Two-finger playing's not just a gimmick

SabicasSabicas New
edited November 2018 in Gypsy Jazz 101 Posts: 5
I've always used all of my fingers when I play, but lately I've been experimenting with more single and double-string runs up and down the neck instead of across the strings. When visiting Turkey, I noticed much of this type of playing on instruments with less courses (saz, baglama, trichordo). The key to this, for me, is using the index and middle fingers almost exclusively.

This evolved into me also experimenting with two-finger playing in the familiar scale and arpeggio patterns, across strings in diagonal patterns.

The result is fresh phrasing, better vibrato, and a more balanced hand. Trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B with only two fingers encourages chromaticism, glissando and frees up the horizontal/diagonal movement of the fretting hand considerably. I also seem to have more "punch" now.

I'm now using the index and middle for 75% of my single-note playing, with the ring finger and pinky playing 20% and 5% respectively. I've come to think of the pinky as a "dead-end".

It just feels so much better to play this way and I'm surprised that it really doesn't slow me down and, in some cases, even increases speed.

Has anyone else experienced this revelation?



  • crookedpinkycrookedpinky Glasgow✭✭✭✭ Alex Bishop D Hole, Altamira M & JWC D hole
    Posts: 922
    I agree with you. I am not the best gypsy player and often I find my playing with all fingers is too florid with lots if trills. Using two fingers stops all of that plus I have a bent, defective pinky which sometimes gets in the way. One thing to note is that although Django mainly used his two "good" fingers he had exceptionally long fingers which made barring and double stops easier.
    always learning
  • jeffmatzjeffmatz ChicagoNew
    Posts: 97
    Definitely worth a look, at least...fingering is a huge part of getting into a players head.

    I had a student once who was learning some Charlie Christian solos, was having a devil of a time...I watched him--lots of pinky if Django was a two finger player by way of need, Charlie was a dyed in the wool "three finger" player...for whatever reason.

    We made he adjustment, which totally moved some notes around, and it made a lot more sense.
  • steffosteffo New
    Posts: 21
    But just fingers 1 and 4 can also be a very useful combination.
  • wimwim ChicagoModerator Barault #503 replica
    edited November 2018 Posts: 1,457
    I went this way for a while, and then strayed back. It is good to know how to do it, and it's really good for transcribing Django, but it is also limiting in your own playing in a way.

    For example, Django will often do his diminished arpeggios with a skipped note so that he can put one note per string. Hey, sounds good too! But you also want to be able to play them 2 notes per string, for when you want to hear the full 4 notes in arpeggio, or even if you just need the extra note in there for a nice phrasing. Just using 1st and 2nd finger is not as good here. By the way - use 1st and 3rd finger for your dim7 arps, not 1 and 4!

    For a while I avoided to use the pinky entirely to see how it would go. But there are countless licks and tricks from Paris style GJ that are just not working well with 2 or even 3 fingers. The thing that made me change back was to learn LDDLH tunes and to see players e.g. Angelo Debarre up close and personal - they're using the pinky a LOT and able to get more sounds + explore possibilities that Django was, perhaps, unable to get.

    So, yeah, it's definitely not a gimmick, and it's good to learn to play that way. But it's really not "The One True Way", and thinking of the pinky as a "dead-end" is a mistake IMO.
  • Since you brought it up (and I've always wanted to ask), why use just 1 & 3 for diminished arps?
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,320
    Yeah Jim, same question for Wim and also do you mean horizontal or vertical arps or both? thx been working on those more lately.
  • wimwim ChicagoModerator Barault #503 replica
    edited November 2018 Posts: 1,457
    It feels better, you trip over yourself less or something?

    It's like the action of stretching over 3 frets (the minor 3rd interval on one string) and then releasing the stretch back to 2 frets (the minor 3rd interval across strings) is easier to execute at tempo than the action of initially no stretch (minor 3rd interval on one string) and then the 1 and 4 fingers kind of bunch up and get in each others' way as you change string.

    Might take a few days to get the hang of if you were already well in the habit of using 1 and 4. One thing that helped me in practicing is commencing dim7 arps with a single note on string, and going directly to the next note two frets back on next string, then continuing the 2 notes per string pattern.

    This helped me to break out of a bias in the "mental grouping" I would put to pairs of notes in the dim7 arp, rather than thinking of them as pairs of notes separated by three frets on the same string, I could start to visualize them instead as as pairs separated by two frets across strings. It's exactly the same 4 notes, just a different visualization to use while you're going up/down the staircase like that.

    Sorry if I'm not explaining it well, and for drifting off topic here...

    @Bones horizontal - when there's 4 notes to the chord, arps played 2 notes per string (this way you always get a repeating pattern every 2 strings, easy to visualize and transpose)
    Jim Kaznoskyjuanderer
  • juandererjuanderer New ALD Original, Manouche Latcho Drom Djangology Koa, Caro y Topete AR 740 O
    Posts: 205
    why use just 1 & 3 for diminished arps?

    It doesn't sound good to mix even and odd fingers and diminished is an odd sound, so...

    But seriously, a reason could be that at the end of the arp run, you have the pinky available for playing another note if you choose to.
  • @Wim Glenn You explained it very well. Thank you.
  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 959
    @Wim Glenn You explained it very well. Thank you.
    I second that. Sometimes one simple tip explained like that is worth a lot more than many expert lessons!
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