F to F-minor pinky trick! (When I'm 64)

TimWilson

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So I'm wrasslin' my way through a "When I'm 64" tutorial (this one), and getting jammed up on a speedy transition between F and F minor. A four finger pileup on the Fretboard Highway. 🤣 Total chaos, and practice was making it worse, if anything.

It's also at a major transition in the song. Until then, it's basically two chords per four measures (for example, two measures of C, one of G, then back to C), nice and easy, until he decides to throw NINE chords into two measures, starting with that finger-twister of F to F minor.

Forget about catching up after that, for me anyway. Super frustrating because, especially in the arrangement I linked above, the song felt so close to my grasp.

Then I found THIS:


Whoa!

I am in fact righteously fond of adding a pinky on the third fret of the A string while playing an F, and do it fairly often. I'm not sure if it's more confusing or less confusing to say "basically adding a C chord with my pinky to the F I'm playing with fingers 1 and 2", but that's how I think of it... even though from a music theory standpoint IT'S JUST AN F, doubling the C note in the F-A-C triad rather than the A (open A string) as usual. So we're landing on 2013 rather than 2010.

Anyway, I use that pinky on the A string during the F as a running start into the F minor, which, wouldn't you know it, has a C in it, using that pinky on the third fret of A. All I do then is swap the position of the first two fingers to land on the first fret of the G and E strings, as in 1013. DONE. 2013 to 1013 is MUCH easier than swapping fingers AND trying to land the pinky at the same time. That was just too much for my feeble old brain and fingers.

(I know that I could probably make it even easier by inverting the first and second fingers in the F, but there are a gazillion Fs in the sing, but only the one Fm, so it's easier for me to stick with the more typical arrangement.)

Thanks to JJ's tip, I got 2013 (F with my pinky adding a C) to 1013 on the first try with only a tiny bit of buzzing, and a couple more tries after that, I'm now in business and working through the rest of the song. Whew!

Speaking of When I'm 64, I've been reading The Beatles Anthology, and Paul mentioned that he wrote the song at age 17, with a little tweaking in the studio, which made me think, "What?? That can't possibly be right!" After all, the book is mostly the barely edited interview transcripts. I've seen plenty of places where the lads just didn't remember things clearly.

It was also interesting seeing John's 1967 interviews on Pepper in the Anthology, long before his crankiness re: Paul, where he praised When I'm 64 as one of the band's favorite songs on the album. He acknowledged that other folks contributed the "grandchildren on your knee" bit in the studio, and took full credit for the specific names "Vera, Chuck, and Dave"! I've always wondered where those came from, and it made me want to pin down Paul's starting place even more.

And I was right! Paul was wrong! He was NOT 17 when he wrote it. He was..checks notes...


15.

Well, F me! 🤣 That McCartney fella had the goods from the get-go.

Anyway, I hope the F to F minor tip helps, you might enjoy that tutorial, and now you have some cool stories to drop into your next Beatles-oriented conversation, which for me is rarely more than an hour away. 😊
 
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Tim, just wanted to say how much I appreciate your presence on the UU Forum. I thoroughly enjoy reading your detailed, clearly written posts. Not only does your good spirit shine right through each and every one of them, but - no matter the topic - they are always entertaining, thoughtful, and enlightening. Keep ‘em comin’!
 
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Tim, just wanted to say how much I appreciate your presence on the UU Forum. I thoroughly enjoy reading your detailed, clearly written posts. Not only does your good spirit shines right through each and every one of them, but - no matter the topic - they are always entertaining, thoughtful, and enlightening. Keep ‘em comin’!

You're very kind, Jan! I'm a bumbler trying to find my way, and hoping to give back a little of the bountiful goodness I've found here. 😊
 
You're very kind, Jan! I'm a bumbler trying to find my way, and hoping to give back a little of the bountiful goodness I've found here. 😊
Well, in an effort to find your own way, I think you are also lighting the way for others. I agree that the UU is a special space. Definitely one of the most cooperative and supportive online environments I’ve seen.
 
Tim, just wanted to say how much I appreciate your presence on the UU Forum. I thoroughly enjoy reading your detailed, clearly written posts. Not only does your good spirit shine right through each and every one of them, but - no matter the topic - they are always entertaining, thoughtful, and enlightening. Keep ‘em comin’!
Yes!!! All of this!
 
As you know from a theory standpoint, the a string is just doubling up another note on your triad. Making an F major into a minor, you just need to flatten your third which is that A to an Ab. 1-0-1-x gets you an F minor just as a 2-0-1-x gets you an F chord.
 
As you know from a theory standpoint, the a string is just doubling up another note on your triad. Making an F major into a minor, you just need to flatten your third which is that A to an Ab. 1-0-1-x gets you an F minor just as a 2-0-1-x gets you an F chord.

True true, but in this case, the melody line is going to C, AND the next chord is a C anyway, so in this specific context, there are benefits to having the C in both the F and Fm...

...but you raise an excellent point! F to Fm is such a common move that having more options is always going to be better. Thanks!
 
This has been a very interesting thread for me because never in a thousand years would I have thought to form the Fm the way Tim has. If someone put a gun to my head and said "Fm or death" I would go methodically to the F on the 10th fret of the G string, then the F on the 5th fret of the C string, then the F on the 13th fret of the E string, and then the F on the 8th fret of the A string. Then I would have said that's it--unless you want me to play it really high on the fret board in the next octave. If the gunman added what about the F on the 1st fret, I'd say it can't be done because I need to go down two frets on the A string and we've run out of frets. Then if I thought long and hard enough, I'd remember that triangle shape from the Mel Bay chord book that I never play and then play 101X. However that shape it very low on my list.
 
I've always played that song with a Cdim where you're playing the Fm. Both sound equally good, but you may find the Cdim 2323 easier to transition to. The Cdim won't always work as a sub for Fm, but it does in this song.
F / Cdim / |C / A / |D7 / G7 / |C /. . .
(Sometimes it's fun to use the 5433 C chord shape and go C, B, Bb, A with the C and B done as eighth notes.)
 
I've always played that song with a Cdim where you're playing the Fm. Both sound equally good, but you may find the Cdim 2323 easier to transition to. The Cdim won't always work as a sub for Fm, but it does in this song.

I haven't met Cdim before, Jim! I'll definitely play around with it and see what I find!

This idea of "sometimes it works" is one of the benefits of learning theory. Learning that when E is the V chord you can always use E7 is one such tidbit, and it happens that I really like 7 chords in general. There are plenty of other applications, including being able to anticipate which chords "want" to come next. I've explored suspensions and 7s a fair bit so far, but barely touched any diminished chords. I'm intrigued by the variations you suggested, too.

And that's part of why I'm not necessarily running away from F to Fm just yet. I see a LOT of vintage songs (or in this case, vintage-sounding songs) using F to Fm. It's like C-G7-C. It's ubiquitous. I'm going to have to get there eventually, and I'm at least at the point in my development where I understand that I can get anywhere eventually. I just needed to break through this particular logjam.

never in a thousand years would I have thought to form the Fm the way Tim has.

Well, to be clear, what started all this is that I can't get from a first position F to a first position Fm in anything resembling a timely manner...but it's just a first position Fm. :)

This is harder than usual for me because I'm dyslexic. Binaries are especially difficult for me. Having two fingers that need to swap place is almost inconceivably difficult for me. That moment where I have no connection to the fretboard leaves me feeling so untethered that I can't find my way back down in time. IN TIME being the key words. This is a fast change.

What I love about JJ's tip is that adding the pinky on the A string makes it easier. I now have an anchor. I'm not floating off into space. The whole song is more grounded.

So maybe in addition to a beginner's forum, we could use a subforum for the neurodivergent. :ROFLMAO:

I would go methodically to the F on the 10th fret of the G string, then the F on the 5th fret of the C string...

While I have no intention of STAYING in the first 4 frets, I can say without hesitation that FOR NOW, I'm starting most of my chords there. This is the Beginners forum after all. 😁

In this context, voicing matters too. It's a song I'm super familiar with, and rather than seeing how far away from it I can go to create my own sound, I'm trying to zero in as close as I can to what's already there.

There's a very specific melody line in this section (the F/Fm/C or F/Cdim/C) is for "Will you still need me, will you still feed me", and they're both at the lower end of the song's range. If it was more than just me, or if I was wanting to do something complementary while playing along with the recording, THAT's when I'd want to go up the neck. In this case, I'm wanting to color more inside the lines.

Speaking of neurodivergence, that may be my autism kicking in. There are variations that I'm happy to listen to, that would distress me to try to make. For my own sanity, I need to keep that melody line where it "belongs".

I'm more comfortable with the Cdim suggestion, because the only thing it's changing is the route for the walkdown, if you will. Some bit of irresolution following the F that the C resolves, but the overall shape of the melody line is staying in those first couple of frets.

Whew! This is all a mind-bender for me, and I'm loving it! Thanks for these new ideas!

I wanted to circle back to the original tutorial video, which I hope folks will also check out if they're interested in the song. One of Justin's pedagogical techniques is singing the names of the chords instead of the words of the song. Other folks do it of course, and other folks have said that you should be saying aloud the name of every new chord as you're learning...which I resisted because it felt silly, but you know what? It works! I'm finding this EXTREMELY helpful in the early going.

Using this passage as an example, he SINGS ALOUD (to the tune of "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64"), "F to F minor, C to an A chord, D seven to G seven to C, G seven C," which actually works bizarrely well! Embeds don't always link to the right place, but it starts at 2:36:

Edit: Yes! Embed lands at exactly the right spot! Click play and in a couple of seconds you'll see and hear exactly what I'm talking about.



I've used that "singing the chord names as words" method to help me out of a jam several times along the way, and I'm finding that it really works with other songs. So Jim, I'd also need to change the "helper" lyrics from "F to F minor" to "F to C d'minished", but hey, that works too!

Thanks again!
 
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Coincidentally, I was just given a cassette tape of a show I did with Al Kirby 19 years ago that has a John Hartford song called My Rag that sings the chords. We apparently were all wired up on cafine, because we played the song about twice the speed we usually play it. Sorry there's no video, only audio and poor quality at that.
 
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Coincidentally, I was just given a cassette tape of a show I did with Al Kirby 19 years ago that has a John Hartford song called My Rag that sings the chords. We apparently were all wired up on cafine, because we played the son about twice the speed we usually play it. Sorry there's no video, only audio and poor quality at that.


Man oh man, what a kick! I've enjoyed many a bootlegged recording over the years, so I thought the sound quality of this was just dandy, and that performance was stellar, I tell ya. Stellar!

Thanks for posting that! I hadn't heard it before, and had no idea that this approach was downright canonical!

You sure it was just caffeine? 🤣
 
One I've been trying is forming the F by using middle finger on first fret an d index on second. From there its really easy to slide the index finger to first fret G string Ang drop the pinky into a C chord.
I play around with a lot of chords since my hands have a hard time reaching some
 
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