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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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December 3, 2009 | Fiddling with Flying Fingers

A personal journey into violining has us pondering the issue of finger posture and the notion of "Flying Fingers." This is timely, as we've had a few readers inquire about our approach to fingering awkward 6 fret spans when the leading tone (7th) of a scale or chord calls for a half step fingering. The question comes up, "Should I slide my finger down to the lower fret, or should I finger it with that awkward span to the pinky?"


Answer: Yes...

In "real life" playing, we think the answer is situational. Both approaches work, but we suggest in practice, the "finger calisthenics" or your regime, you need to practice developing the strength need in this span. Our FFcP exercises are quite clinical in this tactic. You'll see a lot of "8th fret" fingerings even in the First Position of the fretboard.

It's the same skill you develop in keeping a stealth set of fingers, NOT lifting them too far off the fingerboard even when they aren't in use. As we mentioned in a earlier article, violinist pretty much have to do this any way for spatial reference; the frets alloy a liberal dose of sloppiness in our mandolin playing.


This is a good skill to have when slurring on the violin; you can't get away with sliding down in a slur bowing. Not only does it blur the sound, you decrease the pressure when lengthening the string (descending), and that manifests as a loss of volume. On the mandolin even with the frets to lend distinction to the pitch, there will be times when you want to emphasize the lower pitch, and throwing a strong pinky down will help aurally as well as conceptually.

Try playing the beginning of "Tico Tico no Fuba" using the pinky for the leading tone (instead of the 1st finger slide) and you'll see what we mean.

Another look at Flying Fingers
Let's review. Why Closed Fingerings again?
How do I hold it?...
Fear of Flying

Posted by Ted at December 3, 2009 9:25 AM

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