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View Full Version : 3 Finger vs 4 Finger Technique for Shred...


Orpheus
05-06-2009, 07:54 PM
I've always been intuitive about my fingering, yet, when it comes to shred every little technique/action seems to warrant attention in the pursuit of ultimate efficiency. So, I decided to put this out there. Consider this scenario and please note that I have no preference for either technique, as either method is no more challenging than the other for me. This is why I am asking the following question, trying to get some objectivity into it if possible:

Four Fret Span Lead Patterns

On four fret span patterns do you find the traditional one finger per fret method to be best or most effecient? Or, do you find that you generally prefer playing with three fingers on four fret span patterns. For example, say on a 12-14-15 pattern using the first, second and third fingers. I see this 3 finger method employed A LOT by Malmsteen, btw.

What are your prefereneces or views on this? All pattern spans that are five frets or larger are pretty much objectively best played with the use of the pinky, so I'd like for this topic to stay in the realm of four fret span patterns. Thanks!

toneseeker
05-07-2009, 06:57 AM
I use the three finger technique, except, I use my index, ring and pinky fingers, instead of just the first three. It works better for me that way, but i'm still not really fast. :eusa_whis Just never put in the time to develop the speed.

A couple of years ago, my hand started hurting when I was playing, so I laid off for a few days. After a while I realized, when I was playing notes not chords, that if the palm of my hand was parallel with the neck, that my hand didn't hurt. I've been pretty much been playing like that ever since. It also puts your fingers closer to the fingerboard.

Oh yeah, welcome to SHRED GUITARS. :thumbs:

wfojon
05-07-2009, 08:22 AM
Hi and welcome to Shred.
I use all four fingers, my pinky is strong as I've just always used it. :thumbs:
Jon

Cygnus X1
05-07-2009, 02:42 PM
What Jon said.
I use all the digits available.
On my hand, that is.

Orpheus
05-07-2009, 08:21 PM
Thanks for sharing your insights and the warm welcome, guys. Much appreciated.

vaguelee
05-08-2009, 12:38 AM
If I'm playing on 12 14 15, I'll use three fingers,
it's easier for me to bend the 15th fret or hit the
17th with my pinky (like in a legato run) if I'm so
inclined. But any other scenario, I'll use all 4.

metalgod
05-12-2009, 07:07 PM
I have been struggling with this for over a year, after spending lots of time with the Paul Gilbert tapes, I realized how precise his technique is...how he uses the corresponding finger for each fret. Also his hands are huge...so he tends to use the 1-3-4 for stretches where as I might use the 1-2-4 for the same shape.

I do use all 4 fingers, so i don't really think of it as a 3 finger technique, but I normally only use the pinky in conjunction with the first and second finger. It seems, I am much more dexterous and speedy with the 1-2-3 and 1-2-4 fingerings, I guess you could say that my pinky and ring fingers don't get along...

but, as stated above, malmsteen uses this, as does govan and a few other notable players. I am slowly working on using the 3rd and 4th fingers together, but it is almost like starting over, I have been playing for 20+ years.

any thoughts?

Orpheus
05-12-2009, 07:44 PM
I have been struggling with this for over a year, after spending lots of time with the Paul Gilbert tapes, I realized how precise his technique is...how he uses the corresponding finger for each fret. Also his hands are huge...so he tends to use the 1-3-4 for stretches where as I might use the 1-2-4 for the same shape.

I do use all 4 fingers, so i don't really think of it as a 3 finger technique, but I normally only use the pinky in conjunction with the first and second finger. It seems, I am much more dexterous and speedy with the 1-2-3 and 1-2-4 fingerings, I guess you could say that my pinky and ring fingers don't get along...

but, as stated above, malmsteen uses this, as does govan and a few other notable players. I am slowly working on using the 3rd and 4th fingers together, but it is almost like starting over, I have been playing for 20+ years.

any thoughts?


Interesting post, MG - thanks for sharing. One thing, it's consoling knowing I'm not the only one with this ongoing debate. I guess I like being systematic whenever possible when it comes to technique, yet I do go back and forth with using either my pinky or third finger on quite a few patterns.

Players like Petrucci and Gilbert are very consistent on using the pinky on patterns that the third finger could play (ie. indeed - as Malmsteen often does). Another player, one of the most insanely mechanically fast, Michael Batio especially is almost fanatical about employing his pinky on four fret span patterns the entire way up to the 24th fret. So, if we were to ask him, he would certainly say always use that pinky, even on, say, a 18-20-21 pattern.

Yet, ultimately I find myself seeming to prefer the articulation of a player like Malmsteen. Plus it does open one up for pinky extensions - on four note per string patterns too. Another thing is the availability of the third finger to readily bend or vibrato on the last note of a phrase played with the first, second and third fingers.

All that said, I'm finding myself using both methods of fingering, but am definitely focusing more on employing my third finger on runs many would systematically use the pinky for, and this is absolutely not for easier fingering, it is for reasons like those mentioned here.

metalgod
05-12-2009, 08:17 PM
this is a great thread...

I do see the advantages, check out Doug Steele, an aussie shredder, he "does not condone" not using the pinky, it's there, might as well use it.

I cannot bend with my pinky, I am able to use it for vibrato at best.

On certain "gilbertesque" patterns, for example a 12/14/15 pattern on the high e and then an 11/12/14 pattern on the B is a really cool, 6 note pattern that sounds great with fast alternate picking, but using the 1-2-3 fingering then having to switch to a 1-2-4 fingering seems like more work for the fingers, that is how I look at it and the reason I have been working on getting that pinky to work well with the third finger, not necessarily to bend, but to be more like the petrucci/gilbert/batio school of technique.

However, as stated by other members, I like to be able to have that pinky ready to do a trill or 4th note above the third finger...or use it as a bridge to go into another pattern.

A good friend who is also a teacher tells me to chill out and not stress about it, he says, can you play fast with the 1-2-3 method? Yes, so why mess with something you have been doing that way for 12+ years, at least since 1991 or so when I got fairly adept at the sweeps and legato runs etc.

I have also been prepping for a youtube posting, and seeing myself do that 1-2-3 thing is a little weird, especially after watching a gilbert video, he just looks awesome playing that way. I have also seen players get blasted on youtube for not using all their fingers in the right patters or riffs. Ugh.

Orpheus
05-13-2009, 05:30 AM
If I'm reading between the lines correctly here, you seem to want to aspire to the Batio type method of strict pinky use, and you clearly seem concerned about the proper "look" of each technique, yet you do not possess as much dexterity with the pinky as your third finger, so you are trying to reconcile using your third finger is scenarios that many shredders employ their pinky.

Well, if I am correct in my inference, as far as "look" goes, I personally would drop that as a factor in decision right off the bat. It's about the feel, articulation and tone each method produces, not look. Moreover, if you want to go down the path of aesthetics, I actually honestly happen to think Malmsteen's shred technique of frequent third finger use looks better, with his bluesy angled fingers, which facilitate frequent use of third finger (as opposed to the typical four finger shred "claw") - not that that should ever be an issue.

I honest to god have absolutely no preference for the ease of playability of either technique, and this is why I posted this thread in the first place. My technique could go either way systematically, but I didn't have complete objectivity about the virtues of either technique, and as stated previously, I've actually come out on the side of more frequent third finger use now - for all the reason previously stated in this thread.

metalgod
05-13-2009, 08:00 AM
If I'm reading between the lines correctly here, you seem to want to aspire to the Batio type method of strict pinky use, and you clearly seem concerned about the proper "look" of each technique, yet you do not possess as much dexterity with the pinky as your third finger, so you are trying to reconcile using your third finger is scenarios that many shredders employ their pinky.

Well, if I am correct in my inference, as far as "look" goes, I personally would drop that as a factor in decision right off the bat. It's about the feel, articulation and tone each method produces, not look. Moreover, if you want to go down the path of aesthetics, I actually honestly happen to think Malmsteen's shred technique of frequent third finger use looks better, with his bluesy angled fingers, which facilitate frequent use of third finger (as opposed to the typical four finger shred "claw") - not that that should ever be an issue.

I honest to god have absolutely no preference for the ease of playability of either technique, and this is why I posted this thread in the first place. My technique could go either way systematically, but I didn't have complete objectivity about the virtues of either technique, and as stated previously, I've actually come out on the side of more frequent third finger use now - for all the reason previously stated in this thread.

ahh...is that how it comes across? I think I am more worried about proper technique than anything, either way I am just going to continue going by feel, and whatever seems a better way to do the pattern and not get so worked up about it, but I do find it interesting how there are other players who have pondered this also like I have. cheers!

toneseeker
05-14-2009, 08:10 AM
I only changed the way I was playing because my hand was hurting. I'd still be playing the other way if I never had a problem. Even now, I still switch back and forth, depending on what i'm playing.
Not too worried about if my hands look right when I play something, as long as it sounds right. (sometimes sounding right is a challenge within itself :icon_bigg)

nazzrblue
05-17-2009, 10:40 AM
I guess I've never been that methodical on my fingering or picking technique.
I usually rely on instinct as far as finger placement goes, or what feels more comfortable on any given part of the fret board. However I do tend to try to utilize the pinky more on soloing than I used to. It really adds dimension to your playing, and of course it looks damn cool when you're trying to impress people.:icon_lol:

Orpheus
05-17-2009, 12:26 PM
I guess I've never been that methodical on my fingering or picking technique.
I usually rely on instinct as far as finger placement goes, or what feels more comfortable on any given part of the fret board. However I do tend to try to utilize the pinky more on soloing than I used to. It really adds dimension to your playing, and of course it looks damn cool when you're trying to impress people.:icon_lol:

Another player who thinks pinky use looks cool - interesting - I never looked at it that way. Again, I prefer how the bluesy angled three finger method looks more, if we're going to take an aesthetic approach. Take a look at the vast majority of the time Malmsteen, for instance, is playing - his fingers are angled to facilitate better reach of the second and third fingers. But, I guess you like that Michael Angel Batio "shred claw" look...

nazzrblue
05-17-2009, 02:11 PM
Another player who thinks pinky use looks cool - interesting - I never looked at it that way. Again, I prefer how the bluesy angled three finger method looks more, if we're going to take an aesthetic approach. Take a look at the vast majority of the time Malmsteen, for instance, is playing - his fingers are angled to facilitate better reach of the second and third fingers. But, I guess you like that Michael Angel Batio "shred claw" look...

I was just being facetious. Of course it's pretty impressive when you can let all your fingers wail and hit all the right notes....but like I said, it's not a conscious effort on my part. Whatever feels right to me, is where I'm at.

Shredmonster
08-20-2009, 11:42 AM
On 12 - 14 - 15 I usually will use my pinky.

Everything depends on everything else - what I mean is it depends upon what feels right to you, what level you personally want to achieve, how good your picking and what you are going to be doing next etc...

The main reason I use my pinky is because when I do so my fingers are more relaxed.
There is a bit more tension when using my 3rd finger between my 1st and 2nd finger than when using my pinky.

However if I am going to be adding a 17 nor 19 note then I will use my 3rd finger.

Jesse James
08-21-2009, 03:09 AM
I play with all 4 if I want the speed, but if I need a giant bend I'll have to use 3 because I dont have a strong pinky, but if im doing more blues stuff I stick with just 3 and somtimes I might pop my thumb over, this is a good shred because everyone plays diffrent and its interesting to see who does what, and may I say, toneseeker u have one weird playing style lol,

k.Dee
08-24-2009, 09:59 AM
Thing is how many do you use when you're playin'pentatonics?
On the diatonics you cant use less than..4,if you wanna shred!
Thats not negotiable..

But on penta?
Have you seen S.Lane's approach? One word..SICK

YouTube - Shawn Lane - Pentatonic Lesson Part 2 of 2

PacerMedic
08-24-2009, 10:53 AM
I would beat the strings with my dick if it made a sound that was cool. Use what God gave ya. 3 fingers, 4 fingers, thumbs, toes, titties, who cares as long as you get to say your piece musically?