Guitar Tip: Lead fingers and Pivot fingers

Playing chords on the guitar is not too bad. Even the difficult ones can be played without much trouble…as long as you’re not playing it in the middle of a song.

With a little effort it’s easy to put your fingers in the right place and make the chord sound decent.

The trouble is switching to the chord from another chord – in time. In other words, going from chord to chord at the speed of the song is not as easy as it seems.

Here’s something to think about that might help. When switching from chord to chord there are a couple of things you can watch for. Learning how to play guitar is largely about teaching your own fingers to move how and where you want them.

Here’s the secret: they have natural tendencies.

Pivot Fingers

Pay attention to where your fingers are. A prime example of a pivot finger is when going from the D chord to the G chord. Most people play the G Chord like this (numbers represent fingers, starting with pointer finger #1):


When you look at the D chord, the ring finger (#3) is in the same position as it is in the G chord:


The 3 finger (ring finger) becomes the pivot finger. Like a dancer rotates her body on a single foot, a guitar player can (more or less) rotate his hand on a single finger.

So, when going from the D-chord to the G-chord, you can keep your 3 finger in place. Don’t lift it.

Many beginning players let their whole hand off the neck to switch chords, but it’s not necessary. Leaving the 3 finger in place allows the hand to quickly and easily pivot around to play the G-chord without looking.

Playing chords without looking is actually an important goal for a player. One of the methods to get there is to utilize pivot fingers when you find them.

Here’s a video about it:

Lead Fingers

Before trying to play chords without looking, feel free to look. In fact, be very observant. Using the same chords as above, when going from the D-chord to the G-chord, something else natural happens: there’s a leader.

Yes, watch closely. One of your fingers will usually get there first. My lead finger going from D to G is my middle finger (#2). It gets there first every time.

Why is this important?

Here’s a principle everyone needs to know: A leader has followers.

Interestingly, the same applies to your fingers. Sounds strange, but if you’ve spent even a small amount of time teaching your fingers where they should go for a particular chord, you start to see this happen. Your non-lead fingers will naturally fall into their place.


For instance, if my lead finger is my 2 finger to the G-chord, and I utilize my pivot finger (#3), my other two will go right to their positions.

Fingers 1 and 4 know right where to go.

And this is just an example. This even works for bar chords, and other irregular chords. In fact, this principle is so important, you may not be able to switch effectively without it.

The reason is of the alternative: flyaway fingers. The closer your fingers can stay to the strings the better.

Utilizing Pivot Fingers and Lead Fingers will allow you to play more and more efficiently. Watch your fingers – try not to let them pull out and move more than necessary. In no time, you will be able to go from chord to chord at the speed of the song, and do it with fluidity.

Lead Fingers Video:

Keep at it!

Feel the rhythm: A tip for drummers

Feel the rhythm: A tip for drummers

Drumming is an amazing and satisfying activity, but it can have its challenging side, too. One of the challenges to playing the trap set (for instance) is getting all your limbs to do something different, but work together.

Now, there are several things to figure out at once: tempo (speed), dynamics (loudness), syncopation (playing notes and accents at different times), and four limbs to use. This feels a bit daunting, and students can quickly send all their mental energy to the tips of their fingers and toes.

This doesn’t sound at all bad – after all, isn’t that what they’re using to play?

True, but rhythm doesn’t start at the fingers and toes. It doesn’t start in your brain or on your lips either. Counting is necessary (even out loud), but counting with your mind or with your lips does not necessarily unify your limbs. They can still be a little bit off (in drummer language, every note is more like a flam), and it sounds very choppy.

So my tip is really for any musician, but it happens to be especially crucial for a drummer: Feel the rhythm.

What? Right – feel it, but not in your fingers and toes, and not in your mind or off your lips.

No. Feel it in your core. Your torso. Your center.

Sound strange?

When you “count” using your center mast – your chest – all your limbs follow. Relax and let your body feel the rhythm.

Try practicing this while listening to music. Don’t play. Just listen and try to feel the rhythm in your chest. No, you won’t feel it physically (unless the volume and bass is turned up really loud), but try and allow yourself to naturally move to it. Go ahead and dance, but let it start at your core.

The more you can train yourself to feel the rhythm in your chest, the more free your limbs will be to follow. Otherwise, they will try and lead, but that works about as well as one sibling trying to manipulate another by using a parent.

Unify your limbs by feeling the rhythm in the center of your body.