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View Full Version : Need some "bending fingertips backward" advice



hammer40
06-27-2015, 07:01 AM
I don't know what to call it other than a "bending your fingertip backward" technique. I have seen it used, and it seems like an efficient way to play some chords that use more than one string in line, like a mini barre.

None of my fingertips have that flexibility right now and before I just try bending them backwards and possibly damaging something, I thought I would look for some stretching advice first. It may be as simple as pushing down on a table top, slowly, to get some flexibility started. Any ideas?

Tigeralum2001
06-27-2015, 07:21 AM
I really think some people physically can't do it (like rolling one's tongue). I'm one of them; try as I might, I can't do it.

Tootler
06-27-2015, 08:57 AM
I can't either but as I have fairly small hands I can often get two or three fingers in where others have difficulties so you make the most of what you have.

I have great difficulty with the 4442 version of E where many people manage using partial barring by bending their fingers back so I normally play E 4447 which I can manage OK (well, more or less) or if I have to move on quickly I'll simply use 444x.

Ukejenny
06-27-2015, 09:01 AM
Are you talking about rolling the index finger to barre a Bb, for example? I'm not seeing what you are describing.

I tell folks, once you try doing it about five thousand times, it will start to work. Five thousand more times, and it will work well.

janeray1940
06-27-2015, 10:20 AM
I'm guessing you're talking about this thing I see a lot of guitarists do, that isn't exactly the same as barreing with the index finger as Ukejenny described. I see it mostly on uke for chords such as Eb - index finger on the A string, ring finger barring the other three strings - or for dominant 9ths, index finger on the G string, ring finger barreing the other three strings.

I'd post a photo but I can't do it :) As Tigeralum noted upstream, it's genetic, at least according to what a couple of teachers have told me.

Wicked
06-27-2015, 10:50 AM
A lower action would be very helpful for this technique. Keep at it.

katysax
06-27-2015, 11:16 AM
It's not something that comes naturally to me. However, over time the more that I play the more I am able to do it. Some people have a lot more flexibility than others. If it doesn't work for you, it doesn't. You might find eventually that it will come.

kypfer
06-27-2015, 12:24 PM
I have a vague recollection of seeing someone playing a guitar like this in a folk club ... way back, when there were still folk clubs and people actually paid to go in and listened to the performers!! ... I digress ... anyway, I went home and tried it and found that not only could I do it but that it was easier to play 002220 with just the top joint of my second finger than trying to cram in three fingertips.

My index finger has a similar degree of flexibility (around 45 degrees backwards), as has my third (ring) finger.

Playing like this quickly became second nature for me. I'd not realised how unusual this was until quite recently when a relatively competent banjo player mentioned that he'd tried to play a specific sequence like I do and felt like he'd sprained something!!

Having said all that, playing like this can be a "bad habit", meaning I don't have the availability of notes that I would have if I had each string fretted individually ... I usually manage to work around that ;)

I'm not sure flexibility like this can be attained through practice. I'd suggest if you want to try, go at it slowly !!

Maybe I'm just lucky :)

Hippie Dribble
06-27-2015, 12:42 PM
80979809808098180982

Yeah, a genetic throwback. I can't roll my tongue or wiggle my ears or eyebrows but I'm really grateful I can bend my fingers. I honestly have no idea how I'd be able to even get close to fingering some chords otherwise. Also really handy because it frees up a couple of extra ones to take care of the melody.

Camsuke
06-27-2015, 12:57 PM
This will help;
http://ukeofcarl.com/hanon-for-ukulele-free-ebook/

CeeJay
06-27-2015, 01:36 PM
Time ,practice and patience.

hammer40
06-27-2015, 01:42 PM
Are you talking about rolling the index finger to barre a Bb, for example? I'm not seeing what you are describing.

I tell folks, once you try doing it about five thousand times, it will start to work. Five thousand more times, and it will work well.

No Jen, I wasn't referring to rolling your finger. I tried to find a picture to post but couldn't. I see that Hippie posted one though. Oddly, enough, I can do it to a degree now with my right hand, it's just the wrong hand that I need to do it with. Being right handed must have something to do with that, using that hand more in life must have allowed for more flexibility.

Thanks for the tips though everybody. I will try some slow bend/stretching and see how that goes. I know it will take time, like all things.

hammer40
06-27-2015, 01:43 PM
This will help;
http://ukeofcarl.com/hanon-for-ukulele-free-ebook/

Nice link, thanks!

janeray1940
06-27-2015, 02:46 PM
80982


Yeah, *that's* what I was talking about :) It's called hypermobility. Some folks got it, some folks don't.

caspet
06-27-2015, 03:52 PM
While not specifically for bendy backwards barring these stretches are great for general flexibility and dexterity. You may be surprised at how fluid your fingers feel after doing them. It's worth taking the time for the whole thing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSrfB7JIzxY&index=19&list=LLxdbR6lBlSUEApok2lbr3zw

Down Up Dick
06-27-2015, 03:55 PM
I could do it as kypfer does it, however, I did a bunch of flexibility exercises with "hand exercise putty", and now my left hand keeps cramping up. I don't know what the heck I did to it--maybe just Arthritis.

I'm fingerpicking now and learning Clawhammer with "open tuning", so many of the before difficult chords are as easy as pie. C, D, E and even F and G can be played with a four string barre. I'm really gettin' into open tuning

Well, now I gotta get back to those darned tab scales. I wrote up the four or five scales I mostly fingerpick. :old:

kypfer
06-27-2015, 09:29 PM
Down Up Dick wrote:
I did a bunch of flexibility exercises with "hand exercise putty", and now my left hand keeps cramping up. I don't know what the heck I did to it--maybe just Arthritis.


I'd go with the arthritis suggestion as well. I started to get cramps in my left hand whilst learning to play the flute (6-hole blackwood, not one of those all-key metal things) and it now affects my string fretting after an hour or two of "chording". Fortunately, as yet, my melody picking isn't affected, especially on smaller instruments like ukulele or mandolin :)

FWIW, I do find "sitting up properly" can help delay the onset of the symptoms, that is to say, not straining anything by slouching around (some call it being laid back) and holding the instrument awkwardly whilst playing ;)

As always, YMMV :)

phil hague
06-27-2015, 10:45 PM
Yes, at my age, |I am just happy that my fingers still bend in the normal direction.

caspet
06-27-2015, 10:51 PM
Aldrine gives a specific exercise here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTS0qHXupJs&index=1&list=PL327267F5A8104F41

hammer40
06-28-2015, 01:21 AM
Aldrine gives a specific exercise here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTS0qHXupJs&index=1&list=PL327267F5A8104F41

Awesome, that's a great video! I was searching around and found lots of finger exercise video, but nothing addressing the "bend". Thanks!

uke-garou
06-28-2015, 02:02 PM
Be very careful if that distal joint doesn't bend easily. I accidentally hyperextended my ring finger's distal joint, and it took several months to heal up. I accidentally stubbed it a few times, which made it worse. Normally, I don't think I would have noticed that I hit it.

hammer40
06-28-2015, 03:46 PM
Be very careful if that distal joint doesn't bend easily. I accidentally hyperextended my ring finger's distal joint, and it took several months to heal up. I accidentally stubbed it a few times, which made it worse. Normally, I don't think I would have noticed that I hit it.

Yep, I will be very careful. I'm not going to push it if it doesn't seem like it's going to improve in flexibility.

cpmusic
06-29-2015, 08:08 AM
I've never been able to bend my fingers backwards, so I stopped trying. I figure I'll only do damage to the joints, and I learned a long time ago that "no pain, no gain" is not applicable to joints.

k0k0peli
06-29-2015, 08:54 AM
... I learned a long time ago that "no pain, no gain" is not applicable to joints. Quite so, and I have a number of painful articulations to prove the point. (Not as bad as my motocrossing bro-in-law, who has managed to break and/or dislocate nearly every portion of his lanky body.)

As it happens, my big hands and fat fingers do manage to bend enough to play 002220 on most guitars, and I've learnt to adapt chords to my fingers' space constraints. Nothing is perfect; it's all make-do. I just make sure my make-do's aren't overly painful or damaging. If anything happens to my fingers, I won't be able to grow new ones, and I won't be up to Django tricks.

BigMamaJ40
06-29-2015, 01:04 PM
I could never get my ring finger to bend back far enough to cleanly play the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings on a guitar without muting the first string and even the 2nd string. But I found I had no problem cleanly chording those 3 strings with my pinky -- my pinky bends over twice as far back as my ring finger. But if I want to use the pinky to add the 6th and 7th for a blues vamp, I have to go to my ring finger and give up those high strings.

I was hoping I could switch to my less flexible ring finger for the lower tension uke strings, but I haven't been able to make it work.