Crossing the chasm of thumb-finger independence

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Dave Orban, Jan 31, 2008.


  1. Dave Orban

    Dave Orban Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    16,849
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2002
    Location:
    Trenton, NJ
    Anyone got any good exercises for helping me to gain some independence between my thumb and fingers, for that Piedmont style of fingerpicking...?

    I've tried on-and-off, over the years, but am never able to get quite there... :jo
     
  2. jimfog

    jimfog Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,490
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2003
    Location:
    Philly, Pa
    Dave,

    An exercise that's helped me, and my students, quite a bit with fingerstyle independence is this:

    Grab an open C chord (any chord, really)..............

    Start playing strict 1/4 note alternating bass..........Root-3rd-5th-3rd-Root-3rd-5th-3rd, etc.........C on the 5th string, E on the 4th, G on the 6th.....you can even simplify it and just play Root-3rd-Root-3rd on the 5th and 4th strings.

    On top of that, with your ring, middle and index fingers, play a simple 3 finger roll on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd strings..........all notes should be straight 1/8 notes.

    So, what you'll be getting is a 3 over 4 feel....essential to to ragtime and blues fingerpicking. You'll notice you end up playing a different note with your fingers on each downbeat..........

    Make sure to play each part separately, counting out the time..........ie, for the bass (One, Two, Three, Four, etc).....and the treble (One &Two & Three & Four & One & Two &.........etc)

    Get that down, and the independence gets a LOT easier.

    - Jim
     
  3. Dave Orban

    Dave Orban Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    16,849
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2002
    Location:
    Trenton, NJ
    Thanks, Jim. I'll give it a shot over the weekend!
     
  4. CrazyFingers

    CrazyFingers Member

    Messages:
    198
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2007
    Location:
    The Garden State
    Good advice from jimfog. I might start by making things a bit simpler for starters. Once you get the feel, you can quickly build upon it.

    Partial G chord with middle finger on the 6th string (G note). Alternate G-D-G-D (strings 6-4) with your right thumb. Once the "train is rolling", play with melody notes on strings 1, 2, & 3 (start with open & fret 3 only, then fool around with stuff).

    I play with my index & middle fingers on my right hand. Others use just their index.

    DONT EVER STOP THE "THUMP THUMP THUMP" OF THE BASS!!!!!!

    At first, you can play melodies in-synch with the base--it's much easier. Then you can begin to syncopate. If you never stop the bass, you'll quickly get the feel of it and things will come naturally.

    BTW: If you're serious about this type of playing, learn to use your left thumb to fret the 6th string for certain chords, especially F. It isn't too hard. I have tiny hands and I can still manage it (some folks use their thumb to fret the 5th string too).

    Get a CD from sombody like Mississippi John Hurt. Songs like My Creole Bell (in key of C) are very easy to play and are a perfect example of this style. A number of songs in this style are one chord songs in G, using the technique I described above ("this is the hammer that killed John Henry, won't kill me...won't kill me....").

    The focus is on keeping the bass going to keep the song moving. You'll notice that these guys may "mess-up" the melody but never ever stop the bass from rolling.

    Good luck!
     
  5. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    16,284
    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2002
    For what it is worth, I don't think of it as finger independence at all. I think of it as learned dependence. That might change the way you approach building your set of thumb/finger patterns.

    Bryan
     

Share This Page