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How Many (Right Hand) Fingers Should I use?


(@johntlewis)
Active Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 12
Topic starter  

I'm an intermediate player currently working on Marry Me by Train. It involves fingerstyle picking. Currently I am practicing by (for example on a C chord) pinching the bass note with the thumb and the B string w the middle finger. This is followed by index on the D, then middle finger on the G. And the same basic thing is repeated through the song.

As you can see, the middle finger is pulling double duty by pinching the B on the bass part and then also using the middle to play the G string.

Should I include my right ring finger in the mix? Would I get faster? Speed is really my only problem with the song, but using the ring finger seems unnatural.

Thanks!

John


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(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 8306
 

you can use what you want. if 3 is more natural, i'd use three. you can try using 4 just for practice, or to see if it's faster for you, but if it feels right and sounds right, it usually is.


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(@alangreen)
Member Moderator
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5366
 

D is the open 4th string, right?

I'd play the C with the thumb the B with the middle finger, the D with the thumb and the G with the index finger. It keeps the hand stable, rather than having to move it to a new position every other note.

"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


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(@big-lar)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 165
 

Just goes to show you, ask any 10 guitarists how to play a song, and you get 10 different, perfectly acceptable answers.

For me, I'd play this song with 4 right hand fingers. On the open position C chord, I'd pinch with my thumb on the A string and my ring finger on the B string (both notes a C), and then play the open G string with my middle finger and the Open D string with my index, rolling up. Later when the chord changes, my thumb would move to the low E string, but the rest of my right hand can stay in the same place, picking the same pattern.

But I agree with everyone else, go with what feels most natural. There is no 'wrong' way.


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(@fleaaaaaa)
Honorable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 680
 

I generally do this......

Thumb is used for E + A + D

G - Index
B - Middle
High E - Ring

Although I break my own rules, I think that is classical technique.

together we stand, divided we fall..........


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 Crow
(@crow)
Honorable Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 554
 

Currently I am practicing by (for example on a C chord) pinching the bass note with the thumb and the B string w the middle finger....

I'm not sure what you mean by "pinching."

Me, I use whichever finger is free on whatever string is necessary. It's mostly instinctive, unless I'm learning a note-specific part, but even in that situation, finger/string choices are fluid. Whatever works.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 8306
 

pinching: up picking with the thumb while simultaneously downpicking on a treble string, like the motion you make when pinching something.


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(@spiritboy)
Active Member
Joined: 9 years ago
Posts: 17
 

The usual pattern of use will be fore finger first for one finger playing. Second option is the thumb. Consider this first gear.
Then the middle finger is added to the fore finger. If the thumb was the option then the fore finger is added to the thumb. Consider this second gear.
Then in tired gear the options really are not that important, because you will be either already using one of the options already and will add the third one so it will be the addition of the thumb or the ring finger....third gear.
Again what you add next is of no real importance, the use is now spread out across the hand, so the next gear up is a four finger use or a full five finger use. The music or song will dictate the amount of use needed. This use can be used from song to song or from song part to song part, in the end let the music dictate the use.


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(@apparition)
Eminent Member
Joined: 9 years ago
Posts: 41
 

I generally do this......

Thumb is used for E + A + D

G - Index
B - Middle
High E - Ring

Although I break my own rules, I think that is classical technique.

I do the same thing and ocassionally use my pinky's nail for a quick sharp strum to add effect here and there. I've been told it's wrong but it sound so cool.


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

Dedicating fingers to strings isn't classical technique - in classical technique, any finger may be used for any string, dictated by the demands of the music. Dedicating a finger to a string is done in "pattern picking" - which is more of a folk style.

"Marry Me" is a simple Travis picking pattern, named after Merle Travis. Merle did all his picking with just two fingers - the thumb and the index. Other people liked the sound, but virtually everyone who copied his style used three fingers (thumb, index, middle). Most pattern picking is done with four fingers. Typically the little finger isn't used for fingerstyle... since it's so much shorter than the other fingers, it can lead to awkward hand positions. But there are some players who use it, both in popular music and in some flamenco. So anywhere from two to five can be the answer for some players.

Listening to the Train tune, I'd use three fingers, having the thumb alternate between the bass notes. For example, when that C chord comes up, the bass note is C (5th string) on beats 1 and 3, and E (4th string) on beats 2 and 4 - that alternating bass is a feature of Travis style picking. Then I'd use the index finger consistently for the third string, and the middle finger consistently for the 2nd string.

It'll line up like this:

M I M I
P P* P P*
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

The notation is standard for classical guitar, and pretty common for other fingerstyles: P=pulgar (thumb), I=indice (index), M=medio (middle), A=anular (ring, not used in this pattern)

I've put an asterisk on P when it's the alternate bass note. This is a really common Travis pattern... you'll hear it, or slight variations, in hundreds of tunes.

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