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Why do most guitar teachers and beginner guitar lesson books teach the fingering for the G major chord using the ring finger to fret the g note on 3rd fret of high e string rather than using your pinky to play that note. Most chords that come after a G major chord in most common progressions are easier to transition to if you are using what some guitar teachers call the "situational" G fingering using the pinky on the high e. For example if you play a G major with your ring finger fretting the high e string and then switch to a C chord (very common) you have to flip flop your hand completely around. Whereas if you use the pinky on the high e fingering, changing to a C from a G requires very little movement. The logic of using the pinky version becomes even more obvious when switching from G Maj to G7. Does anyone have a good explanation for teaching the G Maj chord without using the pinky other than beginning guitar students have weak pinkys so guitar teachers don't want them to use their pinky?

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    Weakness might have something to do with it; stronger fingers are generally preferred for many things. That said, do you have examples of it being taught this way? You'll forgive me for assuming that you haven't actually surveyed "most guitar teachers". – Matthew Read Jan 17 '15 at 2:47
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    Fair Matthew. My conclusions are based on a handful (less than 20) of books and a handful (less than 12) of teachers. Only all the ones I have ever seen which certainly does not preclude the possibility that all the ones I have not seen teach it differently. I should have said "every lesson book I have ever seen and every guitar teacher I know ..." – Rockin Cowboy Jan 17 '15 at 7:10
  • Why no D (ring finger, 3rd fret, 2nd string) and G (pinky finger, 3rd fret, 1st string)? That's how I first learned fully-open G. To each teacher's own, I suppose. – user6164 Jan 7 '16 at 19:16
  • @ShawnStrickland that's is a nice voicing of the G and I use it often when the situation prescribes it. However it does not allow for an easy transition to a C or G7. So I see it as more of an advanced voicing than a beginner voicing. – Rockin Cowboy Jan 7 '16 at 19:26
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    Funny, I learned it and have always taught it with the pinky. I usually don't accept guitar students under the age of eight, though. – Todd Wilcox Jan 7 '16 at 20:46
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Oddly enough, I actually ran into this very scenario yesterday as I was giving a guitar lesson. I initially had the student play the G in the way you describe, with pinkie on the high "e" (I always play this way as it is much easier for many other chord shapes). After seeing the student struggle quite a bit, we switched to the other fingering indicated in the question above. I believe there are several reasons why this positioning is used more commonly for beginning guitarists:

  • They lack finger dexterity: because they don't have stretch or independence with fingers, the pinkie voicing is more difficult as the pinkie is less dextrous than the ring finger.

  • Angle of Hand/Wrist: Each fingering changes the angle of the hand / wrist, and I think that the latter example causes less stress for the beginning guitarist.

  • Finger strength: as others have suggested, the ring finger is stronger than the pinkie finger, which allows less effort on the part of the student.

  • Room on fretboard: an incredibly common issue with beginning guitarists is having certain fingers touch/mute other unwanted strings. Using the pinkie voicing, the large space between the ring and pinkie fingers causes the ring and middle fingers, which are less dextrous than pointer/middle, to be used. Thus, the beginning student will have a more difficult time negotiating position/alignment so as not to block any strings.

In my experience, as guitarists improve over time, they learn/develop different fingerings for chords based on their preferences and style. It would make sense then, for beginners to be taught more easily-played chord shapes at the outset in order to set them up for more immediate success.

  • Thanks for your input. I know from watching beginning guitar students that no matter what fingering they use, the lack of finger dexterity makes it difficult to form any new chord. I can't replicate a difference in stress of hand position from the pinkie fingering to the non pinkie (even trying to play left handed). If you are right about position/alignment with ring/middle finger use - why not use pointer/middle/pinkie? While the easier to play chord shape may lead to more immediate success playing THAT chord, I would argue that quickly learning smooth chord changes is more important. – Rockin Cowboy Jan 17 '15 at 20:03
  • A different approach is to allow the students to take a long time before being able to play the full G chord without buzzing, etc. Certainly that has ramifications through the entire teaching process after that, especially if the teacher likes to teach a lot of open chord work early on. I tend to start with power chords and an emphasis on muting, so I guess my style doesn't require early use of the pinky on the open G. – Todd Wilcox Jan 7 '16 at 20:50
  • I remember my teacher immediately offering me both variations back then. I first found the 123 fingering easier, but was later convinced by the nicer chord changes with 234. Actually not much later: if I recall correctly it was mere weeks. In fact it seemed like practising the 123 shape also made the 234 shape easier to do. – leftaroundabout Jan 7 '16 at 23:03
  • @ToddWilcox Certainly. Depending on the age of the student, I'll sometimes start with just one or two finger voicings for chords. Personally, I like open-string chords to start because it gives them a feeling of success to balance out the finger dexterity exercises I have them do. – jjmusicnotes Jan 7 '16 at 23:47
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It's something , as a teacher, that I've never addressed. Whichever is the easier option is the one taken. It's after all, within the first half a dozen chords a beginner will learn. Fingers will be weak, but one way or other will suit most.At some point, they need strengthening, so why not start immediately? Occasionally, pupils will also use the 3rd fret 2nd string as well, which maybe presents a stronger fingering. Moving to and from other chords is always a consideration, so a couple of different fingerings are usually a good move. If the pinky IS used, then the ring finger can go to 4th string, 3rd fret without moving the originals, to get to G7.

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I teach beginner guitar sometimes and would LOVE it if I could show the pinky version first due to the transitions you mention, it would make life a lot easier for them, but as has been said, new folks just can't do it whenever I have tried that version first and what's really frustrating is after a few more lessons they are playing songs with G to C and I have real trouble getting them to leave their comfort zone and try the other way, so it's a double whammy of awfulness.

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