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Thread: Ring vs Pinky, again?

  1. #26
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    I don't see the problem,,,if your doing chromatics,that's one thing, were you do some sliding around,but open strings is only 2 or 3 notes a string,so put your fingers were they work,,if your doing closed pentatonics,that's pretty much 3 notes a string,so put your fingers in the right spot,,for four finger closed stuff,is 4 notes a string,and you have 4 fingers,so it's a no brainer really,,,

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  3. #27

    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    Thanks again to all. I am trying the 2 frets per finger, and it really isn't a huge difference very often. I am realizing that my main reason for not playing "standard" way is that I switch very frequently to the GDAE tenor banjo and the GDAE tenor uke strung "softly" in the same octave range, as my "poor person's mini tenor guitar" and I just use the same fingering. But again, I will explore more to learn and may see advantages of using both systems.

    Regards,

    David

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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    I started a thread a while ago, questioning the "one finger-two frets" rule, finding it a bit rigid and confusing. I was told that it comes from the violin so I consulted two violinists, one classical, the other bluegrass/country, and they both confirmed my own view: in a fixed position, and a purely diatonic context, the basic rule is "next note-next finger". Take the keys of A and Ab on the third course in first position. In A both schemes would assign all four fingers to the notes e-f#-g#-a. But in Ab the first would assign only three fingers to the notes eb-f-g-ab (although the frets are farther apart) whereas the second would assign all four fingers, the same fingering as in A, pulled back one fret.

    I also found a post by August Watters, stating the same principle.

    Of course the diatonic scheme breaks down when there are five fretted notes on one course, e.g., g#,a,b,c#,d on the fourth course in A. In that case I would have my index finger cover the first two.

    Chromatics upsets this scheme and I don't think you can give any general rules - it's something you will have to find out in actual playing.

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  6. #29
    Registered User Toni Schula's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    Quote Originally Posted by ukenukem View Post
    Try playing guitar (tuned in 4ths) for decades where the norm is one finger/one fret then see how hard one finger/two frets is to learn! As mentioned, try different ways and practice what works best for you and your style.
    I prefer to think of "next scale note = next finger". Does this make things easier for you?
    Last edited by Toni Schula; Jun-22-2018 at 7:35am. Reason: Should not post here while gettinh my hair cut. Typos

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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Colpitts View Post
    Thanks to all! I am amazed by the quick and thoughtful replies, and judging by three of them, a bit embarrassed that I didn't really spell out my question very clearly. So, here's a bit more: I don't "ignore" the pinky; rather I skip the middle finger most of the time. In effect, each string would get a "do, re, mi, fa" with "open, index, ring, pinky" playing. So, I guess I play one finger per fret, except the first fret (which I don't use much) would also be index finger, and I do use the middle finger on the high string a lot. I guess that all means I have to use my pinky even more than "standard" since I switch to it almost always by fret 5. Does this make any sense?

    Thanks again, and I apologize for my rather clumsy descriptions.

    Regards,

    David

    That's strange. In a diatonic context, in first position there are generally four fretted scale notes on each course, with just a few exceptions. E.g., in E major you have five on the d course: d#, e, f#, g#, and a. So the natural thing would be to use all four fingers, reaching back with the index to the 1st fret in the few exceptional cases. (g course in A, d course in E, etc.)

  8. #31

    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    As already stated, there are no rules. Feel free to keep doing it wrong.
    Object to this post? Find out how to ignore me here!

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  10. #32

    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Colpitts View Post
    Hello, Folks. I am just about a year in to my "fifths-tuned" adventure, and ready for my second class at Catskills Irish Arts Week. Seems (despite last summer's teacher's remonstrations) I have played all year with wrong fingering. Basically, I finger the tenor banjo and the mandolin banjo (a cool old Gibson Trapdoor, set up with 4 nylon strings, to make what Mike Keyes and others describe as "Melody Banjo) the same, so fret 4 gets ring finger, and not middle finger. I read that this slothful behavior will cost me dearly in my long-term mando-style stylings, and wonder if this is so, and why? My main goal is rapid tunes, and virtually not at all chords or bluegrass backing, since I never could do chords on anything, and am an old rookie trying for clarity and speed on single-note melodies.

    I can't see why I need to change, but welcome suggestions. Old threads here from 15 years ago chastised an instructor who suggested to the student that what I do was OK, and it makes me worry a bit....

    Any feedback will be much appreciated!

    Thanks, and regards,

    David
    Fiddler Vesta Johnson never used her pinky finger.

  11. #33
    formerly Philphool Phil Goodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    I may have missed some references to your hand position approach to playing.

    If you're coming from instruments like banjo or guitar, you could be approaching the board with fingers tending to angle across the FB (instead of more parallel to the strings such as a fiddle player would do.)
    This could make it more difficult for the 2nd finger to reach the 4th fret as comfortably.

    Look at whether you finger the strings in a (desired) more or less parallel-to-strings approach. Just a thought.
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  12. #34
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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    Fiddler Vesta Johnson never used her pinky finger.


    She discusses this issue in this video.

    Now, in her field of music, she was/is able to play stylistically quite well the way she learned with no use of 4th finger.

    This may not be the case in other musical genres.

  13. #35

    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    I wonder if Monroe, Duffy, Rector, Bugsby, or any of my "heroes" on mandolin worried about which finger to use on which fret.
    Most likely they did. At least when working out new stuff. I don't have any evidence on those guys but the Earl Scruggs banjo book specifies exactly which right hand fingers to use on every note through all of their arrangements. If he or the people working with him on the book, thought the right hand through that closely he certainly put the same effort into the left hand. So Earl, out of the same era and style, definitely thought about those things,

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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    Most likely they did. At least when working out new stuff. I don't have any evidence on those guys but the Earl Scruggs banjo book specifies exactly which right hand fingers to use on every note through all of their arrangements. If he or the people working with him on the book, thought the right hand through that closely he certainly put the same effort into the left hand. So Earl, out of the same era and style, definitely thought about those things,
    In fact, Bill Keith was responsible for nearly all the transcriptions in the original Earl Scruggs banjo book. Earl may not have given a lot of thought to his fingerings -- he was very instinctual about most aspects of his playing -- but Bill Keith definitely gave a good deal of thought to these! There is no good reason to avoid thinking about how you actually play music, on the spurious grounds that some of your "heroes" may not have given equivalent thought to it!

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  17. #37
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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    Sblock I don't mean that you should not consider which finger you will use in any given situation, I work out what notes I want to use in a kick off or break most of the time not really thinking which finger to use on which note just do what comes natural. If there are places that seem awkward I then see if it's smoother using another position or different fingers. What I think is wrong is to get a newbe worrying if he is using the right finger on the right fret. What is awkward to you may not be so to him and vice-versa. I doubt if any of the "greats" in any style started out thinking two frets per finger on mandolin and one finger per fret on guitar. I'm not saying I'm one of the greats but I couldn't play that way on either instrument.

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  19. #38
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    Sblock I don't mean that you should not consider which finger you will use in any given situation, I work out what notes I want to use in a kick off or break most of the time not really thinking which finger to use on which note just do what comes natural. If there are places that seem awkward I then see if it's smoother using another position or different fingers. What I think is wrong is to get a newbe worrying if he is using the right finger on the right fret. What is awkward to you may not be so to him and vice-versa.
    I'm going to repeat my usual mantra here, and say that genre differences matter.

    The OP in this thread mentioned the goal of playing Irish trad, with a specific focus on playing "rapid tunes." This music is played on mandolin (and fiddle) in first position for almost all the vast number of tunes in the repertoire. Exceptions are the harp repertoire and a few odd fiddle tunes that go above the B note.

    The two-fret-per-finger rule and playing out of first position to take advantage of open strings, is simply the most efficient way to play these tunes. Especially where speed is the goal. The use of the pinky is required primarily on the E string to reach the B note in first position (and for fiddlers, a roll on the A note).

    Anyone is free to adopt a different fingering without the Trad Police knocking on the door, but there is a time-tested reason for fingering this particular genre of music in a certain way.

    I doubt if any of the "greats" in any style started out thinking two frets per finger on mandolin and one finger per fret on guitar. I'm not saying I'm one of the greats but I couldn't play that way on either instrument.
    Well again, it's different in Irish trad because we mandolin players are relatively new to the genre compared to other instruments. The fiddlers figured out all this stuff a long time ago.

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  21. #39
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    What I think is wrong is to get a newbe worrying if he is using the right finger on the right fret. What is awkward to you may not be so to him and vice-versa. I doubt if any of the "greats" in any style started out thinking two frets per finger on mandolin
    As a mandolin teacher of Italian and other styles, I definitely want a newbie to be learning the traditional way to finger the mandolin.

    To say that it may be "awkward" is true - EVERYONE is awkward when they begin the mandolin! Even good violin/fiddle or guitar players.

    It's a mistake to let a beginner choose the easiest fingering for him - he has no idea what the possibilities are. Mandolin has a long tradition of worked-out options on how to finger the instrument. What may be easy at first is a trap later.

    That is true of almost all styles - even Bluegrass and Old-timey. The masters have worked out a lot of stuff, you do not need to re-invent the wheel.

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    I'm going to repeat my usual mantra here, and say that genre differences matter.

    The OP in this thread mentioned the goal of playing Irish trad, with a specific focus on playing "rapid tunes." This music is played on mandolin (and fiddle) in first position for almost all the vast number of tunes in the repertoire.
    ........
    The two-fret-per-finger rule and playing out of first position to take advantage of open strings, is simply the most efficient way to play these tunes
    Precisely.

    Genre matters.

    Apart for the concept that people can slough off any sort of sloppy fingering by claiming "it's my own" or "so-and-so doesn't use the pinky" or whatever excuse, the actual fact is that some music can be played with one type of technique and another style needs quite another.

    foldedpath mentions ITM mandolin style - and he's right, in that for example, open strings are stylistically correct, both for fingering and resonance, but in classical, Italian music, jazz, etc. closed fingerings would often be a better choice, as would playing in upper positions.

    Fingering should be looked at as the manner in which to make your instrument produce the sounds you want. I do not finger stuff the same all the time as I am always working out ideas and other ways to make the musical phrase and concept come alive - but I have made a long-term study of string instrument fingering.

    There is a saying in Chinese cooking that you can tell a lot about how good a cook is just by how they hold the knife.

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  23. #40

    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    I'm coming to the world of GDAE by way of tenor banjo after 5 or so years of five-string. Besides banjo, I would like to try the mandolin for ITM, so I'm looking for habit patterns that will serve me well as I go forward. Enda Scahill says very little in his tutor about left hand fingering, while "Absolute Beginners Irish Tenor Banjo" by Eamonn Coyne suggests: index, frets one and two; middle finger, third and fourth; ring plays fifth fret; and pinkie plays frets six and seven. Meanwhile, I'm signed up with the Online Irish Music Academy where Lisa Canny covers the fifth fret with her ring finger, saving the pinkie almost exclusively for the seventh fret. I've been using the latter, which seems to be close to the "two frets per finger" convention described here, on a 17 fret banjo. I wonder how that's going to work out on a 19 fret. I have to admit that one finger per fret when playing mostly between frets 1 and 5 is really convenient, but it sounds like that will likely result in limitations as I go forward. The previous discussion has been really helpful. I think I'll hang in there with Lisa Canny's method (two frets per finger as suggested here), which should get easier as my fingers get used to the longer reach. I really appreciate all the comments in this thread.

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  25. #41

    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    I am curious as to what the scale length is for a typical tenor banjo. For mandolin, I use two frets per finger. Pinkie gets frets 7 and 8 duty. With my 22 3/4" octave mandolin, I go with one finger per fret. For the ITM I play, this is a hard and fast rule.

    When moving up the neck and out of first position, I still stick to the x number of frets per finger rules, even if I can manage stretching further. A good example is Dawg's Opus 38. After getting this tune under my fingers on the OM with a fingering that initially worked, I realized that I couldn't get the tempo up and play cleanly. Changing the fingering and sticking to the fret per finger rule is allowing me to play it faster.
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  26. #42

    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    My 17 fret Deering has a 21" scale. OME lists their 19 fret tenor as 22.125".

    I certainly get the one finger per fret idea. So much of what I'm learning sits between frets 2 and 5, with momentary excursions to 7. I'm doing okay hopping back and forth with mostly the two frets per finger convention, but I don't know what will happen when I try playing at typical Irish tempos. Or when I try a 19 fret tenor, which I probably will. Curious to hear your thoughts, as your experience includes different scale lengths.

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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    I don't understand this playing Irish traditional faster than bluegrass? Ever heard classic Country Gentlemen play Rawhide?

  28. #44
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    I don't understand this playing Irish traditional faster than bluegrass? Ever heard classic Country Gentlemen play Rawhide?
    I don't think anyone is saying that Irish trad is played faster than Bluegrass. At least I wasn't.

    The important distinction is that due to the common keys used, the use of open strings, and ease of ornamentation, Irish jigs and reels are played in first position. This requires more finger stretch than playing a Bluegrass solo up the neck, where the distance between frets is shorter.

    The 2-fret-per-finger technique, with a reach of the pinky to hit the high B note on the E string, is the most efficient way to play fast in first position. It's efficient when playing in closed position up the neck too, but that's where less efficient approaches like 1-fret-per-finger won't bite you as hard as it will in first position.

    There is another difference. A Bluegrass mandolinist plays fast in fairly short periods of time when taking a solo break. The rest of the time they get to relax and chop rhythm.

    Irish (and Scottish) trad is a relentless stream of notes with no resting points until a set of three or more tunes ends. That's a real workout for the fingers at a typical reel tempo of 112 bpm (counted 2/2, a Bluegrass player might count it 4/4 and call it 224 bpm). Using the efficient 2-frets-per-finger technique is easier on your hands than shifting the hand back and forth to reach the notes.

    It's not even really an argument, because this is what fiddlers do when playing Irish trad. The strings are pitched the same and the scale is almost identical. So what we do, as with so many other things with mandolin, is we steal fiddle technique to play these tunes.
    Last edited by foldedpath; Nov-01-2018 at 12:38pm. Reason: typo

  29. #45
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    Default Re: Ring vs Pinky, again?

    Quote Originally Posted by ukenukem View Post
    Try playing guitar (tuned in 4ths) for decades where the norm is one finger/one fret then see how hard one finger/two frets is to learn! As mentioned, try different ways and practice what works best for you and your style.
    When I started out on the mandolin 51 years ago I had already been playing the guitar for 10 years. As for fingering the guitar I went through a number of stages. 1) a fourth is comprised of five halfsteps, hence, allowing open strings you can cover a two octave+ scale in open position with strictly chromatic fingering. That was my first discovery. 2) As the C and F scales require only three fingers, I could move these forms to higher positions, e.g., playing Eb and Ab out of the third fret. 3) Leafing through a book of transcriptions, with fingering notated, I saw that there were other, freer approaches; roughly speaking I realized I had been playing out of the C and E forms up the neck; the next step was to include the G form, and then combine these approaches in various ways. And then I went on to explore the neck from a multitude of angles. Sometimes, for instance, I discovered that certain phrases require a lot of motion along the strings, not just across them.

    When I picked up the mandolin my first realization, of course, is that the interval of a fifth is seven half steps so chromatic fingering would not work. As most of the stuff I played in the beginning was diatonic I found it natural to adopt diatonic fingering, "next scale note, next finger", certainly not the rigid "one finger, two frets" rule by which, e.g., the keys if A and Ab would have to be fingered differently. So, in Ab I would use my pinky on the 6th fret for the same reason as the pinky on the 7th fret in A. And the only instruction I had was a piece of advice: "in the beginning, don't use open strings at all", which was very helpful. Eventually I took to alternating 7th fret or open strings, whichever produced the best phrasing or the best pick economy.

    One big difference from the guitar was that in that case I learned very systematically, key by key, starting with C, and progressing along the circle of fifths in both directions: C, F, G, Bb, D, etc. When one participant at a jam (we were playing Beumont Rag) expressed surprised that I could play the "difficult" key of F uncapoed, I told him it's not difficult, it's the second key I learned.

    With the mandolin I just started playing - I already knew about keys and their scales, etc. (and when I started on the guitar I already knew standard notation).

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