Close
Skip to content

Forum

Notifications
Clear all

Anchoring Pinky??

Page 1 / 4

(@rsadler)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 210
Topic starter  

I've noticed that I tend to anchor my pinky on my pick guard. Is that bad form or does it really matter? I've searched around and couldn't really find a good answer, so I'm guessing it's just personal preference?


Quote
(@deeaa)
Trusted Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 63
 

Works fine 4 me when I play certain, sort of delicate, fast-picked passages. Rarely do it, but can't see why not. Gives a good pivot point and a reference for the hand to hit the correct strings.

--
Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock


ReplyQuote
(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Whenever some folks say something is personal preference and others say it's bad form, the "proper" form is almost always harder to do (which is why people don't prefer it). It usually also means there's a reason that proper technique is better, at least in some cases.

Plenty of people anchor with the pinky, or with the heel of the hand on the bridge. Heck, I used to do it. It was a hard habit to break too, but when I realized what it was potentially costing me, I had to change.

Try an experiment with an acoustic guitar: bang out a big open chord and let it ring. While it's ringing, put your pinky on the pickguard.

Hear the change in tone? That's why it's considered bad form. (The better the quality of the guitar you try this on, the bigger the effect you'll hear)

Anchoring at the pickguard changes the tone. Anchoring at the bridge will change it less, but prevents you from moving your hand to change the tone = and if you do any techniques like tapping, it means you have to move farther, which takes longer. So both are a bit limiting.

On an electric guitar, it doesn't matter so much for tone. The effect on the body vibration is too small to hear, and the change in timbre you can get by moving your hand is much smaller - maybe too small for you to hear. But the increase in distance for any picking hand effects like tapping or false harmonics is still there.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


ReplyQuote
(@deeaa)
Trusted Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 63
 

Yeah, and I'd guess the way to place the hand there at the bridge came from metal players who use so much gain they have to keep damping the strings at almost any given time, and for that reason need to rest their hand on the strings a lot. Then if you sweep accross lots of strings like again for metal leads, more or less having a fist there is pretty restricting, so opening up the hand and straightening the pinky to pickguard makes the hand flatter and it easier to access all the strings that way.

FWIW, while I played my hand on bridge a lot or all the time 20 years ago, these days my picking occurs the most over the end of the fretboard and often actually over the fretboard itself. Especially on the acoustic I find I'm sometimes strumming right next to my fretting hand even! I only gravitate towards the bridge when I need very accented, sharp and fast passages, those are pretty hard or impossible to do without resting the hand - or maybe forearm - on some part of guitar, be it the body or the bridge, depending on guitar model.

--
Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock


ReplyQuote
(@alangreen)
Member Moderator
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5367
 

I use my fingers to play all the notes I need - I haven't got any spare fingers to anchor.

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


ReplyQuote
(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3460
 

I've noticed that I tend to anchor my pinky on my pick guard. Is that bad form or does it really matter?

Hi,

As always, I think that whether something is 'right' or 'wrong', 'correct form' or 'bad habit' depends largely on what style of music you're playing. I like to try a range of things before settling on what is the most effective way for me. I say "effective" rather than "efficient" because often the overall feel or drive of the music is more important me than something more technical like a tiny variation in tone (which I may not necessarily hear as a negative change anyway).

In my experience, one of the most demanding styles is traditional classical on an un-amplified acoustic guitar. Not only do you have to work hard to wring every last drop of accuracy and - well, let's say 'beauty' - from every note, but both players and audience are more likely to be fussy (discerning if you like) about every nuance. Precision and 'proper form' mean lot to classical players, and for good reasons. Classical players tend to have priorities for their fingers that don't include parking them on the soundboard.

That's not so true for other styles though, and it doesn't mean that other styles are necessarily careless or sloppy. They just have different priorities, use different techniques, and value somewhat different accomplishments. I rarely attempt to play anything classical any more, and without checking I wasn't sure whether I ever anchored anything or not. But it seems that I usually don't anchor. Mostly, my hand sits above the strings and various combinations of digits get used as required. But for some styles and passages the unused fingers at the time (pinky and/or ring) may contact the surface - quite lightly, but definitely touching. This seems pretty common.

But what I do doesn't matter much. What about professional musicians?

Here's three players who are all widely admired for aspects of their music. Chet Atkins was apparently highly regarded for the precision of his playing, Mark Knofler needs no introduction, and Tommy Emmanuel is well known for his almost manic ability to cram in an impossible looking amount of work per second. In these clips they're all playing electrified acoustic guitar and they all anchor their pinkies at least part of the time. However, “anchoring” is probably something of a misnomer. Clearly they all do touch the surface of the guitar. The pinky is obviously extended and may do anything from propping for a fair while to just skimming the surface. It's often looks less like a nautical anchor and more like the antenna of an ant or the whiskers of a cat. A sort of digital GPS or radar if you like. You can see Chet at times just hovering above the surface. None of these players 'need' to anchor all the time (or always do so) it's simply a useful tool in their kit.

Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins

Tommy Emmanuel - Beatles medley

When you see players of that calibre (and a great many others) using the technique I don't believe that it's because they're sloppy or amateurish, it's because it works for them. I think that it's up to us to decide what advantage it gives them, and whether it might work for us too.

Cheers,

Chris


ReplyQuote
(@tinsmith)
Prominent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 830
 

Other people do it...I used to think it was wrong until I saw some big names doing it..


ReplyQuote
(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Chris, that Knopfler/Atkins video is a great example of what I was talking about. At 1:45 starts a closeup of Atkins; you can clearly see his pinky extended, but floating above the pickguard, not anchoring... at 1:54 he curls it under and rests it on the pickguard, creating a change in tone. Knopfler's hand isn't shown as closely, but I can hear a similar control over tone - it looks to me like he's achieving it with his ring finger, rather than his pinky.

Neither is "anchoring" - they're using a finger on the guitar top to subtly alter the sound.

Same thing with Emmanuel. You can see him very briefly lift his "anchor" several times in the opening phrases, carefully controlling the sound. At 0:40 he drops the anchor, and you can hear the change in tone. Watch that pinky from 055 - see how he's using it to shape the sound? It's placed on the pickguard repeatedly, but very selectively, right when he wants the tone deadened a bit. At 0:58 the "anchor" is back. Then it's gone again, when he needs the clearer tone.

Point is, none of those guys are "anchoring" (i.e., keeping a finger down to orient their hand). The difference between a good performance and a virtuoso one is in those tiny little details.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


ReplyQuote
(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3460
 

Neither is "anchoring" - they're using a finger on the guitar top to subtly alter the sound.

Point is, none of those guys are "anchoring" (i.e., keeping a finger down to orient their hand). The difference between a good performance and a virtuoso one is in those tiny little details.

Tom, I'll certainly try out your sounds altering suggestion. :) But with all due respect, I think your interpretations are somewhat over-optimistic. You might be able to hear some small difference but I think that it's drawing a very long bow to say that's why they're doing it.

Tommy Emmanuel is well known for resting his pinky on the body of the guitar. He's sometimes criticised for it by people who feel it's 'wrong'. I've watched him for years, playing both electric guitars and acoustic, right back from the times I used to see him at music events at a local pub, where the 'stage' was only two feet high and I could stand almost close enough to touch the performers. He just seems to like the feel or balance of having his hand that way. It's not that uncommon.

In his early days he was well known for playing electric - Fender even made a signature TE telecaster. I have an old instructional DVD of his where he plays plenty of tele and you get unequivocally clear shots of him resting or dragging either just his pinky, or both pinky and ring finger, across the surface of the electric guitar. I don't believe that it makes any detectable difference whatever to the tone of his battered old tele.

Whilst it's often referred to as "anchoring", or sometimes “stabilising”, "resting" or "basing", I think that most people who do it probably have a fairly light touch. When I do it, it's more like just floating or skating around. I certainly don't do it to change the tone, it's entirely about feeling comfortable and balanced. The notion of "Balance" is a big deal to me when I play - I like to feel balance in posture, balance in the way my right hand is set, and even what you might call mental balance. But there's no set formula. because I play different styles and moods, the balance may change for each. That might sound like a load of cobblers but I'm sure that some players will know what I mean.

Mark Knopfler is possibly even more identified with that style, and he really does seem to plant his fingers pretty solidly. He usually plays electric, where - as you said yourself - it makes no real difference to the tone, because the solid body doesn't have the same importance as the soundboard on an acoustic. Here's a representative picture of his playing style. He's well known as playing with his thumb and first two fingers.

And here's him playing on Youtube. Dozens of other pics and vids will confirm that's how he plays. He's not controlling the sound on his pickup or pickguard - he just likes to put his fingers there. :)

Local Heros etc

Isn't there any room at all for you to accept that not everybody has to play by your rules? Come on.... bend just a little bit....

Cheers,

Chris


ReplyQuote
(@deeaa)
Trusted Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 63
 

Yep I'd venture that as well...I for one don't believe a sound of an electric changes noticeably with anything like that. Hell I don't think it changes any if I swap the entire body for a stone one, a plastic one or any wood one...where you pick the string matters a lot for sound but...not pressing on the body with any body part I'm sure.

--
Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock


ReplyQuote
 Cat
(@cat)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1225
 

Since I saw this thread I've been making it a point to look at my pick hand from time to time...I always know what the pick is up to...but never really paid attention to the rest of my hand! Now I see that I do ground my outside length of my pinkie as I tone out the strings with my big thumb joint (up toward the palm a bit) on the bottom.

I guess its gotta be like chart calipers (length of pinkie in tandem with the length under my thumb line) letting the string buzz under my thumb so I chime out really high overtones out of the Ernie Ball .008 's. Ha! I really find it rather funny that after all this time I never really looked! :?

But this goes for my writing, too. I couldn't tell you what I've written unless there was a fret board to hold on to. It's just a place my fingers go to! What other things are second nature, I don't know...I usually chew on a spare pick when I'm in the studio. I like playin' in my underwear, too! Ha!

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


ReplyQuote
(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3460
 

Ha! I really find it rather funny that after all this time I never really looked! :?

I'd guess that may not be all that uncommon. I initially learned finger-picking by what felt like a very laborious method of training my fingers - 'pima' style - to pluck the designated strings, but it never really sang for me. So I ditched it and just let the fingers do what they felt like (while I worked on left hand accuracy and speed) and handed the job of selecting the good sounds over to the ears, and let the subconscious do the filing duties. It felt like coming home, and it's been that way for me ever since. So if you asked me how how my right hand did something that I just played I couldn't actually tell you. To be honest, I don't really want to know either. It's a little bit of magic that I really like to keep that way. :)

I once read about a study of how professional concert pianists memorise long performance pieces, and apparently at least one reasonably well known player said that they had no intention of having it analysed in case the magic disappeared!! I get that.

I like playin' in my underwear, too! Ha!

Cat

Not at Rotary I hope...

Cheers,

Chris


ReplyQuote
(@rsadler)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 210
Topic starter  

It seems there are many different opinions whether it's bad or not. I guess ideally it's probably taught not to do it, but playing electric I guess it isn't too big of a deal. I can definitely see how it might change the tone somewhat on an acoustic. I just wanted to check before I got too far along in my learning, since I'm pretty much just learning from information on the internet. I do try to avoid it when I think about it trying to break a bad habit before I got to far along, but I'm glad to hear it's not that big of a deal.


ReplyQuote
(@chris-c)
Famed Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 3460
 

FWIW, while I played my hand on bridge a lot or all the time 20 years ago, these days my picking occurs the most over the end of the fretboard and often actually over the fretboard itself. Especially on the acoustic I find I'm sometimes strumming right next to my fretting hand even! I only gravitate towards the bridge when I need very accented, sharp and fast passages, those are pretty hard or impossible to do without resting the hand - or maybe forearm - on some part of guitar, be it the body or the bridge, depending on guitar model.

That's one of the things I love about music - that there are so many ways to get the sounds out, and we're all a bit different in the way(s) we prefer. :)

I gather it's a bit cool up your way at the moment. I'm a member of our local Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade and we were out inspecting water sources last Saturday. As we chatted, it turned out that the young woman sitting next to me in the truck had just got back from three weeks working in Finland. So we all learned a bit about her trip and some of the history and geography of your country. Then the guy in front chipped in with tales of the splendid Finnish hospitality when he and his family visited Finland! Large quantities of berry pies were mentioned. As it was around 100 fahrenheit here at the time, tales of cool forests went down rather well...

Cheers,

Chris


ReplyQuote
(@deeaa)
Trusted Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 63
 

Ah, cool...well Finns have always been very a west-oriented country, keen to make a difference towards the east and Russia. For instance there's probably more classic American cars restored here per capita than in the U.S. it seems to me sometimes :-) Maybe because of that, English-speaking visitors especially are without exception very warmly welcome. Also, lots of Finns and their descendants live in the U.S. I also worked in the New York area for a while back in the 90's, and it was a_really_ close call for my family to move to U.S. for a while at least, due to my wife's career, but we decided not to do it after all, despite it would have been financially pretty good.

It's actually warm here now, even so that snow on the roofs is melting now that the sun is getting warm during daytime again.

Still, just a few weeks back it was coldest I have experienced here in my life, it went down to -41 one night (that's the same in Celsius and Fahrenheit) and that's way more I can remember. Usually it's lowest at like -32C round here. I was afraid my French car might not start in the morning, as it was still -36C, but it worked fine thanks to the engine oil warmer.

--
Vocalist/guitarist/producer-engineer.

A couple of my own bands:
http://www.mikseri.net/spookbox - garage/grunge rock
http://www.mikseri.net/whobody - pop rock
http://www.project-43.com - classic heavy rock


ReplyQuote
Page 1 / 4