly up and down the fretboard 1,2,3,4 and concentrate on keeping my pinky down.

Not sure what the problem is...?

 

Is it getting in the way of your fingering...or is this more about esthetics?

 

When I play...sometimes it's up...sometimes it's down...it's a natural thing.

Finger movements are all tied together and how they move depends on what you play.

 

If I need the pinky...it goes down. :)

 

What is to be gained by always keeping it down?

I think he is talking about keeping the pinky closer to the strings, not necessarily down. I like to keep my fingers low and close. I find some of the faster things, such as rockabilly, become difficult for me if I let my pinky fly.

Kind of like keeping that right elbow in on the golf swing. ;)

bbach

 

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

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What is to be gained by always keeping it down?
Efficiency. The shorter the distance your fingers have to move, the less effort you have to expend, the more precise your timing. Minimizing extraneous motion is the goal.

 

On a similar note, if you watch really good fingerstyle players like Doyle Dokes or classical players like Williams their right hand fingers seem to move very little, the motions are tiny, precise and relaxed. If you watch my right hand the fingers are flailing all around....

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Like has been said the solution is scale work! flapping flying fingers are SLOW! Picker nailed it. My teachers over the years said in one way or another, LOOK at your hands, be conscious of LOOKING like a guitar player, like an accomplished player. Keep the lowest profile possible with your fingers over the fret board, they should all have the same crown relative to the fret board
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One of my best "guitar buddies" is an amazing player, a la Clapton. He plays clapton style, but does a lot of almost finger style pickin with his right hand, and can do a lot of almost rock a billy like runs. The guy is amazing.

 

One of the first things I noticed about his playing is how close all of the fingers on his left hand were to the strings at all times. They look like they are hovering just above the strings. His economy of movement of the left hand seems to allow him to play faster and more precisely with what looks like such minimal effort. Economy of movement translated into amazing runs....it's really cool to watch.

Don

 

"There once was a note, Pure and Easy. Playing so free, like a breath rippling by."

 

 

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Originally posted by Justus A. Picker:

What is to be gained by always keeping it down?
Efficiency. The shorter the distance your fingers have to move, the less effort you have to expend, the more precise your timing. Minimizing extraneous motion is the goal.
Yes...you are right...that would be the obvious first answer...

...but sometimes fighting natural motion may be more negative than positive.

And so can focusing on something that could become a distraction.

I would hate to be looking at or thinkning about my pinky position while playing! :D

 

My answer would be to just learn to use the pinky a lot more in your playing, and it will naturally be right there at the fret board. Otherwise...if you are NOT using it...then it really doesn't hurt to let it do what is most comfortable at that moment/positionrather than worry about keeping down.

 

Focusing on your playing and regularly using the pinky with chords and runs will automatically keep it downwithout the need to be conscious about where it is. :thu:

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Originally posted by miroslav:

Originally posted by Justus A. Picker:

What is to be gained by always keeping it down?
Efficiency. The shorter the distance your fingers have to move, the less effort you have to expend, the more precise your timing. Minimizing extraneous motion is the goal.
Yes...you are right...that would be the obvious first answer...

...but sometimes fighting natural motion may be more negative than positive.

And so can focusing on something that could become a distraction.

I would hate to be looking at or thinkning about my pinky position while playing! :D

 

My answer would be to just learn to use the pinky a lot more in your playing, and it will naturally be right there at the fret board. Otherwise...if you are NOT using it...then it really doesn't hurt to let it do what is most comfortable at that moment/positionrather than worry about keeping down.

 

Focusing on your playing and regularly using the pinky with chords and runs will automatically keep it downwithout the need to be conscious about where it is. :thu:

The vast majority of the motions we make playing guitar are "unnatural". When you're starting out, forcing your fingers to do things they just don't really want to do, you have to focus on keeping your hands in "proper" positions.

 

"Re-training" your hands to do things is the same thing. Sometimes we forget what we went through trying to learn things in the first place which is why breaking bad, ingrained habits seems hard. It's no harder than it was the first time, it just seems that way and clinging to habit is easier than cleaning up our technique.

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So I picked up the guitar tonight and tried keeping my pinky up as I played some runs...

...and it was almost impossible for me to make it go way up...it messed me up trying to hold it there. :D

It mostly stayed curled down along side the other ones.

 

The only time I could hold the pinky up is on certain chords.

 

I don't think playing guitar is really unnatural. If it were, our hands would hurt no matter what we did.

And...each person has different hands...so we should find what is most comfortable...and not worry about some "perfect" position.

Someone with very large hands and long fingers is going to hold a different position than someone with smaller hands and shorter fingers...

...so you gotta' go first with what feels right to you, and then work out the best technique around that. :thu:

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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each person has different hands...so we should find what is most comfortable...and not worry about some "perfect" position.

Someone with very large hands and long fingers is going to hold a different position than someone with smaller hands and shorter fingers...

...so you gotta' go first with what feels right to you, and then work out the best technique around that.

I have no argument with that other than that despite the differences in our hands, they are all wired pretty much the same way. The major differences will come in how fast our neurons fire, how our twitch muscles move and how developed our fine motor co-ordination is.

 

For an interesting read, dig up a copy of John Duarte's "The Guitarists Hands". Who'da thunk someone would write a book about it?

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A good exercise to teach your fingers to be independant and close to the fingerboard is as follows...

 

Play the std 1-2-3-4 from string to string (index on first fret, middle finger on 2nd fret, etc. on the 1st string, then the second, then the 3rd, etc. then move everything up 1 fret and repeat all the way up the fretboard) exercise while keeping your fingers on their respective fretted position until you need to move them.

 

For instance, you start with the first fret on the first string with the index, keep the index down at the 1st fret, put the middle finger at the second fret and also keep it there while you put the ring finger on the 3rd fret and finally put the pinky on the 4th fret. While keeping all other fingers in position on the first string, move only the index to the first fret of the second string and keep it there, then move the middle finger to the second fret of the second string, middle to the 3rd fret of second string, etc.

 

By doing the exercise this way, only one finger moves at any one time and all the fingers learn to stay close to the fretboard (since they stay on it for the duration of the exercise).

 

Much more complicated to explain this in words than to practice it. :)

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Originally posted by Justus A. Picker:

The major differences will come in how fast our neurons fire, how our twitch muscles move and how developed our fine motor co-ordination is.

Yes...and I was just taking that even further.

We all have certain idiosyncrasies, individual traits that make us who we are...that take us past the "generic wiring" that we all start with.

 

A good coach will always try to get his players to all follow a perfect model...that in a perfect world works best.

But a great coach will spot the idiosyncrasies that make us who we are...and realize that sometimes they are better left alone. :thu:

 

Even if you start off everyone at the beginningfollowing "perfect" technique...

...over time, differences will emerge, and sometimes they will be quite dramatic...and you just have to let them be, otherwise you could ruin what is already good by trying to "improve" on it. :)

I also think there comes a point where we ARE too old to change. :eek:

Where "fixing" bad habits will actually make matters worse...

...though it's always a good idea to at least try the fix and see if it works for you. And if you find it very awkward and uncomfortable...then you are better off leaving things as they are.

 

There was a time in my early years where conscious focus on hand/finger position was part of the learning process...and then at some point, I just stopped thinking about it.

I'm sure that over the years after I stopped thinking about it, I must have developed some(?) bad habits that a good teacher would spot...

...but I doubt I would get anywhere trying to change them now! :D

Basically...I've found my groove...and it is what it is... ;)

 

Also...there are probably at least 5 ways to play the same phraseand each person will do it their way depending on their wiring & habits. As long as each way sounds equally good with your eyes closedthe technique for each becomes less of an issueIMO.

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Well, Miroslav and Justus are both right. It's a judgement call, and sometimes a difficult one.

 

It's worth an effort to try retraining, committing oneself to the concept and going for it. But after a year or so, if there's no meaningful progress, meanwhile slipping behind on other areas due to so much focus on that ol' pinky, then stop throwing good time after bad and just get one with it.

 

I like the guy who wrote the "Little Red Book" about golf, one of the most successful pro coaches. His theory for coaching was the opposite of what was then popular, to start from scratch and build a swing from nothing. To him, every athelete has a different body and different mind, and the correct swing for one guy was not the correct swing for another.

 

Still, if you CAN teach that pinky to hang out close to the action, you won't regret it. Just don't spend too much time on things that serve that purpose alone, in the long run.

 

An interesting case study is the jam band Umphreys McGee, with two guitarists. One has the classic hand position and seems hardly to move, and yep, he's fast as blazes and deadly accurate. The other guy's fingers move like they're trying to escape a burning building or something, flying every which way and almost never together. Not only is he quick as hell and with perfect articulation, there's a wildness to his style that's mesmerizing, and far more stage-commanding than his co-lead (who frankly prefers a dimmer corner of the stage).

 

Well, similar to the differences between Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp, in King Crimson, though I couldn't tell you whether Adrian's fingers go wild.

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Great discussion!

 

Here's where I'm at.

I'll try and do what my teacher has asked and I have been. It takes time and it's annoying but at least the idea is in my head to try and concentrate on keeping the finger lower. If it has done anything it has at least made me aware of the finger height..I'm not interested in spending too much time on it, I know it can help but I'm more interested in progressing and right now the finger is not holding me back, if in the future it does I can deal with it then.

 

One of my favorite things to practice are scales so I'm doing well with that...I like all the ideas here. Hey, one practice at a time right...

 

 

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"The vast majority of the motions we make playing guitar are "unnatural". When you're starting out, forcing your fingers to do things they just don't really want to do, you have to focus on keeping your hands in "proper" positions.

 

"Re-training" your hands to do things is the same thing. Sometimes we forget what we went through trying to learn things in the first place which is why breaking bad, ingrained habits seems hard. It's no harder than it was the first time, it just seems that way and clinging to habit is easier than cleaning up our technique.

 

100% Correct! Spending time and effort to resolve an obvious problem with technique is well worth the effort NOW! why would your teacher continue to point this problem out if it where not necessary, he is completely right and it WILL make a difference on everything you do on the instrument in the long run.

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I read through this thread and played a bit last night to see where my pinky goes when not in use. I've never thought about it before but it just kinda hangs out in a relaxed mode. Fairly close to the strings but not in the way.

 

Interesting topic.

 

But I can't believe nobody commented on my Hound Dog Taylor pic. :)

http://www.keno.org/hound_dog_images/beware_hound_dog.JPG#cooliris

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Originally posted by learjeff:

Well, Miroslav and Justus are both right. It's a judgement call, and sometimes a difficult one...

Funny this should come up...

 

Just this morning my wife and I were asked by my daughter's teacher to stay after her Thanksgiving presentation to speak with her and a school counselor. Seems they feel Lilly should be tested for gifted status. This is a double edged sword, however.

 

She's incredibly bright, but easily distracted by her own desires. This is no surprise to me. I was exactly like her. Seemingly off in my own world much of the time, but always able to provide the correct answers to questions when asked.

 

One attribute of gifted students is a stubborn desire to do things their own way. To this end Lilly has always held her pencil with poor form. Same with scissors. She prefers to hold them upside down and cut down. In the past her kindergarten and first grade teachers alerted us to their initial concern, but because her handwriting was neat and her ability to cut with scissors was good they preferred to let her do it her own way. As Miro suggests, allowing her to be herself rather than conform for the sake of conforming.

 

We were aware the counselor had provided a pencil grip to Lilly to correct her handwriting form, but only today did we speak to her about it. She informed us that "proper" fingertip grip uses few muscles, all in the three fingers gripping the pencil.

 

The pre-school style grip Lilly used required many more muscles and tendons to be involved all the way up to her elbow, making it tiring to write for any length of time. Not a problem for most second graders, but for long papers in third or fourth grade and beyond it would be exhausting and likely painful. She even suggested we try writing like Lil to see how much extra energy was expended.

 

So while I understand the concept Miro's espousing, I can't support it for guitar.

 

Vladimir Horowitz is generally considered to be the best pianist of his generation and one of the greatest ever, yet any piano teacher would cringe at his fingering of the piano keys. His fingers were almost always near flat, in direct contradiction to the established notion that it is easier to play with curved fingers.

 

This is the only pic I could find showing his fingers relatively clearly:

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/fr/8/80/Vladimir_Horowitz_au_piano.jpeg

 

But unlike Horowitz' hand position and akin to Lilly's errant pencil grip, poor left hand technique on guitar requires many additional muscles and works them harder than they should be worked, often in restricted space of the bent wrist. This is the direct cause of carpal tunnel and other wrist/tendon/muscle problems faced by guitar players, just as in typists who don't keep their wrists straight and type from their fingers rather than their wrists.

 

Some techniques on guitar will require unorthodox hand positions but it is best to keep them to a minimum. If you have the persistance it will do you well to continue to work on economy of motion and proper hand position, regardless of how alien it may be to your current technique. And it will almost certainly improve your technique... eventually. Don't expect instant gratification if you set yourself to breaking bad habits. It ain't easy!

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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This might sound a bit daft, but get a PS2 and Guitar Hero. Play all the songs on medium so that you are dealing with the first 4 buttons only. The 4th, blue button is your pinky finger.

 

My pinky always stuck up like an english gentleman drinkin tea until i started to play that game, now it stays down every time I need it. lol

 

(Waits for bemused stares...)

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Here's the skinny....it is wise to learn the rules before you start breaking them. Pay some dues and do what your instructor is telling you....at least spend a little time on it and give him the benefit of the doubt as you are paying him to teach you right?

 

What he is going for is economy of movement and he is quite right about it. Practise not lifting the preceding finger until you need it to fret a note, while doing the 1234 or any other permutation. It's tough and will slow you down no doubt as you concentrate on this, it will also lead to more tip pain perhaps as you press harder on the string to hold it down.

 

Hey, all of a sudden you have stronger tips and callouses, way better control, you are playing blindingly fast riffs and you are not thinking about it. Now you can start lifting your fingers way off the neck and doing whatever with them as you develop the flashy aspect, your showoff stuff for lack of a better term.

 

All this shit is a discipline, you have to put into it to get out of it and starting to cut corners before you can nail something is weak. Respect your teacher Grasshopper and give him the chance to give you some learnin'.

 

You don't have to adhere to anything, you can change it up at will as you develop a style of your own....hell maybe you don't even want to use all 4 fingers....that's valid too. Many a damn fine blues player out there don't have what some call proper technique.

 

But if you are looking to play fast difficult stuff, this is a good way to go.

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Take some classical guitar lessons from a real, live classical guitar teacher. He'll give you tons of things to work on to train all of your fingers (and arms and back and wrists and everything else) for the proper form. It's all about keeping relaxed, unstressed position and economy of movement.

"And so I definitely, when I have a daughter, I have a lot of good advice for her."

~Paris Hilton

 

BWAAAHAAAHAAHAAA!!!

 

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Vladimir Horowitz is generally considered to be the best pianist of his generation and one of the greatest ever, yet any piano teacher would cringe at his fingering of the piano keys. His fingers were almost always near flat, in direct contradiction to the established notion that it is easier to play with curved fingers.
FYI, that's an overgeneralization, much discussed over at the keyboard forum. To put it more closely to the truth, many piano teachers have to work to get students to curve their fingers when appropriate. But flat-finger technique is equally important and necessary for the fastest moves (just as rest stroke and free stroke are both important on guitar). So fewer muscles are involved that it's much faster and therefore a critically important technique. But it's not the only one, so any student who uses only the "fast easy" way is missing something important.

 

My point was simply that there's a matter of balance here. There is a lot to be gained by most folks by learning the conventional best techniques. But everyone is different and adjustments are sometimes appropriate.

 

However, to progress we need to be willing to go through a stage where the suggested changes to our form cause a regression rather than obvious practice.

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