Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

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Mr Kite

Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by Mr Kite » Thu Feb 16, 2017 4:57 pm

Just wondering - with 3 and 4 curled into the palm (away from the guitar) how many people can extend 3 while keeping 4 where it is? Is there anyone out there who can do this now, but didn't used to be able to? I can extend 3 at the knuckle while keeping 4 flexed, but if I extend it at the middle or tip joints then 4 also extends. The same thing happens if, rather than trying to straighten 3 using the muscles of my LH, I use my RH and just pull it straight.

Back on the guitar, this makes it difficult to move 3 across the fretboard while keeping 4 down. Other people seem to be able to do this without a problem - are they extending from the knuckle only, are they jamming 4 down against the fretboard so that it can't really move, or are they able to extend the middle and tip joints without affecting 4?

Henny
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Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by Henny » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:39 am

you have a starting point: awareness.
practice your LH and RH independence for (example with off line excercises)
you will need independence of the fingers for both hands to play musically
it takes a while to practice but you will be able to improve your playing in time.

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singvomblatt
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Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by singvomblatt » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:16 pm

very good point !!!
look at Pepe Romero's masterclasses : Apoyando I and Tremolo I !!!!! very good examples !!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNQ8D51pn-8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anVYoFr5644

have fun !"""

Mr Kite

Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by Mr Kite » Fri Feb 17, 2017 4:12 pm

Yeah I will keep up the coordination exercises for sure - but even if you were able to develop perfect coordination, your fingers wouldn't be completely independent because they're mechanically connected. When I started looking into muscles and tendons and how this all works I pretty quickly realised that a) it is way more complicated than I would have guessed and b) there are lots of individual differences. Chances are there are at least some things you will never be able to do though, even with all the practice in the world and even if other people can do them.

If Wikipedia is to be trusted it seems that a large minority of people have a separate flexor muscle for the the little finger, so will be able to flex it without flexing the ring finger - but that still leaves a majority of people who don't. At first it sounds like that also means that you shouldn't be able to flex the ring finger while keeping the little finger still, but it turns out that the little finger has its own extensor and there is a pulley system that allows the ring finger to flex while the little finger is held still by the extensor, even though the flexor is pulling on both and one of them is not moving. Then again, if that's the explanation, what is going on when you flex the ring finger while holding the middle finger straight? The middle finger doesn't have its own extensor.

All this leaves me unsure whether its a lack of coordination that stops me making the movement, or whether it's physiology - hence my questions. I guess time will tell though.

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Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by astro64 » Fri Feb 17, 2017 6:50 pm

My gut feeling is that if you don't learn this separation from young age, it is going to be a long battle. It took me forever to learn a 4-3 slur (pull-off). The two fingers would always move together. Only one teacher out of many over the past decades had the right advise that worked after a lot of patience and practice. But it will never be as fast or easy as any of the other finger combinations, I think. The one big disadvantage to starting late with any instrument is the difficulty in learning the things that our hands normally don't do at later age. This includes speed and finger independence. You can make progress but it doesn't come naturally...

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Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by lagartija » Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:16 am

There are some nice finger independence exercises in Pumping Nylon.

You cannot force this sort of stuff because you can injure yourself if not careful and patient.
You are attempting to learn muscle isolation. This is best done in small steps with focused attention.
If you place your four fingers along the g string at the fifth fret, and lift each finger separately, move it to the string above and the below while keeping the others *lightly* on the string, you will find out which fingers need the attention. If all of them can move to an adjacent string, then try moving them two strings over. When you find where the other fingers start to move when the chosen finger is moved to another string, that is where you begin the work.
Move the finger very slowly but stop the moment another finger starts to move. Back off a bit and approach that point again while concentrating on keeping the muscles in the other fingers relaxed. Did I say to move very very slowly? Basically, you are training your brain to only use the muscles in the chosen finger because the finger really doesn't need the help of the other fingers to get where it should go. Your brain doesn't know that yet. If the muscles *are* weak, then think of this as "weight lifting". Don't over do it.
This is to develop range of motion with muscle isolation. There should be no pressure on the string.
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Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by dtoh » Sat Feb 18, 2017 4:24 am

Is there anyone out there who can do this now, but didn't used to be able to?
Yes.

You can develop LH finger independence and you can develop it at an older age..... but it takes a lot of work.... for me, an hour or more of exercises (both on and off the fretboard) most days for two years.... and I still have a way to go. Basically you need to develop the lumbrical and interossei muscles in your hand. And not just a little (think Arnold Schwarzenegger)..... and muscle development is slower when you're older.

And yes it's incredibly boring so you need to approach it like zen mediation or watch movies while you're doing the exercises.

And I agree with lagartija.... figure out what's hard to do and then work on it in slow increments.

Mr Kite

Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by Mr Kite » Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:04 pm

dtoh wrote:
Is there anyone out there who can do this now, but didn't used to be able to?
Yes.
Good to know, I'll persevere!
lagartija wrote:Basically, you are training your brain to only use the muscles in the chosen finger because the finger really doesn't need the help of the other fingers to get where it should go.
Very quotable, but I don't think it works like that. The assumption is that the fingers all have their own separate muscles, but they don't. For most movements, moving one finger by itself is not a case of isolating the muscle in / for that finger, so much as using a muscle that is common to several fingers, while simultaneously using other muscles to hold the others still - so I believe it's a question of coordination, not isolation, and does involve the other fingers.

Thanks to all for your responses.

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Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by dtoh » Mon Feb 20, 2017 10:37 am

Mr Kite wrote:[The assumption is that the fingers all have their own separate muscles, but they don't. For most movements, moving one finger by itself is not a case of isolating the muscle in / for that finger, so much as using a muscle that is common to several fingers, while simultaneously using other muscles to hold the others still - so I believe it's a question of coordination, not isolation, and does involve the other fingers.

Thanks to all for your responses.
My understanding... and someone please correct me if I am wrong.

1. Normal finger movement is done with muscles in the forearms. These muscles connect to multiple fingers so you can't use them (very much) to move your fingers independently

2. There are no muscles in the fingers.

3. There are muscles in the hand (the lumbricals and interossei) that control the individual fingers (and individual joints within the fingers)... and allow you to extend/contract and spread your fingers apart.

4. The muscles in the forearm are many, many times stronger than the hand muscles. If you're applying anything but the lightest force with the muscles in the forearm, there is no way you will overcome it with the muscles in the hand that control individual fingers.

5. So basically you need to relax the muscles in the forearm (or apply only the slightest of force) and move your fingers individually with the muscles in your hand.

6. Until you have developed the muscles in the hand, this will be extremely difficult and the only way to fret the guitar effectively is to jam your fingers onto the frets and/or leverage them into position using your thumb or other fingers. Needless to say this is terrible technique and can easily lead to injury

Mr Kite

Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by Mr Kite » Mon Feb 20, 2017 11:32 am

My understanding is just based on what I have found on the internet, although I have put in quite a bit of time. It's not a million miles from yours, but there are a few points where we differ.

I think your point 3 is right, but the assumption lower down is that these muscles (if properly trained) can do everything that the forearm muscles can do, at which point you can stop using the forearm muscles and will have independence. I don't think it's that straightforward - for example, the lumbricals and interossei do have a role in extending the tip and middle joints, from what I have read, but they simultaneously flex the main knuckle. Any time you are flexing (or extending) all 3, that is coming from the forearm muscles. For the same reason, the muscles aren't really working against each other - it's more that the action of the smaller muscles depends on what the larger muscles are doing. The picture I have is of the small muscles making fine adjustments to movements that are basically driven by the large muscles. I believe we need both sets of muscles at all levels, and the trick is to learn to coordinate them, not to learn to use one set rather than the other. I suspect if we were to botox Ana Vidovic's forearm muscles, she wouldn't be able to play at all. Can't see her being up for this experiment though.

Mr Kite

Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by Mr Kite » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:34 pm

Mr Kite wrote:For the same reason, the muscles aren't really working against each other - it's more that the action of the smaller muscles depends on what the larger muscles are doing.
I realised that might be a bit cryptic, so thought I'd have another go.

Muscle tissue does only one thing, which is to try to contract.

Therefore, the function of a muscle is always to shorten the distance between two points, or to resist it being increased by some other force like the action of another muscle, gravity, etc.

If you picture a hinge joint with muscles going across it one each side, this means that one will flex the joint and the other will extend it.

If you try to contract both muscles at the same time, then in a sense they are working against each other and producing a kind of stalemate, but in another sense they working together to stabilise the joint - i.e. hold it still.

Real muscles and joints are more complicated in several respects - one being that that actual muscles are not always organised into such neat pairs, and often go across more than one joint.

If you picture two hinge joints in a row, with one muscle going across both - call it a flexor - then other things being equal the action of that muscle will be to flex both joints. If you now imagine another muscle on the other side, but only going across the first hinge joint, that will be an extensor. If you were to look up the functions of these muscles you might well find that the first muscle was a flexor of the first joint and the second an extensor, making it sound as though they work against each other. However, since the second muscle only goes across the first joint, the fact that it is working does not make it any harder for the first muscle to contract. The far end of that muscle is on the other side of the second joint, so is still free to move. The difference is only that, with the second muscle working, the action of the first muscle is to flex the second joint only, rather than both joints. Thus what appears to be a case of muscles working against each other is really a case of muscles working together to fine-tune a movement.

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Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by Frousse » Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:53 pm

astro64 wrote:My gut feeling is that if you don't learn this separation from young age, it is going to be a long battle. It took me forever to learn a 4-3 slur (pull-off). The two fingers would always move together. Only one teacher out of many over the past decades had the right advise that worked after a lot of patience and practice. But it will never be as fast or easy as any of the other finger combinations, I think. The one big disadvantage to starting late with any instrument is the difficulty in learning the things that our hands normally don't do at later age. This includes speed and finger independence. You can make progress but it doesn't come naturally...
i concur fully.

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Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by guitarrista » Mon Feb 20, 2017 5:49 pm

Mr Kite wrote:My understanding is just based on what I have found on the internet, although I have put in quite a bit of time. It's not a million miles from yours, but there are a few points where we differ.

I think your point 3 is right, but the assumption lower down is that these muscles (if properly trained) can do everything that the forearm muscles can do, at which point you can stop using the forearm muscles and will have independence.
Hmm.. I am not sure where you got this but it is not correct. Also, in your other explanations you seem to be relying on the assumption that a "muscle" is one inseparable thing, so if two fingers are connected to one muscle it somehow means they cannot work independently. However, the assumption is false - the brain can send signals to several or more muscles fibers within that muscle via a motor neuron - that neuron and the muscle fibers it activates are together one motor unit. A forearm muscle has many many motor units (same with any other muscle). So one can gain better finger independence by teaching the brain to control specific pathways and activate different motor units within the same muscle. Which is in part what we do by practicing "finger independence".

EDIT: To clarify - It is the motor unit (of which there are several hundred within each muscle typically) which is the indivisible functional unit in a muscle, not the muscle itself.
Last edited by guitarrista on Mon Feb 20, 2017 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Mr Kite

Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by Mr Kite » Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:55 pm

guitarrista wrote:
Mr Kite wrote:My understanding is just based on what I have found on the internet, although I have put in quite a bit of time. It's not a million miles from yours, but there are a few points where we differ.

I think your point 3 is right, but the assumption lower down is that these muscles (if properly trained) can do everything that the forearm muscles can do, at which point you can stop using the forearm muscles and will have independence.
Hmm.. I am not sure where you got this but it is not correct.
Well, I believe it is, although I'm always happy to learn something new. It's a bit difficult to argue with a bald assertion like that, but to use the example from a previous post, I can't see how you would flex all three joints without using the extrinsic muscles.
guitarrista wrote: Also, in your other explanations you seem to be relying on the assumption that a "muscle" is one inseparable thing, so if two fingers are connected to one muscle it somehow means they cannot work independently. However, the assumption is false - the brain can send signals to one or more muscles fibers within that muscle via a motor neuron - that neuron and the muscle fibers it activates are together one motor unit. A forearm muscle has many many motor units (same with any other muscle). So one can gain better finger independence by teaching the brain to control specific pathways and activate different motor units within the same muscle. Which is in part what we do by practicing "finger independence".
Sure, a muscle is made up of lots of muscle fibres, but it's not normal to be able to control individual muscle fibres, and even if you could, it would only help to the extent that they were pulling on different things. (It would probably be better to say "the body isn't organised like that, because it would serve no purpose unless the different regions were pulling on different things"). Some muscles do look a bit like they could be - a prime example being the finger flexors in the forearm, which start from one point but separate out into individual tendons pulling on individual fingers. Even in those cases, though, I understand that the neighbouring muscle fibres are attached to each other so that each one pulls is neighbours with it. So as I say, I don't think it would help to be able to control specific regions of the muscle. The reason for regarding them as single muscles is not so much that they are one indivisible mass - although in a way they are, if the muscle fibres are bundled together - as that they are only controllable as one unit. I believe these two things are interrelated though. Some people have enough muscle tissue after the point of separation of the finger flexors that you can fairly regard them as having a separate muscle for that tendon - not always described as a separate muscle as such, but as a separate muscle belly rather than just a separate tendon. I understand that those people can (learn to) control that muscle independently - but I don't think a muscle will divide into separate muscle bellies by training - I think it's in your make-up.

Mr Kite

Re: Separating LH fingers 3 and 4

Post by Mr Kite » Mon Feb 20, 2017 7:04 pm

guitarrista wrote:
Mr Kite wrote:I think your point 3 is right, but the assumption lower down is that these muscles (if properly trained) can do everything that the forearm muscles can do, at which point you can stop using the forearm muscles and will have independence.
Hmm.. I am not sure where you got this but it is not correct.
Or are we saying the same thing and just misunderstanding each other - I was saying the assumption lower down in dtoh's list was that the intrinsic muscles, if properly trained, will can everything that the forearm muscles can do. I went on to say that I didn't think that was right. Perhaps you are also saying that you don't think it's right.

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