i Finger Clicks

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mmcnabb
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i Finger Clicks

Post by mmcnabb » Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:58 pm

Hi all,

I've always noticed that my right-hand index finger tends to sound worse than the other fingers, but I've never really known why. Lately as I'm re-learning the guitar I've investigated this and I think I see what's happening, but don't know how to improve it.

The cause seems to be the i finger's angle of presentation to the string - string is nearly parallel to the nail, and when the transfer from flesh to nail takes place there is an audible click. I've tested this in two ways:

1. Prepare the finger on the string and press inward hard. This leaves an indentation on the flesh that demonstrates the angle of presentation, which is nearly parallel the nail. Performing the same test with m and a shows more angle than i.

2. Prepare the finger on all flesh without touching the nail to the string, then pulling through just enough so that the nail touches the string. With i this makes a very audible click as the string leaves the flesh momentarily, then contacts the nail. Doing the same test with m and a results in a much softer click.

I've tried re-positioning the guitar to counter this, but only extremes have made any difference at all. For instance, the i finger's angle is improved by holding the guitar nearly parallel to the floor, but obviously this makes it tough for the left hand. The only workaround I've found that actually works is to position the hand at an extreme angle to the string similar to a lute players position. This isn't ideal, though, and can only be used in certain situations.

Has anyone else ever encountered this problem, and if so how have you dealt with it? Thanks!
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franks59
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by franks59 » Sun Oct 14, 2018 5:58 pm

It sounds to me like your hand is too parallel to the strings and that you are not contacting the string on the "sweet spot" of the finger.

The impression made by the i finger should be angled so that you can see it meet the nail on the left (thumb) side. Something like this,
IMG_0618.JPG
although the angle can vary.

If you contact flesh only then it will make a clicking sound when it hits the nail. The more parallel you are, the greater the nail surface area you hit and the greater the click.

Frank
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PeteJ
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by PeteJ » Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:21 am

I had this problem for decades and it nearly drove me mad. If I'd been a performer on CG I'd have had to use false nails. Dipping my nails in hot water worked but no nail-shape I tried seemed to help. The problem has gone away now thanks to one cure you've spotted, which is holding the guitar at a flat angle, also by shaping the nail to have much more of a slope on the LH side and by watching very careful how my i finger is working. I sympathise but have no magic cure other than experimentation. To me it's always felt like a disability and it used to be fantastically frustrating.

mmcnabb
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by mmcnabb » Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:12 pm

franks59 wrote:
Sun Oct 14, 2018 5:58 pm
It sounds to me like your hand is too parallel to the strings and that you are not contacting the string on the "sweet spot" of the finger.

The impression made by the i finger should be angled so that you can see it meet the nail on the left (thumb) side. Something like this,
IMG_0618.JPG
although the angle can vary.

If you contact flesh only then it will make a clicking sound when it hits the nail. The more parallel you are, the greater the nail surface area you hit and the greater the click.

Frank
Frank,

Thanks for your response! I have performed this test, and overall I do approach the strings at an oblique angle, but the problem is that the shape or curvature of the i finger seems to be different than the a and m fingers. So a and m are at an angle like you have pictured, but the nail on the i finger is much closer to parallel. Also, it appears to me that the i finger also has a greater gap between the flesh and the nail at the tip which probably aggravates this click.

I'll try to get a pic or two later today that demonstrate how this looks on my hand.
Last edited by mmcnabb on Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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mmcnabb
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by mmcnabb » Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:16 pm

PeteJ wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:21 am
I had this problem for decades and it nearly drove me mad. If I'd been a performer on CG I'd have had to use false nails. Dipping my nails in hot water worked but no nail-shape I tried seemed to help. The problem has gone away now thanks to one cure you've spotted, which is holding the guitar at a flat angle, also by shaping the nail to have much more of a slope on the LH side and by watching very careful how my i finger is working. I sympathise but have no magic cure other than experimentation. To me it's always felt like a disability and it used to be fantastically frustrating.
Thanks, although that doesn't sound very hopeful! :lol:

In the grand scheme of things, the problem is probably not very bad, but it is noticeable. Like you I try very hard to place the i finger in a way that doesn't click, and in fact I've found that I had always naturally worked around the problem when playing slower passages, even without rationalizing the cause. Of course, that breaks down when you need to perform a faster passage, and I really notice this click when practicing scales with alternating i and m.
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franks59
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by franks59 » Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:19 pm

mmcnabb wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:12 pm
franks59 wrote:
Sun Oct 14, 2018 5:58 pm
It sounds to me like your hand is too parallel to the strings and that you are not contacting the string on the "sweet spot" of the finger.

The impression made by the i finger should be angled so that you can see it meet the nail on the left (thumb) side. Something like this,
IMG_0618.JPG
although the angle can vary.

If you contact flesh only then it will make a clicking sound when it hits the nail. The more parallel you are, the greater the nail surface area you hit and the greater the click.

Frank
Frank,

Thanks for your response! I have performed this test, and overall I do approach the strings at an oblique angle, but the problem is that the shape or curvature of the i finger seems to be different than the a and m fingers. So a and m are at an angle like you have pictured, but the nail on the i finger is much closer to parallel. Also, it appears to me that the i finger also has a greater gap between the flesh and the nail at the tip which probably aggravates this click.
Whatever the shape or curvature is, you must ALWAYS (unless you are intentionally trying for a different sound) contact the string at a point where flesh meets nail - the "sweet spot".

Contacting it with flesh 1st will always make a click.

Frank

Simon Green
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by Simon Green » Mon Oct 15, 2018 2:12 pm

This forum is a wonderful place..

I've been suffering this for ages and couldn't work out what was causing the click and resistance in moving the finger through the string. As soon as I saw the photo I knew - my fingers are too parallel to the strings and I'm contacting the flesh only. I then get a loud click and often the nail grabs the string on the way through..

Thanks so much.

Simon

mmcnabb
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by mmcnabb » Mon Oct 15, 2018 9:56 pm

franks59 wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 1:19 pm
Whatever the shape or curvature is, you must ALWAYS (unless you are intentionally trying for a different sound) contact the string at a point where flesh meets nail - the "sweet spot".

Contacting it with flesh 1st will always make a click.

Frank
I don't think that's entirely accurate. I think there is always a click, but the right presentation minimizes the click. When I perform test #2 above, I get a click with all fingers, but i is much more pronounced. In fact, I get a click even from just stopping the string with flesh and not contacting the nail at all, it's just a very soft click.

I don't think I can post a video, but if I can I'll try to capture test #2 so you can hear the audible difference between the fingers.
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mmcnabb
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by mmcnabb » Mon Oct 15, 2018 9:59 pm

Anyway, here is a photo of my right hand position, and then a pic of the indentations on my fingers left by the strings. Hopefully this shows the difference in angle I'm referring to.

Image

Image
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guitarrista
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by guitarrista » Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:49 pm

It seems your nail is way too short and possibly not of the right shape, on your i finger. You have to find the right length and nail shape so that there is a seamless transition between the pressed flesh and the nail. Note that it is the flesh as pressed by the string against which the fingertip is working - not as you see it when just looking at your finger. When the string is pressing (well, really, the fingertip flesh is pushing the string) back on the flesh, it moves it at least a bit toward the nail; it is that pressed 3D shape of your fingertip (flesh plus nail) that is of relevance.

Even though you have flat nails (when looking down the length of the finger from tip to base(*)), you should be able to find a nail length and shape which results in no distance between pressed flesh and nail edge, thus eliminating the clicking sound due to "jump" that you have now. As you noted, you may also have to play at a bit of an angle so that the flat contour is never exactly parallel to the string it plays.

The sound from touching a vibrating string is another matter - there is some even if it is all flesh, and a much more pronounced buzzing+clicking sound if you touch a vibrating string directly with the nail. (as you noticed).

(*) People with a curved nail in that sense have it much easier because there is always part of the nail which is not parallel to the string.

P.S. Also if you have not seen it, check out this video on nails by William Kanengiser.
Konstantin
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1982 Anselmo Solar Gonzalez

dmcmurray
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by dmcmurray » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:01 am

A small consideration that may have already been mentioned. The i finger is closer to the thumb and often when playing it you will reach out further than other fingers. Many players are not as mobile with their right hand and the reach with the i finger can create a different attack angle that the other fingers. Allow your right hand to move closer to the high e. I found it useful to play with the thumb on the clear nylon strings to get used to it. Just a thought.
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PeteJ
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by PeteJ » Tue Oct 16, 2018 12:25 pm

The problem for me was always the gap between the flesh and the nail on the i finger. There was no point at which the flesh and nail met unless the nail was too short to be practical. It only stopped being a problem when I changed my technique and abandoned the footstool. No teacher or player I met was able to suggest a cure. Physiology can be a nuisance.

mmcnabb
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by mmcnabb » Wed Oct 17, 2018 2:56 am

guitarrista wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 10:49 pm
It seems your nail is way too short and possibly not of the right shape, on your i finger. You have to find the right length and nail shape so that there is a seamless transition between the pressed flesh and the nail. Note that it is the flesh as pressed by the string against which the fingertip is working - not as you see it when just looking at your finger. When the string is pressing (well, really, the fingertip flesh is pushing the string) back on the flesh, it moves it at least a bit toward the nail; it is that pressed 3D shape of your fingertip (flesh plus nail) that is of relevance.

Even though you have flat nails (when looking down the length of the finger from tip to base(*)), you should be able to find a nail length and shape which results in no distance between pressed flesh and nail edge, thus eliminating the clicking sound due to "jump" that you have now. As you noted, you may also have to play at a bit of an angle so that the flat contour is never exactly parallel to the string it plays.

The sound from touching a vibrating string is another matter - there is some even if it is all flesh, and a much more pronounced buzzing+clicking sound if you touch a vibrating string directly with the nail. (as you noticed).

(*) People with a curved nail in that sense have it much easier because there is always part of the nail which is not parallel to the string.

P.S. Also if you have not seen it, check out this video on nails by William Kanengiser.
My nails are currently a bit shorter than normal, but not by a lot. They're definitely long enough for playing:

Image

I've seen the Kanengiser video before, and it's great. Although I can't seem to get what he's talking about when he describes the nail filing angles. And I understand the basics of tone production. I think PeteJ is right when he says sometimes it just comes down to physiology. Regardless, I'm now on a pursuit to find the absolute best nail shape and hand position to see if I can mitigate this problem. Wish me luck!
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by lagartija » Wed Oct 17, 2018 2:29 pm

There is one other factor no one has yet mentioned. When applying the pressure to depress the string, does the finger rotate at all? I had this problem with my a finger; I would start out at the correct angle of presentation, then as pressure was applied, the finger would rotate and the string would slide into the space between nail and flesh. This could be observed by looking in the mirror. It took a bit of careful awareness during slow practice to correct the problem. Then tone improved and the click was gone.

If you are able to do it properly with slow passages but not in fast passages, that may indicate that you should slow down that passage until you find the top speed at which you can do it correctly, then increase the execution tempo bit by bit. Playing the passage fast over and over with the click problem just ensures that you will ingrain that problem in the passage.
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guitarrista
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Re: i Finger Clicks

Post by guitarrista » Wed Oct 17, 2018 4:38 pm

lagartija wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 2:29 pm
There is one other factor no one has yet mentioned. When applying the pressure to depress the string, does the finger rotate at all? I had this problem with my a finger; I would start out at the correct angle of presentation, then as pressure was applied, the finger would rotate and the string would slide into the space between nail and flesh. This could be observed by looking in the mirror. It took a bit of careful awareness during slow practice to correct the problem. Then tone improved and the click was gone.
Yes, great point! One needs to slow-practice this correctly to get used to not rotating when pressure is applied.
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