Right Pinky (and ring finger) -- picking the 1st string

pdgpdg ✭✭
in Technique Posts: 196

Seems like some players let their right-hand pinky and ring fingers gently brush the guitar top. While other players curl those fingers and let them brush or touch the string(s) below the string they are picking, to give a sense of position. (We've seen photos of blackened fingers from the strings.)

But if you do the latter -- play with your right-hand fingers gently brushing or touching the strings to give a sense of position -- this works for playing every string except the 1st string.

To play the 1st string, you have to either totally float, or you can let your fingers (pinky, maybe ring) drop to gently touch the guitar top. But if you do the latter, you have to bring them back up again when you move to the other strings, unless you want to just keep them brushing the guitar top (the other way of playing).

So, for those players who keep their pinky and ring fingers on (brushing or touching) the strings, what do you do when you play the 1st string? If you practice free-floating with the 1st string, do you become good at it and able to move quickly between that string and the other strings? Or is total free-floating, no contact even with the other strings or the guutar too, a bad idea (too fraught)?



  • Posts: 3,166

    I've struggled with that for a long time. I finally got comfortable with this: my hand is in the loose closed position. When I'm playing the low E and A the fingers rest on the strings. As I'm moving to higher strings, the hand slides off the strings and rests on the guitar top. Then if I'm moving back up, the hand slides back onto the strings.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Posts: 3,166

    This is easiest to just show

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 196

    Thanks for the video! Oh, so the middle knuckle of your pinky drops down to the top, but the ends of all fingers are still up on the strings.

    Many players seem to brush the TIPS of their pinky and ring fingers (not the middle knuckles) on the guitar top . Some players play mostly that way and sometimes they play up on the strings. That presents a difficulty in lifting up the fingers over the 1st string, when you go from, say, the 1st string, to the 2nd and 3rd strings, etc. (Picture trying to recurl those fingers and avoiding having them touch the 1st string.)

  • rudolfochristrudolfochrist Worms, GermanyNew Dupont MD-100
    Posts: 74

    I keep my ring finger and pinky floating all the time (although I'm touching the string beneath the string I'm playing with my index finger), unless I do (or try to do 😂) that fast Django chromatic run. When I reach the first string, I touch the top of the guitar. This gives me a better angle I guess for fast tremolo playing. If I don't touch the top I get stuck almost immediately.

  • Posts: 3,166

    Oh, so the middle knuckle of your pinky drops down to the top, but the ends of all fingers are still up on the strings.

    Hm, I'll have to check later, I don't have a guitar close. I'm pretty sure if I'm playing high E, I'm supporting against the top only, not making contact with the rest of the strings.

    This is a compromise for me as I hear the tone gets better with the splayed hand as a lot of high caliber players in the genre have: Angelo, Tchavolo etc... But once you get to the bass strings and your pinky goes under the strings, I couldn't make it work smoothly. Always felt awkward, I don't know why as I have pretty long fingers so it's not a matter of reach.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 196

    So, @rudolfochrist, when you play the 1st string, is it your finger tip(s) that touch the top, or maybe your middle knuckles? If it's your fingertip(s), when you again play a different string do you just pull your finger(s) back up toward your palm? (And go back and forth?)

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,057

    What a bunch of knuckle draggers :-) JK

    BucobillyshakesLango-DjangoWim Glenn
  • ChristopheCaringtonChristopheCarington San Francisco, CA USANew Stringphonic Favino, Altamira Chorus
    Posts: 96

    @pdg I was actually having the same problem floating about a year ago. I purposefully made the switch to where my hand is closed but my pinky is curled under the strings to give a sense of where I'm at.

    My pinky nail & sometimes knuckle, as well as my ring finger nail & sometimes knuckle brush the top of the guitar. When I get to the B & e strings, my pinky actually brushes the bridge and moustache to continue giving me feedback of where I'm at. When playing the low E & A, my hand will sometimes change to complete floating. Depends if a fast passage came before it or a rest.

    The reason I made the switch was I found some of the most mechanical players do the same - and assumed they're doing something right. A few examples:

    Very hard at first, but now second nature. First 2 months I lost coordination and speed. Didn't feel 2nd nature until about 6 months. So, I would actually recommend taking time to try loosening your hand a bit and letting that pinky (and ring finger potentially) hang loose!

  • rudolfochristrudolfochrist Worms, GermanyNew Dupont MD-100
    edited April 1 Posts: 74


    When I do the chromatic run then my middle knuckles of ring finger and pinky are touching the top. When I'm finished I pull them up so they don't touch anything.

    I also don't curl them all up to my palm. I would call my finger position the Half-Jimmy. 😂

    I made a video as well as @Buco did. Still, me touching the top is kind of hard to see. 🤷‍♂️

    BucoBill Da Costa Williams
  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 196

    Thanks guys!

    My method for quite some time has been to lightly drag (loosely) my ring and pinky (tips, mostly) on the top, most of the time. (The "middle knuckle drag on the top" method doesn't seem to work for me.)

    But I've noticed a certain degree of freedom in just letting them brush against the lower strings (not the top) for reference -- your hand can move up and down quickly and your wrist can swing freely. It works even for picking on the 2nd string -- if I'm there, my pinky seems to be ok resting on just the 1st string. Just not the 1st string.

    I'm experimenting to see if I can gain stability floating when I pick the 1st string. If I slightly splay my fingers, it feels a bit like when you stabilize a kite by hanging a cloth "tail."

    I may just stick with the fingers on top method, except when I'm not likely to pick the 1st string for awhile.

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