Ring finger vs One finger per fret technique

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by elegost, May 19, 2017.

  1. elegost

    elegost SS.org Regular

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    When i started playing guitar back before the interwebs I somehow picked up the message, either from a teacher or from a magazine that the most efficient way to finger when playing leads was "one finger per fret", by which i mean, for example, if you want to play a pentatonic scale shape, you're using your pinky for the 3 fret stretch on the low E and top B and E strings.

    I've gotten good at this, my pinky is useful, but i'm def not a shredder.

    Now that we have the magic of youtoob, i have been noticing in videos that a lot of really fast players seem to use their ring finger and mostly ignore the pinky, even for 3 fret stretches. This actually makes sense b/c the ring finger is much stronger. I'm thinking maybe i learned bad technique by using my pinky so much and I'd be faster if i retrained to use the ring finger even for big stretches.

    what do you guys do?
     
  2. sezna

    sezna undermotivated

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    In the end, it is all personal preference. What follows is my opinion:

    Using the pinky often is far superior. It may be weaker when you start playing, but after you adjust via practicing, you have so much more versatility. It is generally seen as bad to only use the first three fingers, you will stretch and injure your hand and be lucky to stretch more than five frets.

    Also, I grew up playing in an orchestra where using the pinky is the desired technique as well. It sorta is hard for me to watch people like Andy James and Sarah Longfield who never use their pinkies. I know it probably isn't true, but it gives me the vibe that they don't put much effort into technique and could be better.
     
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  3. Kaff

    Kaff SS.org Regular

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    Personal preference / disciplines, but for me, Pentatonic scales are played so you play the first note on a string ALWAYS with the index finger and the second note with
    a) the ring finger if there's only one fret between the two notes or
    b) the pinky if there are two frets between the notes.

    No place for the middle finger in pentatonic scales for me.

    In general I try to follow the one finger per fret or "box" discipline and deviate from it mostly when I need to do bends or stuff that requires a stronger finger instead of the pinky.
     
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  4. takotakumi

    takotakumi SS.org Regular

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    Definitively personal preference, but as someone who recently made that progression into ring-pinky, using the pinky for all adds a lot of dexterity into playing. I used to only use the pinky for 4 or more note stretches, and the rest using the ring finger because it would make more sense that it is "stronger".

    However I found this limited me, particularly when learning sweeps. The initial hammer-on of an ascending sweep flows better into the next note if you shift from index+pinky->ring or 2nd finger as these 2 aren't doing anything. For most this is certainly the most obvious way to do it, but I was lazy/stubborn to start doing it "the right way". Same thing applies for string skips, and tapped arpeggios, where the dexterity of using all of the fingers facilitates increasing the tempo a lot.

    There are also some leads, riffs where it is ergonomically better to start learning how to be able to bend with 4 fingers (pinky the last) than using just 2 or 3 fingers. For instance, if the last note you fretted or hammered-on was with a pinky (lets say a 1-5 note hammeron) and a bend follows that 5, your pinky is already on that spot to bend. While its not doing most of the work (as the other 3 are doing most of the pull) it's something that aids a lot.
     
  5. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    There are some players who will use all the fingers but avoid the weakest combination (1-3-4) as 3 and 4 share a tendon (I have it in my head that Shawn Lane did this, but I can't remember where I heard/saw it so I could have just made it up).

    As ever I'd say practice all the combinations and then use what ever feels strongest when you're performing/tracking.
     
  6. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Doesn't really matter in practice, but your approach is the "theoretically" correct one.

    That said, I'd practice it both ways. If nothing else, because while in a standard pentatonic box at the 12th 15p12 on the high b and then 14p12 on the G is more efficient pinkie-pointer, ring-pointer, being able to do that stretch comfortably ring-pointer on the high B frees you up to do stuff like 17p15p12.
     
  7. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    Not to mention working up to the Van Halen classic 12-16h19-12-16p12
     
  8. Willyum

    Willyum SS.org Regular

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    While there are definitely fantastic guitarists that rarely (if ever) use their pinky, I would recommend putting time into it. We as guitarists have 4 digits we can utilize to express ourselves. The pinky is definitely the hardest to begin using since we use it so little in our every day lives. However, the less limitations you have to express yourself in your music, the more fulfilling your playing will be :)
     
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  9. Dredg

    Dredg Insignificant Contributor

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    Rusty Cooley was a big proponent of building up pinky strength when I took lessons from him. I forget his exact words, but it was along the lines of "why would you want to limit your options?" before showing me a mega-wide legato stretch. Fantastic teacher.
     
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  10. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    Just as a minor point of order, it isn't strength that your little finger is lacking, it's control and independence.

    Think about how you use your hand - your thumb and first couple of fingers for delicate tasks and manipulation, but when it comes to opening a stuck jar your best bet is thumb and little finger. Or, if you're going to punch someone in the face you deliver all of the force from your arm down a straight line into the little finger side of your hand, and then into the face in question. Not that I go around punching people in the face.

    To come back to the guitar, I discovered a few weeks ago that one reason my little finger felt weak was because finger 2 was terrible, so anything involving 2 and 4 was also suffering (1-4 by comparison was great because 1 is good at holding a spot and then you get to use most of your hand and arm to control 4). Working on 1 finger per string arpeggios where finger 2 has to be a big strong boy all by himself is really helping with that.
     
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  11. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear Vendor

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    This. You really do not need much finger strength to play the guitar. Lots of players are ignoring the pinky because they are more comfortable doing so due to lack of use. I would use it as much as possible in practice - naturally it will likely be behind so there are lots of cases where it's not going to feel like the easiest option. Until it is :)
     
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  12. Winry Ember

    Winry Ember SS.org Regular

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    To add to this, tension is the biggest enemy of building speed. If you have the idea that your fingers need to be stronger to be faster, this belief may be hindering your playing.
     
  13. mongey

    mongey SS.org Regular

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    depends to me. both work at different times

    I'm 6'3 , have fairly big hands . 7th fret and below def use 1 finger per fret . over say the 10th its much more comfortable to lose the pinky
     
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  14. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    1 finger per fret is like up-down picking.
    Stretching is like economy picking.

    One makes sense and helps you play faster going from beginner to intermediate.
    One makes sense and helps you play faster going from intermediate to advanced.

    A veteran player knows when it is appropriate to use each one.
     
  15. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Doc McStuffins Contributor

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    It's just laziness and poor technique and it's why they'll never reach their full potential.

    It's also why I'll never respect guys like Django Reinhardt and Tony Iommi...
     
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  16. sezna

    sezna undermotivated

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    I think that being able to stretch frets is a bit different than his original point of using stretching to actually replace using the pinky?
     
  17. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    :lol:
     
  18. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Sorry, I took the context to be clear.

    Stretching in lieu of using your pinky for a three fret span is actually pretty common. I think it should be obvious that the more fingers of which you make good use, the more avenues you'll have open for other techniques. In my case, I sometimes change up my fingering to relieve my pinky at times because that finger just doesn't have the endurance of the other fingers. I only ever notice that I'm doing that during longer gigs, though (3-4 hours).
     
  19. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Doc McStuffins Contributor

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    Just my sh1tty :2c:... The correct way to play guitar is just an accepted convention and it's highly overrated. So many musicians are great precisely because they defy convention. Andy James absolutely shreds and he does a ton of stretches, legato, and other techniques, and I'm not entirely convinced his pinky's work lol.
     
  20. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    An accepted convention based on the demonstrable fact that 4>3. #datadriven
     

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