Home > Uncategorized > “Ten-Finger Independence System (Two-Hand Independence System)”

“Ten-Finger Independence System (Two-Hand Independence System)”

The Ten-Finger Independence System (10.F.I. system) is a performance style that brings new interpretation to fretted and non-fretted string instruments. In addition to the many familiar known skills on guitar to produce two lines/parts or more, 10.F.I. system introduces a whole new set of techniques for the two hands and the ten fingers. Most of the traditional approaches of guitar playing take two hands, but with the 10 F.I. system one hand fulfils the role of two hands. (For example, fingering and picking usually takes two hands to do, but with the 10.F.I. system, one is all you need.) The basic thought behind every technique in this system is to utilize the hands so that it is possible for each finger to have a specific role, and the ability to switch its roles in an instant. The two hands do work together on occasion, but for the most part, the two hands will work separately. For the 10.F.I. system, the underlying basic method to produce sound is by tapping, where as for traditional guitar, picking or plucking is the basic technique to produce sound. Here, tapping is the fundamental technique because it is one of the easiest ways to play two lines or more on guitar and guitar-like instruments. Tapping alone is a powerful way to play, but the 10.F.I. system takes further steps by incorporating new ideas and unconventional techniques to create much more timber, color, and tone that cannot be achieved just by tapping alone.

With the 10.F.I. system, each hand is given two separate roles such as playing a bass line while maintaining chord-accompaniment, or fingering a fret with one finger and plucking a note with another; with the traditional guitar approach, both examples take two hands to do. The skill is similar to the right hand (the hand used for plucking; for left-handed players this could be the left hand) of finger picking guitar players and classical guitarists, in the sense that these styles do often divide the fingers of the picking hand to have specific roles such as playing bass, chords, and melody. The use of the 10.F.I. system allows each finger to have a much larger variety of roles. Picking is the oddity in this style, but it is not overlooked. Once the 10.F.I. is mastered, the performer will have the ability to make one’s instrument project and sound as if it were being played by two, three, or more musicians.

The 10.F.I. system allows one to play alone and to be a one-person ensemble performing jazz, rock and other styles. It could also be used to imitate solo instrumentalists, such as classical guitarists and concert pianists. The illusion of an ensemble is created by the different textures (timber, color, and tone) rather than by the number of notes one produces; fortunately with the 10.F.I. system, there is plenty of textures to choose from. However, the far most important point in the 10.F.I. system is to play in a musical context smoothly and seamlessly; perhaps this is the universal law of music.

– Special Instrument Set Up -This instrument is strung in three regions/groupings, yet it could also be setup and treated as a single region instrument.

The bass side is tuned in 4ths (lowest being B and the highest being C), just like a 6-string bass guitar. This bass side is further grouped into two sub-regions. One is fretless with the four lowest pitched strings; the strings here are flat wound strings with black nylon wrapped around. The other sub-region is constructed by the two highest pitched strings of the bass side; this is a fretted territory and the strings are plain steel. These two sub-regions are quite useful because they are very different in timber and tone. The fretless sub-region with the black nylon strings have a very wood like warm tone quality, while the fretted sub-region with the plain steel strings sound brighter with more punch.

The treble side also tuned in fourths are C#, F#, B, E, A, and D. The two lowest pitched strings in this region are wound strings, while the rest of the strings are plain strings. This side is completely fretted and is considered as one region. (Although there is a noticeable sound quality difference between the wound strings and the plain strings, it doesn’t interfere with the unity of the region.)

– Basic Posture –

Evidently, the 10.F.I. was developed to make full use of every finger, and was developed primarily on Tap Guitar. Strapped to both shoulders, holding the instrument upright (vertical) from the ground is recommended as the basic performance position. If you are right handed, angle the neck a little towards your left shoulder and vice versa if you are left handed (this will look similar to one holding a cello in performance position). Simply place the right hand on the right side of the neck, and the left hand on the left side of the neck. For the time being, neither of the hands should reach for more than the lowest string assigned to its half of the fretboard (see photo on the left); this is to establish a foundation for the two hands by dedicating one to the treble region and the other to the bass region. If performing on a regular guitar in upright position, place the right hand on the three treble strings, and the left hand on the three bass strings.

Note ;

It is possible to reach over from treble side to the bass side and/or the other way around, but first thing is first; perfect the basic posture before exploring. It is crucial to understand the independence of the hands to master this system

– Basic Technique –

Tapping is the main technique for playing 10.F.I. It is a technique where the fingers hit the strings from above to produce a sound/note, and needless to say variation is important. Tapping on the strings with varied amounts of pressure is an important tool in this style. For example, the duration of a note is determined by how long the string is pressed against the fretboard, and tapping softer or harder alters the volume.

Special Concerns ;

By default, when using 10.F.I. system, we don’t use “hammer ons” or “pull offs” as much as conventional guitar playing. Each note produced should be tapped out individually by a finger. If a note is played using a Hammer On or Pull Off, the sound produced is quite different from the initial tapped note. Hammer Ons and Pull Offs are used to play more “legato” or connected. Legato could be a useful tool once mastered, but playing this way by default will make every string switching quite noticeable. To eliminate this, it is important to tap every note individually. Doing this will also help play in steady time, as well as develop the feel of each finger.

– Bass Side (right hand) –

The 10.F.I. uses the thumb in many variations. This perhaps is one of the biggest differences between the 10.F.I system and other tap systems; generally, the thumb is not used for tapping in most styles. The thumb is much shorter than the rest of the fingers, so it is important to find a good role for the thumb, other than an anchoring behind the neck. On the bass side, the right hand thumb is in a perfect position to tap the highest strings, the G and the C strings. Because the thumb is thicker and wider than the other fingers, it is easy to tap the two strings at the same time, while it is also capable of tapping one string at a time. (For best results, use thick plain steel strings such 16 and 18.)

  The pinky is another finger that sometimes is overlooked especially on the right hand (or the picking hand). With the 10.F.I. system you can tap but also use it to pluck. Although in most cases, the picking of a string would occur right above the body of an instrument, most of the picking with 10.F.I. system occurs directly on top of the fretboard.

On picking with the pinky (and/or the ring finger), approach the finger(s) as the picking hand of a guitar, and the remaining fingers as your fingering hand. This approach splits the role of one hand into two.

This adds a texture to the instrument, and contributes another expressive tool. Going further, combining this technique with tapping opens even other possibilities.

 For example tap a bass note with the index finger on the fretless portion of the fretboard, then tap and bar two notes on the fretted portion with the thumb. (This will make a triad with the 3rd in the bass.) Then, you could pick the notes that the thumb is barring with the pinky. Picking one string at a time will create an arpeggio effect, while using the pinky in a strumming manner will create more of a rhythm guitar type of sound.

Another approach in splitting the bass side in two regions is to play two lines with one hand. Simple lines are a good choice until you get accustomed to the concept. Start with the index and middle finger to play the bass notes, and the rest of the fingers to play the top line. When doing this, keep the two regions separated, do not go across from the fretted portion of the instrument to the fretless portion of the instrument. The bass part of the lines should stay in the fretless portion (the bottom four strings) of the instrument, while the top line should stay in the fretted portion (the two top strings).

By combining these techniques, it is completely possible to play a bass part and an accompaniment part with one hand, or a bass part and another line on top; possibilities are endless.

Note ;

Make sure to use proper bass and upper notes to fill out chords since there are only two strings with the use of frets.

– Treble Side (left hand) –

 All five fingers are equally useful, including the thumb which stays in the back of the neck most of the times to stabilize the instrument. Tapping with the thumb is more in use when playing in the higher position of the neck. With the instrument in its vertical position, and to the left side of the body, it is much difficult to reach the higher frets (after the 12th fret), and by bringing the thumb to the front of the neck, it makes the high notes much accessible.

 When tapping with the thumb use the joint. The joint of the thumb is harder and it sticks out a bit. Curl the hand into a position as if holding an egg without gripping. This brings the joint of the thumb and the rest of the fingertips to a close enough alignment. Now it is possible to play scales and arpeggios with all five fingers. When using all five fingers to tap, make sure the hand itself does not move much and that the joints of where the finger meets the hand is doing the work.

Note ;

Because the pinky is much smaller in size compared to the other fingers, the small amount of movement needed to produce sound is not very visible from the perspective of the audience. It is actually hard to see the pinky in use.

 Picking with the pinky is also useful in this hand. Similar to the right hand, approach the pinky and ring finger as your picking hand, and the rest of the fingers with the addition of the ring finger as your fingering hand. When picking on the treble side, it is much more practical to pick one note at a time. While strumming is still possible, it is much harder to have an accurate control of muscles and the position to strum. It is easier to produce a false note, because of the treble side strings being thinner and lighter. 

 Picking or strumming on the treble side is more likely to produce unwanted sounds, such as the note where the pinky touches the strings to pick. This is a side effect that comes with picking where there is very little space to pick (on the fretboard). Pick at least a fret apart from the fingered note for most of the times. There will be times where this is not possible, such as when you finger a note with the ringer finger. Arpeggios can be played using all the strings or just 3 or 4 of them. Going up and down the strings is both possible. Don’t approach the string from the top of it, but slightly from the side of it. Use just enough muscle to pick the string. Make sure the finger is nice and relaxed until it is slightly to the side of the string you want to pick. Even if there is not much strength behind it, it will make enough volume to match that of tapping if not more. Relax the fingering fingers as well. If too much strength is applied, it is possible to bend or push the string too much which would result in the pitch changing.

Note ;

It would be a good idea to get scalloped frets to increase the ability to pick with the pinky.

Note ;

It would be a good idea to get scalloped frets to increase the ability to pick with the pinky.

– Advanced -Good independence of the two hands is a must in order to conquer the following techniques. They use some very conventional techniques for playing guitar combined with the use of the thumb, and therefore making it easy to lose track of the many things that are happening. The mind has to acknowledge the approach as completely separate things rather than one thing added on to another.

Cross Over Techniques (one hand playing both sides)

Right Hand,

First, the right hand is given two roles; approach the thumb as being the bass part, and the rest of the fingers to be a part of the treble side. Tap the bass note with the tip of the thumb, but use the more meaty part, slightly towards the middle of the finger.

When using this technique of playing bass side with thumb and treble side with the other fingers, it is important to stabilize the hand, and that the tapping is done mostly with the fingers.

Combination Techniques

Right Hand Thumb + Picking,

 Strumming is very useful when playing a guitar like instrument. One of the goals of the method here is to always keep an option open to play two parts or more. In this case, the right hand is once again assigned two roles to play. The thumb will play bass and the rest of the fingers will act as the strumming fingers for the treble side. Hold down a chord on the treble side with the left hand, play a bass note with the thumb of the right hand, and strum the chord that is held by the left hand with the remaining right hand fingers. In the right hand, besides the thumb playing a bass note, many techniques of a picking hand could be applied; this includes but not limited to picking individual notes, artificial harmonics, and regular tapping.

– Conclusion –

We have briefly explored the possibility of the ten-finger independence system. There is much more room for further development; the style is always welcoming new ideas and approaches. It helps that the world has many musical instruments with a history, so that we could learn about various possibilities. Although the 10.F.I. system is relatively fresh and new, in time there could be a history of its own just as deep.

AVGS Article provided by Kai Kurosawa

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 1, 2010 at 9:16 pm



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