Say, I want to play note G on 1st string 3rd Fret ,i would play as below ( With my Index,Middle and Pinky close to the Fret and not as far away as shown in the pic)

enter image description here

But, while tuning my Guitar i realized that you can actually play the same Note by placing your 1st and 2nd Fingers on 1st and 2nd Frets of First String respectively and your 3rd Finger on 3rd Fret(I couldn't find the exact pic so i used the closest , of course with guitar and without your pinky)

enter image description here

This seems to make more sense to me because of more control, less movement between fingers resulting in faster play..

I want to know, What is the Right/Efficient/Established way of fretting with left hand and what are the two techniques refereed to as ?

Any references are appreciated!

  • 1
    My guess would be that the first picture is like that to make it very easy to see which finger is on which fret.. but no, you wouldn't normally play like that. Economy of motion is something to keep in mind: Play in such a way that you move your fingers only when needed, and with small, precise movements.
    – charlie
    Nov 3, 2014 at 19:51

4 Answers 4


Both methods are used. The first is useful for playing a long note that needs vibrato. Watch B.B.King's butterfly vibrato - except he usually uses the index finger on a fret, with no thumb behind the neck.Incidentally, as you are a beginner, I guess, the usual fingering at the bottom frets is as in the pic., index on 1, middle on 2, etc. However, you will later be playing, for instance, that 3rd fret with your index, to move further up the 'board.

All fingers on is good for bending a note - more strength in numbers ! Also, in a tune, there will be a need to play notes on the same string, but lower frets. Keeping a finger or fingers on will make the transition easier. When you come to play 'pull-offs', you will definitely need a finger on a lower fret, to pull off to.

No specific name comes to mind for the techniques.

Another thought - if it's an electric you're playing, at high volume with distortion, you may well need those spare fingers to lightly touch (dampen) the open strings to stop string noise, so there's another way to occupy those fingers behind.

  • 1
    Even for that kind of vibrato, having the fingers clutched should give no improvement. I keep the fingers extended over the fretboard in that case too. Oct 28, 2014 at 10:19

Tim's answer is pretty good, but there is one thing I can add to it: you should try to choose your fingering depending on which notes are to come next!

For instance, if the G is followed by an F# and an F, it is indeed useful to have your index and middle finger on the first and second already, so that you can descend on the string smoothly.

On the other hand, your index and middle finger might need to move to different strings soon. In that case, it would be counterproductive to place them on the highest string.


Absolutely, you can add extra fingers on the string behind the fret. You probably don't want to use all your fingers all the time because that would severely impede your speed, but sometimes extra fingers can give you more control over a vibrato or a bend. With barre chords of course, you're pressing several of the strings down in more than one place. ... In general, only the top fret counts.

Your image shows a (dis)advantage of (not) having all the fingers on the string: the index and middle fingers are very far away from the fretboard, not really positioned to be useful. Resting an unused finger on an unused spot of the fretboard keeps it close.


I would answer agreeing with Tim and Lee White - but I'd like to add one thing:

People sometimes talk in terms of right /wrong when it comes to playing a musical instrument.

True, there are techniques learnt which have proven time and again to make things easier but the bottom line is you're just using an instrument to make a sound. And the sound you make is entirely up to you.

So .. whatever works! Whatever works for the sound you want to make, given the guitar you have and the fingers you have (assuming you're using your fingers haha).

  • 2
    In some sense true, but not so useful as an answer. There are pros and cons of most techniques, and there is a reason why many techniques aren't used that much. People who think outside the box will do that regardless of what others say, people who want to know how most people do things, drawing from past experience should get the answer to that. Oct 28, 2014 at 10:53
  • Fair enough although OP asks "I want to know, What is the right way of fretting with left hand" Answer : there is no "right way", only either 'generally agreed most useful' way, or 'your own way' - which is what I was trying to get across. And I'd say it is useful, because those who are encouraged to think 'within the box' perhaps by their music teacher or the language of 'right/wrong' on this site, might not realise that they don't have to follow rules. Oct 28, 2014 at 15:47

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