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  1. #1

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    Hey y'all, I am a new user and I have been playing for about a year so I'm a pretty new beginner. Basically want to know if anyone has any advice re how to exercise a permanently deformed finger. guitar ringtones
    I broke the pinky finger on my left hand as a little kid and it healed improperly; now the knuckle of my finger is always bent upwards and I can't lay it flat; basically my finger is always curved. This makes it really painful to play certain chords. I have tried playing through the pain and that strengthed the finger a bit but I've kinda reached a point where I see no more change and if I play for too long (over an hour or so) the finger and left side of my hand will cramp up and become immobile for the rest of the day which is super not chill. Any sort of advice? Are there exercises I could do? Should I just try to adapt chords so I don't use my pinky as much? Thanks!!
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    Last edited by Louiss97; 08-20-2020 at 06:36 AM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    It's possible to play without using your pinkie at all. Django only had two working fingers, although he could sometimes use one of the deformed ones to briefly fret a note. Three notes is enough much of the time, and it's also possible to use the thumb over the top of the neck. Fretting multiple strings with one finger is common. I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, so I have no recommendations for exercises for your finger.

  4. #3

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    Yeah. You just need to use what you have. Play the best you can within any physical limitations. Don’t worry about it and play.

  5. #4

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    All the above. Plus...avoid pain. Don't over-do it. More often than not this can lead to debilitation and a need to not play for an extended period to heal. Tendonitis is a bitch.

    And study up on Freddie Green type voicings. It's not necessary to play all the notes. Like the root for EG. Somebody else has that covered. Make it work for you. Worst case it will give you you're own unique style!

    A little encouragement: there are many discussions on this board revolving around use of pinky. Many folks feel it's more 'traditional' to not use it at all. Or at least very little. I haven't made a study of it or anything, but there are nice videos of Wes playing where you have clear view of his left hand. His pinky got a lot of rest.

    I messed up my left index tip. There are things I can't do anymore, but I can still make music and enjoy it.

  6. #5

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    Louiss97
    I have a boatload of problems with my fretting hand including limited mobility of my middle finger (severed the tendon when I was 5 yrs old) and arthritis in the base of my thumb which makes holding a barre almost impossilble. There's no point in telling you about my other problems because knowing my problems is not going to make your problems any better.

    My point is that there's a work around for almost everything. There are things you are not going to able to do. You just have to accept that, but don't dwell on the negative. Focus on what you can do and develop that. Above all don't get discouraged.

    CCroft above makes a good point. There's a lot to explore with 3-note chords.

    I'm currently working on Tim Lerch's Truefire course. It pisses me off that I physically cannot do some things that he can. However, I'm going to continue with it (at least for awhile) and alter things as needed. I won't sound like Lerch, but I wouldn't sound like him even if I had a fully functioning fretting hand.

    One more thing: don't do anything that's painful. There might be long term adverse effects

  7. #6

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    Lenny Breau had a permanently bent little finger from a childhood accident. He couldn't do some of the things that most of us can do but he did other things none of us can do : )
    I have nerve damage to the tip of my left index finger and have made adjustments to avoid placing the index on its tip especially on the thin strings. try not to get frustrated you might find a solution that actually works for you and sounds just as good or better than a common fingering.

    all the best
    Tim

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Louiss97
    Hey y'all, I am a new user and I have been playing for about a year so I'm a pretty new beginner. Basically want to know if anyone has any advice re how to exercise a permanently deformed finger. I broke the pinky finger on my left hand as a little kid and it healed improperly; now the knuckle of my finger is always bent upwards and I can't lay it flat; basically my finger is always curved. This makes it really painful to play certain chords. I have tried playing through the pain and that strengthed the finger a bit but I've kinda reached a point where I see no more change and if I play for too long (over an hour or so) the finger and left side of my hand will cramp up and become immobile for the rest of the day which is super not chill. Any sort of advice? Are there exercises I could do? Should I just try to adapt chords so I don't use my pinky as much? Thanks!!
    I would recommend seeing a Hand Surgeon. Not just an orthopedic surgeon who does hands part of the time, but a fully trained surgeon who did the full hand surgery training as well.

    If you live in a city with a symphony orchestra, there will be a doctor that the string players go to. And if you don't live near one, it's worth a drive, noting of course that this is pre-virus and post-virus type advice. Meanwhile, don't do anything that makes it worse.

    Wes Montgomery played his single note lines with three fingers. So do a lot of other players. Django, used two for almost everything.

    You might see if you can get your left thumb involved.

    And, you can consider different types of guitars, set up different ways. Fingerboards can be flat, or curved to different arcs. Necks can vary in every dimension. If smaller is better, try to find a Yamaha Pacifica 012 to play for a few minutes. Skinny neck every which way, dirt cheap and not a bad guitar. I've played a lot of gigs with mine.

  9. #8

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    As already mentioned, Django made use of just two functioning fingers, and could do some chord work with his ring and pinky fingers which were effectively fused together.

    Take a look at this video. Stephane plays the first half like Django would have.


  10. #9

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    Someone, whose name I have forgotten, talked about his lessons with Barry Galbraith. The guitarist one day proudly showed Galbraith a very interesting chord he had cooked up with had a very complex fingering. Galbraith just shook his head and said: "Nah, too hard". I Galbraiths opinion, complex fingerings could be fine - provided they didn't interrupt the easy and smooth flow of a tune, but very complex fingerings - or fingerings that cause pain - often do that unless the guitarist is extraordinarily gifted.

    A friend once commented that when I played 4-to-the-bar my fingering didn't seem to change significantly, the hand just moved up and down the neck, and yet he found my voice leading good. Actually, good voice leading often comes from just changing one or two notes at a time instead of making more drastical jumps. Small "shell" chords works well for this. More drastical jumps can be reserved for marking direction changes in the music (often happens when going into the bridge i AABA kind of songs).

    So .... play what you can without pain and what maintains the steady and smooth flow of your playing. Again, small chords work very well for guitar (and if there's a pianist and/or horns who plays chords too, they will love you for not stepping on their toes).
    Last edited by oldane; 03-26-2020 at 07:37 AM.

  11. #10

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    For playing melodies and lines, The three fingers approach works fine. Go look at videos by Jimmy Raney, Peter Bernstein and Wes Montgomery to see that approach in action in jazz. Nobody plays better lines than them, although that's not necessarily to say that their lines are better than others' either.

    Chords may be another matter, but there are many voice things that can be played with just three fingers and get the job done well. You might have to leave a few notes out of chords. Back in my days of playing in a band regularly, I developed three note chord voicings typically using my first three fingers which generally left the root and the fifth out (or the fifth tended to be on top) as a way to play the chord while staying out of the way the bass player. If I wanted to add a bass note, I could reach around with my thumb easily to the low E string, a bit harder to the A string.

    In terms of addressing the mobility of your finger, there is no way any of us here could do that. For one thing, we haven't seen your finger. I think I would suggest two things: one of them would be to get a referral to a hand therapist and the other would be to find a good jazz guitar teacher locally who could examine how your hand works in that context and help you identify chord voicings, etc., that (pun intended) within your grasp. If it hurts, don't do that. Pain is natures way of telling you to stop. When you are dealing with an injury, there is no playing through the pain – you are probably causing more injury.

    One of the things that I think makes musicians sound unique is not what they're able to do but what their limitations are. They find a way to work within those and that develops part of their musical personalities.