View Full Version : Using the ring finger when picking a jazz melody

Picklejuice Duce
02-28-2014, 06:34 AM
I'm trying to establish some good technique for picking a jazz melody, but I'm not sure if there are reasons to stay away from doing certain things. My goal is to lay a foundation for jazz improv, and I'm seeing and hearing a wide variety of players picking down with the thumb only, up with the middle only, on E and A strings, up with index only with G and C strings, using alternating thumb and index, etc. But I'm not seeing any "ring, middle, index" patterns for successive notes (4/4 time) on the same string. I've seen it used in chord picking such as a roll, but not the melody. I am gravitating towards this, and I'm also finding that it's not so difficult for me to change strings mid-pattern, and keep things fairly smooth.

I've looked at jazz guitarist for direction, but they're all using alternating picking, with a pick in hand. I'm trying to develop a style using only my fingertips, with no pick or fingernails used in picking.

My intention is to learn all the above, but because I'm seeing much more single finger being used, and not really seeing a R-M-I picking pattern being used for melodic lines, I am thinking there is a good reason for this, and there might be a long term detriment. I should also mention that I have some muscle memory already built in on this type of movement from studying piano years ago, which might explain a natural gravitation to get the ring finger more involved. Doing this also seems to make the swinging 8th pattern easier to handle at a higher tempo, with less fatigue.

Anyone able to comment on this? Bad habit, or run with it?

02-28-2014, 06:43 AM
I'm interested in your question as well because I've been focusing a lot on fingerpicking lately and have a few good books that I'm using however the approaches seem to vary. It seems that more players use the thumb and index finger or thumb and index and middle finger and fewer include the ring finger.

I also would like to know what the most efficient choice is. I started working in the ring finger though I naturally prefer the thumb, index, middle combo. The reason I'm trying to train the ring finger to get in there is so that I don't find myself 'cut short' later on when that finger may be needed. But maybe I'm just being to complicated here. Maybe just going with the thumb and two fingers will cover 98% of my playing landscape.

Still pondering and looking forward to replies from the more experienced fingerstyle players in the crowd.

02-28-2014, 06:47 AM
Check out Gerald Ross he uses thumb and 3 fingers.

02-28-2014, 06:50 AM
Hi Picklejuce Duce
I see nothing wrong with using any of the above techniques. Each person comes up with their own technique. I have a tendency to change technique depending on the song. When things need to pick up speed, being able to play with ring, middle and index can be a great advantage. That is the technique that most classical guitarists are taught. You might not use it for every song, but it is good to be able to choose that method when it makes it easier for you to play. People who use a pick can get pretty fast with up and down strokes, but it limits their ability to incorporate various ukulele strumming techniques when they have a pick in their hand.


02-28-2014, 06:55 AM
Based on my own experience, I'd say run with it.

I play fingerstyle but sometime long ago got in the habit of picking with thumb for 3rd and 4th strings, index for 2nd, and middle for 1st. But now I'm finding that alternating fingers on the same string for runs/successive notes is really useful, as is being able to use the ring finger when necessary. This is how my instructor plays (and is suggesting I start doing as well) - but old habits are hard to break!

02-28-2014, 01:16 PM
And Kimo does it with thumb and forefinger. Find your own comfort zone, master it, get comfortable, and jam.