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  1. #1

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    I am studying with a new teacher. He advocates keeping four finger on four frets and occasionally stretching a finger to get the out of reach notes. For example, stretching the index finger to play F (on the top string), middle finger on G and stretching the little finger up to the A.

    This is opposed to what I’ve always practiced, which is to shift position. See Segovia diatonic scales, for example.

    Thoughts?

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  3. #2

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    Do what is most comfortable for you. Obviously, you should at least try his recommendations. That's what you're paying for. However, if the teacher insists that you have to do something his way and you don't like it find another teacher. There's no one and only one way to do anything.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bach5G
    I am studying with a new teacher. He advocates keeping four finger on four frets and occasionally stretching a finger to get the out of reach notes. For example, stretching the index finger to play F (on the top string), middle finger on G and stretching the little finger up to the A.

    This is opposed to what I’ve always practiced, which is to shift position. See Segovia diatonic scales, for example.

    Thoughts?
    Different great players do this different ways.

    I think it's a more complicated question than it might seem initially.

    For one thing, it is possible to shift just a little to make the stretches easier. Position changes can be made surprisingly rapidly. Segovia scales prove it.

    Another thing is that how you finger a passage can change based on a need to accommodate the picking, especially for an alternate picker. '

    Sometimes position shifts are impossible to avoid to play something up to speed. So, you might as well get good at it.

  5. #4

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    Berklee fingerings by William Leavitt use stretches. That’s what I originally learned through the Modern Method for Guitar books.

    The CAGED system of fingerings is now more popular and is taught widely. This uses positions shifts instead of stretches.

    It isn’t an either / or situation. You want to learn both and then a lot of other systems as well. If you spend enough time on the guitar scale patterns all merge into many multiple pathways. Master as many as you can.

  6. #5

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    I keep my thumb behind the neck, never hanging over the edge of the finger board and I always use all four fingers for all positions, all styles of music, all the time, no matter what. One of the advantages of this is that I can shift my entire hand of fingers locally up and down the finger board without stretching fingers and without shifting the position of my thumb.

    In other words, a playing position on the neck spans more local frets without stretching because the thumb and fingers are moving relative to each other sort of like a rack and pinion (rack of fingers, thumb as pinion), no shifting of where the thumb contacts the back of the neck, no stretching of the fingers, just shifting the hand and so also the fingers relative to the thumb a little up or down the neck... this saves actual position shifting of the thumb for bigger less frequent moves, and the fingers always address the finger board the same relaxed way, consistent angles of incidence from the side and from above because of no stretching.

  7. #6

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    I suppose it depends on how far you can stretch and how fast you can shift. A third choice is shirk: avoid the notes which are difficult to reach and do something else instead.

  8. #7

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    This is a pretty legitimate modern approach, very popular with fusion and rock playing. It is not that popular in mainstream jazz though, especially in players that play archtops and heavy strings. There you will see a lot of three finger playing. A lot depends on the setup of your guitars and the music you play.

    My personal opinion, if studying particular players, try to go for their particular fingerings. Also fingering has a lot to do with the particular chord shape that you're playing around at the moment.

  9. #8

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    Necessity is the mother of invention. Like most things in music, the note played before and after will dictate your choice.

  10. #9

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    It all depends on hand size, B. If you have large hands, it is quite easy. If you have normal size hands or smaller, learn to stretch if possible. Less shifting=faster/easier playing. There will be many things asked from you by a good teacher. Most will be difficult at first but with time and practice become the norm. I tried for years to develop a consistent 3 finger tremolo but was hampered by damage to my "a" finger knuckle that I lost in a bar fight in my "brilliant" twenties. So, I now use a two finger tremolo(i-m) and with much practice is barely discernible from a three finger(i-m-a) tremolo. Stick with it. Nothing of value is easy. Good playing . . .Marinero

  11. #10

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    Few pro classical guitarists play the Segovia fingerings these days. I can't think of one. There are two approaches is use:

    1. one finger per fret, with stretches backwards by the first finger or stretching forwards by the fourth finger - covering six frets in all.

    2. the use of the fourth finger on the third fret when playing in first position. This is useful if you have small hands or a long scale length, like on my Ramirez 1A with its devilishly-long 666mm string length!

  12. #11

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    As an almost senior citizen, I advocate always finding the least stressful way to play a phrase. That generally means avoiding unnecessary stretching. But a person with large hands may not need to shift as much as a short fingered person.

  13. #12

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    "Shift or stretch?" Why, yes, of course!

  14. #13
    Adam Rogers recommends the Segovia.

    Barry Greene’s finger patterns involve stretches.

  15. #14

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    It doesn't have to be a binary choice, but it can make sense to focus on practicing one option at a time. Who are some of the players you admire? I like how Wes Montgomery shifts around the neck to give his lines an effortless forward momentum. I like how John Stowell stretches to integrate close chord voicings with his lines.

    PK

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alter
    This is a pretty legitimate modern approach, very popular with fusion and rock playing. It is not that popular in mainstream jazz though, especially in players that play archtops and heavy strings. There you will see a lot of three finger playing. A lot depends on the setup of your guitars and the music you play.

    My personal opinion, if studying particular players, try to go for their particular fingerings. Also fingering has a lot to do with the particular chord shape that you're playing around at the moment.
    I am seeing this anew in working with the Garrison Fewell material (Melodic Approach). He plays many notes with his 3rd finger that I would naturally play with my 4th, but as I'm working with his material and trying to learn what he's teaching I finger things his way. Since he plays along the neck rather than staying in a single position, there's a lot of shifting. But because of the way he fingers things, there is much repetition in the fingering, so what may seem like a difficult passage initially becomes quite easy with repetition and easy to use in different keys. He was heavily influenced by Wes Montgomery.

    Carol Kaye teaches using one's thumb as a pivot, allowing on (on either guitar or bass) to cover many frets and all strings without moving the thumb. So if one wants to be grounded in a position, there is a lot more latitude in that than it may at first seem.

  17. #16

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    It depends on the fingering patterns you choose to adopt in your playing, I would say...

    I am recently exploring the possibility of keeping scales and arps within the limits of two adjacent strings, so to to cover three octaves with the same fingering pattern.
    For example (Maj scale):

    |-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
    |-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
    |-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
    |-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
    |-|-|1|-|2|-|4|
    |1|-|2|-|3|4|-|

    This implies the use of both stretches and shifts.
    Not easy at first, and requires specific preliminary technical exercises: however, the skill of the left hand has benefited immensely.

    And, in any case, I found it better to become familiar with both techniques: in general it is impossible to completely avoid stretches (whole tone scale, three notes per string) or shifts (dominant diminished, four notes per string).

    Sergio
    Last edited by sergio.bello; 03-07-2020 at 02:01 PM. Reason: attachment deleted

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bach5G
    I am studying with a new teacher. He advocates keeping four finger on four frets and occasionally stretching a finger to get the out of reach notes. For example, stretching the index finger to play F (on the top string), middle finger on G and stretching the little finger up to the A.

    This is opposed to what I’ve always practiced, which is to shift position. See Segovia diatonic scales, for example.

    Thoughts?
    are you playing polyphonic or monodic music?

    stretching is not generally necessary when playing single note lines. I would advise doing no more stretching than strictly necessary. I am super paranoid about twinges and things. I managed to give myself tendonitis doing stretches with a bent left hand wrist. Never do that.

    watch posture and wrist position when stretching. Don’t collapse the carpal tunnel. Use a footstool and do it properly if you are going to play polyphonic stuff a lot.

  19. #18

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    If your goal is total freedom you need it all: stretching, shifting and shirking. I was very locked into positional playing for many years. The connecting and larger shifts I gleaned from a bit of classical study gets me to new places. I believe some of these came thru Segovia, but I don't know for sure.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Few pro classical guitarists play the Segovia fingerings these days. I can't think of one. There are two approaches is use:

    1. one finger per fret, with stretches backwards by the first finger or stretching forwards by the fourth finger - covering six frets in all.

    2. the use of the fourth finger on the third fret when playing in first position. This is useful if you have small hands or a long scale length, like on my Ramirez 1A with its devilishly-long 666mm string length!
    back into teaching early grade classical and I am learning to hate school 1, what it does to hand position and the way it makes polyphonic playing more of a leap, so maybe I’ll start to adopt method 2. many kids are a bit unsure about using finger 4. I suppose that’s an argument for employing it ASAP.

    i notice jazz players with smaller hands tend to use more ‘legit’ fingering than those with larger hands who can be a bit more pronated and three fingered so to speak.

  21. #20

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    One thing that I think is problematic about finger a fret is actually that the thumb and the hand get stuck in too low of a position. In fact, it would in my opinion be better to teach D or G as the first fretted note.

    once a comfortable hand position is established the student can stretch back to the C and A etc

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    Necessity is the mother of invention. Like most things in music, the note played before and after will dictate your choice.
    And even the style. It's often said in bebop that you should slur to the downbeat. Well that will change how you finger some phrases.

  23. #22

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    I stretch when it's comfortable. When it's not, I shift. Damaging your hand is no fun.

  24. #23

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    I'm not very good at stretching
    so developed my way of shifting for almost everything

    I can't alt pick either so I hammer and pull off a lot
    i have my thumb over most of the time

    my chops are poor , so I do things other ways
    Of necessity its forced me to play more consciously
    less licks and flash ....

    one door closes , another door opens
    Last edited by pingu; 03-08-2020 at 07:28 PM.

  25. #24

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    I want to emphasize something I mentioned in an earlier post.

    The first scales I learned many years ago were 3 notes per string, requiring stretching.

    For some reason, I practiced this without moving my thumb (or hand) up and down the neck at all. I'd fix my hand in a position and leave it there while I stretched.

    Later, I discovered the Segovia scales and realized that shifting could be executed so fast that it was possible to do it during a pretty rapid run with no change of sound.

    But, it was one or the other. Either I shifted to a new position or I left my hand stationary.

    I was reminded that Wes played his runs with three fingers -- try playing West Coast Blues that way. It requires a lot of shifting, which Wes executed flawlessly, of course.

    Eventually, I realized that I could shift my hand just a little bit to make the stretches easier -- up and down the neck (towards the bridge, towards the nut, back and forth, as needed) -- which facilitated playing some runs that would otherwise require more stretching. On one tune (an original with a lot of notes) I was able to refinger the left hand in a way which facilitated the picking and allowed me to play the tune much better.

    Maybe everybody else was already doing this, but if not, I'd suggest trying it.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    Eventually, I realized that I could shift my hand just a little bit to make the stretches easier -- up and down the neck (towards the bridge, towards the nut, back and forth, as needed) -- which facilitated playing some runs that would otherwise require more stretching. On one tune (an original with a lot of notes) I was able to refinger the left hand in a way which facilitated the picking and allowed me to play the tune much better.
    I think this is the way I've ended up doing it?

    Look so much depends on whether you are a beginner or an advanced player and what type of music you want to learn.

    The beginner needs rules that they can follow and develop a reliable framework for developing a base technique. What this base technique actually consists of? Well, I envy classical only teachers haha. But when you start out playing on F# on the D string can feel like a stretch. It's all relative.

    Anyway - certain things like, the basic C major chord. You learn that you twist your hand a little way and you don't have to stretch at all, for instance. You learn to work within your physical limitations as a human person.

    Stretching is - a necessary evil. Playing all the time with stretches, I really don't know why anyone would do that. I will do anything to find ways around it because I'm always looking for the most elegant and low impact ergonomics. It's not always possible, of course.

    I mean if you're Allan Holdsworth, fair enough, his language was based around stretches, impossible to play it without them.

  27. #26

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    Also shifting almost always sounds better.

  28. #27

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    Well, both. I've been going through the Johnny Smith approach to guitar books in a very desultory fashion; he stretches with chords but shifts with lines. His patterns for shifting are specific and logical.

  29. #28

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    Realizing that size of hands are critical in this discussion, much of what we do is based in memory and practice. For example, try playing a Cm7flat5 chord/6th string root in a progression and playing it cleanly every time. It's a great sounding chord but requires your hands to do a Chinese twist to hit it cleanly when shifting. It is slightly easier on a CG, but on an EG it's difficult--especially if you have big hands. Much of what we do requires time; some of what we do is not always consistently attainable. Good playing . . . Marinero

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop
    Few pro classical guitarists play the Segovia fingerings these days.
    I’ve heard that Segovia fingerings were an adaptation to gut strings. The same note could have a quite distinct timbre depending on which string was used, and Segovia fingerings were chosen based on this.

    I have wondered about this explanation as gut strings predate Segovia, and you would expect earlier guitarists to have chosen a similar fingering method if the wide variability of gut strings strongly affected the tone.

  31. #30

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    Well, Segovia was an advocate of Nylon strings, and he was extremely peculiar about his fingerings.

    They were all chosen for optimal sound on a Classical guitar. I can assure you that even with nylon strings, notes can sound quite different depending on where they are played (heck, they sound different on my Tele and I use it for effect).

    (As to earlier guitarists, none of them had Segovia's technique or repertoire and hence, difference needs.)

  32. #31

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    Single line playing? What kind of lines are we talking about? If the lines are not "guitaristic" (ie, horn or piano like lines), then you have to find your own way. I spend a lot of time trying lines, devices etc, several different ways before deciding on a preferred way to finger them with the fret hand, which will then force decisions about how to negotiate said lines with the pick hand. Even after years and years of doing this, I still need to test several solutions to everything I play.

    Despairingly, I have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours re evaluating old techniques and replacing them with more efficient ones. For example, economy picking can sound more musical than a strictly alternate approach, or a predominately slurred approach. Now this very definitely will change how you need to finger lines because you may wish to play 2 consecutive notes with a continuous down stroke (mini sweep) which will mean you may need to play a note on an adjacent string instead of the same string the last note was played on. Especially when using a lot of chromatic approaches and enclosures. This is always hard work and often means you need to unlearn what you thought were good solutions in the past, which is frustrating and time consuming! All in the interests in sounding more authoritative, which is the hardest thing to achieve on our instrument.

    So shift or stretch? I wish it was that simple! For me it's absolutely both, probably 50/50, whichever facilitates the most musical effect in any given situation. But it's both hands that can be improved when considering technique, and it may end up being a highly idiosyncratic series of choices that you make that no one else will. That's OK, that's called "style" ...

    When I listen to CC, Django, Wes, GB etc, the thing I hear that I don't hear in most modern players is flawless, authoritative, dynamic expression. Interestingly, without exception, their techniques are unorthodox, and certainly have been self taught. They too would have asked themselves thousands of times " Do I stretch, or do I shift? Do I pick, sweep, or slur?" etc. Sounds to me like they would not have settled for only the first solution they could think of...

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bach5G
    I am studying with a new teacher. He advocates keeping four finger on four frets and occasionally stretching a finger to get the out of reach notes. For example, stretching the index finger to play F (on the top string), middle finger on G and stretching the little finger up to the A.

    This is opposed to what I’ve always practiced, which is to shift position. See Segovia diatonic scales, for example.

    Thoughts?
    Don't overthink these things.

    Do what works and sounds best for you.

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by princeplanet
    Single line playing? What kind of lines are we talking about? If the lines are not "guitaristic" (ie, horn or piano like lines), then you have to find your own way. I spend a lot of time trying lines, devices etc, several different ways before deciding on a preferred way to finger them with the fret hand, which will then force decisions about how to negotiate said lines with the pick hand. Even after years and years of doing this, I still need to test several solutions to everything I play.

    Despairingly, I have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours re evaluating old techniques and replacing them with more efficient ones. For example, economy picking can sound more musical than a strictly alternate approach, or a predominately slurred approach. Now this very definitely will change how you need to finger lines because you may wish to play 2 consecutive notes with a continuous down stroke (mini sweep) which will mean you may need to play a note on an adjacent string instead of the same string the last note was played on. Especially when using a lot of chromatic approaches and enclosures. This is always hard work and often means you need to unlearn what you thought were good solutions in the past, which is frustrating and time consuming! All in the interests in sounding more authoritative, which is the hardest thing to achieve on our instrument.

    So shift or stretch? I wish it was that simple! For me it's absolutely both, probably 50/50, whichever facilitates the most musical effect in any given situation. But it's both hands that can be improved when considering technique, and it may end up being a highly idiosyncratic series of choices that you make that no one else will. That's OK, that's called "style" ...

    When I listen to CC, Django, Wes, GB etc, the thing I hear that I don't hear in most modern players is flawless, authoritative, dynamic expression. Interestingly, without exception, their techniques are unorthodox, and certainly have been self taught. They too would have asked themselves thousands of times " Do I stretch, or do I shift? Do I pick, sweep, or slur?" etc. Sounds to me like they would not have settled for only the first solution they could think of...
    It is posts like this that really catch my interest. The differences between how we all approach and play the guitar, and how we think of how others play, is always fascinating.

    From the beginning I never spent a minute thinking about how to finger or pick anything and still don't. I discovered decades later that what I taught myself was called economy picking, like Chuck Wayne, with kind of a mental musical attention focused on the end of notes' duration rather than on their initiation (I'm not describing this very well).

    To me it feels like the main feature of economy picking is that it coordinates both hands without having to think of either of them. The fretting hand is free to use whatever it wants because it "tells" the picking hand which string, and the pinking hand is automatic - no learning, evaluating, unlearning, reevaluating going on , just the hands and fingers figuring it out for themselves. I never figure out how to finger and pick something; they already know.

    I've mentioned above that shifting to reach a note and stretching to do so are the same mechanical motion for me.

    I think Wes did work on fingering because my sense is that he needed to position and shift his fingers on the finger board in a way that optimally "set up" each subsequent note or phrase for using his thumb, the fretting hand always a planing step ahead of the thumb, and that process became natural and automatic, and became a big part of his sound - phrasing, pauses, timing...

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by docsteve
    Well, Segovia was an advocate of Nylon strings, and he was extremely peculiar about his fingerings.
    Segovia certainly played a role in nylon strings’ acceptance, but nylon strings became available only after WWII, and so well into his career. He had established his reputation with gut strings.

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by pauln
    ...
    From the beginning I never spent a minute thinking about how to finger or pick anything and still don't. I discovered decades later that what I taught myself was called economy picking, like Chuck Wayne, with kind of a mental musical attention focused on the end of notes' duration rather than on their initiation...
    Ah, then consider yourself lucky! In my early lessons I was taught "finger per fret" logic as well as strict alternate picking. You can spend 10 years perfecting that, and the next 20 years unlearning it all...