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Finger Numbering Question


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#19 asdormire

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 06:44 PM

Guitarists aren't supposed to use their left thumb to fret strings

I'm not sure what "supposed to" means, but many guitarists do fret with the left thumb.


It is considered poor or sloppy technique to do so, likewise on banjo, bass and mandolin, and I believe on the classical bowed string instuments.

Alan

#20 ragtimer

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 10:43 PM

but here's a question: whereas the method books are full of fingering suggestions, the actual publications of music for the instrument enter fingering VERY SPARINGLY. . . . . why????????...........after all, much of the music that was published was aimed at amateurs who could certainly have used a bit of help once in a while in terms of fingering.......

I can speculate at least three reasons
Nothing wrong with those 3, but here's a 4th explanation for "sparse" (as opposed to none at all) fingering indications (which ISTR the original post mentioned):

A halfway decent player needs to see only finger numbers that are counter-intuituve, that is, not what he would normally expect -- usually intended to prepare for an awkward note jump or passage that requires exceptions to the "rules" that have been learned.

If there are too many fingerings notated (like on every stinkin' note, as in tutors), the brain just tunes them out as background noise and thus misses the one exceptional finger that was really needed.

Notating just the oddball fingers makes them more likely to be noticed.

This observation is from my piano experience, but it seems to apply to my 'tina scribblings too.

Oh yes, the Mayans had ceramic flutes and the zero, but all their music tutor books were burned by the Spaniards, so we'll never know how they numbered the thumb :( --Mike K.

#21 JimLucas

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 02:58 AM

Guitarists aren't supposed to use their left thumb to fret strings

I'm not sure what "supposed to" means, but many guitarists do fret with the left thumb.

It is considered poor or sloppy technique to do so, likewise on banjo, bass and mandolin, and I believe on the classical bowed string instuments.

"It is considered" by whom? Apparently not by those who use the technique. Is this another example of the great, unquestioned "they"?

I know that it is something that is commonly taught, especially for classical guitar, but why? I can imagine that becoming dependent on fretting with the thumb could be bad for a beginner, who should be developing a different hand configuration for better overall control. But once someone has learned to play without needing to fret with the thumb, I don't see that it should be wrong to be able to, or even to use that technique for convenience.

Getting back to finger numbering, I can understand that an instructor wanting to discourage the use of the thumb would want to use a notation that doesn't acknowledge its existence. B)

#22 Boney

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 05:23 AM

Guitarists aren't supposed to use their left thumb to fret strings

I'm not sure what "supposed to" means, but many guitarists do fret with the left thumb.

It is considered poor or sloppy technique to do so, likewise on banjo, bass and mandolin, and I believe on the classical bowed string instuments.

"It is considered" by whom? Apparently not by those who use the technique. Is this another example of the great, unquestioned "they"?

I suppose it's taught that way by people who teach technique, not music. Which makes life easier, since it's more straightforward to teach and evaluate.

Any technique discussion should be approached not from the point of view of what is "good" or "bad" technique, but what tradeoffs are being made. If you don't know all the tradeoffs, watch other players, and experiment and figure them out. Then use the technique if it makes sense in the context of the music and how you want to interpret it. Some techniques are beneficial for some players with certain body types, flexibility, or whatever, but may be harmful for others. And some are just frowned on by academics without any real-world experience. Many virtuosos have idiosyncratic technique, and it's often suggested they are succeeding despite flawed technque. But I feel more often than not they are excelling because they've discovered a personal technique that is optimized for their particular body and mind.

#23 asdormire

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 07:54 AM

Guitarists aren't supposed to use their left thumb to fret strings

I'm not sure what "supposed to" means, but many guitarists do fret with the left thumb.

It is considered poor or sloppy technique to do so, likewise on banjo, bass and mandolin, and I believe on the classical bowed string instuments.

"It is considered" by whom? Apparently not by those who use the technique. Is this another example of the great, unquestioned "they"?

I suppose it's taught that way by people who teach technique, not music. Which makes life easier, since it's more straightforward to teach and evaluate.

Any technique discussion should be approached not from the point of view of what is "good" or "bad" technique, but what tradeoffs are being made. If you don't know all the tradeoffs, watch other players, and experiment and figure them out. Then use the technique if it makes sense in the context of the music and how you want to interpret it. Some techniques are beneficial for some players with certain body types, flexibility, or whatever, but may be harmful for others. And some are just frowned on by academics without any real-world experience. Many virtuosos have idiosyncratic technique, and it's often suggested they are succeeding despite flawed technque. But I feel more often than not they are excelling because they've discovered a personal technique that is optimized for their particular body and mind.


Marty Robbins used to play a small body guitar extended out from the left side of his body, and played it well, but I wouldn't recommend that technique to a beginner. Using the thumb can work, but affects the position and stability of the hand on the neck, the ability to quickly move up and down the fret board, and on the guitar, the necks of classical and flamenco guitars tend to be just to wide for it to be comfortable (or possible for a lot of hands.) Admittedly, the steel strung and the electric guitar have narrower necks, making it easier to use the thumb, but if your switching back and forth, it is probably better not to get in the habit.

I don't play spanish guitar, my wife does. (I do play the banjo and bass) She does say that there are notes from instructors and students where the thumb is being used, but the historical printed materials avoid it, just like most of the tutorials do today.

Alan

#24 JimLucas

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 09:10 AM

...the steel strung and the electric guitar have narrower necks, making it easier to use the thumb, but if your switching back and forth, it is probably better not to get in the habit.

I would think that if you're switching back and forth, you would develop slightly different habits for each instrument. I.e., use the thumb on the instrument(s) for which it's effective and don't where it's not.

#25 asdormire

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 11:38 AM

...the steel strung and the electric guitar have narrower necks, making it easier to use the thumb, but if your switching back and forth, it is probably better not to get in the habit.

I would think that if you're switching back and forth, you would develop slightly different habits for each instrument. I.e., use the thumb on the instrument(s) for which it's effective and don't where it's not.



The chord forms are all the same.

Robin and I talked some more after the post, and another comment she made was that if you are basicly strumming chords, the thumb doesn't really matter, but if your playing notes, you get a better hold on the strings and I better sounding not if you are using the other method with thumb not being used to fret.

#26 Boney

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 01:24 PM

That all makes sense, as I said, understanding the tradeoffs is key. I've seen several ragtime-blues fingerpickers use the thumb occasionally, for example, the excellent Craig Ventresco.

And it does make sense to learn more "standard" technique first, my problem is with people who are pedantic about it, or judge the music by looking at the hands instead of using their ears.

#27 JimLucas

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 03:13 PM

...my problem is with people who are pedantic about it, or judge the music by looking at the hands instead of using their ears.

Ah, but if they're not using their ears, then it's not the music that they're judging, is it?

#28 Boney

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 04:12 PM

...my problem is with people who are pedantic about it, or judge the music by looking at the hands instead of using their ears.

Ah, but if they're not using their ears, then it's not the music that they're judging, is it?

Amazingly, some people can tell if the music is any good just by the performer's hairdo, or fashion sense. That's some kind of talent.

#29 David Barnert

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 05:47 PM

Yes David, your big hands would work well on the cello (and Duet tina, for sure!).

My cello teacher (back in the 70s) had tiny "Yoda" hands.

I had suspected that string instruments, that don't use the thumb, would use index=1.

Cello does indeed use the thumb, a technique (using the side of the thumb) developed about 200 years ago by Bernhard Romberg, a friend of Beethoven's:

thumb.jpg


The use of the thumb is notated by a zero with a projection sticking out of the bottom:

thumbnotes.jpg



#30 ragtimer

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 07:42 PM

Yes David, your big hands would work well on the cello (and Duet tina, for sure!).

My cello teacher (back in the 70s) had tiny "Yoda" hands.

Well -- "It isn't the size of the dog in a fight, but the fight in the dog" -- Mark Twain.

I had suspected that string instruments, that don't use the thumb, would use index=1.

Cello does indeed use the thumb, a technique (using the side of the thumb) developed about 200 years ago by Bernhard Romberg, a friend of Beethoven's:

thumb.jpg


The use of the thumb is notated by a zero with a projection sticking out of the bottom:

thumbnotes.jpg

Fascinating -- from your example it appears that in an ascending scale, the thumb crosses over and continues from the 3rd finger, just as in playing a piano scale (though keyboarders can use the pinky too, before crossing the thumb back into play).

Too bad Romberg's notation wasn't picked up by Muzio Clementi and others who set of the first wave of piano pedagogy in the very late 1700's. So Romberg knew to count from zero -- bully for him!

ISTR Beethoven wrote at least one cello piece for Romberg. Wonder what Beethoven (or Mozort, or ...) would have thought of the various types of tinas?

#31 David Barnert

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 10:34 PM

Fascinating -- from your example it appears that in an ascending scale, the thumb crosses over and continues from the 3rd finger, just as in playing a piano scale (though keyboarders can use the pinky too, before crossing the thumb back into play).

Not quite. I'm not sure "crosses over" correctly describes what's going on. The thumb (something like a guitar capo) presses down across the two strings tuned a 5th apart (in this case, D and A) and acts as an anchor for the rest of the hand. So the thumb is already there when you move from the 3rd finger on the D string to the thumb position on the A string.

Too bad Romberg's notation wasn't picked up by Muzio Clementi and others who set of the first wave of piano pedagogy in the very late 1700's. So Romberg knew to count from zero -- bully for him!

I don't know that Romberg developed the notation.

Wonder what Beethoven (or Mozort, or ...) would have thought of the various types of tinas?

This is what Chopin is said to have thought (I picked up the quote from rec.music.makers.squeezebox years ago):

After I had played and other Scottish ladies had sung various songs, they brought out a sort of accordion [a concertina] and [a Scottish lady], with the utmost gravity, began to play the most dreadful tunes on it.

But what can you expect? It seems that every one of the creatures has a screw loose. What a queer lot! God preserve them!



#32 JimLucas

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 03:58 AM

This is what Chopin is said to have thought (I picked up the quote from rec.music.makers.squeezebox years ago):

After I had played and other Scottish ladies had sung various songs, they brought out a sort of accordion [a concertina] and [a Scottish lady], with the utmost gravity, began to play the most dreadful tunes on it.

But what can you expect? It seems that every one of the creatures has a screw loose. What a queer lot! God preserve them!

Huh? That doesn't seem to be an opinion of the concertina, but of Scots, and of the tunes (strathspeys, perhaps? :unsure:) that a certain Scottish lady chose to play on it.

#33 David Barnert

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 06:44 AM

Huh? That doesn't seem to be an opinion of the concertina, but of Scots, and of the tunes (strathspeys, perhaps? :unsure:) that a certain Scottish lady chose to play on it.

Read between the lines, Jim. He wouldn't have said it if he'd had fond thoughts of the instrument.

#34 David Barnert

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 06:47 AM

Apropos of using the thumb, see my post in the videos thread.

#35 Richard Morse

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 08:33 AM

I agree the thumb isn't much use on a tina, and progably not on a PA either

I beg to differ.... I use my thumb *a lot* when playing Hayden duet, mostly for the low G# and D# on the left side.

-- Rich --

#36 JimLucas

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Posted 18 August 2007 - 03:37 PM

I agree the thumb isn't much use on a tina, and progably not on a PA either

I beg to differ.... I use my thumb *a lot* when playing Hayden duet, mostly for the low G# and D# on the left side.

Two thoughts:
  • The rows of the Stagi Hayden are wider than for any other concertina, yes? And I think they're also supposed to be slanted. Does that bring them closer to the thumb (at least on the left) than with the other systems? Might it be that ragtimer's claim is true for most people on Englishes, anglos, Cranes, Maccanns, and Jeffries duets, but not for Haydens... at least not on those with more than 50 buttons?
  • I suspect that your thumb is longer than mine. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It just illustrates the principle that "universal" claims are rarely true.
Edited to correct typo.

Edited by JimLucas, 19 August 2007 - 11:49 AM.




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