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Playing minor chords with right pinky?

Posted: Wed Dec 27, 2017 1:44 pm
by HeidiK
Hello dear Zitherists, it’s a year since I started learning the zither (selftaught) and I still really love that instrument and play nearly every day.
But as a lot of the pieces I play do have minor chords in them, I had to realize that playing minor chords forces my hand to jump too much, because my fingers span is too small and not able to reach all needed tones. And all this hand jumps slows down my performance too much.

So I recently I decided to change my right hand’s playing technique and practise using the right pinky finger aswell - which allows me to lay down my fingers on all strings required to play full minor chords and indeed it seems to bring in more steadiness into my playing.
But still it feels unfamiliar to use the right pinky as well, but one benefit is that it helps my brain to seperate minor chords from major chords very clearly.
What is your experience? Does this make sense to you?

Thanks in advance for your right pinky thoughts. And have a happy new year!

Re: Playing minor chords with right pinky?

Posted: Thu Dec 28, 2017 8:19 am
by kenbloom
Hi Heidi,

The right pinky I think is essential for good playing. It makes all sorts of chords possible as well as being able to do scales on the bass and accompaniment strings with ease and facility. Most minor chords are playable by using the same technique you use for major chords but using the middle finger to strum two adjacent strings to get the root and the fifth and using your index finger to get the third. That way your hand stays in the same position. It takes some practice to do this. Another approach is just to use the root and the fifth and leave out the third.
I use my little finger a lot for the contrabasses as well as filling in other more complex chords. Freeing up your thinking and allowing any finger to play anywhere on the instrument can make things a lot more fun. As a foot note to this, I also use my little finger on the left hand which I find makes many things easier. I hope this helps and let me know if more detail here will help you further.

Ken Bloom

Re: Playing minor chords with right pinky?

Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:01 pm
by HeidiK
Ken, thank you so much for saying that the right pinky is essential for good playing and that any finger should be allowed to play anywhere.
I like that mindset ;-)
You know, when I started with the zither one of the first advices I read was an advice to discipline the right pinky and attach it - for example with the help of a rubber band - to the ring finger. So that was how I started. With a rubber band - at least for a while.

But after reaching the point where I realized that I should consider to use the right pinky for the minor chords and started practicing it, I really think it is the right direction to proceed. And I’m glad you agree.
Using only the root and the fifth and leave out the third might be sometimes useful, but not as a general habit.

I already noticed players on youtube using the right pinky at least for the contra strings.
But searching for it I indeed have found some new „zither role models“ using their pinky all the same in some videos.

You mentioned that the right pinky makes all sorts of chords possible as well as scales on the bass with ease and facility.
That sounds promising. Could you please say a little more? Like: what kind of bass scales could I practise?

Re: Playing minor chords with right pinky?

Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:50 pm
by kenbloom
Hi Heidi,

I regularly practice playing scales on the contra, bass and accompaniment strings If you have a 42 stringed instrument, you can approach this a couple of ways. For the contras, you can simply just use the little finger on the contras until you get to the bass range. From there, you can work out some fingerings that use alternating fingers. For instance, a G scale. Play G with the ring finger as normal. It will then be resting on the C string. Us your little finger for A and B. Middle for C, then the little finger for D and E. Now use your middle finger for F3 and your index for G. Practice this very slowly until you can do it smoothly. Then gradually increase your speed.
There are some great books by Willy Hintermeyer that give you exercises for doing things like this with the right hand. There are a number of different fingerings that you can use in a number of different situations. I play a perfecta zither which makes getting the contras so much easier.
I hope this helps you. I started doing things like this after I found an album by Rudi Knabl where he was doing some really beautiful things on the bass and accompaniment strings. It was mainly him playing solo with only two cuts with any other musicians. It was inspiring. The cover had him holding a perfecta zither with a five string fingerboard. Intriguing. Let me know if you need more suggestions. I'll try to help. If you want to e-mail me directly you can at

Re: Playing minor chords with right pinky?

Posted: Thu Jan 04, 2018 8:39 am
by NutmegCT
Ken - could you give some specifics (title, edition, publisher) on the Hintermeyer books you're referring to?

Tom M.

Re: Playing minor chords with right pinky?

Posted: Thu Jan 04, 2018 9:01 am
by kenbloom
Hi Tom,

I've mentioned these books before on the forum. The title is Der Weg zur Virtuositat by Willy Hintermeyer. I got them from Ludwig Karlbrunner many years ago. If you scroll down in this category you will find more info on how to get them. I found these books very helpful in straightening out my thinking on how to approach playing the accompaniment, bass and contra strings. Once you release yourself from the idea that say the index finger always plays in the accompaniment realm and can play anywhere on the instrument, it opens up a ton of possibilities. Let me know if anyone wants more info on the technique.

Ken Bloom