Outdated fingering?

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dhbailey52
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Outdated fingering?

Post by dhbailey52 » Mon May 20, 2019 10:16 am

I'm new to the classical guitar world but have extensive experience in the folk/rock guitar world as well as with brass and woodwind instruments.

In several different messages I've seen reference to "outdated fingering," most recently in the 2-year old thread comparing the Noad and the Duncan method books.

Looking at some on-line classical guitar music which shows fingerings, I've noticed that some are advocating using finger 4 for the D on the second string and for the G on the first string. I've always used finger 3 for those notes, having been taught "each finger gets its own fret" in each position up and down the neck, and having had great results teaching that concept for folk/rock guitar students.

So using the one-finger/one-fret system on the first string I would finger F-1, F#-2, G-3, G#-4 and on the second string it would be C-1, C#-2, D-3, D#-4.

What is the general consensus here regarding those two different fingering approaches - G and D using finger 3 or D and D using finger 4 (in which case what to people do with finger 3?)

Thanks for any insights!

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Mon May 20, 2019 10:47 am

dhbailey52 wrote: What is the general consensus here regarding those two different fingering approaches ...
The issue has been discussed several times already (the fourth finger method was documented at least as early as the 17th century and has been in use ever since) - search the forum for "fourth finger approach" or "fourth finger method" and you should find relevant threads.

Here's one: https://www.classicalguitardelcamp.com/ ... 6&t=124857

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Tom Poore
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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by Tom Poore » Mon May 20, 2019 1:22 pm

To me, using 4 rather than 3 whenever it’s more comfortable is obvious and mundane. The idea of raising this to the status of a “method” baffles me. It’s like saying that since we sometimes use left hand slurs, let’s call it the “slur method” of guitar playing.

There’s a pervasive misunderstanding about the prohibitions teachers dole out early in a student’s training. For example, I tell beginners that the left hand finger number and fret number should be the same—if you’re playing fret I, use the first finger, etc. Does this mean it will always be so? Of course not. (Indeed, I sometimes point out parenthetically to beginners that this will change—they won’t use their sixth finger for the sixth fret.) Rather, there are rules that beginners should heed. These early rules simplify a beginner’s task. As the beginner advances, the rigid rules relax. Rules evolve into something more nuanced.

The “third finger method” seems an overreaction. It falsely implies that using the third finger at the third fret is a rule never meant to be broken. Sheesh, who ever advocated that?

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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by GuitarsWeB » Mon May 20, 2019 1:31 pm

Tom...no ones fingering is ever carved in stone. If something else works better for you, by all means, use it.

celestemcc
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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by celestemcc » Mon May 20, 2019 1:42 pm

Looking at some on-line classical guitar music which shows fingerings, I've noticed that some are advocating using finger 4 for the D on the second string and for the G on the first string. I've always used finger 3 for those notes, having been taught "each finger gets its own fret" in each position up and down the neck, and having had great results teaching that concept for folk/rock guitar students.
That works for chords, that is, 4th finger on either of those notes (in fact, for what it's worth, bluegrass players frequently play their D and G chords with 4th finger as you describe. Easier to transition to other chords).

But "outdated"? No such thing. You use what works for you in a given situation.

Tom has it nailed when he says,
For example, I tell beginners that the left hand finger number and fret number should be the same—if you’re playing fret I, use the first finger, etc. Does this mean it will always be so? Of course not. (Indeed, I sometimes point out parenthetically to beginners that this will change—they won’t use their sixth finger for the sixth fret.) Rather, there are rules that beginners should heed. These early rules simplify a beginner’s task. As the beginner advances, the rigid rules relax. Rules evolve into something more nuanced.
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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Mon May 20, 2019 2:06 pm

Tom Poore wrote:To me, using 4 rather than 3 whenever it’s more comfortable is obvious and mundane. The idea of raising this to the status of a “method” baffles me.
I partly agree Tom - I have used both fingerings as and when appropriate throughout my teaching career and without the need for special nomenclature. My reaction on first hearing the term was exactly as yours.

However - I understand how the acknowledged trend towards overly favouring the third finger (in beginners) during the mid to latter part of the 20th century, coupled with clearer recognition of sources of dysfunctional tension in modern pedagogy led to the perceived need for such a pejorative doctrine.
celestemcc wrote:That works for chords, that is, 4th finger on either of those notes (in fact, for what it's worth, bluegrass players frequently play their D and G chords with 4th finger as you describe. Easier to transition to other chords).
Actually the thrust of the idea (as held today) has little to do with chord fingering per se - more to do with a generally sound physiological approach.

As I stated elsewhere - using finger four at fret III as a matter of convenience is as old as the hills ... as is the use of finger two on string six fret III, yet nobody ever seems to mention that one.

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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by Rognvald » Mon May 20, 2019 2:34 pm

No players hands are the same. The object of fingering is clarity and musicality. Do what works for YOUR hands unless it is an impediment to fluidity in the following notes in which case additional practice with the fingering is essential. The great Jazz guitarist Django Rinehart had only two functioning fingers on his left hand. It certainly didn't hurt his playing. Playing again . . . Rognvald Enjoy some delightful musical nostalgia
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Tom Poore
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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by Tom Poore » Mon May 20, 2019 3:05 pm

I wrote:To me, using 4 rather than 3 whenever it’s more comfortable is obvious and mundane. The idea of raising this to the status of a “method” baffles me.
Mark Clifton-Gaultier wrote:I partly agree Tom - I have used both fingerings as and when appropriate throughout my teaching career and without the need for special nomenclature. My reaction on first hearing the term was exactly as yours.

However - I understand how the acknowledged trend towards overly favouring the third finger (in beginners) during the mid to latter part of the 20th century, coupled with clearer recognition of sources of dysfunctional tension in modern pedagogy led to the perceived need for such a pejorative doctrine.
Well, we use the a finger more than did guitarists of the 19th century. So maybe we should have an “a finger method.” Then again, some guitarists nowadays say we overuse a, and it’s often easier to use fingerings that minimize a. So maybe we should have a “minimize a method.” And don’t forget the “slur method” I mentioned earlier.

You get my drift.

Avoiding dysfunctional tension is an overall philosophy that can be the basis for a method. But that doesn’t mean we must coin a new method for each of the countless solutions players use to avoid dysfunctional tension. To do so blurs the meaning of method. Individual quirks do not a method make.

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Last edited by Tom Poore on Mon May 20, 2019 3:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

dhbailey52
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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by dhbailey52 » Mon May 20, 2019 5:48 pm

Thank you all for this discussion and for clarifying that there isn't one single approach to this issue.

I shall continue to use whichever finger fits best in any give situation, using first any fingering that is printed in the music and then altering it if it doesn't fit.

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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by Rognvald » Mon May 20, 2019 6:06 pm

"Avoiding dysfunctional tension is an overall philosophy that can be the basis for a method. But that doesn’t mean we must coin a new method for each of the countless solutions players use to avoid dysfunctional tension. To do so blurs the meaning of method. Individual quirks do not a method make." Tom Poore


Quote of the day! Playing again . . . Rognvald
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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Mon May 20, 2019 7:05 pm

Tom Poore wrote:Well, we use the a finger more than did guitarists of the 19th century. So maybe we should have an “a finger method.”
Lol ... I do indeed get your drift Tom and I'm more than a little inclined toward your point of view ... surely the modern method is The "a" Finger Method (otherwise known as The Tárrega School by those who sought to benefit from such an association)?
Tom Poore wrote:Then again, some guitarists nowadays say we overuse a ...
So they do - I rather think that it's more about under-using p.
Tom Poore wrote: ... maybe we should have a “minimize a method.” And don’t forget the “slur method” ...
Well - add in avoidance of barré and that would almost constitute The Sor Method ... and don't forget that he was also a fourth finger man.
Tom Poore wrote:Avoiding dysfunctional tension is an overall philosophy that can be the basis for a method. But that doesn’t mean we must coin a new method for each of the countless solutions players use to avoid dysfunctional tension. To do so blurs the meaning of method. Individual quirks do not a method make.
You are correct Tom, Method is not the correct term.

In my original answer I used both Fourth Finger Method and Fourth Finger Approach - I recall each being discussed here on the forum - my sloppiness - I should have stuck with the latter.

Having said that, I don't think that The Fourth Finger Approach quite falls into the category of "individual quirks" - arising as it did from addressing issues perceived, at least in part to have stemmed from the unexamined use of the 3rd finger in many instruction books from a certain period.

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Larry McDonald
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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by Larry McDonald » Thu May 23, 2019 2:34 pm

Hi,
I'm one of the teachers who strongly advocates for the 4th finger approach on the treble strings for absolute beginners, as is detailed in Anthony Glise' seminal work "Guitar Pedagogy". I am also the guy who claims that "the 3rd finger approach" [my term] is out dated beginner pedagogy on our modern 650mm guitar. I treat the 3rd finger on the 3rd fret as an exception, not the rule.

The 3rd finger approach embeds dysfunctional tension in beginners. Here is why:
1) If you play and hold an "F" on the 1st string with the 1st finger, which finger naturally falls onto the 3rd fret when the fingers are in their normal unflexed or unextended relaxed position? It's the 4th finger, not the third, assuming that the l-hand knuckles are mostly parallel to the fingerboard.
2) Spreading the webbing in the fingers to get the 3rd finger to the 3rd fret causes dysfunctional tension in the interoseus muscles intrinsic in the hand, and I will never, ever, introduce dysfunctional tension as a default in a beginning student's hands.
Never.
3) Also, when the student attempts to get the 3rd finger to the third fret, they inevitably pronate (turn the left hand counter-clockwise) away from the neck. This is a terrible default position to teach, but, on the other hand :D, I've earned a very good living correcting this problem. This default pronation begins to impede the students progress starting around level 6. While some can push through and become advanced players, most students stall out when it comes time to play more difficult music at higher tempos, such as Bach's Bourree in Em (see Paul McCartney).
4) when the student uses the 4th finger on the third fret, the left-hand elegantly mirrors the right-hand, the same ergonomic symmetry that is taught on piano [the guitarists left hand is simply upside down and raised. Try it, play air piano and make the change. The right-hand will come into the body, too]. So once you establish the right-hand default position in the first few lessons, you can easily teach the left.
5) If you use the 3rd finger on "G" on the 1st string, the fourth finger is "out in space". There are no notes over there.

I will always attempt to establish an ergonomic, safe, effortless, and twitchy-fast left hand. While one finger per fret seems logical, that just isn't how our hands fit a modern guitar. As Professor Stanley Yates said about the 3rd finger approach, "Nobody teaches this way anymore, do they?"

Once I made the change to the 4th finger approach in my early years of teaching, I have made one exception to my firm stance and allowed a student to use the third finger as a default. This student was 6' 4" tall with freakishly long fingers. It worked for him, and even his finger-fall speed was great. So, I'm not completely dogmatic, but 45 years of teaching has convinced me that dysfunctional tension is a game changer -in a bad way, and retards later advancement.

I hope this helps,
-Lare
Dr. Lawrence A. McDonald, D.M.A., Art Kaplan Fellow
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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by Ricflair » Fri May 24, 2019 1:05 am

Larry,
I couldn't agree more with your post. I would also add...
Using the 3rd finger on the 3rd fret on strings 1, 2 and 3, many times causes students to pull back their 4th finger 'curl up', away from the other fingers. In the most extreme cases, they will try to position their 4th finger almost behind the neck! 🤪 It is an awful pedagogical approach with the modern guitar.
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BugDog
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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by BugDog » Sat Jun 22, 2019 9:22 pm

I have found the above comments about the 4rth finger approach to be valid but.....

I've been occasionally working with the Sagreras method and noticed that in the standard Dmin chord that you sometimes have to use the 3rd finger for the D on the 2nd string because the 4rth finger was doing something on the 1st string or elsewhere. OK, if you have to use it, you have to use it. What I found though, was that I had to practice to use the 3rd finger in those situations. The differences in the LH are significant between the two forms and I'd have to think ahead enough to be prepare to use the required form.

I guess what I'm trying to say is one needs to be able to do both, and using the 3rd requires a bit more work and practice because it is harder.
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dhbailey52
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Re: Outdated fingering?

Post by dhbailey52 » Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:43 am

I wonder if the ease of using the 3rd finger (or the difficulty in using the 3rd finger) is the result of how one first approaches the guitar. I started in the guitar world playing a steel-string guitar learning the basic chords as many people do, and every chord used the first three fingers, so using the 3rd finger in the standard Dmin chord was just something I did. And as my ability increased my 3rd finger was right there working with the 1st, 2nd and the 4th. Then as I got into barre chords of course the 3rd finger had to be used for chord formation since the 1st was used for the barre, so the chords were using 2,3,4.

So as I am slowly working into playing classical guitar my 3rd finger is doing just fine along with 1, 2 and 4, so I'm using it. As I try to follow the fingering of the books I find that suggest using 1, 2, and 4 but not 3 (most of the time) simply leave me scratching my head and thinking "but why not use a perfectly good finger that works fine?"

As far as fingers being pulled back, curling towards the palm, I find that with many beginning guitar students, any finger not being used at a particular moment (no matter whether 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th finger) gets curled back towards the palm and I have to work hard with those students to keep any/all fingers out over the fretboard even when not being used for a particular note or chord.

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