How to hold down two strings at once?

Discussion of history's greatest guitar player.

How to hold down two strings at once?

Postby Jingo2013 » Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:36 am

Being a novice to thumbstyle guitar, I recently noticed that both Chet and Merle Travis used to fret notes on two strings with only one finger. I’ve tried this several times, but it just doesn’t seem to work for me. I have pretty normal sized hands with rather slim fingers. So, on a first position C-chord, for example, in order not to have to rock the third finger back and forth between the 5th and the 6th strings for the alternating bass, I wrap my thumb over the neck and catch both strings. While this has the advantage of freeing up the 3rd and 4th fingers for playing the melody, it’s not the easiest way of fingering a first position C-chord, to tell you the truth.

Is there some kind of technique of learning how to hold down two strings with one finger or do you just have to have fat fingers?
Jingo2013
 
Posts: 15
Joined: Fri May 31, 2013 3:38 pm

Re: How to hold down two strings at once?

Postby ajbremer » Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:43 am

I didn't know Chet and Merle fretted to strings with one finger, is there a video example of that? That would never happen on a classical would it?
ajbremer
 
Posts: 162
Joined: Sat Jan 14, 2012 9:11 am

Re: How to hold down two strings at once?

Postby Norm » Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:38 am

That thumb application you describe is what some people call the "Rager Thumb" because Mose is attributed to be its creator and it is indeed a difficult thing to apply in the beginning but like all athletic moves (and it is just that) it gets to be second nature with practice. You just have to deliberately focus on it and beat it into submission.

Never forget your first struggles with the F chord and just holding down the first and second string, or even doing barre chords. They seem easy now but at first they seemed like medeivial torture.

Improvise, adapt, overcome

UuRah!
...that's how it looks to me...The opinion expressed above is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of this station. Your mileage may vary...

Audio samples: http://www.youtube.com/user/acountrygent/videos
That should do it.
Norm
 
Posts: 1320
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:36 pm
Location: redwood city ca

Re: How to hold down two strings at once?

Postby RonBloor » Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:49 am

I think it is a fairly common practice on steel string guitars that have narrower necks. Some of the Marcel Dadi videos show him holding down the 4th and 5th string with his ring finger for an F chord.. thumb over on the 6th string. I'm pretty sure that Merle made his E chord holding down the 4th and 5th string with his index finger and of course his thumb-overs.
As for Chet, I think his left hand technique changed considerably when he started playing more nylon string guitar. Certainly his thumb-overs almost stopped. Eddie Pennington and John Knowles would probably be the best authorities on Merle and Chet respectively. Ron
Ron Bloor
RonBloor
 
Posts: 440
Joined: Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:22 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: How to hold down two strings at once?

Postby Norm » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:31 am

I get the impression Merle and others could hold three strings with the thumb-over at times.

I personally have no problem holding two strings with my middle or ring finger alone on my Gent. Whether I could do this on a 6122-59 with its wider fingerboard I can't say since I've never been close to one.

Like Jackie Chan says "Just do it!"
...that's how it looks to me...The opinion expressed above is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of this station. Your mileage may vary...

Audio samples: http://www.youtube.com/user/acountrygent/videos
That should do it.
Norm
 
Posts: 1320
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:36 pm
Location: redwood city ca

Re: How to hold down two strings at once?

Postby craigdobbins » Thu Jun 27, 2013 11:03 am

As far as the "how to" aspect, if you're fingering an E chord:

1. Fret the 3rd string, 1st fret with your 1st finger.

2. Fret the 4th and 5th strings at the 2nd fret with your 2nd finger. Place your finger between the 4th and 5th strings, and flatten your position slightly, rather than pressing straight down on the tip of your finger. With practice, you'll be able to fret both strings. And, it is easier on a narrower neck.

With this fingering, your 3rd and 4th fingers are free to fret the melody notes. It comes in especially handy when reaching up to the 1st string, 4th fret.

Thanks,

Craig

P.S. My fingers are long, but not fat.
Last edited by craigdobbins on Thu Jun 27, 2013 12:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
craigdobbins
 
Posts: 628
Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:59 pm

Re: How to hold down two strings at once?

Postby Richard Hudson » Thu Jun 27, 2013 12:04 pm

Nice explanation, Craig, except I think you meant to say fret the 4th and 5th strings with the second finger. Your next sentence clarified it, but just in case...

Another 2 string - one finger chord I use a lot is a C6 chord, by fretting the 3rd and 4th strings with the second finger. Craig's explanation is great. It just takes a little practice to flatten the tip of your finger a little bit.
Richard Hudson
 
Posts: 570
Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:24 am

Re: How to hold down two strings at once?

Postby craigdobbins » Thu Jun 27, 2013 12:34 pm

Thanks Richard. Correction made.

The Am works great with your 2nd finger on the 3rd and 4th strings. Another is the F position, with your 3rd finger fretting the 4th and 5th strings, and your thumb on the 6th. Frees your 4th finger to fret melody notes.

Paul Yandell used these fingerings a lot. My Dad did too, but he had huge fingers. It was almost impossible for him to do it any other way.

Craig
craigdobbins
 
Posts: 628
Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:59 pm

Re: How to hold down two strings at once?

Postby Tom Workman » Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:05 pm

I concur with all the above. You just have to keep at it and it will come. I'll never forget the first time I tried cascading harmonics which I found to be extremely awkward but, now I can do it with ease. Same with some of those knuckle-buster chord shapes. Just recently I stumbled onto one I saw on Youtube that I really liked and when I went to try it I thought it a good way to dislocate my left hand! Now I can play it with ease. So, Jingo, just persevere. -Tom W.
Tom Workman
 
Posts: 151
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 11:39 pm

Re: How to hold down two strings at once?

Postby Jingo2013 » Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:42 pm

Thanks for all the good recommendations, folks. I guess I'll just have to take Chet's advice to heart: "I haven't found any shortcuts ... and I've been looking for a long time. It just takes practice, practice, practice." (quoted from John McClellan)
Jingo2013
 
Posts: 15
Joined: Fri May 31, 2013 3:38 pm

Next

Return to Mister Guitar, Chet Atkins

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests

cron