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  1. #1

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    A debate that has raged for many a year on JGO haha.
    Last edited by christianm77; 05-04-2021 at 01:15 PM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Didn't Charlie Christian use 3 fingers, with rare 4th finger use?

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS
    Didn't Charlie Christian use 3 fingers, with rare 4th finger use?
    Indeed. Sorry, video had to be reuploaded, will be accessible soon.

    Examples I give (only some of the ones I can think of):

    Charlie Christian
    Grant Green
    Wes Montgomery
    Pat Metheny
    Peter Bernstein
    Kurt Rosenwinkel

    In most/all of these cases, three fingers dominate, but the pinky is used from time to time, so it's more about hand position.

    What I don't mention is that some of these players swap to 'thumb behind' for at least some chords including Metheny and Bernstein. This implies a conscious or intuitive choice to use 'thumb over, pronated fretting hand' for solo lines.
    Last edited by christianm77; 05-04-2021 at 03:21 PM.

  5. #4

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    Good video and thought provoking for me.

    I had a serious dislocation of my 4th finger on my left hand (rugby) and it has never fully recovered … I have learned ways to adjust my classical guitar technique, but it is a severe limitation in the classical world. I mostly play chord-melody in the jazz world and my finger injury is pushing me towards more sparse chord voicings.

  6. #5

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    I can't run the video yet...

    This debate is very curious, indeed.

    Without taking into account experience or instruction regarding proper form, how might one expect the fingers to position themselves over the fingerboard? Hold your hand in front of you looking at your palm, then make a fist; your finger tips will align diagonally. When you place your hand about the guitar neck with a straight wrist, the forearm's angle to approach to the neck makes that finger tip alignment parallel to the strings. This gives all four fingers full access, which continues as hand position moves up the neck maintaining a straight wrist.

    To play with three fingers, the wrist rotates and flexes in order for the third finger to angle up the neck to make a four fret span above the first finger. As the hand position moves up the neck, rotation in maintained but flexion is reversed to extension.

    The first idea that usually comes up suggests a relative weakness and lack of coordination inherent in the fourth finger compared to fingers one through three, the implication pointing to the high and tight actions on traditional jazz guitars allowing play-ability for fingers one through three but generally excluding play-ability for the fourth finger. I find two things about this which question this idea.

    One, if you switch the guitar over so that you attempt to finger and pick it with your opposite hands, even if you have played for decades you will discover a devastating lack of strength and coordination of all the fingers of both hands making the guitar absolutely unplayable. This simulates your first day learning to play the guitar when all fingers began utterly weak and uncoordinated.

    Two, if you grip a sword, bat, golf club, tennis racket, or flashlight, the strongest grip strength comes from the side of the hand opposite the thumb. Go grab something right now to convince yourself of this. The side of the hand opposite the thumb also contributes the most coordination and control when swinging or waving these things around. Swing and wave the thing you grabbed to convince yourself of this, too.

    So it looks to me that playing with three fingers develops less from any innate mechanical perspective and more from basic human nature - the desire for short term expediency winning over deliberate plans for the long term. This probably describes most beginning guitarists, especially teenagers eager to get going on the instrument.

    It seems peculiar to me now days that some who hold certain technical approaches to the guitar (needing to know all the note names, forming lines and chords by construction through note names, knowing the chord functions by names, and other theory aspects) ignore concern with the physical mechanical approach to the instrument. I have the opposite situation; no technical approach whatsoever (I play by ear), yet a really absurd adherence to mechanical form. It seems that we would expect to observe two natural cases; those that combine both a technical approach and an adherence to mechanical form, or those that do neither... not so much the cross combinations.

    I myself began guitar as a teenager playing with three fingers. After about four years I decided that in order to approach playing the music I liked, I would need to change to playing with four fingers. A few days later I changed, never to play with three fingers again, ever. It slowed me down considerably for two years to catch up, then overall development and improvement accelerated through today, almost 50 years later.

  7. #6

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    Much ado about nothing. We play in whatever way works for our physique at the level we are at.

    I use pinky all the time, but some stuff is best played with thumb over.

    Most jazz chordy stuff works best with barres for me. Hendrix and Bert Jansch with thumb over.

    Use whatever works for you.

  8. #7

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    I'm a 3 finger player, it stems from laziness as a teen, not as an artistic choice.

  9. #8

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    The ‘short term expediency’ idea would hold more weight if 1) many jazz guitarists on my list above didn’t swap between three fingered and four fingered approaches depending on what they are doing 2) players that adopt a three fingered approach for single note playing don’t represent a reasonable who’s who of the instrument.

    Rather than critique a master’s approach, I think that it’s more interesting and imaginative to investigate if there’s something in what they are doing that I can learn from.

    Anyway Miles Okazaki argued it well.

    Also people get hung up on the three fingers thing; the actual issue is left hand stance; square on or pronated with thumb over. In fact most players with the exception of a few like Lage Lund and Adam Rogers pronate a bit; even Holdsworth.

    For my own case, I am perfectly happy to adopt the technique which works best for the situation.

    Because my left hand is a bit pronated generally, I have found my little finger to lack the rhythmic clarity of my other fingers. Also tonally three fingers is just stronger. It always sounds way better on play back, and I think it’s worth overcoming some of the difficulties to make it more a part of my playing. The alternative is to ‘proper legit’, but I feel that since most of my favourite players prefer three fingers it’s worth seeing where that path leads.
    Last edited by christianm77; 05-04-2021 at 03:09 PM.

  10. #9

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    Anyway, I expect an influx of comments from people who haven’t watched the video haha. The ethos of which is very much ‘try it and see.’

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    I'm a 3 finger player, it stems from laziness as a teen, not as an artistic choice.
    The thing is that’s the sort of thing three fingered players always say... and the thing is they quite often sound really good and play with an ease and naturalness.

    So I reckon; not all artistic decisions are made consciously and a lot of good decisions can be made by listening to your body. ‘laziness’ if you like...

    After all of you couldn’t play the music you wanted to that way it you would have changed the way you played.

    After all, it’s no big deal to just change ones hand posture to ply a stretch or whatever when required.
    Last edited by christianm77; 05-04-2021 at 05:37 PM.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    The ‘short term expediency’ idea would hold more weight if 1) many jazz guitarists on my list above didn’t swap between three fingered and four fingered approaches depending on what they are doing 2) players that adopt a three fingered approach for single note playing don’t represent a reasonable who’s who of the instrument.

    Rather than critique a master’s approach, I think that it’s more interesting and imaginative to investigate if there’s something in what they are doing that I can learn from.

    Anyway Miles Okazaki argued it well.

    Also people get hung up on the three fingers thing; the actual issue is left hand stance; square on or pronated with thumb over. In fact most players with the exception of a few like Lage Lund and Adam Rogers pronate a bit; even Holdsworth.

    For my own case, I am perfectly happy to adopt the technique which works best for the situation.

    Because my left hand is a bit pronated generally, I have found my little finger to lack the rhythmic clarity of my other fingers. Also tonally three fingers is just stronger. It always sounds way better on play back, and I think it’s worth overcoming some of the difficulties to make it more a part of my playing. The alternative is to ‘proper legit’, but I feel that since most of my favourite players prefer three fingers it’s worth seeing where that path leads.
    Do you have a link to Miles Okazaki talking about it? Was it in his Fundamentals book? I have been thinking about picking that up.

    My teacher and I talked A LOT about this. I was a very late to jazz guitar after spending years and years as a blues/rock based guy (who needs a pinky right??) My teacher was a pianist originally who taught himself jazz guitar. Yeah, I know picking just one of those instruments is enough for a lifetime. Anyway, since he did not come up in the rock/blues pentatonic background he is all about the 4 finger position playing utilizing the pinky.

    There are somethings where my muscle memory just would not let me use my pinky effectively, like pentatonics in jazz, the blues scale, etc. I too feel like my rhythm suffered on notes played with my pinky. I find that I now switch back and forth between both styles in a line, depending on what I am going for. If it is blues based licks or melodies I am probably playing with three fingers only. If I am playing more bop figures, with chromaticism, enclosures, etc, I will switch over to the the four finger position playing. I find that, and speaking for just me of course, my playing sounds more natural with three fingers but there are definitely some lines that I need to get with 4

  13. #12

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    I have seen the video!
    As you mention in the caption, this debate has 'raged' for sometime hereabouts, though I think most of the debate is based on divergent understandings of "three fingered playing." Some hear that as ONLY 3 fingers, NO DEVIATION. This is simply a mistake. "Three fingered playing" means MAINLY (or predominantly) three fingered, not exclusively. It's not an oath one takes but a practice one develops.
    And as you say, the hand position is different.


    In my own wayward case, I tried to play with four fingers (because I read in a book that was the way one was supposed to do it) but held my hand the way three-fingered players tend to (-slightly pronated). I'm glad I can use my pinky--and often do--but the three-fingered way provides a different, more vocal-like feel. (One can hear/see it in a lot of blues and country players too)

    Herb Ellis is interesting in this respect because he "swung both ways", so to speak: 3-fingered and 4-fingered.

    Lots of 'thumb over the top' in this video, but lots of pinky too. The pronated left hand is clearly visible often, and the pinky is often tucked (or curled and out of the way).


  14. #13

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    Just for the record, I'll be the first to ride that chrome three wheeler and say:
    Django made hay with mostly two fingers.
    Fernando Sor insisted on using the fingers in order of strength: index, middle, ring, then pinky.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by frankhond
    Much ado about nothing

    It actually really isn't ... Well maybe in pure jazz, but not in guitar playing in general.

    I wasn't really conscious about any of this and played without thinking about it in a classical position for long time, but around 10 years ago my left wrist just gave up and started hurting like crazy.

    if you play with any vibrato or bending you definately prefer the 3 finger approach over classical position. I switched back then and never looked back

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lobomov
    It actually really isn't ... Well maybe in pure jazz, but not in guitar playing in general.

    I wasn't really conscious about any of this and played without thinking about it in a classical position for long time, but around 10 years ago my left wrist just gave up and started hurting like crazy.

    if you play with any vibrato or bending you definately prefer the 3 finger approach over classical position. I switched back then and never looked back
    Classical is pretty risky if you don’t adopt the right position etc. Be careful of the left wrist, make sure it’s straight.... had the same problem myself

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paulie2
    Do you have a link to Miles Okazaki talking about it? Was it in his Fundamentals book? I have been thinking about picking that up.

    My teacher and I talked A LOT about this. I was a very late to jazz guitar after spending years and years as a blues/rock based guy (who needs a pinky right??) My teacher was a pianist originally who taught himself jazz guitar. Yeah, I know picking just one of those instruments is enough for a lifetime. Anyway, since he did not come up in the rock/blues pentatonic background he is all about the 4 finger position playing utilizing the pinky.

    There are somethings where my muscle memory just would not let me use my pinky effectively, like pentatonics in jazz, the blues scale, etc. I too feel like my rhythm suffered on notes played with my pinky. I find that I now switch back and forth between both styles in a line, depending on what I am going for. If it is blues based licks or melodies I am probably playing with three fingers only. If I am playing more bop figures, with chromaticism, enclosures, etc, I will switch over to the the four finger position playing. I find that, and speaking for just me of course, my playing sounds more natural with three fingers but there are definitely some lines that I need to get with 4
    This description of the left hand makes sense, given the logical fingerings that can be used to play the solos, and is supported by the few pictures that we have of Christian in the act of playing. In certain circles of guitar playing, tucking away the fourth finger and putting the thumb over the top of the neck is considered improper technique. I would side with the contrary view, that this is an absolutely natural way to approach the guitar when the goal is strong articulation, groove, and rhythm. Using primarily three fingers does not at all limit speed or harmonic options — look at all the stuff drummers can play with two sticks! And the third finger easily spans four frets when the hand is angled towards the guitar’s body. This approach is clear in the video footage that we do have of Wes Montgomery and George Benson, who modeled their styles after Christian. I once had the pleasure of sitting with George Benson in his house and listening to this very solo on the record player, while he pointed out his favorite lines

    Stompin’ at Minton’s (by Miles Okazaki) | DO THE M@TH

  18. #17

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    guitars with the finger tailpiece have 6 fingers. what about that?

  19. #18

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    I started on cello at 10. When I started playing guitar it never occurred to me to not use my pinky.

    I can see that if you put the guitar on your right leg the pinky just ain't in it as much as if you take a more classical posture. I don't know why I started doing that. Actually I do. It's from standing. Early on I figured I wanted the same position as much as I could between standing and sitting.

    I guess I don't really care what folks do as long as it sounds good.

  20. #19

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    Analyse this.


  21. #20

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    I found the video very informative, and describing well the two stances.

    I think the three fingers style probably was born out of necessity. Players coming from the blues, where this style is very fitting, and using heavy strings or higher action. Fourth finger can't really keep up. Use a 335 or a guitar really easy to play, no problem!

    For me it's mostly a musical and stylistic choice, not so much a technical one. If one wants to play in the style of players that mostly use three fingers, it makes sense to me to play this way. You'll end up playing closer to these sounds, and style, nuances, movements, etc, will be similar. Same for four fingers players. If I was really into Django I'd practice his stuff with two fingers!
    Last edited by Alter; 05-05-2021 at 04:56 PM.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alter
    I found the video very informative, and describing well the two stances.

    I think the three fingers style probably was born out of necessity. Players coming from the blues, where this style is very fitting, and using heavy strings or higher action. Fourth finger can't really keep up. Use a 335 or a guitar really easy to play, no problem!

    For me it's mostly a musical and stylistic choice, not so much a technical one. If one wants to play in the style of players that mostly use there fingers, it makes sense to me to play this way. You'll end up playing closer to these sounds, and style, nuances, movements, etc, will be similar. Same for four fingers players. If I was really into Django I'd practice his stuff with two fingers!
    It was actually playing the Tele with lighter strings which pointed me towards using more three fingers wierdly

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alter
    If I was really into Django I'd practice his stuff with two fingers!
    Since I spent time with sitar players, who mostly use fingers 1 and 2 anyway, and was curious, I tried to play some Django-style stuff with 2 fingers...and it does work. At times it felt like the other fingers were in the way!

    That said, I normally and almost always play with all 4 fingers!

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by StringNavigator
    Just for the record, I'll be the first to ride that chrome three wheeler and say:
    .
    Brother Seger fan....

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    The thing is that’s the sort of thing three fingered players always say... and the thing is they quite often sound really good and play with an ease and naturalness.

    So I reckon; not all artistic decisions are made consciously and a lot of good decisions can be made by listening to your body. ‘laziness’ if you like...

    After all of you couldn’t play the music you wanted to that way it you would have changed the way you played.

    After all, it’s no big deal to just change ones hand posture to ply a stretch or whatever when required.
    This is very true.

    It's also interesting to me that almost all of my favorite players are predominantly 3 finger players.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Anyway, I expect an influx of comments from people who haven’t watched the video haha. The ethos of which is very much ‘try it and see.’
    Yes, I didn't watch the video. I think it doesn't matter how many fingers and the player should focus on sounding good. To butcher a different quote, nobody will remember you as the guy who can't play with four fingers, they'll remember you as the guy who can't play.

    How was that?