Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

4 finger G chop to D chop

Going from a G Chop (from top to bottom 3-2-5-7) to a 4 finger D chop (2-5-4-7) I am having a weird time with it. When I try to leave my pinky anchored, and it’s almost impossible for me to move my ring finger from the D string to the A string. I can occasionally get it to do it, but I am really fighting with it. It’s like my finger won’t listen to me. It reminds me of when I was a kid trying to make the Spock “live long and prosper” sign… it just doesn’t move that way. I have always had pinky/ring finger dependence issues, but this is taking it to a new level for me. Has anyone else had the same issue?

I know exactly what you are talking about. I had the same sensation last week with an guitar etude I was working on. It’s disconcerting when my fingers won’t listen to my brain. I just kept slowing it down and isolating that single move, and finally it got a little easier, but not easy. I suspect the solution is repetition. After years of practice, I can do the Spock V with no problem now.

I just tried the G to D mando change you were talking about and thankfully I wasn’t hanging up on that switch.

I am glad you don’t have the same issue on that. It looks like a very handy transition. Except for perhaps when I was first learning chords on guitar, I have never run into something where my hand just won’t do something as persistent as this. I say that… but there is a related thing: I can’t keep my pinky hovering over the fretboard when playing with the other fingers. It sticks up at full attention. When I play scales for a while, the muscles near the base of my pinky get sore from it sticking up in the wind so defiantly. I obviously have some less than ideal things going on with the mechanics of my pinky. The scale issue is similar to the chord change issue in that I can slow down and just try to hover all four fingers, then press one and release (super slow, doing nothing else). When the third finger moves, the pinky involuntarily does as well. I just can’t keep it hovering. On the flip side, when my pinky is anchored in the G to D chord change, I can’t move my ring finger in hardly at all.

I think everyone is built differently. I have never been able to keep my pinky down going from four finger G to D (the same ring finger issue ) but strangely enough I have no problem doing the reverse D to G with the pinky. :question: I have been playing mando for few years now and have gotten fast enough with the G To D change w/o the pinky staying down, it is not an issue. I basically Lift it with the other fingers as you would to a new chord.

I have also noticed some of the better players at the jams in my area use more 3 finger chords, two finger 5 chords, or even sometimes an open chord with a muted chop. I have been experimenting with different chords for different rhythm sounds, and sometimes the four finger D is not the best option. ( just food for thought)

I battle that same issue but for some reason more so on the A to E 4 finger, for some reason I have never just shifted on the “D,” I’ve always moved up and Caught it in a 3 finger style like we do the “C” chord. More and more I’m starting to do that with the “E” also. I miss it on occasion but when I do I just mute it and hope no body notices :mrgreen:

— Begin quote from "verneq"

I have never been able to keep my pinky down going from four finger G to D (the same ring finger issue ) but strangely enough I have no problem doing the reverse D to G with the pinky. :question:

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My brother!!! I am not alone. :smiley: It’s the same for me. I can go from D to G (not well at this point, but I can do it).

— Begin quote from "Kagey"

I’ve always moved up and Caught it in a 3 finger style like we do the “C” chord. More and more I’m starting to do that with the “E” also. I miss it on occasion but when I do I just mute it and hope no body notices :mrgreen:

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That’s what I am doing as well thus far. When I started I was playing the G as a C shape bar. Now I have the 4 finger G and I was trying to add the D. I am just starting out on getting serious about playing mando, and I am trying to learn several ways to play various chords. That G to 4 finger D just looks so effortless when a good player does it. It may well be that I will have to lift and shift instead of keeping it planted, but I am going keep trying for a bit before I give up.

Thanks all!

That’s a tough switch. Been messin’ with it this morning. I have been leaving my index finger out just trying to get the muscle memory in the other three fingers. I’m leaving my pinky planted at the 7th fret and switching the other two from a C guitar shape to an Em guitar shape. When I think of it like that, it helps my fingers to know where to go. It is hard to get the ring finger to stretch on the D chord though.

How are you chopping Mike? Do you hit a note and then chop? Seems like that buys you some time to make the chord change.

I generally do hit a note prior to a chop. I have worked on making the G to D move with the pinky plant, and my ring finger just about cannot move in towards the palm with the plant. I am probably somewhere around 5 seconds to make the transition. One day it got a little better, but I think it was a false glimmer. On the flip side, the D to G transition is going pretty easy. If I never get the movement from G to D with a plant down, that’s ok too. The nice thing about mando is that there are so many options.

Thanks Ben! Good to hear from you. I worked on it for a few weeks, and I might have made a little progress, but if so it was just baby steps. I can now make the change at times, but it takes a good second or two, and it takes real effort. Weird stuff. I’ll try just the pinky and ring as you suggested. It does move better with the first and second fingers not planted, so maybe that will help. Thanks!
I had done a little reading on it, and there is a mechanical reason for it. If I remember correctly, the pinky and ring share a tendon. Different people have differing amounts of independence. Apparently, pianists generally develop very good independence. One can apparently develop independence through repetition.
Unless I am thinking about it, the three finger version of the D is what I use anyway, so it hasn’t proven to be a showstopper for me.

I’ve been fighting with this myself. I’m only 9 months into playing the mandolin. Our band played a private party over the weekend and I was chatting with the mandolin player in that band about it. He said it took him a couple of years before he was comfortable with these chords. I still don’t know if I’m relieved or not that it took that long. My main problem is that my fingers cramp up in hurry. So I must be doing something wrong. I’ve been studying Ben’s lesson on neck position, and maybe that’s part of my problem.

In the meantime, this youtube lesson was one of the better ones I’ve found about exercising these chords:

(I hope it’s okay to include links like this on the board).

-Jim G.
Westminster MA

Thanks for the link. Looks good. I’ll give it a shot.
To be honest, I haven’t been working on it for a while and need to get back to it. Last time I was working on it, I was doing the isolation as Ben suggested. That did help and it was improving a bit. Unfortunately at the rate I am improving that transition might be ready for use in about 40 years :laughing:

I am getting into this forum a bit late, but am trying out new chord positions myself. It’s been probably 30 years since I bought my mandolin, but unfortunately don’t have 30 years experience. More like 3 years. I took lessons from a couple of teachers. The first one was really a guitar teacher, but the second was a mandolin player in a band. Both of them taught the 3 finger D chord and trying not to hit the E string. Now I have to un-teach myself. The funny thing was, the second guy I took lessons from needed a bass player for the band he was in so I mostly stuck with the bass for the following three or four years. Then I got into teaching 23 years ago and had absolutely no time for my music other than listening to it. So I am really rusty. I mean PB Blaster rusty. I am loving this site, though I am a bit mechanical right now. Back to the subject. I was wondering, do most players use the 3 finger position or the REAL 4 finger? Since I am just getting back into learning the mandolin I want to do it right this time. I’m on a tight schedule. I’m already 62!

Greetings Super 55! Glad you are enjoying the site.

I see many people using a 3 finger, many using a 4 finger and I see many that use both. I don’t think you can go wrong either way. The really good players can typically do either way well.

You mentioned trying to miss the E strings, Ben teaches to mute it. It takes just a little practice to get it where it is automatic. Once one mutes the E strings, it sounds absolutely fine.

I hate to keep plugging non Ben stuff, but that Don Julin ‘Dummy’ book has a great chapter on the 3 fingered Jethro chords. Starting with the majors and shifting one finger to get minors. And likewise for 7th’s. And they’re all moveable.

Probably the single best chapter out of that book. And … yet another lesson suggestion for Ben. Okay, I’ll stop yapping now. For a while.