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Thread: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

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    Registered User Christine Robins's Avatar
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    Default 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    I've got pretty short 4th fingers. When I use my 4th finger on the the 7th fret on the D or G strings, it's uncomfortable and even sometimes painful. I recently saw someone instead use his 3rd finger, shifting up temporarily. (A fiddler would call this "2nd position".) Do any of you routinely do this 3rd finger shift?

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Sorry, but there is no simple or categorical answer to your inquiry. A lots depends on all the notes that come before and after. In fact, the seventh fret on the G or D strings could, in principle, be played with ANY of the left-hand fingers, depending on the musical context!

    That said, if you're playing out of the root position, the pinky would normally be the finger to cover the 7th fret. Yes, it can be quite a stretch for small hands (I have those myself), but it can certainly be done with practice, or perhaps with a subtle shift of the palm position. This reach gets less uncomfortable over time. On the other hand, when playing in keys like C or F, the index finger often moves up to cover the third fret, in which case, the third finger, rather than the pinky, would tend to cover the 7th fret on the D or G strings. Again, it depends on the notes that come before and after.
    Last edited by sblock; Sep-28-2020 at 3:44pm.

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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Christine Robins View Post
    I've got pretty short 4th fingers. When I use my 4th finger on the the 7th fret on the D or G strings, it's uncomfortable and even sometimes painful. I recently saw someone instead use his 3rd finger, shifting up temporarily. (A fiddler would call this "2nd position".) Do any of you routinely do this 3rd finger shift?
    The pinky is short with a limited range of motion for most everyone. Something to try - can you reach the seventh fret with your pinky if your ring finger is on the fifth fret? If yes, then put your fifth finger on the fifth fret note when noting the seventh or eighth note with your pinky.

    I think of the pinky as not really a whole finger, but a leashed pet of the ring finger. I deploy the ring finger just below where I deploy the pinky. Gives strength and reach to the pinky.

    I don't usually shift for one note. If I were making a run up the scale from the seventh fret I would shift so I am grabbing that seventh fret with my index finger.
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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    ...

    If yes, then put your fifth finger on the fifth fret note when noting the seventh or eighth note with your pinky.
    Yow! Now why didn't I think of using my "fifth finger"?! (Sorry, couldn't resist smiling after I read that.)

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Yow! Now why didn't I think of using my "fifth finger"?! (Sorry, couldn't resist smiling after I read that.)
    Actually, years ago I was looking at some classical notation and did notice that there was a finger "5" notated above a C on the E string. I asked a classical player and it indicated a pinky stretched but maintaining first position. Kind of strange, but I suppose makes sense if you have big enough hands.

    On the other hand (no joke intended) I know of some excellent OT fiddlers who avoid using their pinkies on the mandolin equivalent of the 7th fretóB on the E string, etc.óand finger that note always with the third finger. There is nothing really wrong with doing it that way but since you have the finger IMHO I feel it is a shame to waste it.

    When I play fiddle, I love the unison double stop and use it often on all string combinations and use my pinky pretty often. That is a very common OT fiddle thing but I find I use it on mandolin since I am used to the left hand fiddle fingerings. It doesn't have the same effect on mandolin, though.
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Well ... If you hold the mandolin like the picture investigate holding your mandolin while playing it a bit higher and more centered instead of towards your right side. R/
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Experienced and expert players will sometimes use the out-of-position finger for convenience or tone, but avoiding the pinky is handicapping yourself. Lots of fingering hurts when learning or practicing new material -- still happens to me after a life in music. Discomfort should encourage you to be more accurate and use less effort.

    As to short pinkies, I have fairly long fingers but my pinky tip lines up with the last joint of my ring finger. The pinky is short and not very strong but nimble in some ways, as it has more independence than the ring finger. Use it, it gets easier. On a given tune you may choose a comfortable fingering that avoids it but as a long-term policy there is no value in avoiding the pinky, and lots in making use of it.
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Yow! (Sorry, couldn't resist smiling after I read that.)
    GRRR. Well you know what I meant anyway.
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    If you are playing classical mandolin, the preference is for using the 4th finger. Mine too.

    For other styles of music, well, there are fewer rules...and more sliding of that 3rd finger to get 7th fret notes.

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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    On the other hand (no joke intended) I know of some excellent OT fiddlers who avoid using their pinkies on the mandolin equivalent of the 7th fretóB on the E string, etc.óand finger that note always with the third finger. There is nothing really wrong with doing it that way but since you have the finger IMHO I feel it is a shame to waste it.
    I'll slightly disagree about whether it's "wrong" or not, because unless you're supernaturally endowed with hand/wrist speed, it will always be faster to flick your 4th finger out to hit that high B note in first position instead of shifting your hand to reach it.

    Getting into that habit of shifting your hand will slow down most of us mere mortals when playing something like an Irish reel at 112 bpm/session speed.

    Fiddle players figured out this technique a couple of hundred years ago. You won't see a fiddle player using anything but their 4th finger to reach that note. Our "fretted fiddles" use basically the same technique, so unless you have very short fingers, I think it's worth practicing until the reach feels comfortable with the 4th finger.

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    Registered User Rob Ross's Avatar
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Slight variation on the original question. Just recently, I realized that when I'm playing in flat keys, I will ALWAYS finger Eb on the A string and Ab on the D string with my fourth finger. When I am playing sharp keys, I ALWAYS finger G# on the D string and D# on the A string with my third finger. I do this very consistently. I'm mostly self taught, so no teacher told me to do this. My thought is on flat keys, the left hand fingers favor being closer to the nut for Eb, Bb, and F and C natural, thus favoring the fourth finger versus a stretched third finger. Likewise for sharp keys the fingers are slightly away from the nut for F#, C#, G#, and E and B natural, thus allowing the third finger to more easily reach the 7th fret.

    Is there any generally accepted preference for fingering related to sharp or flat keys, or do people routinely finger G# with the fourth finger and Ab with the third? I'd have to go back to my 70's copy of Bluegrass Mandolin by Jack Tottle to see if he mentioned it, as that was my guide to teaching myself mandolin.

    I had been wondering if occasionally swapping to a third finger Ab and Eb might make Natalie MacMaster's Eb Medley any easier. I'm guessing probably not.
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Don't collapse your wrist like it is in the profile pic and you'll get a lot more reach out of the little finger.
    Maybe spend some time working on maintaining a nice relaxed flat wrist even in the heat of the moment.
    Bringing the elbow around under the neck can help, as can exercises where you place the little finger first then accommodate the hand position to that.
    As long as you remain relaxed while practicing those routines it all becomes natural feeling eventually.
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Up to now Ive been using the pinky on the 7th on my octave, 20 1/2 inch scale length.
    It does require a non standard twist of the whole hand to get there at a reasonable speed, and the accuracy is reduced for this reason. It doesnít feel the same as playing any other note, so it tends not to sound the same either, the main but not only issue being rhythm, also finger strength and stability.

    Or I can quickly slide the whole hand up, usually as a first finger slide from f# to g on the e string. In this case I am beginning to stretch the fingers in the air and use the third finger on the 7th. This all depends on the melody, but as my slides are becoming more confident Iím beginning to favour this method. Itís mainly because the three other fingers are quite uniform in action, but also because using a sort of whip like motion I can get the whole hand to move incredibly fast. Again, Iím not sure if thatís good form, advisable etc.

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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    An addendum ....
    For me it always depends on where the melody is and where it is going. I worked at a physical job for many years so hand strength has not been an issue though in these later years I have gone back to .11's rather than .115's. Use of the pinky is as required... no more no less. R/
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    When I'm improvising crazy at top speed,I'll sometimes use whatever finger is available,,but I know one thing,I've worked very hard to get my pinky as flexible and independent as the others or more so,I want it to look like it has a mind of its own..

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Ross View Post
    Is there any generally accepted preference for fingering related to sharp or flat keys, or do people routinely finger G# with the fourth finger and Ab with the third? I'd have to go back to my 70's copy of Bluegrass Mandolin by Jack Tottle to see if he mentioned it, as that was my guide to teaching myself mandolin.
    I have been playing a few tunes recently in Bb and play the Eb on the A string with my pinky. It makes a lot of sense. Otherwise you still need the 3rd finger for the D note on the A string. Try playing a scale in Eb, for instance. I think it would be very awkward if you had to play on the D string both the G and the Ab with the 3rd finger and the same would go for the D and Eb on the A string.
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Ross View Post
    Slight variation on the original question. Just recently, I realized that when I'm playing in flat keys, I will ALWAYS finger Eb on the A string and Ab on the D string with my fourth finger. When I am playing sharp keys, I ALWAYS finger G# on the D string and D# on the A string with my third finger. I do this very consistently. I'm mostly self taught, so no teacher told me to do this. My thought is on flat keys, the left hand fingers favor being closer to the nut for Eb, Bb, and F and C natural, thus favoring the fourth finger versus a stretched third finger. Likewise for sharp keys the fingers are slightly away from the nut for F#, C#, G#, and E and B natural, thus allowing the third finger to more easily reach the 7th fret.

    Is there any generally accepted preference for fingering related to sharp or flat keys, or do people routinely finger G# with the fourth finger and Ab with the third? I'd have to go back to my 70's copy of Bluegrass Mandolin by Jack Tottle to see if he mentioned it, as that was my guide to teaching myself mandolin.

    I had been wondering if occasionally swapping to a third finger Ab and Eb might make Natalie MacMaster's Eb Medley any easier. I'm guessing probably not.

    The general rule, in a diatonic context, is "next note, next finger". By this rule, Ab fingering is the same as A fingering pulled back one fret. Pinky for 7th fret in A, hence pinky for 6th fret in Ab, etc.

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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    The general rule, in a diatonic context, is "next note, next finger". By this rule, Ab fingering is the same as A fingering pulled back one fret. Pinky for 7th fret in A, hence pinky for 6th fret in Ab, etc.
    I just checked this on Jethro's Flickin' My Pick and I follow this strategy.

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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Just for the record, anatomically, the pinky is the fifth finger (the thumb is the first). But I know what you all mean. Now, back to the excellent advice being offered!
    Chuck

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    Just for the record, anatomically, the pinky is the fifth finger (the thumb is the first). But I know what you all mean. Now, back to the excellent advice being offered!
    Not in standard music notation for mandolin and violin. Pinky is always 4.
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    Just for the record, anatomically, the pinky is the fifth finger (the thumb is the first). But I know what you all mean. Now, back to the excellent advice being offered!
    The pinky is the first finger if you start from that end.

    It is the most confusing changing from piano to stringed instruments, as the finger numbers change.

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    Registered User Christine Robins's Avatar
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    Quote Originally Posted by [I
    It is the most confusing changing from piano to stringed instruments, as the finger numbers change.[/I]
    Or vice-versa. Trying to learn piano after years of playing mando and fiddle, the finger numbers always trip me up. And the LH and RH numberings are mirror images, rather than parallel, further confusing me.

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: 7th fret: 3rd or 4th fingers?

    There are variations in how people notate the digits for music, but this is what I prefer and teach - useful for fingerstyle guitar:

    Left hand (or actually, fretting hand)

    o, or 0 = open string (no finger)
    T = thumb
    1 = index
    2 = middle
    3 = ring
    4 = pinky

    Right hand (or picking hand)

    p = thumb
    i = index
    m = middle
    a = ring

    I don't use the pinky in fingerstyle, but people who do will use c to indicate pinky, and sometimes e or s. The PIMA conventions are taken from Spanish names for the digits and commonly taught in classical guitar.

    c, or e or s = pinky

    This stuff is like everything else when learning to play, there can be more than one "correct way" to do things, and in this day and age I think its a little foolish to say that this or that way is the "correct" way ... On the other hand, there are definite "incorrect" ways to do things. Technique that causes injury would be incorrect technique, as one example. But for terminology, standardization is always a very good thing. It's too bad there's so much variation between instruments like fretted vs. keyboard.
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