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Thread: Playing Fifths - LH Fingering

  1. #1

    Question Playing Fifths - LH Fingering

    Hi all! First time poster, long time lurker here at the Cafe. I picked up the mandolin a couple weeks ago after a long break of not playing and have started learning/re-learning some BG tunes. One issue I'm finding is playing melodies that contain intervals of a fifth (fretted, not on open strings). I have large fingers and find it difficult to squeeze the pointer & middle or middle & ring fingers on the same fret on adjacent courses of strings. I've experimented with using one finger to cover both courses and am finding that can be a quicker and easier option, but then I struggle with having to roll on/off one of the frets if the melody bounces between the fretted note and another lower fretted note. For example, if the melody goes from 2nd fret G string, to 2nd fret D string, to 1st fret D string, to 2nd fret D string. Rolling my middle finger on and off the D string seems a bit clunky. I'm curious as to how you all approach playing fifths and if conventional mandolin technique favors one option over the other?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Playing Fifths - LH Fingering

    The "same finger" approach is really the only way to cleanly play those adjacent fifths. It just takes practice to do it smoothly, especially with fingers other than the index.
    Mitch Russell

  3. #3
    Registered User Rickker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing Fifths - LH Fingering

    I have struggled with the same issue for years. I have just tried the example you have given and this is what works best for me: Bar the G and D strings at the second fret with the 2nd finger and have the the first finger pressing down the D# note at the first fret. Play the A and E notes that are barred by the second finger, then lift the bar (or is it barre?) to play the D# that is already fretted, then put the bar back down. It's like fingering a 3-string chord, but a weird shape. Hope I have explained it clearly. Anyway, that sequence works for me.

    Of course, playing consecutive 5th notes up the fingerboard is much easier. For example, in the key of G, you can be holding down the G and B doublestop (5th fret, 3rd string and 2nd fret, second string) and when it comes to playing the 5th (5th fret, 2nd string), you just plunk down the pinky, which is small enough even for large hand to do this comfortably.

    An example of the issue of consecutive 5ths at the second fret is found in most arrangements of "Temperance Reel".

    ....Rickker

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