My teacher (
) says, when it comes to pinky, you just slap it on there any way you can, as long as it hits the note. In this case, there is no reason not to use both 3 and 4 to play that note on the fourth fret. Just slap it on there.
That being said, I think everyone gets that condition and has come up with different solutions to fit the situation in their classical playing. That would be another topic.
In the case of a twelve year with two years of guitar under their belt, I would say that the F# on the fourth string is a killer. I tell them that. I say it, "I avoided it myself, for years. Now I use like a regular finger. I wish I'd known that". I tell them that, that I hated it and I avoided it for years. Then I explain that everyone hates that note and, if he can play that F#, he will be able to do something no one else can do, just by using the fourth finger. I say, if everyone else uses three fingers and you use four, you can play 33% more than anyone else and you never did anything, all you did is use what you already had. Then we do the "ninja pinky", with the vocalizations. Straight out of Kill Bill, with screaming. Heee-yah. Ninja pinky! Heee-yahhh!
He is twelve, after all.
Before I teach fourth finger, though, I get 2 and 3 working as one finger, from the very first time they play G or D on the top strings. "2 and 3 work as one finger, keep your fingers over the strings", they must hear me say that 2,000 times in the first year. As I look at that picture, I notice that, as fierce as that '4' finger is, he is literally pulling it off the guitar by holding 2,3 away from the strings.
In this case, first, touch the strings, all the fingers. Then add pressure. Release the pressure, keeping the fingers on the string. Press again, until the fingers don't jump off the strings, just release. Just release. [That is, if they will let you teach them that -- the twelve year olds I know won't put up with my demands for that kind of introspection. Just play the song, the finger will catch up.]
That clenching could also be the stress reaction -- the lumbricals went 'mental'. The solution is to take a deep breath. Again, it is the rare twelve-year old who wants to hear my speech about the stress reaction. They put up with me, but I don't think they really listen. Maybe you have better luck.
Part of the problem, Nick, is the fourth string is not the best place to start fourth finger. Hava Nagila (Alfred's Guitar Method, Book One) introduces D# on the second string, with C natural behind it as a guide/anchor finger. The angle is better on the second string at that stage, and it is easier to press. Plus it is a cool song.
If they have the patience, I would suggest "laying them down" on the first string starting at the fifth or fourth position. 1-2-3-4 (G#, A, A#, B) right up the string, leaving each one down until all four fingers are pressing the string. Then, release enough to shift all the fingers up one fret and reverse, taking them off one by one, 4-3-2-1 (C, B, Bb, A). Then, shift 1 up one fret and repeat, 1-2-3-4, shift, 4-3-2-1, shift, all the way to the ninth position. Then, play the descending, back to fourth position, 4-3-2-1, shift, 1-2-3-4, shift. As Lare has pointed out elsewhere, there is pronation in the first position, which throws that fourth finger under the hand, next to 3. Starting in fourth position, the hand comes up over the strings and it is not so hard.
Finally, there is Hey Joe Bass Line. Same thing, lay 'em down. Once they start they can't stop.
Hey Joe Bass Line
Take turns strumming and bass line, one of those buddy jamming songs. It's a blast.
Why not? Every self-respecting classical guitarist should have at least one Hendrix song they can play. He stole it from Bach, anyway.
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Kevin Collins, Amherst, Mass, USA All rights reserved.