What Finger is What?
Just what are the fingers of the plucking and fretting hand called. There can be a bit of confusion as to what the names and numbers of your fretting hand and the plucking or strumming hand are. Here are some of the common fingering notations I’ve encounter over the course of my studying ukulele and guitar.
Common Names for Those Musical Digits
Here are the common fingering notations I've encounter over the course of my studying ukulele and guitar.
Fingering for chords is typically expressed using Arabic numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and T for Thumb.
For the plucking hand, in fingerstyle, the Spanish, Latin classical names and what are commonly used, with English names shown below:
- Thumb ( t ), not really a finger but a digit. In classical guitar notation this is Pulgar, Pollex (p)
- Index ( i ) finger. In classical guitar notation Indice, Index (i)
- Middle ( m ) finger. In classical guitar notation Medio, Medius (m)
- Ring ( r ) finger. In classical guitar notation Anular, Aanularius (a)
- Pinky ( p ) finger. In classical guitar notation Mignolo (c, x or e)
Spanish: p i m a, English: t i m r
If you're studying traditional classical guitar repertoire and technique, the classical terms for the right hand are more common. For all else I recommend simply using the English terms or the terms in your native language and eliminate any translation.
Modern Classical Guitar , the repertoire and technique dates back to the mid nineteenth century ( 1800s ). And offers a wealth of information that can be adapted to the ukulele. Which is essentially a small classical guitar in it's construction and technique when played without picks.
When playing all four strings, each finger can handle their own string. On ukulele it's a simple finger to string assignment, your thumb handles string ④, your index finger handles string ③, your middle finger handles string ② and your ring finger handles string ①. A simple one finger to one string assignment. For guitar, there are fifteen possible four string/four finger combinations, not all are practical but should all be explored.
When playing any of the three, possible three string sets . You can use the thumb, index and middle fingers.
For the two string pairs any combination of t i m r is possible depending on the musical context.
The final decision as to what fingering combination to use will be a musical one. But it is definitely worth exploring all possible combinations.
The Fingerpicking series of lessons explores these fingering possibilities.
End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!
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High Thumb Technique
Updated: 05 Apr 2019
Unless there is an overwhelming musical reason for your thumb to get in on the action and play notes or mute strings. In most cases and for most players the thumb should function in its supporting role of providing equal and opposite pressing motion to the fingers. There are few if any exceptions.
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