Results 1 to 23 of 23

Thread: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

  1. #1

    Default Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    I can understand the first finger handles frets 1 and 2, while the second finger handles frets 3 and 4, stuff, but... what if the notes in the scale, or riff or melody are just half steps apart? I can see plenty of times when this will happen and I can't imagine you slide from one not to the next for this. I would think one finger is going to be in an "unassigned" fret to play this well and fast.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    St Paul, Minn
    Posts
    569

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    There is only one rule. There are no rules.

  3. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to ajh For This Useful Post:


  4. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Guildford + Falmouth England
    Posts
    703

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    The general rule on fiddle and mandolin (same tuning, similar scale length) is 'do what works best'. That means taking into account where you're coming from and where you're trying to get to. So, say we're playing :

    B (A string fret 2) C# (A string fret 4), G (E string fret 3).

    Following the 'finger covers 2 frets' rule would get you: 1st finger 2nd fret A string (B), 2nd finger 4th fret A string (C#), then move the 2nd finger over to the E string and pull it back to the 3rd fret for G. That C# to G move with one finger is slow and awkward in fast music, so most experienced players would finger it 1-3-2 instead of 1-2-2.

    The exception is if you're beginning one of these instruments, don't avoid using your 4th finger just because it feels awkward. It may be weak at first, but the more you use it, the less awkward it feels, and being able to use readily comes in very handy at times.

  5. #4
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Forest Grove, Oregon
    Posts
    2,061

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    The general rule on fiddle and mandolin (same tuning, similar scale length) is 'do what works best'. That means taking into account where you're coming from and where you're trying to get to. So, say we're playing :

    B (A string fret 2) C# (A string fret 4), G (E string fret 3).

    Following the 'finger covers 2 frets' rule would get you: 1st finger 2nd fret A string (B), 2nd finger 4th fret A string (C#), then move the 2nd finger over to the E string and pull it back to the 3rd fret for G. That C# to G move with one finger is slow and awkward in fast music, so most experienced players would finger it 1-3-2 instead of 1-2-2."…………..
    Or you could play B (d string 9th fret). C# (d string 11th fret) and G ( A string 10th fret). Finger 1-2-1. Depends on what comes before and after.

    Just a thought.
    Not all the clams are at the beach

    Arrow Jazzbo
    Arrow G
    Clark 2 point
    Gibson F5L
    Ratliff CountryBoy A
    00-21 (voiced by Eldon Stutzman)

  6. The following members say thank you to Bill McCall for this post:

    maxr 

  7. #5
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,964
    Blog Entries
    55

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnW63 View Post
    I can understand the first finger handles frets 1 and 2, while the second finger handles frets 3 and 4, stuff, but... what if the notes in the scale, or riff or melody are just half steps apart? I can see plenty of times when this will happen and I can't imagine you slide from one not to the next for this. I would think one finger is going to be in an "unassigned" fret to play this well and fast.
    I think a lot of the confusion was my awkward description. My apologies. It is so awkward to describe this and much easier to show.

    My fret number "assignments" only apply literally in first position when playing with the open strings. That is probably not the best way to describe things.

    In general, the idea is that as you play a major scale, where ever you start, the next note in the scale is the next finger. That is probably the better way of thinking about it. When you go up a whole tone you use the next finger. As opposed to the guitar where you skip a finger. When you go up a half tone you use the next finger.

    The picture below, taken from the FFcP system, shows the idea better than my awkward discussion. It shows an A scale being played starting on the G string.

    Name:  FFcP.gif
Views: 327
Size:  6.2 KB

    So a tune or melody in A major played on those strings could be played with no need to move the hand up or down, within that octave.

    For accidentals, as has been pointed out, you would generally use the next finger.

    So the "rule" might be that you don't skip a finger to skip a fret. Ummm, errrr, something like that.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  8. #6
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,964
    Blog Entries
    55

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    I am not a fan of "there are no rules" really.

    I mean I accept the plain meaning of the statement, and of course we each own our instruments and can play them anyway we want. There are no rules binding me to play a certain way. And I myself totally understand when one uses the word "rule" as in "not following them" and how that can chafe a bit.

    But there are standard ways of doing this stuff. Everything I have thought about it I put here, to keep the thread from getting derailed.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  9. The following members say thank you to JeffD for this post:


  10. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Greer, SC
    Posts
    600

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    There is an important rule that no one seemed to have mentioned. You have to know what the rules are before you break them. That way there is a discipline to your work. Without discipline there is an expenditure of energy in unproductive work. Those that make it look easy have put in the hard work.

  11. #8
    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Kentucky
    Posts
    473

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    A while ago I was reading a thread on another unnamed forum (the session) about playing in B and Bb (aka 1/2 position). The original poster was asking about the exceptions to fingering strategies for these positions. One of the responses was: "Just put your fingers where the notes are". I remember thinking "ouch" - that's a really snarky and blunt answer to an honest question. Now that I've had some time with it I realize that this advice is actually spot on

  12. #9
    Resident Hack
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    200

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Learning the scales starting with any finger is a great exercise to help with this. I can attest that starting a scale with the middle finger of your left hand is often drastically easier than starting with the index, depending on where you're coming from and where you're going.
    What I play
    2021 Skip Kelley Two-Point
    Eastwood 'Ricky'
    Morgan Monroe RT-1E
    Epiphone Genesis guitars
    Various Basses

  13. #10
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,964
    Blog Entries
    55

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Stein View Post
    Learning the scales starting with any finger is a great exercise to help with this. I can attest that starting a scale with the middle finger of your left hand is often drastically easier than starting with the index, depending on where you're coming from and where you're going.
    Yes definitely. I find scales from any finger is a gigantically useful "thing to practice".

    And FFCP goes through this really well.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	FFcP_move.jpg 
Views:	24 
Size:	45.1 KB 
ID:	197745

    All my respect to Ted Eschliman and the Four-Finger Closed Position (FFcP) he devised in his book "Getting Into Jazz Mandolin". A book I recommend whether or not you are into jazz.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  14. #11

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Quote Originally Posted by Ky Slim View Post
    A while ago I was reading a thread on another unnamed forum (the session) about playing in B and Bb (aka 1/2 position). The original poster was asking about the exceptions to fingering strategies for these positions. One of the responses was: "Just put your fingers where the notes are". I remember thinking "ouch" - that's a really snarky and blunt answer to an honest question. Now that I've had some time with it I realize that this advice is actually spot on
    Maybe snarky, certainly blunt but correct.

    In many cases there's an obvious finger to use for each note in a given passage if you want to making playing it as easy as possible. And yes, a total beginner may not be able to see those obvious choices until she or he has some experience. But trying to codify it into some set of "rules" to be memorized is not doing the beginner any favors IMO.
    The first man who whistled
    thought he had a wren in his mouth.
    He went around all day
    with his lips puckered,
    afraid to swallow.

    --"The First" by Wendell Berry

  15. #12
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    San Diego CA
    Posts
    482

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    TL;DR Answer
    The rule I follow is:
    1. 1st finger fret 1 and 2, 2nd, fret 3 and 4, 3rd fret 5 and 6, and 5th fret 7 and 8. This can be shifted up the neck as needed (so if starting on the 5th fret, first finger gets 5 and 6, 2nd 7 and 8 etc)
    2. Break the above rule whenever doing so will allow less hand motion that keeping the rule in tact.

    Longer answer with likely more superfluous words

    There are two real answers IMO

    I generally follow the "rigid rule" - basically the "first finger gets fret 1 and 2, second gets fret 3 and 4, third 5 and 6, and fourth 7 and 8". You can move this up the scale accordingly (i.e. first could start with fret 3 and 4, making second 5 and 6, third 7 and 8, and fourth 9 and 10) but otherwise, fingers stay in their lane. This can help keep your hand in a central position which, among many other things, can help increase speed and note accuracy.

    However, generally this rule gets broken if you want to play a note that is outside of your current position but you don't want to move your hand position for one or two notes. For example, when using a riff that involves 3b to 3 or 5b to 5 or similar - especially when sliding in/out of those notes. In those cases, generally you'll use a finger that is outside the "rigid rule" parameters.

    For example, playing in A major, the C# (3rd) is on the 4th fret on the A string (and elsewhere). If you're playing a A in the "G Chop" shape (so fretting on 9 7 4 5), your first finger would be on the 4th fret of the A string. If you wanted to use a slide in from C to C# (3b to 3, a common bluesy sound), most often it's easier to shift the first finger back to the 3rd fret and slide into the 4th fret compared to shifting your hand to keep the rule.
    www.mattcbruno.com
    www.thebigdecisionsband.com
    https://shakedownstringband.org

    Mando's in use
    Newson 2018
    Gibson F9 2014
    Jonathan Mann OEMsc 8
    Jonathan Mann OSEMdc 5
    Weber Gallatin Mandocello

  16. #13
    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Vancouver Island
    Posts
    1,411

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Normally it isn't by the fret but by the note. On the E strings in 1st position you'll play G, G#, and Gb with second finger: try the scales of C major, E major, and Eb minor (pretty rare) to see how that works. And with third finger you'll play A, Ab and A#: try the scales for F major, Eb major, and B major. Note that F# and Gb use (normally) different fingers, as do G# and Ab, etc.

    So your scale fingering always goes 1-2-3-4 on each course. Being aware of the key you're playing in is the first step. Of course, in some "chromatic" situations you may find smoother alternatives.

  17. #14
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Forest Grove, Oregon
    Posts
    2,061

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnW63 View Post
    I can understand the first finger handles frets 1 and 2, while the second finger handles frets 3 and 4, stuff, but... what if the notes in the scale, or riff or melody are just half steps apart? I can see plenty of times when this will happen and I can't imagine you slide from one not to the next for this. I would think one finger is going to be in an "unassigned" fret to play this well and fast.
    As the responses indicate, the answer is 'it depends'.

    However you finger something, if its clean, smooth and up to speed, its correct.

    'If it sounds good, it is good'-Duke Ellington
    Not all the clams are at the beach

    Arrow Jazzbo
    Arrow G
    Clark 2 point
    Gibson F5L
    Ratliff CountryBoy A
    00-21 (voiced by Eldon Stutzman)

  18. #15

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    "don't avoid using your 4th finger"

    No problem there. I use it all the time for scales or solos on the guitar. I think it's one advantage to being left handed but playing right handed.

    Thanks for all the idea and clarifications. I wanted to make sure I wasn't taking the wrong path and regretting it later.

  19. #16

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Just to throw in - if you study scales it will pay dividends.
    Randal Scott

  20. #17
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    South of France
    Posts
    1,539

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Once you’ve learned how to slide with accuracy and speed -aggressively like Sierra Hull for example, then you’ll be asking different questions.

    It’s a sort of bucket list thing, like tremolo.
    Some people learn it very early on.
    (I didn’t learn it early mainly because I didn’t believe I could)

  21. #18
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Guildford + Falmouth England
    Posts
    703

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    What do y'all think of the idea that there are two types of mandoliners - those that think like fiddlers and those that don't? I come from fiddle, play mostly folk styles and keys, and I haven't spent long playing with winds in keys like Bb etc. I'm based pretty much in 1st position with excursions up the neck whenever needed, and I suspect a lot of fiddlers are similar. However if you come from jazz mandolin or guitar and favor closed scales and chords, you may think differently about th whole thing - ?

  22. The following members say thank you to maxr for this post:

    Tony S 

  23. #19
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Southern Maine
    Posts
    202

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    When I was getting started, I found FFcP to be extremely helpful.
    Girouard A
    Silverangel A
    Eastman 615

  24. #20

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    What do y'all think of the idea that there are two types of mandoliners - those that think like fiddlers and those that don't? I come from fiddle, play mostly folk styles and keys, and I haven't spent long playing with winds in keys like Bb etc. I'm based pretty much in 1st position with excursions up the neck whenever needed, and I suspect a lot of fiddlers are similar. However if you come from jazz mandolin or guitar and favor closed scales and chords, you may think differently about th whole thing - ?
    Yes, I think that's often true. I think of the mandolin like a fiddle with no sustain more than like a guitar with no sustain.
    The first man who whistled
    thought he had a wren in his mouth.
    He went around all day
    with his lips puckered,
    afraid to swallow.

    --"The First" by Wendell Berry

  25. #21
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    23,964
    Blog Entries
    55

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    What do y'all think of the idea that there are two types of mandoliners - those that think like fiddlers and those that don't?
    I think we are all prejudiced in our mandolin playing based on what our previous or first instruments were. The threads are choked with guitarists trying not to have a guitar accent on mandolin.

    But you are correct fiddlers leave their mark. I find most noticeably that mandolinners who were fiddlers do tend to stay in first position as much as possible, or when they do go up the neck it is to third positions often enough. Position play as opposed to closed form play, like FFcP and other systems. (I once showed a fiddler how a tune in closed form can be played in any key, and he said "oh sure, if you have frets." Also, in my experience, fiddlers take longer to really get into chords, favoring double stops.

    I myself came to the mandolin with woodwind prejudices. I was a single note melody guy, with the suspicion that harmony, rhythm, and chords were someone else's job. Also the prejudice (you woodwinders will know what I am talking about) that there is something sacred about the key of C, not fully grocking the idea that with closed form portable positions all keys are just about identical.
    Life is short, play hard. Life is really really short, play really really hard.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  26. #22

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Catmandu,

    You comment is exactly why I want to start with the best fingering technique. I'm trying to get the scales down and arpeggios of common chords down, in my guitar playing. I sort see the mandolin as a single note instrument, if you are solo playing not just playing chop chords in a band setting.

    - - - Updated - - -

    A-board,

    I saw that as a pretty good short cut. I bookmarked the page.

  27. #23

    Default Re: Clarification on Finger to Fret assignment

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnW63 View Post
    I can understand the first finger handles frets 1 and 2, while the second finger handles frets 3 and 4, stuff, but... what if the notes in the scale, or riff or melody are just half steps apart? I can see plenty of times when this will happen and I can't imagine you slide from one not to the next for this. I would think one finger is going to be in an "unassigned" fret to play this well and fast.
    Practice chromatic scales, starting on different notes/frets as this will help you master half step passages.

    But really from an application stand point, it completely depends on the context (where is the music going, where did it come from), and the genre (bluegrass is probably more open to slides than say 18th century mandolin music).
    Zachary Graft
    Celtic and Christian fiddle and mandolin music
    zacharygraft.com
    facebook.com/zacharygraftmusic
    youtube.com/c/zacharygraft

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •