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Fingerpicking with permanently damaged index finger?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by 2fingers, Jul 15, 2017.

  1. 2fingers

    2fingers TDPRI Member

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    Hi all,

    I have a quick question. I have been learning some (very) basic slide guitar techniques over the last 11 months. I'm new to guitar but picked up open E blues rather quickly. The last experience with music theory I had was in 6th grade (I'm 37 years old now) - and that was trombone, so it was just bass clef. Since then the years have gone by and I've completely forgotten basic music theory, HOWEVER, I have a knack for figuring things out. Here's my problem:

    I can "see" where the notes are on the open E blues scale, but I have a picking hand problem and cannot seem to pluck the strings even close to as fast as I'd like, so I end up skipping notes (ack!)... A few years ago I was wrapping a handle on a Bola knife (practically a machete in size) with some paracord and (don't ask how) I managed to permanently sever the tendon in the topmost joint in my right hand index finger, so I've been learning fingerstyle but I pretty much just leave my index finger straight (I cannot bend the tip) and instead play with just my middle and ring fingers. My pinky is VERY weak and it actually becomes painful rather quickly when I try to use it for the higher strings. My thumb pretty much rests on the low E, muting it and anchoring so I have some consistent hand placement.

    Does anyone out there know about permanent loss of a tendon in the tip of the right hand index finger and how to work around this safely? Have there been successful guitarists who play well with a permanently damaged (or missing) index finger on their fingerpicking hand? I want to progress badly with my picking hand, but it's frustrating without some experiienced advice. Now you fellas (and gals) know where my profile name eminates from.. :p

    Peace, dudes! Any help or insight you can offer would be immensely appreciated! I'm not sure where else to turn to for solid advice...
     
  2. 2fingers

    2fingers TDPRI Member

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    I forgot to add that I am left-handed and learning to play guitar "righty". I play golf right-handed, so not a big deal. This injury caused me to quit the piano and pick up a guitar (which I've always wanted to excel at anyway). Since I was new to the guitar, I had a choice, solid picking hand or solid fretting hand (when I finally break out of slide playing). I chose the latter...
     
  3. codamedia

    codamedia Poster Extraordinaire

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    There are all kinds of players that overcame finger injury/damage. If your index finger on the right hand can't be used... don't use it... that still leaves the thumb/middle/ring and even the pinky if you are inclined to develop it.

    Merle Travis is one of the grandfathers of fingerpicking and he did so with the thumb and one finger... yes, he used his index, but it could have just as easily been the middle.

    Fretting hand.... Django Rheinhardt was one of the greatest, he lost use of his ring/pinky in a fire and played with just his index/middle. Tony Iommi lost his finger tips in a sawmill.... he found a way to make it work!

    Don't let a finger injury discourage you - you can do it!
     
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  4. 2fingers

    2fingers TDPRI Member

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    Thank you! THIS is exactly what I'm looking for. People I can observe and learn technique from. If anybody else knows a few others, it would be most helpful!
     
  5. Tomm Williams

    Tomm Williams Tele-Afflicted

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    When I was a child I was playing with a rabbit we had when it decided my index finger ( on my future picking hand) looked like a carrot and began trying to rip it off my hand!!!
    That finger is about 1/2" shorter than the rest with a nail that cannot be cut back to look "normal". I've simply learned through LOTS of repitition to fingerpick as best I can and I do pretty well.
     
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  6. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Try raising the guitar and having a straighter angle with your wrist over the bridge rather than having the hand coming over the strings. Might help.
     
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  7. dougstrum

    dougstrum Friend of Leo's

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    I used to finger pick a lot, but my index finger has been missing
    for the last 16yrs. My middle finger has taken over for index.
    Used to palm the pick and do thumb and index, but after losing
    my index I'd drop the pick 1/2 the time! Now I just play finger or
    pick.

    Try getting your thumb, middle and ring fingers going, that'd
    give plenty to work with:)
     
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  8. 2fingers

    2fingers TDPRI Member

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    I guess I really need to work on using my thumb and the coordination that goes along with it. So, VntageSG, I take it you mean my wrist over the bridge would be an anchor point? I'm juuuust barely tinkering with resting my palm over the bridge to dampen. I actually dampen my strings with my slide hand (thus far). Changing the angle at which my picking hand is in relation to the strings might indeed help. I hadn't thought of that yet.

    I tend to improvise a bit with notes, for the record. I assume this is not faux pas? I just recall Sonny Landreth saying (paraphrasing here) that the individual note was what he focuses on. I suppose everyone who wants to truly learn a song inside-out does just that. Of course, he's Sonny Landreth :lol:
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
  9. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Yup, try and keep your arm/wrist in a straightish line in line with the strings. It might feel weird as all get out at first. I use it a lot for what I'd guess would class as 'clawhammer' bass playing. I'm a fairly recent convert to a plectrum. When I lost the tip of my ring finger[1] on my right hand, and separated the hand internally, I had to change my hand angle quite considerably and found that worked. Whatever works for you is right.

    [1] More 'hanging by a strip of flesh'. Sewn back on. I guess in an odd way, I was 'lucky' as the tendons weren't cut through.
     
  10. prebend

    prebend Tele-Holic

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    Jerry Reed is one of the best finger pickers ever. He would tuck in his index finger and pick with just thumb, middle and ring.
     
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  11. ukepicker

    ukepicker Tele-Afflicted

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    Holy Cow!!! You're not kidding. I never noticed that about his index finger before.



    2fingers - you can do it, it just takes time to develop.

    My favorite Chet Atkins story goes something like this:
    Fan: "I'd give anything to play guitar like you, Chet!"
    Chet: "Would you give 60 years of 12 hour days?"
     
  12. Widerange Hum

    Widerange Hum Tele-Holic

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    I love the knowledge/experience level on this forum. OP puts up a hyper-specific question and several people actually have totally applicable knowledge and experience. I raise my coffee cup to all of you gentlemen.

    I play despite severe hearing impairment and some nerve damage that makes it difficult. Never let anyone tell you there's only one way to play. Glad to see you're working through your difficulty.
     
  13. ukepicker

    ukepicker Tele-Afflicted

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    I believe that the limitations and obstacles that we overcome or have to compensate for are often the very things that make us unique as players. And I also believe that those things are often translated to the listener somehow.

    Lots of guitar players have 2 perfect hands and 10 perfect fingers. And many of them run around trying to sound like each other.

    Use your nine to do what you do.
     
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  14. 2fingers

    2fingers TDPRI Member

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    Thanks to you all for your veteran advice :cool: I never knew that about Jerry Reed, prebend and ukepicker! Thanks for posting the video - I do not really know how to read tablature yet (though I've tried to for some 3-string CBG stuff in the past. I can do a lot better at this stage slowing down videos and watching hands, I think. Also, if I know a person is in, say open D or E, I can hear the note and I kind of know where that note is in relation to where the fretting hand is on the neck.

    Well, it looks like I have a lot of practicing to do and you've all given me some inspiration to build from! I keep a guitar in the garage pretty much 24/7 and I've been playing every chance I get between doing stuff out in the yard for the last 11 months. I'm SO glad to hear that it's not wasted effort. I have found the expressiveness of guitar (especially blues) to be a perfect outlet for me. I find that I can get more satisfaction out of abusing 6 strings than I couold taking a sledgehammer to an endless field of concrete lol!

    Widerange Hum: I have been around reading a lot longer than I've had an account and I just KNEW this was the right group to pose my question to ;) Indeed, there is MUCH knowledge and experience to be gleaned here, and I'm grateful to be part of this community!
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
  15. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    What kind of music do you like? I play country finger style using my thumb and my ring finger with my index finger for flourishes and to fill in chords. I use my pinkie where I need to reach an extra note on the high E string. I could probably use my middle finger in place of my index finger if I had to. What's important is that you're playing and enjoying it. You can play two finger, three finger, or arpeggio style chords with your thumb, or some purely personal combination of all of them. No one but a guitar teacher cares about your technique. Keep playing and when you get frustrated, play some more.
     
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  16. 2fingers

    2fingers TDPRI Member

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    I listen to a little bit of everything but what I'm focused on learning to play is Blues with a tinge of Texas "Red Dirt" style country/blues (hard to define people like Ray Wylie Hubbard in just one category or the other - think "Snake Farm") I'm listening to the blues greats, both pioneering and conventional. Everything from Albert King to Duane Allman to John Mayer and Joe Bonamassa. Sonny Landreth is great for slide tips and I love his music, but he's a slightly different flavor. In my mind, I'd almost have to BE from Louisiana to play his Zydeco-spiced style. I do more muting with my slide hand, whereas he does most of his dampening with his picking hand. Of course, he's lightning fast too lol.

    After 11 months of starting as a complete n00b, I'd have to say I can tear up most 12-bar and 8-bar stuff - but I mostly improvise and play more like I'm accompanying what I listen to rather than playing note-for-note what I'm hearing. I can keep up with AC/DC's "Live Wire" and a few Led Zepplin tracks ("You Shook Me", "I Can't Quit You Baby", etc. - although those are taken from predecessors, obviously) and I'm getting decent with "Mustang Sally". But I've learned basic open E pretty well up and down the neck. I don't really change tunings with the music, but rather change where I'm playing on the neck. And I haven't really gotten into using a capo, though I have one. That should give you a general idea of where I'm at. I have every intention of finding some local guys to practice with, the end goal being gigging, and from there-- who knows?
     
  17. 2fingers

    2fingers TDPRI Member

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    Until I can get my Squier Tele purchase ironed out, I'm playing my (actual) relic ES-345 copy (Japanese with a replaced neck that came from a Guitorgan (sans segmented frets). I DID try to position my hand as VintageSG suggested, but it will feel much easier on my Tele when I get one that's of satisfactory quality. I mean, I have pretty long arms but it's an AWFUL wide body on this ES-345 clone... I am practically cramming it into my armpit to get my wrist on the strings leading to the trapeze
     
  18. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

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    I'm a long-time fingerpicker, and my middle finger is the one that does most of the heavy lifting, so I can envisage getting by without using the index. Most classical guitarists don't use their picking-hand pinky, and I personally wouldn't either, thumb and two finger has always been enough for most of what I do - folk and country blues, including slide.
     
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  19. ebb soul

    ebb soul Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have a similar ingury, had the doctor set that finger into a curve, so it is permenantly 'curled'.
    I guess I can fingerpick with it a little. I have to move my overall hand up and down to get action from that finger.
    So I guess what I'm suggesting is some sort of splint to shape that finger into a usable position.
    I had only just gotten good at fingerpicking when the injury occurred.
    I could be fixed for big $ by removing and splicing in a tendon from the forearm and splicing it in.
     
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  20. LKB3rd

    LKB3rd Friend of Leo's

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    Thumb and two fingers is pretty common in non-classical fingerstyle, with some notable players using primarily thumb(pick), middle, and ring, such as Brent Mason. He chooses to do it that way even with a healthy index finger. He was a Jerry Reed fan when learning so I guess he got it from him.
     
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