Left hand second and third finger separation

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
Forum rules
IV Laws governing the quotation/citation of music


For discussion of studies, scales, arpeggios and theory.
CliffP
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Feb 13, 2017 11:38 pm
Location: St. Charles, MO, USA

Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by CliffP » Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:19 pm

I am having a devil of a time getting the second and third fingers of my left hand to separate a fret width and wonder if anyone knows of a good stretch to improve that separation. In my warmup I separate each pair of left hand fingers with my right hand thumb and pinkie but it just doesn't seem to matter when I curl my fingers around the neck. I have found that the thumb position helps, i.e. move to the right of the second finger, but it still isn't enough. So any suggestions will be most appreciated.

Thanks,
Cliff

User avatar
lagartija
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 9921
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2009 5:37 pm
Location: Western Massachusetts, USA

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by lagartija » Sat Mar 18, 2017 10:00 pm

There are good exercises in Pumping Nylon, but be patient with yourself...reach for that place you want that third finger to be. You may not reach it in a week, but keep reaching.
The other thing is something you are already exploring; hand balance. By placing your thumb further over toward your second finger, you are changing from a heavier weight on finger one to one that is more weighted toward three and four. Also experiment with the position of your elbow. Is t closer to your body? Further away? Does changing it help your reach?

Then ask Larry McDonald. :-)
When the sun shines, bask.
__/^^^^^o>
Classical Guitar forever!

dtoh
Posts: 191
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 12:54 pm

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by dtoh » Sun Mar 19, 2017 2:06 am

Practice. There are lots of exercises in Pumping Nylon and elsewhere. I have found doing chromatic scales moving only one finger at a time and concentrating on spreading the knuckles of the 2nd and 3rd fingers helps. Start in the high position and work your way down. Basically you need to build up the interossei muscles in your hand.

I've been working on this and it's taken a couple of years to make noticeable progress. Unless you have unusual physiology, I doubt you will ever get this perfect. Look at videos of very accomplished guitarists and you will notice that fretting with the LH 3rd finger is frequently between the frets rather than right at the fret.

User avatar
Gorn
Posts: 178
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 10:22 am
Location: São Miguel, Azores

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by Gorn » Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:21 am

OMG, so you've also got a problem to execute this properly?
Image
Sorry, couldn't widthstand to put a corny joke here - just kidding!
:D :D :D

Mr Kite

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by Mr Kite » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:45 am

Is it a problem doing that, or is it that you can do that but if you then bend the fingers the tips come together even though they are still splayed from the knuckle?

CliffP
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Feb 13, 2017 11:38 pm
Location: St. Charles, MO, USA

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by CliffP » Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:17 am

Is it a problem doing that, or is it that you can do that but if you then bend the fingers the tips come together even though they are still splayed from the knuckle?

When I curve my fingers the tips of the 2nd and 3rd fingers tend to converge, held straight up I can wish Mr. Spock to Live Long and Prosper.

dtoh
Posts: 191
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 12:54 pm

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by dtoh » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:46 am

CliffP wrote:Is it a problem doing that, or is it that you can do that but if you then bend the fingers the tips come together even though they are still splayed from the knuckle?
Practice more.

Mr Kite

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by Mr Kite » Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:04 am

Mr Kite wrote:Is it a problem doing that, or is it that you can do that but if you then bend the fingers the tips come together even though they are still splayed from the knuckle?
CliffP wrote:When I curve my fingers the tips of the 2nd and 3rd fingers tend to converge, held straight up I can wish Mr. Spock to Live Long and Prosper.
That's just the splay of your hand, I think. Our fingers are not parallel - if you bend them over the palm they will all point to the same spot, i.e. their lines converge. In some people that spot seems to be relatively far from the knuckles, in others it is closer, making the splay more pronounced. Another way to describe it is that your four fingers are in two pairs which oppose each other slightly, but more in some people than in others. If your hand happens to have a pronounced splay, then while you can work on separating the fingers from the knuckle, it won't help you bring the tips apart. You will just end up with a wider V shape. The movement that would be needed to bring the fingers parallel would be an anticlockwise rotation of the knuckle of the ring finger (anticlockwise looking straight down the finger at the knuckle, with the hand horizontal and the fingers pointing towards your face). Unfortunately there does not seem to be any muscle that does this without also adducting the finger (which defeats the object). I have looked for a tendon or ligament or muscle that, if tight, might cause the knuckle to rotate the other way when the fingers are spread, because if there is such a thing, stretching it might help - but I have never been able to find one.

The practical answer is that, whenever you need to separate 2 and 3, you have to find a hand position so that one finger can be much straighter than the other. If you put all the fingers down on consecutive frets of the same string, and are wanting 2 and 3 to come apart, forget it. This is only possible for people who don't have much of a splay in the first place (when they spread the fingers from the knuckle, the tips come apart even with the fingers bent). Fortunately this position doesn't seem to come up much in actual repertoire.

dtoh
Posts: 191
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 12:54 pm

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by dtoh » Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:38 am

Mr Kite wrote: That's just the splay of your hand, I think.
I think not. Certainly physiology comes into play, but your ability to spread your fingers (whether straight or curled) depends not just on hand geometry but also on the development of the interossei muscles in your hand. With training you can noticeably improve the independence and ability to spread your fingers even when curled. 1/2 and 3/4 spread more easily. 2/3 is the hardest. The composer Schumann tried to improve his 2/3 spread by doing self-surgery on the tendons in his hand, but I would not recommend that. (Schumann permanently maimed himself.)

Caveat - Don't expect fast progress... a couple of years of work might get you a half a centimeter of separation.

Mr Kite

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by Mr Kite » Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:17 pm

I would like to think that was true - but how are the interossei going to rotate the knuckle? They attach on the wrong side (i.e. forward of the knuckle) and are concerned with abduction, not rotation. They will help you spread the fingers from the knuckle, but this won't help if you have a pronounced splay. If you don't have much of a splay, then more of a spread at the knuckle will translate into more of a spread at the fingertips - in which case this method will work - but my previous post is on the basis that the OP has a pronounced splay, in which case spreading from the knuckle is just a lot of muscular effort for no end result, since the tips will stay together.

dtoh
Posts: 191
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 12:54 pm

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by dtoh » Tue Mar 21, 2017 12:29 am

Mr Kite wrote:I would like to think that was true - but how are the interossei going to rotate the knuckle? They attach on the wrong side (i.e. forward of the knuckle) and are concerned with abduction, not rotation. They will help you spread the fingers from the knuckle, but this won't help if you have a pronounced splay. If you don't have much of a splay, then more of a spread at the knuckle will translate into more of a spread at the fingertips - in which case this method will work - but my previous post is on the basis that the OP has a pronounced splay, in which case spreading from the knuckle is just a lot of muscular effort for no end result, since the tips will stay together.
So I agree kind of. Certainly in general the more you curl your fingers, the more the fingertips will converge. But a couple of caveats. When we play, the fingers are not completely curled (i.e. the fingertips do not touch the palm) so there is some space between the fingertips, and the more we can spread at the knuckles, the more separation we get a the tips. (Also we obviously get more separation on the 6th string than on the 1st string because of the increased extension of the fingers.)

Second, I don't know if it is the interossei per se that produce rotation. I will certainly say, however that I can rotate my 2nd and 3rd fingers to a certain extent even when curled and this is something that I wasn't able to do before playing the guitar. So in this respect as well I would posit that exercises and muscular development allows increased rotation which will further contribute to separation.

Again not saying this is easy but it can be improved with exercise and practice.

Luis_Br
Posts: 2193
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2006 2:50 pm
Location: Brazil

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by Luis_Br » Wed Mar 22, 2017 7:08 pm

What makes your finger closer to each other when curled are the ligaments. Ligaments connect the bones and prevent some movements to avoid injury on the joints. They are the reason you can separate fingers easier when they are straight and you can't reach the same separation when your fingers are curled. Ligaments are not made to be elastic, but with practice and patience they will give some room. Be very careful, don't force them externally, stop at any pain, they take time to heal and a severe injury may prevent you from playing. So go easy on finger separation exercises, do a little every day and wait a year or two.
Knowing it is easier to spread fingers when they are more straight, first tip is to low down the thumb and use more straight fingers when passage needs more finger separation.
Second tip is to rotate the arm a bit, press string at diagonal, like violin technique, and then you can separate 2 and 3 easier.
It depends on the passage, what other fingers should do at the same time and so on.

hpaulj
Posts: 103
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2015 3:02 am
Location: Seattle

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by hpaulj » Wed Mar 22, 2017 7:45 pm

I get a greater stretch if I anchor 2 and spread 3, than the reverse. So on some passages I'm learning to place 2 in advance. even if the play order is 3 then 2.

Mr Kite

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by Mr Kite » Wed Mar 22, 2017 8:04 pm

hpaulj wrote:I get a greater stretch if I anchor 2 and spread 3, than the reverse. So on some passages I'm learning to place 2 in advance. even if the play order is 3 then 2.
Yes, by anchoring one finger you prevent the knuckle rotating as you spread them apart. For most of us I think this is the nub of the issue. It is a different problem from the one Luis is describing. I'm sure he is right in his explanation of what makes it harder to spread from the knuckle when the fingers are bent, but (for me at least, and from the sound of it for the OP as well) the problem isn't spreading from the knuckle but the fact that when you do your fingers end up facing each other, which guarantees that the tips will come together when you bend them, a bit like frog's legs. With my fingers bent, I can spread 2 and 3 of my LH much further (from the knuckle) than 2 and 3 of my RH, but the tips are still no further apart.

I would guess that if you get into the habit of doing it that way round you will always have to, whereas if you try to use both the muscles on each side will eventually even out so that it doesn't make much difference which finger goes down first, as long as one of them does. To be able to hover the fingers over the frets you would have to prevent the knuckles rotating with respect to each other - as I said in an earlier post, I think the extent to which they rotate is down to individual anatomy and is pretty much fixed, although I would love to be wrong about that.

Luis_Br
Posts: 2193
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2006 2:50 pm
Location: Brazil

Re: Left hand second and third finger separation

Post by Luis_Br » Wed Mar 22, 2017 8:34 pm

Through ancoring you force ligaments externally. They have a bit of elasticity and with time they give some room and the spread becomes easier. But this will take several months (usually more than 6 months). Do it gently, start practicing in higher positions (where frets are closer) and gradually go to lower positions. Be careful how much you practice this. Stop these exercises for a while if pain appears.

Return to “Classical Guitar technique”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: CommonCrawl [Bot], Guitar Maniac and 14 guests