#1

Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Sun Feb 22, 2015 9:01 am
by blitzer • 6 Posts

Hello everyone, I've recently had some time to "get back into" guitar which I'm enjoying. However, while watching a number of Mr. Brown's videos, I've become very paranoid about how correct or acceptable my left and finger angles are when fretting a note (and I'm talking about fretting while doing scales or other non-barre chord style notes / shapes).

I was stopping myself mid scale / song and then jamming my fingers around to get a nice groove that I could look at to see my impact angles, tried to take picture of that, and realized my camera is terrible. So instead I took a bad picture of my index finger and added in some axis lines to show what I'm doing.

I've heard over and over "tip of the finger", but trying to actually get a good look at someone's fingertip while they play is pretty difficult (especially on video), so I'm interested to see if what I'm doing is considered "acceptable" or at least decent since I'm not really sure how much deviation from perfect still is o.k (well, I suppose you can argue that any deviation is not acceptable, but I think you know what I'm getting at) .

Any thoughts are appreciated, thank you for reading.

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#2

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Sun Feb 22, 2015 1:17 pm
by musicalhair • 9 Posts

are we looking at the pad of the finger? Is your finger nail in back of what we're seeing?

The line the string makes on our finger tips is something I obsessed over a lot, and still there would be pieces I would play where my hand would pivot around like Jackie Chan through a room full of falling plates, babies that need him to burp them, and star-throwing gangster-ninjas. I had to really pin down when I was pivoting it around for bad reasons and focus on getting it right, retraining the bad habit when I caught it happening.

This is what helps me. First thing I do is check my finger nail length. I can't play properly if my finger nails are too long and interfering with my finger's connection to the fingerboard. I straighten out each finger, and I push it into a table top, so that the finger comes down perpendicular to the table. If I hit nail, I clip. If the flesh of my finger tip compresses and I bottom out on bone (or cartilage, for the human-shark hybrids secretly among us) without nail interrupting, then that finger is good to go-- for now.

Now, when my fingers are all on a string like in a chromatic scale, the knuckles in the middle of the finger are further apart from each other than the fingertips. I've been told it is just a matter of each individual's bone structure. What this means for me is the outside of the nail on my pinky and index fingers need to be checked more so than the top of the nail, or the in side. So, I clip there if it needs to be clipped.

My point is that the nail will interfere with the how your finger wants to play on the fingerboard. (The exercise below I got from a column written by Robert Fripp for Guitar Player Magazine, back when floppy disks were put on turntables, before they ever went into now-outdated computers.)

Now, the warm-up I always did before playing (and before seeing Pebber's video that starts out with 2 minutes of picking on each open string) was to place my fingers on the 3rd string from 5th-8th fret on acoustic or 7th-10th fret on electric, and just touch the string barely with each finger. I'd gradually establish the line of contact that the string would make across my finger tip, then gently raise the fingers up and moving them to the 4th string, never actually taking my fingers off a string. Imagine when your tires are stuck in a rut on the road, and you go up over one rut to the an adjacent one, that would be analogous to going from the 3rd to 4th strings and back. I'll go back and forth really just assessing my contact and if I like where my finger and making sure I don't unintentionally mute an adjacent string. As I do this, I'll dig in more and more.

I'll also pluck the strings, and I look for that border between fret buzz and clean note which occurs at like the lightest of touch on the fingerboard and the lightest of plucking. Then I'd match the pressure on the finger board to the attack on the string with the pick (or p-i-m-a). That part for me is about establishing the balance between the hands. That also is a little beyond what you're asking about, but it was always a big point of the exercise for me. The exercise had 3 main points: establishing the rut in my finger that would be exactly where my finger would fret a note, establish the balance between the hands for light touch buzz-free effortless playing, and cultivate economy of movement in my fretting hand by not raising the fingers up anymore than needed (which I didn't go into above, but it involves playing e-g, a-c over and over 7th fret to 10th fret).

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#3

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Sun Feb 22, 2015 10:48 pm
by blitzer • 6 Posts

Hello musicalhair,

are we looking at the pad of the finger? Is your finger nail in back of what we're seeing?
-> I've added a second picture that should help explain what you are looking at (I guess it could be confusing if you didn't take the picture). The purpose of it was to demonstrate that when I look for "lines" on my finger(s) where I'm actually contacting the strings (on scale runs / not chord/barre shapes), I'm usually at or between Ideal / The Yellow Line. I was trying to establish how far away from Ideal is still acceptable/how much variance is experienced by other players.

At any rate, thank you for the practice outline.

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#4

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:27 am
by Farelli • 187 Posts

My goal when working on my fretting technique, since I started paying attention to it, is to fret every note on the very tip of my fingers, indicated by the green line in your image and as musicalhair expressed.

However, also as he expressed, my bone structure simply does not allow that on frets 5 through 8 of an electric guitar; the frets are too far apart for me there even though I have average-sized hands. As a result I have to spread my first and fourth fingers so far away from the hand that each of these is rocked slightly toward the outside. (I am still sloppy with my fourth finger as well, so it sneaks away from the tip toward the pad often and I have to focus on correcting it.)

On higher frets it becomes much easier to play right on the tips, of course.


Last edited Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:27 am | Scroll up

#5

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:09 pm
by musicalhair • 9 Posts

here are two pictures, I won't say either are perfect, but they're typical for what I'm talking about that I'm doing. It might not be clear, but my wrist isn't as straight as I'd like it to be, I didn't really take my time and find the perfect spot on the finger tip, I just kinda played around pressing my fingers into the strings, and let the rut in the fingers happen.

Thanks for the clarification and the second picture, I should've gotten it with the first one though. So, on guitar one finger per fret is ideal for the fingers. The frets where the spacing between them matches your fingers/hand size is also idea. You want your fingers rounded, not flat, in ideal situations. Most common scale fingerings should be pretty idea. But, something as common as an open G chord has my pinky looking like a contortionist. You have to just take your time, establish your "finger embouchure" and if you catch yourself varying away from proper technique, ask yourself why. I used to play a Sonata in C major by Diabelli, not exactly an impressive piece to play or anything, but it exposed a bunch of bad habits and my hand did all sorts of stupid things though a particular succession of chords. I didn't really pay it any mind till my teacher at the time caught it and called me out on it. I had to just slow down and play it right, eliminating the bad habit.

Oh, I play lefty.

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#6

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Feb 24, 2015 1:49 am
by Farelli • 187 Posts

Yep, that's pretty much exactly what I was talking about as well. The first and fourth fingers end up having a different angle due to the stretch necessary at the lower frets.

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#7

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Feb 24, 2015 4:53 am
by blitzer • 6 Posts

musicalhair, Farelli:

Thank you for the additional clarification. Just curious, how do either of you handle a stretch of something like 1-5 (I end up fairly rotated on finger 1/4, and tend end up closer to my finger pads)? Just live with it?

-side note: sigh...my pinky just does not want to get with the angle program...


Last edited Tue Feb 24, 2015 5:03 am | Scroll up

#8

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:52 am
by musicalhair • 9 Posts

cool, Farelli. I feel like we're on similar journeys here. Blitzer, may I ask how long you've been playing? It doesn't actually matter. I recently discovered technical things I took for granted and then let slip away, or talked my self back away from, are things I need to double-down on in my current practice. For me the big thing is remembering the amount of patience I had when I was first learning, to do the work. The obstacle I'm facing right now is to keep my wrist straight when I'm on the 6th or 5th strings. When I focus on it I can do it right, so it's just going to be a matter of putting that work in.

I will try to put up a video of my own showing the exercise I do that I stole from a Robert Fripp Guitar Player Magazine column, and the segue (hmmm, so THAT'S how it's spelt) from it into another exercise, but that might take some time.

But much better than that are these two videos of Pebber's that I found. I think there will be more that show it too, and if I find them I'll put them up too.

opps, it turns out I can't share a link. The one video I'm taking about is called "Technique - THUMB BEHIND NECK"
and
the second one is called "LEFT HAND Technique Basics - start here!"

So, the thing I would do is what ever position you start at, like I say 7th fret- 10th fret on electric, 5th-8th on acoustic for me, make sure your hand is happy and can do it. I start on 3rd and 4th strings, thinking they are most like the other strings. to me 1st and 6th strings are least like the other strings. So I start on 3rd and 4th, just establishing where my fingertips contact the string and gently pushing them down-- cultivating light touch, plucking just hard enough to get a clean note. But, I have to stress that this exercise is as much or more my obsession than anything anyone else might find useful. I start out light, "triple pianissimo" and progress towards as triple forte as I can, which requires heavier than light touch-- but finding the balance every day is like to me calibrating the balance between my fingers. But start higher if you have to, 9th-12th if you want. Just establish what is ideal for you. Once you are practicing there and establishing the right way, move it down a fret, then again up a fret. Eventually you'll find how to do at the first fret. But warm up in that comfort zone and when you are warmed up you'll stretch more easily.

But I'm pretty certain if there's a question on guitar, Pebber's answered it on YouTube already, we just have to find it, or pony up and take on-line lessons or find him in real life and take lessons that way. As he says in the videos I shared above, this takes years and constant maintenance (the later part kinda just dawned on me)/


Last edited Tue Feb 24, 2015 11:02 am | Scroll up

#9

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Wed Feb 25, 2015 8:06 am
by blitzer • 6 Posts

musicalhair,

Thanks again for the info, I'll make sure to watch those two videos you spoke of.

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#10

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Thu Feb 26, 2015 2:14 am
by Farelli • 187 Posts

Those are some great tips, musicalhair, particularly about starting on the third and fourth strings. The position of the fretting hand on the first and sixth strings is significantly different than the middle strings.

Regarding the stretch, blitzer, that will take time. I have average-length fingers and my hands are also mid-sized, so stretches on the guitar can be challenging. However, I can stretch in first position on the sixth string (F) to the sixth fret (Bb). That one is very tough, and it is aided by placing the second and third fingers on G and Ab. It's also not a stretch I'd recommend from the start because you could strain your hand.

When I was a kid we had a piano, and I remember learning "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin. Everyone has heard that song whether they realize it or not. It has a bass riff that drives the whole piece, and it is octaves played all over the place on the low end. I was probably 12 or 13 at the time and I couldn't do it. I worked on that for days until I could use my thumb and fourth finger to reach the octave notes cleanly. That work ended up serving me well later on the piano because I could do any lesser stretch very easily.

A couple of months ago I learned the song "Still Into You" by Paramore on the guitar. The verses play a cool little riff that they play using the sixth through fourth strings all in first position. I prefer to play it on the fifth and sixth strings moving up the neck. More movement, makes it more difficult to play, and also makes it a stretching exercise. You play F, A, C, E, D in an upbeat tempo and I love doing it that way.

I've also been doing stretches with the scales. In some positions you need to play a 1-2-4 finger across five frets, and that stretch is tough at the lower end. I've found that strengthening the fourth finger as well as improving the flexibility between the first and second is what opens up my hand and enables the larger stretches.

This is something that takes a long time, though. If you try any of these stretches and it hurts your hand, stop and take a break. You can injure your hand to the point that it's impossible to play the guitar for an extended period of time.

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#11

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Feb 27, 2015 5:20 am
by blitzer • 6 Posts

Hey Farelli,
" "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin"
-> looks it up....Yup, you are right.

Your points on stretching / making stretches are well taken, I tried to take some pictures of where I currently am on a "regular" stretch (1-5 fret low E with 1,2,3 fingers). "Normal" would be if I stop myself when I'm actually playing, my wrist seems okay, but you can see the 1st and 4th fingers really are about half way in-between the finger tips and finger pads, and my 3rd finger is a bit too far over the top...so not so great. "Wrist way out" shows much better finger angles, but (and this may not show well on the photo) my wrist is waaaaay out there, a "super crane". Have not figured out how to get the angle without the wrist break.

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#12

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Feb 27, 2015 7:18 am
by uderoche (deleted)
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In the photo that contains your hands, the picture to the left looks fine ACCEPT for the 4th finger which needs to be more curved. This takes time. I would suggest ladder and spider exercises SLOWLY with extreme focus paid to the 4th finger and the curvature of all the fingers.

One summer Pebber made me do ladder exercises with fingers 2 and 4 then 3 and 4 every day for about 4 hours. That's on top of everything else I needed to practice. After 3-4 months of that, I got results.

Stick with it! You can make it happen.


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#13

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Feb 27, 2015 10:49 am
by Farelli • 187 Posts

Blitzer, I'm guessing because all I can see is your hand, but I'd bet the way to get your hand higher without the extreme wrist angle is to raise the head of the guitar closer to your shoulder.

I practice a lot while sitting and I've found it easiest to have better form when holding the guitar in classical pose. It really takes the strain off your wrist because you can hold it at a much more natural angle.

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#14

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Sat Feb 28, 2015 12:53 am
by pebberbrown • 878 Posts

This is a GREAT thread! Glad to see you guys discussing this in great detail.
Again - all of this is already up on my website for FREE.

heres the page:

http://www.pbguitarstudio.com/pdf_files/..._With_Photo.pdf

http://www.pbguitarstudio.com/pdf_files/..._With_Photo.pdf

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#15

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Sat Feb 28, 2015 11:55 pm
by blitzer • 6 Posts

Thanks again for the responses, I decided to involve a mirror and take some pictures that clearly show my wrist.
1) Shows the best fingers but the most crane.
2) Shows how I would normally play (less crane, but worse finger angles).
3) Is my attempt at the hand angle Pebber Brown is using in "How to Practice Scales" (I tried to post the link but I got "Your posts contains to many links. A maximum of 0 links is allowed", it may not be obvious, but my 1st finger is touching the fret wire with no pressure and is touching almost every string. My 4th finger also has no pressure, and I'm finding it very difficult to actually reach the frets.

uderoche:
"Stick with it! You can make it happen."
-> Thank you for the encouragement.

"for the 4th finger which needs to be more curved"
-> To my eye, the 1st and 4th fingers look more/less identical to me, what is the difference between the two? Am I just not "seeing it"?

Farelli:
-> I took a picture of where my guitar likes to "settle" when standing (I've tried to get it higher but that is about as high as it is willing to go in terms of angle). I also actually sit in the classical position as well, I went back to it after a shoulder surgery and I just could not play in the "rock" position anymore without shoulder pain.

pebberbrown:
"heres the page"
-> Thank you for pointing this out.

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#16

RE: Question on Fretting Hand Finger Angles

in PB Guitarstudio FORUMS Fri Jul 03, 2015 4:43 am
by Farelli • 187 Posts

I just read this thread again because I found it interesting and wanted to review it, and in looking at your last pictures, blitzer, it occurred to me to ask you if you can pull the guitar neck closer to your body.

It looks like you have it a little bit farther out than I would like it, and that creates the need for your craned wrist angle to get good finger position.

This is another reason for the classical pose when sitting. You can twist the guitar toward your fretting hand so that the neck is not such a stretch for your arm.

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