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Improve Your Skills > Fingerstyle/Classical > Alternating with Index & Middle - Tips

Alternating with Index & Middle - Tips


I have a question about alternation of the i and m fingers of the right hand while playing classical pieces, especially rest strokes. Assume I need to play the C and D notes on the 2nd string and then the open G note on the 3rd String. I play the C note with the i finger, and then the D note with the m finger. I now need to play the G note.

Since my m finger is already resting on the 3rd string, would it not suffice for me to play it with my m finger rather than strictly alternate and play it with the i finger? This seems more efficient.
What is your opinion on this?

Thanks & regards, Sara


Hi Sara,

Yes, there may be times when using the same finger twice as you suggest is very workable, in fact, at extremely fast scale speeds it can make all the difference when it comes to dealing with certain string crossings (crossing the strings is the most difficult action involved in scale playing). What you are really talking about is the same logic as sweep picking in electric playing, where the pick does two down or two ups in a row, across adjacent strings. For a long time, everyone was taught to do strict alternate picking, and then new levels of speed were reached in many techniques by using the sweep technique. However, the notes must be arranged to fall 3 to a string to make this possible.

Now, here is where I stand on this. Yes, it is okay, and even advisable to depart from alternation depending on circumstances. However, I believe the best path of training is to develop the alternation technique first, pick or fingers, and then go on to develop the other, and be able to switch from one to another at will. Most often, beginners want to do it the way you suggest because they can't get the alternation ability down, and that is not good.

I practice both techniques with various exercises on a regular basis.

One important thing for you to realize though Sara, is this: if you have just played the C note with the index, and the D note with the middle, then, your index could just as easily be still resting on the 2nd string as could the middle finger! In other words, what happened to the index after it played its note? It came to rest on the 3rd string the same as the middle finger, didn’t it?

I will tell you the answer! After you played with the index, it went bouncing away from the 3rd string, and went away from the string, where it proceeded to get tense in reaction to the middle finger being used. There is no reason to not have the index remain relaxed on the 3rd string where it came to rest after its stroke, and remain there while the middle plays the D. Then, the index will be just as ready to play as that middle finger!

I have trained my fingers in this way. It is a great asset.

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