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So lots of people have asked about OFPF (One Finger Per Fret) on lots of forums, but I find that the discussion always ends up being about pinkies. I have no problem using my pinky. It can man up and do some work. What I'm interested in discussing is how to go about improvising finger position when OFPF can't apply. I'll give some examples:

  1. You want to play a scale over 5 frets or more. So lets say fret 3,5,7 on the E string etc. (G maj with the third interval on the same string as the root instead of on the higher A string fret 2). Now clearly finger one gets the G and finger 4 gets the B. But who gets the A? It should be 3 if we want to maintain some of the OFPF. But then the stretch of the pinky becomes worse?
  2. You play the same fret on two strings consecutively. Say fret 5 on E string and then on A string. Now jumping the first finger will mean the first note dies before the second note starts. This may be desirable, granted, but may not be. What then? Do you briefly abandon your OFPF and then return, or just leave it altogether?

I understand that answers will probably be along the lines of "whatever is comfortable". Firstly I'm interested to hear what you people find comfortable though, and secondly just if anyone does know of like what the formal rules are, that is sometimes helpful.

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3 Answers 3

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My attitude towards stretching, is to never use it unless I really have to (e.g hammer ons and pull offs). And if I were to teach someone guitar I'd tell them to avoid stretching because I keeps them from developing the ability to shift their fretting hand quickly form one position to another.

One finger per fret works if you are playing a scale across four frets to avoid stretching or shifting your hand. The way I would play shapes broader than four frets is by moving my wrist instead of stretching my fingers. In the G major example you gave, I would play the G with my index, the A with my ring finger, and then I would move my hand forward to be able to reach the B with my pinky without stretching.

I used to rely heavily on stretching, but when I got more into rhythm guitar, I found that left hand muting was much easier if I kept my fingers close together. It took me a while to get used to playing without stretching, but when I got used to it I felt that it really improved my playing, I was much more comfortable moving horizontally on the fretboard because it taught me how to use my elbow and wrist.

Check out this guy's technique, he broke the guinness world record in 2008. Notice how he barely moves his fingers, and uses his wrist and elbow to bring the frets to his fingers (skip to 4:14):

When it comes to playing two notes on the same fret but on different strings, I usually roll my finger or slide it from one string to the next without taking it completely off of the strings. But in some cases I do use two fingers for the same fret, especially for arpeggios.

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Thank you for the detailed answer. Very helpful. –  Neil Dec 20 '13 at 14:26
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What you need is to understand the concept of "POSITION". Your position on the neck is defined by what fret your first finger lines up with when playing OFPF. From any position you can play the 4 frets your fingers line up to, plus a note towards the nut by stretching the first finger and a note towards the picking hand by stretching your little finger. The 2nd and 3rd fingers should remain stationary "in position". Every position covers 6 frets. If you were to play fingers 1, 3, 4 for your G major example you would be in 3rd position and playing B with a 4th finger stretch, if you were to use fingers 1, 2, 4 you would be in 4th position with a 1st finger stretch to G. Neither are right or wrong, just the same sequence of notes in different positions. To say you should never stretch is plain wrong from Anthony, how do you propose to play chromatic passages or a whole tone scale without stretching? Playing A minor in 4th position (starting with 2nd finger) REQUIRES that you stretch your first finger to a C natural.

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One fret per finger works because that's basically what a guitar was designed around.If humans had 3, or 6 fingers, the guitar would probably be tuned in a different way. Most of what is needed to be played can be encompassed with one's 4 fingers. However, when using, say, a 3 notes per string scale, as I think you mean, there's a larger stretch. Everyone's fingers/ hands are slightly different - in length, stretch and flexibility, so there can't be hard and fast rules. Each has to find his own way. When I play, say, an 'A' shaped chord as a barre, at the bottom I might use 3 fingers on 2,3,4, half way up I'd use two , and above maybe 9/10 fret, I'll use one finger across 2,3,4. To complicate your answer, 10 years ago, my fingering was different.

So you answered your own question with "Whatever is comfy".

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