how much independence of 4th finger (LH)?

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Mark Featherstone
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how much independence of 4th finger (LH)?

Post by Mark Featherstone » Thu Mar 16, 2017 4:11 pm

Hi all,

These days I'm trying work on the 4th finger of my left hand, the pinky. Specifically, I am trying to keep it relaxed and close to the strings at all times. I've been practicing this while playing scales for the most part, but tonight tried it while doing ascending and descending slurs.

It seems to me that I can choose to let the 4th finger be relaxed or I can choose to keep it close to the strings at all times, but it is nigh impossible to have it relaxed *and* close to the strings. There is always the effort it takes to fight the sympathetic movement with the 3rd finger (and the 2nd too, I think).

Then tonight I tried to keep the 4th hovering close to the string while doing slurs with the 3rd, and that is absolutely hopeless, especially with descending slurs. When the 3rd pulls back to release the descending slur, I have no control whatsoever over the movement of the 4th which also pulls back in sympathy with the 3rd.

So I guess my question is, to what extent am I supposed to let the 4th relax and follow the sympathetic movement of the 3rd, versus fighting that reflex and insisting on keeping it close to the string? I remember reading something from Shearer about not fighting sympathetic movement, but I'd really like to hear other opinions.

Many thanks,
Mark
Francisco Navarro Concert Classical, cedar top, 630 mm scale, 50 mm nut

"The trouble with normal is it always gets worse."
Bruce Cockburn

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guitarrista
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Re: how much independence of 4th finger (LH)?

Post by guitarrista » Thu Mar 16, 2017 4:42 pm

Could you provide some more info? Like how close to the strings were you trying to keep your finger; and how close to the string it is when it is naturally relaxed? it might be that you are trying to keep it too close (1cm or less versus , say 2cm) without any real benefit. Also, in general don't fight sympathetic motion (but make sure that's what it is, i.e. that the 4th finger is "relaxed" while going along). Other parameters that might affect your experience - how fast do you do these slurs? Slow down (not the slur itself, but the "space" between slurs/strokes) and see if it makes any difference in how the 4th finger moves and feels.
Konstantin
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Alan Green
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Re: how much independence of 4th finger (LH)?

Post by Alan Green » Thu Mar 16, 2017 8:27 pm

If you are ->trying<- to keep the finger in a particular place, then you are going to struggle. Far better to let your finger find its own level

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Mark Featherstone
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Re: how much independence of 4th finger (LH)?

Post by Mark Featherstone » Fri Mar 17, 2017 1:05 am

Thank you, Alan and Konstantin. I'm trying to keep all finger tips within a few mm (less than 5 mm) of the string, while moving them over the fret/string to be played in advance (say, while playing a scale).

I was just checking again in order to answer Konstantin's question accurately. A big "problem" is when I am sequentially placing fingers 1, 3 and 4 on the same string, as during a scale. If I let my 4th completely relax, then when I place the 3rd finger, the 4 finger cocks backward over the next higher string, not the one I am about to play. So if I'm playing on the 4th string, then when I place finger 3, finger 4 will quickly retract to lie over the 3rd string. Mind you, the 4th finger is still not very high off the strings, say 7 or 8 mm. But that means that to play the next note on the 4th string, I have to extend the tip of my 4th finger to lie over the 4th string once again. It seems that it would be better to be able to keep the 4th finger over the fret on the 4th string, but that takes real effort, and I can feel my hand getting tired. It's tired even now after a night's rest.
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"The trouble with normal is it always gets worse."
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Robin
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Re: how much independence of 4th finger (LH)?

Post by Robin » Fri Mar 17, 2017 4:20 am

Mark Featherstone wrote:Thank you, Alan and Konstantin. I'm trying to keep all finger tips within a few mm (less than 5 mm) of the string, while moving them over the fret/string to be played in advance (say, while playing a scale).

It seems that it would be better to be able to keep the 4th finger over the fret on the 4th string, but that takes real effort, and I can feel my hand getting tired. It's tired even now after a night's rest.
Hi Mark,

If your hand is still tired after resting overnight, there is more going on with your hand than the LH finger 4 not behaving. I would suspect that there is considerable tension in your left hand which is effecting your fourth finger.

For starters, check your overall sitting position, position of the guitar as you hold it and how your left arm & hand are orienting to the neck of the guitar. There are many adjustments that can be made in this area alone that can help improve the presentation of the left hand.

Tension that causes the pinky to extend can be caused by having the hand in a state of extension. You may feel that simply playing a scale is not extension but for many people, the four fret span of the lower positions does cause enough of an extension to trigger tension. Doing four fret finger patterns in an upper position where the fingers can cover four frets comfortably (fret VII is typically a good place to start). These should be done slowly, carefully with awareness of muscle effort and release of effort. Exercises could be as simple as slowly playing 1-2-3-4, 4-3-2-1. And also repeated fingers, 1-2, 2-3, 3-4,4-3, 3-2, 2-1.

Check your thumb. A thumb that is working too hard can add tension to the hand and inhibit finger independence.

Improve your finger independence. A search on this forum will yield many results for ideas for finger independence exercises. Be sure to be gentle and start with simple exercises.

Book some time with a well trained classical guitar teacher to watch you play and help you to develop your left hand.

Good luck taming that finger!

Robin
So much music, so little time.

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guitarrista
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Re: how much independence of 4th finger (LH)?

Post by guitarrista » Fri Mar 17, 2017 5:02 am

Mark Featherstone wrote:A big "problem" is when I am sequentially placing fingers 1, 3 and 4 on the same string, as during a scale. If I let my 4th completely relax, then when I place the 3rd finger, the 4 finger cocks backward over the next higher string, not the one I am about to play. So if I'm playing on the 4th string, then when I place finger 3, finger 4 will quickly retract to lie over the 3rd string.
Is your palm closer on the 1-finger side than on the 4-finger side? What happens if you are fretting 1 and 3 (and 4 is hovering one string higher as you describe), and then you keep this arrangement but rotate your wrist slightly so the palm gets closer to the fretboard on the 4th finger side?

Also I am really worried about your tension that does not subside after a night's rest. It is best to see a teacher to diagnose but some possibilities are that you are tensing a lot more (and muscles you do not need to) from trying to keep too close to the strings - 5mm is very close - if you do it without effort and this is a natural distance for you, that's fine, but if you are forcing it (as opposed to hovering at, say, 1-1.5cm), don't. You can still be efficient even tripling that 5mm distance.

Also your lower arm may have that aforementioned twist (palm not equidistant from fretboard) which makes you extend the 4-finger awkwardly. Sorry this is all conjecture without seeing the whole setup and movement while executing.
Konstantin
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Mark Featherstone
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Re: how much independence of 4th finger (LH)?

Post by Mark Featherstone » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:24 pm

Thank you, Robin and Konstantin. I'll take your advice and stop fighting the sympathetic movement, while employing these various strategies you've mentioned. I do much of my finger independence exercises at the 4th and 5th positions, so it will be interesting to move higher up the fretboard.

Thanks again!
Francisco Navarro Concert Classical, cedar top, 630 mm scale, 50 mm nut

"The trouble with normal is it always gets worse."
Bruce Cockburn

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guitarrista
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Re: how much independence of 4th finger (LH)?

Post by guitarrista » Fri Mar 17, 2017 4:22 pm

Mark Featherstone wrote: so it will be interesting to move higher up the fretboard.
I was not advising to change position on the fretboard, though (this is how this above reads to me). I was simply suggesting to look at the angle that the plane of your palm (or really, the line of the large knuckles on the palm side; the base of your fingers) makes with the treble-string edge of the fretboard as you are set in first position (fretting with 1 and 3 and seeing your 4-finger hover one string down/toward treble than it should be).

EDIT: I see now that this part of your response was to Robin's suggestion. So all is well then, no misunderstanding :-)
Last edited by guitarrista on Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Konstantin
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Re: how much independence of 4th finger (LH)?

Post by astro64 » Fri Mar 17, 2017 5:57 pm

If you really meant the very short distances you are talking about above then I think you are way overdoing it which may cause you the tension. It is helpful not to have the 4th finger fly away and straighten out as the other fingers move. But I have never heard you have be less than 5mm from the string all the time with all the fingers. You might get there, by learning to remain relaxed but the important part is the "learning to remain relaxed" part, not the actual distance. Anything less than 12mm is great, anything less than 1" (25mm) may still be fine, there is a lot of variation among players, and if you wonder about speed see how some flamenco players do just fine with large LH finger motions. Aim to keep all the fingers in a naturally relaxed state.

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