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Bars: How to Collapse or Lean the First Finger
to Move Smoothly to or from a Bar
Part 2 of 2

Douglas Niedt, guitarist

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Douglas Niedt is a successful concert and recording artist and highly respected master classical guitar teacher with 50 years of teaching experience. He is Associate Professor of Music (retired), at the Conservatory of Music and Dance, University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Fellow of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management—Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

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Bars: How to Collapse or Lean the First Finger
to Move Smoothly to or from a Bar
Part 2 of 2


By Douglas Niedt

Copyright Douglas Niedt. All Rights Reserved.
This article may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.


1. The ability to alternately collapse and bend the tip joint of the 1st finger can smooth out chord changes.

2. Plus: It can serve as an anchor finger.

3. Or: It can serve as a guide finger.

Or: IT CAN DO ALL THREE AT THE SAME TIME!

In Sounds of the Bells (João Pernambuco), we can use the technique of collapsing the 1st finger to provide us with THREE benefits. It provides us with a smooth chord change into a bar chord, an anchor finger between the two chords, plus a guide finger to a third chord after the bar chord. In this passage, the technique of bending/collapsing the tip joint is a powerful tool. Example #7:

Sounds of the Bells (Pernambuco) measures 18-21

Watch me demonstrate in Video #8.

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon with the arrows at the bottom on the far right:

Video #8-Sounds of the Bells, measures 18-21


At an earlier spot in the Pavana No. 3 by Luis Milán, the tip joint of the 1st finger collapses to provide a smooth transition from the C to the F chords. It also serves as an anchor finger between the two chords. PLUS, it functions as a guide finger sliding from the 2nd-string Cs at the 1st fret up to the 1st-string F#s at the 2nd fret and back. Example #8:

Pavane No. 3 (Milan) measures 25-32

Watch me demonstrate in Video #9.

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon with the arrows at the bottom on the far right:

Video #9-Milán Pavana No. 3, measures 25-32


Other Variations of Collapsing the 1st finger

Moving into a full bar chord does not require us to collapse the tip joint of the 1st finger. Instead, we keep the fingertip anchored firmly on the 6th string and lean it over to fall across all six strings. Here is an example from Mauro Giuliani's Theme and Variations, Op. 71, No. 1. Example #9.

Giuliani Theme and Variation, Op. 71, No. 1

It is essential not to place the 1st finger on the 6th string on its fingertip. If you do, as the finger leans over onto the bar, it will fall off the 6th string, and the low F will not ring for two beats. Instead, place the 1st finger on the side of its fingertip.

When the 1st finger falls onto the bar, the bar only must hold the 1st and 6th strings. Do not hold the bar flat on the fretboard and exert pressure across all six strings.

Watch me demonstrate in Video #10.

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon with the arrows at the bottom on the far right:

Video #10-Giuliani Theme and Variations


Here is an example from an advanced piece, the Allegro from Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro (BWV 998) by J.S. Bach. Example #10:

Allegro from Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro (Bach) measures 53-56

Here again, it is essential not to place the 1st finger on the 6th string on its fingertip. If you do, as the finger leans over into the bar, it will fall off the 6th string. Instead, place the 1st finger on the side of its fingertip. Although we could do a 5-string bar, a full bar makes the following hinge bar easier to execute for most players.

And again, apply pressure on the bar judiciously. The bar must hold only the 1st and 5th strings securely.

Watch me demonstrate in Video #11.

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon with the arrows at the bottom on the far right:

Video #11-Bach Allegro


In the next example, the Andante from Twenty-Four Little Progressive Pieces, Op. 44, No. 11, when we lean the 1st finger over to fall onto a 5-string bar, we have two options.

Option #1:

Keep the tip of the 1st finger anchored firmly on the 5th string and lean it over to fall across five strings to form the 5-string string bar at the 2nd fret. Remember, it is essential not to place the 1st finger on the 5th string on its fingertip. If you do, as the finger leans over into the bar, it will fall off the 5th string, cutting the B bass note short. The B should ring for two counts. Instead, place the finger on the side of its tip. Example #11a:

Option A Andante by Fernando Sor, measures 13-16

Option B:

Once again, keep the tip of the 1st finger anchored firmly on the 5th string. But this time, as you place the bar, allow the tip joint to collapse (hyperextend) so that it falls across only the 3rd, 4th, and 5th strings. Example #11b:

Option B Andante by Fernando Sor, measures 13-16

As always, it is essential not to place the 1st finger on the 5th string on its fingertip. If you do, as the finger collapses into the bar, it will fall off the 5th string, cutting the B bass note short. The B should ring for two counts. Instead, place the finger on the side of its tip.

Note that even if you can collapse the tip joint of your finger, this method of barring only three strings may not work for people with short fingers or a short tip joint. If that is the case, use option #1.

Watch me demonstrate in Video #12.

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon with the arrows at the bottom on the far right:

Video #12-Sor Andante, measures 13-16


Intentionally fall off a string to collapse into a bar

Sometimes, we need to have the 1st finger intentionally fall off a string to make a smooth transition to a smaller bar. Here is a passage from the Moderato from Twenty-Four Progressive Lessons, Op. 31, No. 11 by Fernando Sor. Example #12:

Moderato by Fernando Sor, measures 18-20

I have repeated several times how important it is to place a finger on the side of the tip. That is essential when a finger must collapse or lean over to form a bar, and the note on the lowest-pitched string of the bar must keep ringing.

In measure 18, we place the 1st finger on the 3rd-string G# of the B diminished chord. But this time, we want to carefully place the finger on its fingertip, close to the fingernail. Then, when we collapse the fingertip joint (or lean the finger) over to form the 2-string bar for the F chord, the finger gets dragged off the 3rd string onto the 2nd string. Now that it is on the 2nd string, it can conveniently serve as an anchor finger to help us move smoothly to the C chord in measure 19.

Watch me demonstrate this very handy-dandy technique in Video #13.

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon with the arrows at the bottom on the far right:

Video #13-Sor Moderato, measures 18-20


Intentionally drag a finger off a bar to a single string

In the preceding measure of the same Moderato from Twenty-Four Progressive Lessons, Op. 31, No. 11 by Fernando Sor, we have a potentially choppy chord change. Example #13:

Moderato by Fernando Sor, measures 18-20 wrong way

To get from the first to the second chord, most beginning players would play the 2-string bar chord, lift the bar, and reset the fingertip on the 1st-string F to play the second chord. That would produce a very choppy gap between the two F's, which are melody notes.

Instead, we can drag the tip of the 1st finger seamlessly off the 2nd string of the bar onto the 1st-string F. The two melody F's will sound beautiful. Example #14:

Moderato by Fernando Sor, measures 18-20 right way

Watch me demonstrate this common technique in Video #14.

★ BE SURE TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN. Click on the icon with the arrows at the bottom on the far right:

Video #14-Sor Moderato, measures 17-18


Summary

  1. Collapsing or leaning the first finger to move smoothly to or from a bar is a valuable technique we can use in many pieces, both in the classical repertoire and popular music styles.
  2. Not only will it enable you to make smoother chord changes, but they will be more stable and consistently accurate.
  3. In many instances, the finger that leans or collapses can also serve as an anchor finger or guide finger, providing even greater stability and confidence.

Download

This is a download from Dropbox. NOTE: You do NOT need a Dropbox account and don't have to sign up for Dropbox to access the file.

1. Download a PDF of the article with links to the videos.

Download a PDF of Bars How to Collapse or Lean the First Finger to Move Smoothly to or from a Bar Part 2 of 2 (with links to the videos).


3. Download the videos. Click on the video you wish to download. After the Vimeo video review page opens, click on the down arrow in the upper right corner. You will be given a choice of five different resolutions/qualities/file sizes to download.

Video #8-Sounds of the Bells, measures 18-21

Video #9-Milán Pavana No. 3, measures 25-32

Video #10-Giuliani Theme and Variations

Video #11-Bach Allegro

Video #12-Sor Andante, measures 13-16

Video #13-Sor Moderato, measures 18-20

Video #14-Sor Moderato, measures 17-18