Training fingers to stay close to fretboard?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by mrcrappypantson, Sep 5, 2008.

  1. mrcrappypantson

    mrcrappypantson Tele-Meister

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    Hey guys. I searched but could find anything real useful. Is there a specific exercise I can use to keep my darn fingers closer to the fretboard? It's pretty much just my pinky that flies up and around. I've been playing for 15 years and have only just recently started to work on my technique and theory. Is it too late for me?!?! I've been squeezing one of those grip-master things but I'm not sure if it's doing anything. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. mrcrappypantson

    mrcrappypantson Tele-Meister

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  3. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

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    My legit teacher in college had me play right into a wall. Close enough that my knuckles could touch it. Worked well actually.
     
  4. Hucklebilly

    Hucklebilly Tele-Holic

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    My 2 cents...

    I've been working A LOT lately on relaxation and economy of motion. I've found the materials below very helpful in this regard:

    http://www.guitarprinciples.com/


    I've really had to retrain myself and break many old habits. Here's an exercise you might try (from a book listed on the website above):

    Rest your fingers 1-4 on the low E string, frets 3-6. Your fingers should just barely touch the string. Don't let them come off the string, or press the string down toward the fretboard. Now take your first finger and move it down to the 5th string 3rd fret. Rest it gently on the string without pressing it down. Do not let any of your other fingers tense up, rise off the strings of press them down. Now let the weight of your arm go through your first finger, gently pressing the 5th string down to the fretboard without tensing any other finger or raising or lower them. Repeat the process with fingers 2-4. Now try it again but move your fingers down to the D string.

    When I first tried this my fingers were twitching all over the place. Now after making this a warm up exercise for a month, I have much better finger independence and strength. Avoiding sympathetic tension is key!
     
  5. mrcrappypantson

    mrcrappypantson Tele-Meister

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    I will try this. Seems like it should help a great deal. Thanks.
     
  6. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Poster Extraordinaire

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    Frank Gambale told me that he practiced standing against a wall for at least an hour a day during the formative years of developing his sweep picking technique.

    Correcting bad habits is unfortunately proportionate to how long said habits have been allowed to fester. I was 'self-taught' for way too long to correct my, as I call it, "pinky on vacation" or "flyaway pinky" tendencies; by the time that I'd received proper instruction in this regard, the habit was too ingrained to break. Similarly, it seems to be quite difficult for many long time lifer guitarists who've pursued banjo much later in life to "properly" anchor to the drumhead with both the third and fourth fingers, as any vet bluegrass banjo player will recommend - particularly in the case of hybrid picking guitarists that naturally anchor with the pinky (*raises hand*). I know plenty of guitarists that feel that any sort of anchoring is problematic; I acknowledge that, but when it comes to technique, nuance, and style, my feeling is that one's limitations are as impactual to style as are one's strengths. In other words, ultimately one has to figure out what works and what doesn't on a personal level. Every great musician that I've ever come in contact with has had some sort of physical idiosyncrasy or another. That said, the earlier that folks are aware of "proper" techniques, the wider and less limiting is the playing field.

    Anyway, and tangents aside, I'm a big fan of attempting to nip handcuffing habits in the bud with young students. When I see the fretting hand working harder than it has to, I do ask students to stand up and play against the wall. Not surprisingly, they usually find this bizarre and humorous. I explain that it's not like standing in the corner wearing a dunce hat at school, and that it's simply pure physics.
     
  7. Strawfields

    Strawfields Tele-Holic

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    I've played with my thumb hooked over onto the bottom E for so long ( I play barres like that ) it makes it really difficult to keep all your fingers close..
    It's going to take a while to retrain them

    Thumb position and wrist angle are crucial.
     
  8. Flat357

    Flat357 Banned

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    When I play without my pinky , it tends to stay away from the board , and when I use it , it comes back in .
    Finger height from the fret board once i've removed a finger varies anything from a cm to over an inch .
    Guess i'm a bad habit player , but still play ok I guess .

    Take a look at Vai's fingers here .



    His pinky , and indeed his other fingers appear to do the same thing .
     
  9. mrcrappypantson

    mrcrappypantson Tele-Meister

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  10. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    I actually don't think the ratio between how long a person has had a habit is proportional to how long it takes to change it. There's a relationship of course but it's not proportional. A person can smoke for 40yrs but quit in a second when told bad news by a doctor for instance.

    What is proportional is the effectiveness of the methodology used to train a skill and the time needed to learn it. The more effective the methodology used the less time needed regardless of how long a person has been doing it 'wrong'.
     
  11. jazztele

    jazztele Poster Extraordinaire

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    take some classical guitar lessons. that's what ingrained "proper technique" for me.

    truth is, on the electric guitar, you can get away with a more individualized technique...so unless you want to do those frank gambale sweep picked arpeggios, worry more about the content of what you play then how you get there...if not--i'd try the wall thing...it sounds a bit sadistic, but it also sounds effective.
     
  12. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    I've got very good technique in terms of keeping my fingers close to the fretboard and what I remember doing years ago is simply playing a couple of scale exercises very, very slowly everyday for a few months. Don't worry about tempo. In fact play without tempo. This is a muscle training exercise not a musical exericise.

    I'd recommend playing something simple like this across all six strings:

    -1-/-2-/-3-/-4-/
    -1-/-2-/-3-/-4-/
    -1-/-2-/-3-/-4-/
    -1-/-2-/-3-/-4-/
    -1-/-2-/-3-/-4-/

    Start around the 5th fret or higher so you don't have to do too much finger stretching.

    Observe your fingers very carefully. The main thing is to go unbelievably slowly. The slower the better. If you do the exercise too quickly you won't be able to notice (feel and see) what you're doing and what you need to do differently.

    Again, don't worry about keeping a steady tempo. Your focus is on how you transition from one finger to the next not when. It's not a musical exercise, it's a muscle training exercise that will be applied to a musical situation once you have trained those little muscles to relax and respond to your command.
     
  13. Rocks

    Rocks Tele-Afflicted

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    WOW! I don't feel so alone now! I didn't realize there were so many other people doing battle with the wild pinky. If I could harness the power off my pinky movements when its not in use I could provide the whole neighborhood with electricity. It's like my pinky does a Joe Cocker impersination between hitting notes, but somehow always manages to hit the note right on time.
     
  14. jazztele

    jazztele Poster Extraordinaire

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    the other thing i can think of is buy a few wes montgomery CD's and ape his octave playing. that'll get the 'ol pinky in shape for sure...
     
  15. neocaster

    neocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I do 1-2-1-3-1-4-2-3-2-4-3-4 across 6 strings and it helps a lot. I have a helium-filled weak-ass pinkie.
     
  16. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    I anchor for guitar playing basically the same way I anchor to type. My right-hand anchor is the middle of my forearm against the upper front edge of the guitar. (Typing, both forearms anchor against the top edge of the desktop.) I keep my right wrist straight and let my fingers go up and down relative to the face of the guitar - sort of like typing, but grabbing to pluck. I often pluck with all five fingers, so using one of them as an anchor doesn't make sense.

    Sounds a lot like I'm self-taught, doesn't it?

    =O]
     
  17. Dean Gray

    Dean Gray Tele-Meister

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    Good advice here from lots of folks.

    What worked for me was the previous mentioned chromatic style exercises, or indeed any kind of scale pattern, played VERY slowly.

    The main thing to watch for (at least for me) was when playing an ascending pattern, leave every finger down once it has played it's note. In fact, leave them down until you actually need that finger for the next string. You don't have to hold it down with force, as it is not sounding it's note anymore, but for the sake of minimum effort and maximum efficiency, it makes sense to just leave the finger where it is. If for every note a finger plays, you first lower the finger to sound the note, and then lift the finger off the board, you are doing twice the work than if you leave it gently in place.

    I stole this from the bluegrass mandolin guys, and they spend countless hours working on this stuff.

    Good luck.
     
  18. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I like this chromatic thing:
    5-6-7-8
    4-5-6-7
    3-4-5-6
    2-3-4-5
    2-3-4-5
    1-2-3-4
    Then backwards.
     
  19. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Poster Extraordinaire

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    While I'd absolutely agree with you in theory, I can only offer that such has not been my reality, but it's not that big a deal. I've done the chromatic exercises and I've done the "playing against the wall" thing. Pinky has been part of the toolbox since jumpstreet, but it's still a wildman at best. As to anchoring (banjo-style), I've done the prescribed method of taping the third and fourth fingers together. I don't discount these methods, but what I do seems to be what I do. I don't believe that every human being is wired for "retraining", regardless of disciplines and best intentions.

    There's this ridiculously gifted kid whom I used to teach. He uses a plectrum a la' Eddie Van Halen - he grips with the thumb and middle finger. When he and I started getting into Travis and hybrid picking and the like, I suggested that he re-think his plectrum grip. Instead, he went on to develop a hybrid style that incorporates the ring and pinky fingers, and I've not seen anything quite like it. He absolutely does not incorporate his index finger into picking, and my first thought was, "My God, what if...". However, I'll say again that I feel that one's "weaknesses" are at least as big a player as to developing personal style as are one's "strengths". It's always a good idea to work toward disciplines that address one's weaknesses, but at some point, I think that one has to come to terms with one's personal physicalities and subsequent quirks, and exploit them like there's no tomorrow.
     
  20. octatonic

    octatonic Poster Extraordinaire

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    I do a bunch of quadratic exercises (1234 and variations) every day with a low bpm metronome (sub 80 beats a minute, playing 8th notes).
    Training the pinky seems to be the most difficult.
    Work on quadratic exercises that begin with the pinky:

    4321
    4312
    4213
    4231
    4123
    4132

    Then work on playing triplets with just 3 fingers:

    432
    431
    421
    423
    412
    413

    After two months you should be good to go.
     
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