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Thread: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

  1. #1
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    Default Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    This last weekend at the jam camp I noticed that when playing double stops I would often anchor my pinky or ring finger, often both, on the pic guard as I was strumming.

    Is this a common technique? Is it something thatís considered helpful, or something that I should avoid?
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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    Typically not recommended but often done. Doesnít seem to hurt Adam Steffey.

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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    I sometimes rest the heel of my hand on or around the bridge, even though it's not technically "proper" technique. It helps with rhythm playing, making a more distinctive chunking sound - almost a thud sometimes. I joke that I know I've had a good gig when the heel is colored grey-green by the end from the copper oxides. But planting a finger or two on the pick guard? Nope. For one thing, I don't have one ...
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    You should be comfortable with what you do. Many plant a pinky for certain things, both Sam Bush and Adam Steffey come to mind. Many others do not “anchor” in any way, but do brush the pick guard with pinky when playing. Many others brush or anchor a bit on the strings behind the bridge, or on the bridges, with the fleshy part of the hand. And many touch with nothing but the pick itself - I can’t really do that - anyway, there are also those who will tell or teach you that one or another of these methods is “bad” and should be avoided.

    Bottom line IMO and only IMHO, do it the way that works for you, and be open to changing if and only if you find that your method is holding you back.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    It is commonly done, but not really recommended.

    I planted for years, and later only planted for really hard passages, and now I don't plant much.

    I have shared my thoughts on less than optimum habits, pointed out mando heroes that have those same habits, and whether it is a good idea telling beginners to do what feels right, so many times I finally wrote a blog on it. Over the years I have doctored it up here and there, but it still pretty much is what I would say: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/e...Doing-it-Wrong
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    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    My instructor whacks my hand with a switch or a wooden spoon if I even start to touch the top with my pinky...

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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    I don't plant, but do brush. I can play both ways, but prefer to brush. When I don't a guard I curl my fingers sometimes, but leave them out most of the time. I try to not touch the top when I let them go.
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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    I offer for your (and everyone's) consideration, my 1918 A model. Note the scraped area where the pickguard used to be. The lighting is a bit poor (and she's in the shop, so this is the only pic at hand), so it may not be obvious, but that damage is down to the wood. I aver this is the main reason I was able to win it at eBay - there wasn't much bidding on it, even though the damage is entirely cosmetic and not structural. Note the location of the patch - it's too close to the bridge to have been caused by a pick if the player's hand's heel had been resting on the bridge, but it could have been done with his/her pinky resting there. Or it could have been caused by flailing fingers. But most likely it was the reult of over-eager and/or sloppy picking. To my mind, it's best to employ some means of avoiding causing damage to an instrument, even if it involves using a technique considered less than optimal. Obviously, a pickguard will prevent this. I offer this for the benefit of those without pickguards, to emphasize the necessity of modifying one's behavior for the benefit of the instrument.

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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    Both Dan Crary on guitar and Tim May on guitar and mandolin plant for leads. I have heard both of them say during workshops that they wish they didn't. Dan got the habit established at a time when there were no good instructional materials around and Tim followed Dan's example not knowing any better. They both have the habit too established to get rid of it easily. Both say they would be better off floating.

    It took me several years to get rid of the habit on guitar when I found it limited me and I fortunately never got it established on mandolin. A freely floating depth gauge, either fingers on the pick guard or wrist behind the bridge is helpful. Locking down solid limits most people when flatpicking. I found myself to be better off using the same or similar technique when picking as when strumming. It provides more power and volume. It makes switching between backup and lead much smoother and easier. The downside is it takes quite a bit of practice to develop the control to hit the right strings especially when playing faster.

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  12. #10
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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    both Sam Bush and Adam Steffey come to mind.

    Have these players ever used a pick guard?

    Playing with or without one calls for different techniques. E.g., if you have small like hands (like me) planting on the top (or even just touching it) usually is a bad idea as your pick will dip too low for comfort. Steffey's technique seems a bit quirky with the pinky curled in below the other fingers. He seems to have large hands, explaining, the amount of wear on the top of his axe. With Bush you will note a lot of movement in his forearm, owing, I believe, to an accident that made his wrist stiffen. On early YT videos, like One Tin Soldier with the BG Alliance, his technique is perfectly standard or even exemplary.

    The standard technique on a guard is brushing across it, using it as a tactile reference rather than support.

    Check out Stangeland's survey on mandozine.com

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    I can only use my imagination when thinking about these things because in experience I canít re-create what others do, I only know that I do not generally plant solidly anywhere, or brush the top in any way. I brush the fleshy part of my hand behind the bridge when I play. I canít just float without any reference, touching nothing. I canít plant a pinky on the top. Yet I know many other players do these things and seem to get along fine, so I fail to see the problem unless they believe their method is holding them back. A solid plant anywhere would restrict my own style, and a float without any reference would have me lost.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    There are suggested/recommended techniques for everything including playing posture, neck angle, pick grip, etc. It is generally recommended to NOT plant any fingers on the instrument since it limits range of motion, pick angle, speed and more.

    For every recommended technique you can find one or more professional exceptions that are (incorrectly) held up as "proving the rule is wrong."

    What they prove is that they are exceptional players capable of sounding great despite an unconventional style or technique.

    Most of us are not exceptional (think about what "exception" actually means!) just like we can't all be above average....

    We mere mortal mando pickers are better served by trying to learn the standard accepted and encouraged techniques.

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    There's a YouTube video where Chris Thile argues that keeping your fist in a ball is better energy management - I think he's right, so I try and do that. But old habits die hard...


    https://youtu.be/IdhVC0DzfFY

    There's the video. Hope you enjoy.
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    Default Re: Anchor a finger on the pit guard or not?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan in NH View Post
    This last weekend at the jam camp I noticed that when playing double stops I would often anchor my pinky or ring finger, often both, on the pic guard as I was strumming.

    Is this a common technique? Is it something that’s considered helpful, or something that I should avoid?
    I routinely "float" my RH ring and pinky over the pickguard, barely touching it, but touching it enough to guide my pick fingers for making pick depth and pick angle changes. For me it's pretty important to have some standard by which to judge where on the pick I'm hitting the strings, before I hit them, so the pick guard -- or as it's known in some circles, the finger rest -- makes a good way to do that.

    I use an armrest too, and I also play 5-string banjo, so I'm used to having my RH ring and pinky straight out. And btw, I also use armrests and finger rests on all of my main playing banjos.

    I avoid any RH contact with the bridge, either accidentally or for muting. But I use movable (barre, closed) chords most of the time so I do almost all my muting there.

    It's worth noting that an armrest and a pick guard both raise the fingers higher, away from the strings, which makes a big difference in posture and where you may put your RH fingers. And, the size of the flat pick also determines where the fingers and hand need to be in relation to the strings. Different posture and technique occurs with all of these accessories. Also, for those of us dealing with arthritis or other joint issues in the hands, some hand postures may be a requirement in order to be able to play at all.
    Last edited by dhergert; Sep-14-2022 at 2:23pm.
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