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Carl23

1 finger 2 frets 4 strings

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A common thing I’ve heard for mandolin is to use the “one finger two frets” rule, where each finger is responsible for two frets.

If each finger is responsible for 2 frets, then any 2 fingers have 4 possible positions.

It looks something like this:

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The first combo (adjacent frets) is a ½ step or Minor 2nd.

The second and fourth combos are a whole step or Major 2nd

The third combo is a bit of a reach for two fingers, but it represents an augmented 2nd (more on that later) or a Minor 3rd.

The image is numbered for the first and second fingers, but the concept can be applied to any combination of fingers.

Staying with the idea of 1 finger and 2 frets, the above graphic represents all of the “reaches” between two adjacent fingers.

The following exercises are based around the mechanics your fingers while playing these, and other, intervals and moving them up and down the strings. This will, theoretically, give you many of the leap combinations you would use in melodic work.


The diagrams below do not have fret numbers, the idea is that you can pick a fret for your first finger, then run the exercise. The scale or key is not important, just the physical workout.
I usually start with my first finger on the G string on the 7th fret (sounds a ‘D’). I start up there because the frets are closer together, making the Augmented 2nd stretch much easier.



Basic “up and down”

Using the combinations above starting, alternate fingers going up and down the strings as follows

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The first diagram will work something like this…

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then this
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(read blue left to right, green right to left)

Tab and notation would look like this:

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You can also revers the fingering, which would look like this:
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This should give you an idea of how it works. From now on I will only show the fret diagrams without the notation. Again, the exact note/fret does not matter.


Exercises

First Set: adjacent fingers

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Repeat as often and at whatever speed is comfortable. Slowly increase speed over time.

Notice that the middle two diagrams are playing the same interval (Major Second). This will make a difference later on when we start making combinations!

Replace 1 and 2 in the diagram above with 2 and 3, then 3 and 4. This will give each finger a nice stretch.

Intervals covered: Minor Second, Major Second, and Augmented Second / Minor Third



Second Set: alternate fingers
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Same as above, start with either finger, move up and down the strings.
Replace 1 and 3 in the diagram above with 2 and 4 to complete the set.
Intervals covered: minor third, major third, and “augmented third” / Perfect fourth.



Third Set: outside fingers

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Again, start with either finger, move up and down the strings.
Intervals covered: Perfect fourth, Augmented fourth / Diminished Fifth / Tritone / diabolus in musica, Perfect Fifth.



From here you can start combining any two intervals:

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Earlier, when I mentioned playing the same interval in two positions, this is where I was going.

The first and second diagrams involve a Major Second between the fingers. But as you see, it leads to different possible movements when switching strings!

One thing I like about this set is that in the first two cases, one (and only one) of the fingers changes frets between strings. It’s like a little left to right strength training for those tiny muscles!

The last diagram moves both at once for that extra workout!



Try alternating any 2 intervals from what has been presented so far. Mix fingers as well as intervals



Here’s the last one:

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The first diagram should look familiar, it contains all 4 combinations from the beginning of this post.

In each diagram I started with a different interval, rotating the pattern across the strings.

This same concept can be applied to all of the above finger combinations: 1/2; 2/3; 3/4; 1/3; 2/4; 1/4

Now that is a workout!



The attachments at the end of this entry contains a non-exhaustive, pedantic list of combinations. 75 combinations to be precise.

If my math is correct there are over 575 possible combinations of what is described so far… and there are more applications!

(whew)


If there are any ideas or combinations that you would like mapped out, let me know and I’ll add it to this entry.



So,
clearly no one in their right mind would try to play all of these combinations. But if you cover the examples explicitly presented here, you will be in very good shape!

Another option would be in trouble shooting real music. If you find a passage that you are struggling with due to finger combinations / stretching issues, try some of these concepts to create your own exercise!



One last thing for the truly masochistic:
So far I have presented this as a up and down kind of exercise, so in terms of string names it is always GDAE then EADG (up or down). There are no reasons not to mix up the string order as well!
DGEA, AGED…
If you use each string only once per cycle, that would be 24 more combinations to add to the mix (making nearly 14,000 combinations!)
And that is the danger of using math to write music exercises.


Hope you had fun!
(and found at least something useful)


Stretch and Reach Combinations:

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Comments

  1. Bill McCall's Avatar
    Interesting. Are you familiar with Mike Marshall’s “Fingerbusters” book?
  2. Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Interesting, Carl. Good work! Thanks for sharing.
  3. Carl23's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall
    Interesting. Are you familiar with Mike Marshall’s “Fingerbusters” book?
    Only that it was mentioned in a post.

    Given the obvious mathematical consequences of the "1 finger 2 frets" rule, it is not surprising that people come up variations on the same thing.

    In the drum-set world there are the same issues. The application tends to be the only real difference between books; but the application is usually the thing!

    I'm expecting similarities with the FFcP techniques when I talk about tetra-chords. I have only a passing experience with FFcP but what I saw had obvious applications in tetra-chord applications for Mandolin.

    Interesting journey.
    C
  4. Carl23's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter
    Interesting, Carl. Good work! Thanks for sharing.
    You are most welcome!

    C
  5. TimB989's Avatar
    I used some of these exercises to kick off my practice tonight. I’ve downloaded the PDFs for future sessions too. Thanks!
    Updated Mar-24-2019 at 5:09am by TimB989