Rolling Fingers

Weekly Newsletter #38

April 28, 2022

Do you know what string hopping is? 

Chances are you have done it many times…and unfortunately it’s not the best habit to have. 

String hopping is when you have to play the same fret with the same finger but on an adjacent string. 

For example, if you were playing the 5th fret on the G string and then had to play the 5th fret on the D string. 

String hopping would be taking your finger off the G string, moving it through the air and landing on the D string. Essentially hopping with your finger from string to string. 

This is not what you want to do and it is dramatically slowing you down and preventing you from advancing as a guitarist. 

What’s So Bad About String Hopping? 

Think about it as a geometry problem for a second. What is shorter from point A to point B…a straight line, or a curved line? 

A straight line of course! 

So when you go from the G string 5th fret to the D string 5th fret by lifting your finger, moving it and landing again, you’re essentially making a half-moon shaped motion with your finger. 

It’s traveling in an arc from one string to the next. 

Now, it may not seem like it takes you a lot of time, but in music, even fractions of a second count. After all, music has to be in time and guitarists (as we all know) are notorious for wanting to play fast. 

This is a problem if you are going to create a delay for yourself by traveling in an arc and not a straight line. In order to boost your speed and efficiency, playing in an economical way is the only chance you have of achieving that goal. 

What Is The Correct Way To Play This? 

Rolling your finger from one string to the next, without ever leaving the fretboard, is the answer you’re looking for. 

In order to do this it requires almost a mini bar. 

Let’s use this example as a way to practice: 

In order to play those first two notes you have to set your ring finger on the G string 7th fret, but you must place it on the pad of the ring finger, not the tip. 

This is what I mean by a “mini bar”. You are sort of barring that string with your ring finger, and the tip of the finger should be touching the D string. 

In order to get this right your little knuckle should be flat or even hyper extended. 

Whatever you do, Don’t Let It Bend! That little knuckle has to be flat in order for this technique to work. 

By keeping the tip of your finger just barely touching the D string all you have to do is bend that small knuckle and your finger should roll from the G string to the D string, landing on the tip of the finger. 

Check out this VIDEO & TAB for more detail on this technique and some great practice exercises! 

What Are Some Ways To Practice This? 

In order to master this vital technique you must be able to flatten and bend that little knuckle of each finger on command. 

This will probably be a challenge for many players who haven’t tried this, but here is a great way to get used to controlling that small knuckle. 

Make an OK sign with your fretting hand. Notice how the small knuckles of both your index finger and thumb are bent. 

Without letting these two fingers separate, try to straighten your thumb so that the circle ends up being more of an almond shape. 

If you did it correctly, your thumb should straighten and along with it the index finger should as well. 

That motion in the small knuckle of your index finger is what you want to learn to control. 

With enough practice you’ll be able to bend and flatten that knuckle without your thumb moving at all. 

Of course, this must be done with all your fingers because you’ll surely encounter a moment when you need this technique in every finger. 

Try playing this exercise using the A minor pentatonic scale. It requires you to roll several of your fingers across strings. 

Be mindful when you practice this so that you are consciously bending to go from one string to the next. 

You don’t want to just bar the finger across both strings and leave it there! 

That creates two notes ringing at the same time and when playing quickly, in the middle of a lick, it will sound muddy and it will ruin the continuity of the lick. 

The great thing about learning this technique is that you can basically learn to move your fingers correctly without even having the guitar in your hands. Using that OK sign exercise and the other tips found in the VIDEO you’ll likely get better very quickly just by practicing away from the guitar. 

However, putting into use and making it an automatic reflex whenever the proper circumstance arises, that will take conscious effort. 

So go through your repertoire and try to find places where you string hop instinctively. 

Work on getting rid of that habit and watch your playing improve! 

-Max Rich