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  1. #1

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    Did they think the baby finger would never develop? Did they run out of patience? Did they just go with what felt best?

    I am curious why some great guitarist neglect using their pinky and would rather shift positions or stretch their third finger. Has it turned out that its better for most to use the third finger instead of incorporating the pinky?

    Someone please tell me the thought process. You wouldn't leave out the pinky on piano or other instruments.

    Again, a short list includes Eric Clapton, Michael Schenker, Grant Green, and to a certain extent, Wes Montgomery also, so I am told.

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  3. #2

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    Lol...in the past there was not the internet, so every bit of minutiae was not analyzed.

    You could play or not. Shame that concept is lost these days.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  4. #3

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    I can only speak from my own experience. I think because I played electric bass a lot in early years and I was using my pinky. I learn bass from a guitar fingering point of view and needed pinky to play scales.

    I notice that when I play Jazz or sightread I use my pinky all the time, but when I play Blues and Rock because of all the bends the 3rd finger starts taking over, so its a strength thing for Rock.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  5. #4

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    The early swing guitar players, Charlie Christian, George Barnes, Oscar Moore, played out of chord shapes using the chord tone arpeggios as home base. These basic chord shapes are those found on the first four strings.

    The guitarists who picked up on the bebop vocabulary, Tal Farlow, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney, Wes Montgomery, all began as swing players influenced by Christian. They continued to use the fingerings that they had learned playing swing to play bebop.

    Django Reinhardt also played from arpeggios but because he was restricted to using his index and middle finger, he played his arpeggios horizontally. As Wes moved from the Christian style into more bop-oriented music, his playing also became more horizontal.

    Until 1959, when Miles released Kind of Blue and modes and scales slowly became more a part of jazz, guitarists could play pretty much everything that was demanded of them by using the older, chord-shape style of playing.

    Actually, that's the short answer. Django, Christian, Barnes and Wes played the way they played because it was simple and it got the job done.

    John Coltrane loved Wes and tried to get Wes to join his band. I'm certain that Coltrane didn't think "Well I'm not gonna hire this guy 'cause he only plays with three fingers". No, he wanted to hire Wes because Wes played his butt off and Coltrane thought he would be an asset.

    Like Jeff said it's easy to become overwhelmed with information (and misinformation) these days. This can lead to a form of paralysis in which someone never actually becomes a player because they spend all of their time second guessing and searching for the one right way to do things instead of actually doing anything.

    This important thing is to do something. Two fingers, three fingers, four fingers, lay it in your lap and use five fingers. How you do it is less important than just doing it. Whatever it takes to get the job done for the job you want to do.

    Regards,
    Jerome

    P.S. As for other instruments, there are instruments that don't require all the fingers such as the trumpet.

  6. #5

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    With the fretting hand the use of three fingers seems to me to help create a "triplet swing feel" to the melody with single note lines, especially the blues pentatonic type. But it seems to me that the iconoclastic guitarists just created their own style to express what they heard and felt. Of all the guitarists mentioned in some ways I still find Charlie Christian the most iconoclastic. But Wes, too, had his own style and voice. I've come to believe you play what feels right to you.

  7. #6

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    It's funny that we're talking about Wes playing with three left fingers as if that were the only way in which his technique was unusual.

    I imagine that, if you took ten people who didn't know how to play the guitar and told them to learn how by themselves with only a dozen or so jazz records as a guide, they would all end up playing the instrument in different ways.

    Also, I wonder what reaction Wes would have gotten if he was a nobody and he posted his playing on the Showcase section of this forum.
    Still working on it.

  8. #7

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    Can you imagine being a guitar teacher trying to teach your student to play guitar, and he/she wants to use the side of the pick and only three fingers on his/her left hand?


    I wonder how that would go over?

  9. #8

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    Use of the pinky is often connected with angle of fingerboard. Many blues players like to bend as much as a minor, even major, 3rd. They use a fingerboard angle closer to parallel to the floor, and with the thumb hanging over the bass end of the fingerboard, you can bend all day long with the stronger third finger, rather than the pinkie. So maybe the more blues-influenced players would be more likely to use their pinkie less.

  10. #9

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    I think Monk's answer is very good about Charlie and the early swing players playing out of simple chord shapes. I think there's a further aspect to this that Monk takes as a given---because he knows a lot and has thought about this a lot---but others may not. Playing out of shapes is not just playing shapes but using the notes of chords as anchors.

    Many patterns, such as Upper neighbor-chord tone-lower neighbor-chord tone, repeat pattern on next chord tone... are much easier to execute if you DON'T think in terms of a scale. One advantage of working so much with simple chord shapes, triads, is that one's ear knows when to expect chord tones to come up. It can become easy to play a long line ("stacked triads", say, G, Bmb5, D, F, Am, C, Em, G; or a simple triadic run to a heavily accented note: C, Dm, Em, F...then, bam, the note all that got you to) without thinking about what you're doing at all but nonetheless knowing exactly what you're doing and how it will sound. It becomes easier to shift accents around, to add in-between notes to slow the arrival of a chord tone, for example. It's much easier to actually DO this than to start by thinking which scale would give you all those notes...

    I think this allows for a lot of sliding whereas if one were thinking in terms of scale patterns, one might finger differently.


    I also agree with Rob about the third finger and bending.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  11. #10

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    "Technique is a means to and end " as told by Harry Leahey. It's the music being made that counts. Peter Bernstein uses 3 fingers and is one of the most respected players on the scene.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by ColinO View Post
    Also, I wonder what reaction Wes would have gotten if he was a nobody and he posted his playing on the Showcase section of this forum.
    Wes was a "nobody" the night Cannonball Adderley walked into The Missile Room. We all know what resulted then.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes View Post
    I think Monk's answer is very good about Charlie and the early swing players playing out of simple chord shapes. I think there's a further aspect to this that Monk takes as a given---because he knows a lot and has thought about this a lot---but others may not. Playing out of shapes is not just playing shapes but using the notes of chords as anchors.
    Mark,
    I strive to be clear when I post. I thought my comment about the chord tone arpeggios being home base was descriptive but your comment about using the notes of chords as anchors is so much better. Thank you.

    To further elaborate on this shape based anchor approach: With any chord shape, if one knows the numerical pitches of the notes in the chord, all the other diatonic and chromatic notes surrounding the chord are easily visualized intervallically.

    For instance, the b7 is a whole step below the one, the flat three is a half step below the three, the four is a half step above the three, the six is a whole step above the five, the b7 is a step and a half above the five and so it goes.

    Hopefully this will be more clear.

    Thanks for the assist,
    Jerome

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by monk View Post
    Wes was a "nobody" the night Cannonball Adderley walked into The Missile Room. We all know what resulted then.
    Good point. But how many nights had he played there before someone who knew what they were looking at walked in?
    Still working on it.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by ColinO View Post
    Good point. But how many nights had he played there before someone who knew what they were looking at walked in?
    Well, we both know that he had been playing there for years honing his craft. Today, the first time someone learns to put all their fingers down simultaneously on a C chord they post it on YouTube. The ever-shrinking world of the digital information age makes it more difficult for someone to fly under the radar. But now, over 50 years after Wes gained world-wide recognition, it's extremely difficult to grasp what an impact he made.

    In the 18 years between the death of Charlie Christian and the emergence of Wes Montgomery, while many fine guitarists came onto the the scene, there were no innovators. Wes was the game-changer who set the the entire jazz community (not just the jazz guitar world) on its ear the same way Charlie Christian did. Wes completely changed, as Christian did 21 years earlier, how jazz guitar should be played.

    Joe Pass maintained throughout his life that three were only three innovators in the history of jazz guitar: Django, Charlie and Wes.

    I have no doubt in my mind that if someone wandered in out of the backwoods who was capable of effecting the same paradigm shift that Wes and Charlie did and posted a video in our Showcase that only the most dense among us would not realize that the world had changed for all of us.

  16. #15

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    To play devil's advocate a bit, harmonically, was Wes really that innovative?
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  17. #16

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    ^^^
    I think I've inadvertently written something that was unclear and came off as perhaps rude. I apologize if I sounded flippant. I thought this was kind of a light-hearted thread about unorthodox technique. My point was that "perfect" technique may be something that is overvalued somewhat. Great players sometimes have technique that is not conventional. I'm certainly not about to start an argument about Wes' greatness as a player - or about anything else for that matter.

    I'll try and be more careful about what I write in the future.

    Cheers, Colin.
    Still working on it.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    To play devil's advocate a bit, harmonically, was Wes really that innovative?
    For me, Wes's swinging feel and his phrasing were what gave hime his sound. Also his use of block chords and octaves.
    Hamonicly he took advantage of all that was around him, but I agree with your premise.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by monk View Post
    Mark,
    I strive to be clear when I post. I thought my comment about the chord tone arpeggios being home base was descriptive but your comment about using the notes of chords as anchors is so much better. Thank you.
    I got that from Carol Kaye! ;o)
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat Clare View Post
    For me, Wes's swinging feel and his phrasing were what gave hime his sound. Also his use of block chords and octaves.
    Hamonicly he took advantage of all that was around him, but I agree with your premise.

    I also like that he played pop tunes on the later records and played them with his great swinging feel and superb phrasing, he knew that these pop songs would make money and would pay the family's bills.
    “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
    ― Mahatma Gandhi

  21. #20

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    There is a cool video series on Wes on YT that is fun to watch. Recommended.

    Anyway, Wes has different styles in one. He can play the blues, but with a jazz inflection. He can play those chord solo ballads that are very nice. He had his Riverside recording, my personal favorite with his brothers and others. And he has his pop period, which is not my favorite. Not out of 'elitist' jazz purity, but because he is more restrained and conventional. I like Wes in the years he more purist. But his style always was his own. In fact, while I like the notes he played, I would not recommend that everyone play the fingerings he played. Just my opinion.

    Jay

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by ColinO View Post
    ^^^
    I think I've inadvertently written something that was unclear and came off as perhaps rude. I apologize if I sounded flippant. I thought this was kind of a light-hearted thread about unorthodox technique. My point was that "perfect" technique may be something that is overvalued somewhat. Great players sometimes have technique that is not conventional. I'm certainly not about to start an argument about Wes' greatness as a player - or about anything else for that matter.

    I'll try and be more careful about what I write in the future.

    Cheers, Colin.
    Colin,
    As we are all aware inflection, and sometimes intent, is sometimes difficult to convey in writing over the internet. I certainly didn't think you were being rude or flippant. When I answered your questions I was trying to point out that if someone of Wes' ability that we all had never heard before posted a video here that I think we would collectively have a "Cannonball moment" and recognize what we had heard was special. Think about how many clubs in different towns Cannonball must have gone into and heard a player who was "local good" before stumbling on to someone who was world-class.

    You're absolutely correct in your assessment that there are any number of players who are idiosyncratic in their approach to the instrument. It has been pointed out in other discussions that success/greatness leaves clues. I think that time examining these idiosyncrasies can be time well spent.
    Regards,
    Jerome

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlsoRan View Post
    I am curious why some great guitarist neglect using their pinky...Someone please tell me the thought process.
    Pinky is the weakest finger, the most difficult to use. People don't like doing difficult things so develop bad habits.

  24. #23
    There's a great chapter in Jim Hall's Exploring Jazz Guitar, Jim takes one of his blues heads and 'explores' various fingerings. In summary, every choice matters, what finger, what string, what attack all contribute to the character of the line. Following that line of reasoning, you can't get the full effect of a line you cop from another guitarist without also copping their fingering. That's not to say you must do that with every guitarist you're influenced by, there are plenty of cats I've taken a little bit from without going through the trouble to be exact. But it's important to realize that cats like Wes and Jimmy Raney developed fingerings that allowed the bebop lines to flow and phrase without being 'riffy' or 'boxy' and more on par with the horns and pianists of the day. If you're playing 'all the right notes' but your lines still aren't feeling 'bebop' enough, this might be the concept to explore. Go to the Youtube for Wes and Jimmy, go catch Peter Bernstein any time you have the opportunity, and take it from there.


    PK

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulkogut View Post
    There's a great chapter in Jim Hall's Exploring Jazz Guitar, Jim takes one of his blues heads and 'explores' various fingerings. In summary, every choice matters, what finger, what string, what attack all contribute to the character of the line. Following that line of reasoning, you can't get the full effect of a line you cop from another guitarist without also copping their fingering. That's not to say you must do that with every guitarist you're influenced by, there are plenty of cats I've taken a little bit from without going through the trouble to be exact. But it's important to realize that cats like Wes and Jimmy Raney developed fingerings that allowed the bebop lines to flow and phrase without being 'riffy' or 'boxy' and more on par with the horns and pianists of the day. If you're playing 'all the right notes' but your lines still aren't feeling 'bebop' enough, this might be the concept to explore. Go to the Youtube for Wes and Jimmy, go catch Peter Bernstein any time you have the opportunity, and take it from there.

    PK
    Truly excellent points, Paul.

    Stochelo Rosenberg and other gypsy jazz guitarists have spoken in interviews that while much of the vocabulary that is taken from Django's playing can be played with three or four fingers with no deleterious effect, there are some phrases that demand to be fingered with only the index and middle finger because it's easier to play and also because that's what it takes to make it sound right.

    As you have aptly and correctly pointed out, playing the right notes isn't enough. It's not just the notes we play but how we play them.

    There are great lessons to be learned from great guitarists but in many cases we have to check our pride and preconceived notions at the door when we enter and proceed with an open mind and humility.

    Regards,
    Jerome

  26. #25

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    About fingerings, one of the things I appreciate about the three Herb Ellis books ("Swing Blues," "Rhythm Shapes," and "All the Shapes You Are") is that he includes the fingerings for his lines. Some of them puzzle me even now---I've had these books awhile---but for the most part, they make a lot of sense.

    Frank Vignola is another player I like a lot but his fingerings are very different and some seem willfully complicated. Frankly, I finger those lines in a way more familiar to me and let it go.

    Robert Conti has the simplest "fingering protocol" one can have----one finger per fret, and the index determines the position--and I think that's one key to his being able to play so fast yet sounding every note distinctly.




    Of course, not every is trying to play that fast....
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  27. #26
    In my limited experience playing with Herb, I recall his fingerings coming from a fairly straightforward Charlie Christian position approach. Here are some nice closeups, are they similar to the book's fingerings? Herb is really one of the bedrock players of traditional jazz guitar, if you're getting a few 'surprise' fingerings here and there, I might even suspect a typo, unless you can corroborate them with video or really careful listening.




    With all due respect to Robert Conti, to me that playing leaves something to be desired. Compare it to Jimmy Raney's playing on the same tune, I hear much more content and artistry. Is Conti playing with a backing track? At it's core, I really believe jazz is a folk music, the further away you get from playing with people and for people, the further away you get from playing with people and for people........



    PK

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulkogut View Post
    In my limited experience playing with Herb, I recall his fingerings coming from a fairly straightforward Charlie Christian position approach. Here are some nice closeups, are they similar to the book's fingerings? Herb is really one of the bedrock players of traditional jazz guitar, if you're getting a few 'surprise' fingerings here and there, I might even suspect a typo, unless you can corroborate them with video or really careful listening.




    With all due respect to Robert Conti, to me that playing leaves something to be desired. Compare it to Jimmy Raney's playing on the same tune, I hear much more content and artistry. Is Conti playing with a backing track? At it's core, I really believe jazz is a folk music, the further away you get from playing with people and for people, the further away you get from playing with people and for people........



    PK
    I have that Herb video. Good stuff. Most of his fingerings are straightforward but he has a few thing that throw me. They're not typos. Some are anticipatory shifts (-it took me awhile to catch on to some of those), so once you get what he has done--already moved his hand, and where---the fingerings lay out as expected. Some still seem odd to me and all I can figure is that it was a faster way for him to play the line. (Herb could wind it up pretty fast when he wanted to.)

    Conti was playing with a backing track there, yes. It was a demonstration. What I chose that to demonstrate was his 'fingering protocol', which is very straightforward yet highly effective. Rest assured he performs with living musicians for real audiences too.

    I like Jimmy Raney too.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlsoRan View Post
    I am curious why some great guitarist neglect using their pinky and would rather shift positions or stretch their third finger. Has it turned out that its better for most to use the third finger instead of incorporating the pinky?
    In jazz (let's stick to that) there are great, wonderful guitarists that are "three finger players" primarily. Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Rainey and Peter Bernstein are the three I will pick. I will refer you to the few Django Reinhardt videos to see a two finger guitarist, which resulted from his left hand being burned in a fire, and he is a guitarist that few surpass with all four fingers. As Mr. Beaumont noted, once upon a time you could play or you couldn't. Technique was not criticized or examined as closely as now, and idiosyncratic technique was normal. Players learned from imitating recordings and on the bandstand- there were few to no instruction books, no Berklee method, etc. The use of the three strongest fingers probably seemed natural. But watch some Tal Farlow videos and watch how he uses all four fingers plus his thumb to fret notes with his enormous hands, which gave him a unique sonic palette and a unique way of moving those hands on the fretboard. There is a huge range of technique in jazz guitar.

    In rock and blues, the predominance of pentatonic scales falls readily under the reach of three fingers. Once you start trying to use all the notes in the major and various minor scales, as is the norm in jazz, playing them with three fingers becomes less convenient. Yet Wes, Jimmy and Pete are among the giants of the instrument with inventive lines incorporating any note they wanted to use. The important thing is that their technique lets them express themselves fully. Also, when you listen to them, all three have an intensely strong swinging groove and impeccable time in their lines; I wonder if using the three fingers predominantly contributes to this.

    My main guitar teacher taught me to use all four fingers and I occasionally use my thumb on some chord grips to voice chords that are impossible otherwise. Interestingly enough he uses three fingers when soloing! From the beginning I developed the strength in my little finger and it is not significantly weaker than the others. When I try to play with just three fingers it seems very awkward and limiting, but I notice that my sense of time and swing is sometimes weak with four-finger technique.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by monk View Post
    Joe Pass maintained throughout his life that three were only three innovators in the history of jazz guitar: Django, Charlie and Wes.
    Well, he has a point... I would possibly add George Van Eps and Allan Holdsworth to that list. While there are many brilliant guitarists in jazz, the true standout innovators are few; that's true with sax players, trumpeters, pianists, bassists, drummers, etc. And probably all human endeavors.

  31. #30

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    Four fingers makes for different fingerings than three fingers, so different note choices, not better, just different.
    “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
    ― Mahatma Gandhi

  32. #31

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    What is the difference between "predominantly three-fingers" and "four fingers"? After all, players who were taught to use all four fingers don't use the pinky as much as they use the index. Or the ring finger.

    I get that Charlie Christian was seen as a three-finger player. He didn't use his pinky much. But Herb Ellis used his pinky a lot, and he did lots of slides with it, started phrases on it. I don't think of Herb as a "three-finger player," though clearly some do. It's not something I want to "go to the mattresses" over but I think "predominantly" allows too much latitude to be useful here.

    Curiously, Carol Kaye stresses the use of all four fingers in her guitar teaching (-she's better known as a bass player but her first gigs and studio dates were as a guitarist) even though her stylistic emphasis is on jazz of the '50s and '60s.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  33. #32
    I think attempting to define who's 'predominantly' a 3 or 4 finger player muddies what I see as the larger, more important issue. The guitar is a complicated instrument, and it makes sense to me that as one gets deeper into jazz, one's choice of fingerings might want to mature alongside one's maturing melodic, harmonic and rhythmic senses. The fingerings you start out with might not be the ones you want to end up with. Yet I see a lot of posts that are completely dismissive to the fingerboard mechanics worked out by the masters of jazz guitar. There's too much commonality in the fingering approaches of Wes, Jimmy Rainey, Pat Metheney and Peter Bernstein for it to be dismissed as 'idiosyncratic', 'non-standard' 'shouldn't be taught to students' and other versions of calling those guys out as wrong. If those guys aren't 'the standard' of jazz guitar, who is, and I think it's a huge oversight to refuse to benefit from the fingerboard mechanics they've developed. I suppose where I'll 'go to the mattresses' is over the notion that Segovia or some dude that puts tabs up on the internet are authorities on jazz guitar fingering, and Wes, Jimmy, Pat and Pete are not.


    PK

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulkogut View Post
    I think attempting to define who's 'predominantly' a 3 or 4 finger player muddies what I see as the larger, more important issue. The guitar is a complicated instrument, and it makes sense to me that as one gets deeper into jazz, one's choice of fingerings might want to mature alongside one's maturing melodic, harmonic and rhythmic senses. The fingerings you start out with might not be the ones you want to end up with. Yet I see a lot of posts that are completely dismissive to the fingerboard mechanics worked out by the masters of jazz guitar. There's too much commonality in the fingering approaches of Wes, Jimmy Rainey, Pat Metheney and Peter Bernstein for it to be dismissed as 'idiosyncratic', 'non-standard' 'shouldn't be taught to students' and other versions of calling those guys out as wrong. If those guys aren't 'the standard' of jazz guitar, who is, and I think it's a huge oversight to refuse to benefit from the fingerboard mechanics they've developed. I suppose where I'll 'go to the mattresses' is over the notion that Segovia or some dude that puts tabs up on the internet are authorities on jazz guitar fingering, and Wes, Jimmy, Pat and Pete are not.


    PK
    +1,000

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulkogut View Post
    I think attempting to define who's 'predominantly' a 3 or 4 finger player muddies what I see as the larger, more important issue. The guitar is a complicated instrument, and it makes sense to me that as one gets deeper into jazz, one's choice of fingerings might want to mature alongside one's maturing melodic, harmonic and rhythmic senses. The fingerings you start out with might not be the ones you want to end up with. Yet I see a lot of posts that are completely dismissive to the fingerboard mechanics worked out by the masters of jazz guitar. There's too much commonality in the fingering approaches of Wes, Jimmy Rainey, Pat Metheney and Peter Bernstein for it to be dismissed as 'idiosyncratic', 'non-standard' 'shouldn't be taught to students' and other versions of calling those guys out as wrong. If those guys aren't 'the standard' of jazz guitar, who is, and I think it's a huge oversight to refuse to benefit from the fingerboard mechanics they've developed. I suppose where I'll 'go to the mattresses' is over the notion that Segovia or some dude that puts tabs up on the internet are authorities on jazz guitar fingering, and Wes, Jimmy, Pat and Pete are not.


    PK
    Well put! Your statement has so many facets to think about, with ramifications on so many different levels. For instance, did some of our Jazz Greats purposefully choose fingerings that utlilized their stronger ones on certain lines? Did they even have weakness in their "pinkies?" ( I know the great Pianist Robert Schumann had issues with the mobility and strength of his pinkies, to the point the he was purported to have permanently damaged them with a contraption he created in an attempt to strengthen them). And, many other thoughts and questions.

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulkogut View Post
    I suppose where I'll 'go to the mattresses' is over the notion that Segovia or some dude that puts tabs up on the internet are authorities on jazz guitar fingering, and Wes, Jimmy, Pat and Pete are not.
    I am tempted to say "same here" and would if you had used "experts", but "authorities" often are those who master a field of study but may not excel in its practice. For example, an authority on early childhood education may never set foot in a classroom, or be particularly effective if he did; an authority on the rules of evidence might not be a persuasive trial lawyer. An authority on jazz harmony might not be much of a player.


    Jimmy Bruno had his "six essential fingerings for jazz guitar," and he's a high-level player, but I think he abandoned that approach. I understand----via Monk--that Garrison Fewell teaches the three-finger approach. (Monk, forgive me if I've said this in a way you would not.)

    If you suggest that each player must find his own way, there is no main method for jazz guitar fingerings. If there is one, then, say, a Garrison Fewell could be an "authority" on it even though he does not rate as highly as a player as Charlie, Wes, Herb, Barney, Grant, and George Benson do. (Conversely, say, Grant Green may actually have played that way all along without thinking of it as a method but simply "what I do.")

    While we're at it, where does Joe Pass fit in here? However one ranks him among the other players mentioned here, I think more guitar players have his books (and DVDs) than Wes's or Herb's. In that sense, I think he is the more influential teacher.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  37. #36

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    I wrote to guitarist Frank Vignola about this and he kindly wrote back. I wrote Frank because he is a top-flight contemporary player with deep roots in both swing and Gypsy styles.

    His short answer to fingering was, "Whatever works." As for the masters, he concluded as follows:

    "There are over 200 ways to play a C scale so I doubt any of the Masters gave too much thought to fingering only and probably on certain tricky passages."

    I do not consider this the last word on the subject but I do consider it an important word.

    (I will repeat this post on a few other threads that touch on this same subject.)
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  38. #37

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    my fingerings are still too much influenced by the scale fingerings i practiced slavishly when i started to play. i felt i had to have a kind of map of where the notes were on the neck if i was to stand a chance. i'm absolutely sure that scale patterns did not form the foundation of any of the great players' take on the neck - i bet they just learned lots of tunes, bass lines, chordal movements - and maybe later picked out some scales out of a sort of curiosity (or not).

    garrison fewel says that the pinky doesn't get such a good strong tone as the third finger - even though i've always used the pinky using my third finger does produce a stronger tone.

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Groyniad View Post
    my fingerings are still too much influenced by the scale fingerings i practiced slavishly when i started to play. i felt i had to have a kind of map of where the notes were on the neck if i was to stand a chance. i'm absolutely sure that scale patterns did not form the foundation of any of the great players' take on the neck - i bet they just learned lots of tunes, bass lines, chordal movements - and maybe later picked out some scales out of a sort of curiosity (or not).
    I think most early jazz guitarists thought more in terms of chords than scales. It's a good way to learn one's way around the guitar.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  40. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by Groyniad View Post
    my fingerings are still too much influenced by the scale fingerings i practiced slavishly when i started to play. i felt i had to have a kind of map of where the notes were on the neck if i was to stand a chance. i'm absolutely sure that scale patterns did not form the foundation of any of the great players' take on the neck - i bet they just learned lots of tunes, bass lines, chordal movements - and maybe later picked out some scales out of a sort of curiosity (or not).
    I too use the forms I learned in college from my first guitar teacher, augmented with the five shapes I learned from Jimmy Bruno and things I learned from Gene Bertoncini and John Harmon (pianist). Those things are just laid down in my neuromuscular functioning. I suspect most of us tend to stick with the things we learned during the initial formative period; it takes a lot of work to overcome that.

    The "masters" of the older generation (referring to players like Tal Farlow, Jimmy Rainey, Joe Pass, Ed Bickert, etc. etc.) were often self-taught, picking up chords, lines and songs from recordings (Jim Hall is an exception, having a degree in music). In doing so they (1) developed their ability to hear what is going on in music to a very high level and (2) developed a practical, "what works" approach. Some of the teaching videos with Jimmy Rainey are instructive as to the depth in which he and his compatriots understood these things. Of course they also knew scales but I think there was more tendency to play based on arpeggios modified with extensions and tensions. Nowadays we refer to chord-scale theory but the old guys referred to it as running the chords. Horn players, especially, and a lot of guitarists took a lot of inspiration from the horns for soloing on guitar, of course. It makes sense on a horn- being unable to play more than one note at once, in order to tie the solo to the harmony the horn players had to know arpeggios and tensions/extensions thoroughly. Otherwise it sounds like noodling, which a lot of scale based playing tends to sound like. Guitarists and pianists can throw in chords periodically in a solo to give shape and direction.

    The Tal Farlow style guitar book lays out Tal's unique scale patterns which explain a lot of why his hands move they way they do. Pat Metheny tends to think in triads rather than in scales and his hand smove in unique ways. Allan Holdsworth has yet another completely idiosyncratic way of addressing the fingerboard. Johnny Smith, with perhaps the best jazz guitar technique ever, had his own approach that is very disciplined and he learned initially by ear. IIRC his book starts out with arpeggios first and scales later.

    The old masters did learn seem to learn jazz by learning repertoire- chords, arpeggios and melodies. Mostly learned by ear from recordings and on the bandstand, it seems, from the various biographies and such. The newer masters seem to tend to have both great ears and a formal background in music, which is perhaps the best of both worlds. I frankly think that we are currently living in something of a golden age of jazz guitar, both in terms of the quality of playing and the accessibility of hearing it (thanks to YouTube, iTunes, Pandora, etc.).

    garrison fewel says that the pinky doesn't get such a good strong tone as the third finger - even though i've always used the pinky using my third finger does produce a stronger tone.
    I've heard that before from other sources and I don't buy it on fretted instruments. The string is held down to the fret and doesn't care which finger is doing that- only that adequate pressure is being applied. On a fretless instrument like, bass, cello, violin then perhaps. I don't hear the slightest difference in tone on my guitars whether I am fretting with my 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th finger- or my thumb, which I sometimes use for bass notes.

  41. #40

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    When I was studying classical guitar it was pointed out to me on a number of occaisions that the 'pinky' is actually stronger and more agile than the ring finger.

    Anyway, I've always thought that since you've got four fingers and a thumb, then use them in the most effective way possible for the music you want to play !!!!
    Last edited by CliveR; 07-23-2014 at 07:15 AM.

  42. #41

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    Lots of my students play with three fingers and alternate their picking with a logic beyond my perception.

    I find it hard to tell them to use all fingers and alternate according to rhythm and gravity because lots of greats play in their own way.

    But let's realize that at a basic level you need some principles that you can change from later.

    To me sound decides how to finger and pick. Sometimes I only use upstrokes or one finger. However let's see a beginner play anything well with one finger and pure upstrokes 😊

  43. #42

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    Quote Originally Posted by yaclaus View Post

    I find it hard to tell them to use all fingers and alternate according to rhythm and gravity because lots of greats play in their own way.

    But let's realize that at a basic level you need some principles that you can change from later.
    I agree. You have to start somewhere. Beginners don't know the most important things to learn---how could they?---but you have to keep them interested or else they won't come back for more lessons....
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  44. #43

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    Every time I've seen George Benson, he was playing solo lines with three fingers. He used his forth finger for some octaves and chords, but mostly three fingers. Has anyone else noticed that? I see a lot of obsession on the net about his picking style, but I never see anyone looking at his other hand. Incidentally, I play that way, too, though I started that way before I ever heard of Benson.

    Any Benson-philes who know about this, or have I coincidentally caught him when his pinky was strained?

  45. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperFour00 View Post
    Every time I've seen George Benson, he was playing solo lines with three fingers. He used his forth finger for some octaves and chords, but mostly three fingers. Has anyone else noticed that?
    Yes. He seems a lot like Wes in ways, and Wes was a mostly-3-finger player too. It seems well suited to playing along the neck (diagonally) rather than up and down in position. Wes did a lot of that. So did Herb Ellis. Herb used his pinky, but a lot his lines can be played with only 3 fingers.
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  46. #45

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    Ultimately, it's got to be about what does it sound like and what does it say? If someone's music speaks to me in a way that's meaningful then why should I care what techniques they use to form their sentences?
    Last edited by Jim Soloway; 09-02-2014 at 05:05 PM.
    My CD "Bare Handed" is available as a download at Bandcamp.com
    http://jimsoloway.bandcamp.com/album/bare-handed

  47. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Soloway View Post
    Ultimately, it's got to be about what does it sound like and what does it say? If someone's music speaks to me in a way that's meaningful then why should I care what techniques they use to form their sentences?
    Technique is fascinating, though. There was an organist in Reno in the 70s/80s that used eight fingers, but never thumbs. He was a great Jazz player, but what an interesting style. He did have thumbs, just didn't need 'em.

  48. #47

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    I can't even begin to imagine not using all four fingers on my left hand when playing single note lines. But, I do not do so robotically. I'll sometimes use a 3rd finger half step or whole step slide for effect, in playing notes which could have (should have?) been played with the 4th finger. I do use specific fingerings across the neck and sometimes will need to use a 4th finger stretch to reach a desired note, without leaving that position. I'll also sometimes use the 4th finger to lead me into the next fingering further up or down the neck.

    I'm not nearly as advanced as guys like SuperFour00 or Greentone seem to be . . or many others here for that matter. But, I'm not ready to say that their choice of fingerings is better or worse than any others. A lot of these threads sighted guys like Benson, Wes and others as three finger players . . and many people like to emulate these guys. Understandable. But, Norman Brown is just short of a GB clone. He loves using his 4th finger. Check out this video of Norman playing some of his typical "smooth" jazz stuff. Note at around 30 seconds in . . after using his 4th finger several times, he actually ornaments with it.

    I agree with yaclaus .. the desired sound and effect sometimes has a lot to do with finger choices.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?featur...&v=ArNNsdDQEaY
    Patrick2 . . Heritage representative (now former)

  49. #48

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    Rereading this thread got me into listening to a few Norman Brown cuts and thinking about style and fingerings. I think it is an individual choice of how to sound the notes with the type of expression that you intend. Of course, in the case of Django, anatomy became destiny. Maybe true as well with Wes' right thumb dexterity.

    But the fingerings are just different ways of sounding the notes of the melody and harmony. I have two or three Norman Brown CDs that are pretty good for a sultry R&B with jazzy accents mood which is quite fine with me. I played them more during the Nineties, but he is a fine player. His sound is not far from George Benson, but with a more Motown feel. And like George, he uses three fingers predominantly, though not exclusively. I think it has a lot to do with slides and getting a certain type of expression from the notes of the melody. Norman is a very lyrical player who scats very well like George, who has a more jazz oriented dimension when he wants. I suspect Norman can play more jazzy if he wants, but he has to put dinner on the table. I get that.

    On the other hand, Joe Pass and Herb Ellis, while different stylistically to a degree, both use their fifth fingers. It is a question of how you want to express the notes. Joes uses slides, but in a little different way than Wes or George or Herb. I don't think I ever heard Joe go expressly for the Motown R&B sound, but I bet he could have done it. Just wasn't his style.

    After this pantheon of the greats, including Charlie C. whom I find in some ways the most idiosyncratic player melodically, though we don't have much video documentation, we come to...moi. Somewhere off the pantheon, stage left. Anyway, classically trained I use all the fingers of the fretting hand but the thumb essentially. But, I can play 'three-fingered' if it works for the expression of the lyrical melody. A little more bluesy and slippery. Truthfully, I don't think much about the fingering, but rather the emotional tone.

    It's like a story I've told from my callow youth when I met the young Sharon Isbin in Pedelson's in Manhattan near Carnegie Hall one cold winter evening. I was in the back with the instruments playing the famous Bach Bouree from one of the lute suites (I think it's the first - too lazy to go find the sheet music) - the syncopated one in Em. There was a flurry of activity suddenly amongst the personnel, whispering excitedly amongst themselves, when in walked this quite attractive raven haired teenager with dark smoldering eyes that fixed attentively upon me as I played through the piece. At the end, she commented without hesitation that I had played the last couple of measures "the easy way" (sounding certain notes using some open strings rather than with a closed voicing fingered by Julian Bream.). I had no idea who she was, other than a very self-assured intense young woman. Twenty years old, I liked that and figured I had impressed her. I simply replied that I knew the Bream fingering, but I liked the sustain of open strings harmonically with the melody.

    I'm sure the Grammy award-winning Ms. Isbin , head of the Julliard classical guitar department, cherishes the memory, as I do, to this day....
    Last edited by targuit; 09-03-2014 at 09:55 AM.

  50. #49

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    I am coming from a slightly different angle as somebody who is more in the free improvisation realm (essentially the polar opposite of a traditionalist).
    There is no right or wrong way to play a guitar, or honestly any instrument. Instruction does serve a purpose, as does technique, but ultimately it serves the specific purpose of learning, not doing. Ultimately when when one plays, they have to figure out what works best for them, including musical style and technique. People gravitate to both what they are interested in, and what works for them.

    While some will say that there is a right and wrong way of doing thing, in some ways an ultra-traditionalist perspective is unhealthy, especially for jazz which has always in many ways embraced both the avant garde and the traditional. With both seen as having valid perspectives, as well as appreciation.

    Which gets back to fingering, use what works for you. There is no right or wrong way. Just play and practice as much as possible.

  51. #50

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    It seems like a lot of "newer" players are adopting the 3 finger playing method, into a kind of hybrid, where they hold the neck like they would only use 3 fingers, but also use their pinky. It's kind of hard, since the pinky becomes a little weaker when you hold the neck with palm and thumb, with the fingers at an angle, however, with training it's probably possible to achieve.

    It's funny how many opinions there are on what is not correct, and what is. I had a classical teacher, who was very focused on thumb behind the neck, palm never touching fretboard, fingers dead on. My current jazz teacher, on the other hand, is very focused on opposite, like the old cats.


    I stumbled upon this dude on instagram for example, who does that:

    Ben Eunson (@beneunsonmusic) • Instagram photos and videos