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Thread: Are any of you using five fingers?

  1. #1
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    Default Are any of you using five fingers?

    Next month, I will probably pick up a Kanile'a GL6 guitarlele. The instrument combines a number of different aspects that I like (tenor/baritone-sized body, four GCEA strings plus two bass strings, 16 frets to the body, koa sound, access to six-string techniques), so it's something I want to explore.

    Oddly, I have no particular interest in regular guitars, not from the perspectives of size nor sound texture. I see myself as a ukulele player (no intention of abandoning the four-stringers, either), and the guitarlele as a ukulele with two more strings. But it's really all the same, it's certainly a small guitar also.

    One of my concerns is how I'll get along with six strings. For fingerpicking on the ukulele (mostly tenor and baritone), I originally used thumb, middle and index finger (PIM), but over the past few months trained myself to using thumb, middle, index and ring finger (PIMA). It was a bit slow going at first, but once the ring finger gained dexterity, it felt quite natural and effective.

    In preparation for the guitalele, I read up on fingerstyle approaches on the guitar. Classical guitarists traditionally seem to use PIMA also, with the thumb generally covering the three bass strings. Coming from four strings that I play with the same number of digits, that seems a little limiting. I did some further reading and learned of a technique where all five fingers are used. Charles Postlewate seems to have done some pioneering work in that field, and from what he writes, others have attempted this also (interesting read, may buy the book).

    Do any of you have personal experience with this approach? And if so, how did it go?

    I figure that since six-strings will be completely new to me, I won't have to unlearn anything, so I might as well pick an approach that may offer the greatest benefit in the long run. I don't know if this is the best approach, though, it may just make things more complicated without any real advantage, but I feel it is something I should decide right at the start.

  2. #2
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    I have a (limited) classical guitar background and you are quite correct in stating that pima is the normal technique. Thumb does generally cover the 3 wound strings but not exclusively. Often in scale passages i and m is used on the wound strings. It's not as limiting as you think, some extremely technically demanding pieces can be played. It's essentially what Paco de Lucia used and I would never have referred to him as being limited! There are numerous players who use just the 4 digits and their technique is frightening. The limitations aren't the number of digits but the individual player. I for example would be no better off employing more digits, I'm nowhere close to mastering the normal pima. Adding another digit isn't going to improve my playing.
    Having said all that I have heard of the odd classical guitarist using the little (e) finger for plucking. It's very rare. Of course it is used in flamenco strumming patterns but again they don't use it for plucking. I'd advise you to master pima before introducing the e finger. Being the weakest finger it's always going to lag behind the others. It could be mildly useful in block chords.
    Finally you ain't going to play any faster than this guy, even using all 5 digits. He is using just 2 - i and m.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hBg2hJjEec
    Last edited by Michael N.; 09-24-2016 at 01:16 AM.

  3. #3
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    I'd have bought a copy, but it seems the book is out of print, there's no electronic format available, and it's hard, if not impossible, to get a used copy at a realistic price.

    I have my Kanile'a GL6 now, and love its sound. Still unsure how to best approach learning, though.

  4. #4
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    I use just my 4 fingers (Pima) In 27 years of playing guitar I've never had a need for the pinky when fingerpicking. I owned a Koaloha guitarlele a couple of years ago thinking mainly being a guitar player I would like it. I didn't. The neck was to cramped and I didn't like how thin the neck was. It didn't feel like a guitar neck at all. I sold it 6 months later. It was a nice instrument just not for me.

  5. #5
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    You might be overthinking it.

    I have Griff Hamlin's Acoustic Blues Guitar Unleashed, maybe in 2-3 years I will manage to work my way through it, but there is a part where he tells you about flatpicking, and gives you a short run of notes to play at speed. Strict alternate picking (up down up down with each stroke) is often hard to keep at speed for some people, so they naturally will do sweep picking (just pick each note down the strings if that's the direction you are going, instead of moving the pick past the string and then striking it on an up, and the next string down, if that makes sense). Like the teacher, I can alternate pick fine up to a certain speed, then it's easier to sweep.

    So maybe try both and see which feels more natural to you.
    I should be curling up with a good uke, a book and my dog.

  6. #6
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    When I played the guitar (years ago) I explored alternate tunings quite a bit, which I highly recommend to you once you get a grip on managing the six strings. I never studied the guitar, having picked it up primarily to accompany myself singing. But when I got into the alternate tunings, fingerpicking just seemed a natural thing to pick up. One of my favorite tunings was DGDGBD which I believe is referred to as open G. I would use my thumb for the low D & G, and then one finger for each string with pinky on the high D. It really just happened by accident, and I did not set out to do it. I think if you are already comfortable with what you refer to as PIMA, adding the pinky will not be too difficult. I have just picked up a Pono Parlor guitar in a trade, and I look forward to exploring the guitar once again. Good luck and have fun with it!

  7. #7
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    I use PIMA and supposedly, you're not to use "A" unless you have an inconvenient string crossing. My teacher is a BEAR about fingering accuracy and angle and fingernails. I have to say, I am, after five months, noticing the effect fingering has on the tone. I have a hard time remembering M-I alternations. But eventually,when doing fast fingering or tremelo, you have to have that skill under your belt. (I'm studying classical which I started at age 64, hey, we don't live forever. Hitting the bucket list.)
    Ukes: Mainland mahogany tenor, Eleuke Tenor Solid Cutaway Sunburst
    Guitars: Yamaha GS-90, Marcario flamenco negra, Cordoba Protege 3/4

  8. #8

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    I can sorta see your rationale about using more fingers cuz you have more strings. Lots of great guitarists can do a whole lot with PIMA; maybe you can add the fifth finger as you see fit.

    Don't know how to make it show up better, but check out Mark Knopfler's lesson:
    https://youtu.be/G_8dDaPsSmg

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