Hand held chord fingering device for guitar
United States Patent 3922945

An unattached, unitary hand held, chord fingering device comprising an especially shaped, rigid and generally palm sized body or bracket which incorporates peculiarly dimensioned and uniquely placed oblong fingering pads, which provides a loop or clamp across the bracket top for securing the device to an appropriate guitarist's finger, and which provides a suitable indentation or access port for allowing the operator to interpose manual fingering at option, is provided for use with any conventionally tuned (EADGBE) six course guitar. In one embodiment the palm sized bracket appropriately incorporates soft fingering pads, characterized by felt, for use with fretted guitars of the folk or classic type. In a second embodiment the bracket incorporates pads of hard material or metal for use with Hawaiian type or other six course guitars with raised strings.

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G10D3/00; (IPC1-7): G10D3/00
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Primary Examiner:
Hix L. T.
Assistant Examiner:
Miska, Vit W.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Pettijohn, Robert
I claim

1. A completely unattached and hand held chord fingering device for the conventionally tuned six and twelve string six course guitars, comprising a rigid and generally palm sized body, hereinafter called a bracket, having incorporated therewith in fixed relationship to one another on its operative side multiple oblong string bearing surfaces, hereinafter collectively called fingering pads and individually referred to as first pad, second pad third pad, and remaining operative pad, wherein said fingering pads are of such peculiar dimensions and fixedly incorporated with said bracket in such unique placement and arrangement with respect to one another on said operative side of said bracket that, when said fingering pads as supported by said bracket are appropriately applied to the strings of said six course guitar at some given fret position below the twelfth fret, said fingering pads will stop said strings of said guitar at the individual string lengths required for the evocation of any one of four possible common musical chords, unaided by conjunctional manual fingering, at said fret position, whereas the remaining three said unaided chords can be formed by appropriately manipulating said device to appropriate locations at said fret position and reapplying.

2. A hand held chord fingering device as described in Claim 1 wherein said bracket incorporates a suitable indentation for allowing an operator finger access to an appropriate portion of the fret interval being acted upon by said first pad wherethrough operator manual fingering can be interposed in conjunction with using said device whereby ten additional but manually aided chords at said given fret can be formed.

3. A hand held chord fingering device as defined in claim 1 wherein said bracket incorporates a fastening means, characterized by loops and clamps, for securing said device to the hand of an operator as an aid in manipulating the device accurately and rapidly.

4. A hand held chord fingering device as defined in claim 1 wherein said device,

5. A hand held chord fingering device as defined in claim 2 wherein said bracket incorporates a fastening means, characterized by loops and clamps, for securing said device to the hand of an operator as an aid in manipulating the device accurately and rapidly.

6. A hand held chord fingering device as described in claim 2 wherein said device,


This invention relates to music accessories, more particularly to guitar chord fingering devices, and specifically to unattached, unitary, hand held, multiple chord forming or fingering devices for guitar.

The related art contains many apparatus intended to bridge the gap between the desire to play guitar and a modicum of accomplishment. All discernable previously invented chording devices, with the exception of the "Bottle" or bar method, hereinafter discussed, have a plurality of parts, levers, springs, cams or the like. Although the painstaking inventive effort and unique mechanical ingenuity heretofore displayed toward mechanically solving the guitar chord fingering problem is awe inspiring and admirable indeed, most of these efforts have resulted in complex mechanisms which require modification of or attachment to the guitar. Many are not readily adaptable to all six course guitar types, e.g., Hawaiian, electric, twelve string, folk or classic. Other disadvantages noted in individual cases are cumbersomeness, inadequate chord forming capability, no allowance for harmonic effects such as damping or sliding of chords evoked, no provision for the guitarist to manually interpose extra fingering at option, the requirement for expensive machining or construction materials, aesthetic obtrusiveness, and high failure or malfunction probabilities due to wear, maladjustment or strain. As a regrettable result most of these admirable endeavours have become commercially, aesthetically or harmonically null.

Contemporarily, the chief alternative practical guitar chording mode using an unattached hand held string stopping or fingering device is to alter the six course tuning from the conventional EADGBE to a common musical chord such as E major or A major (EBEG♯BE or EAEAC♯E) and use a straight bar or cylinder to finger or stop other harmonically similar chords of differing pitch by applying said bar/cylinder across the chord tuned strings at various fingerboard locations. This technique is used in six course Hawaiian type guitar playing where the strings are raised somewhat above the fingerboard and the frets are only indicated or non-functional. The sliding bar produces the glissando effect associated therewith. Some guitarists have adapted this technique to fretted guitars by using a small metal or glass cylinder, the Bottle Guitar method, to finger the chord tuned strings at chosen fret positions.

The above technique, though quite popular, also has some undesirable characteristics compared to manually fingering or using this invention. One is that the three principal chords associated with a key signature are located at varying distances, one from the others, along the chord tuned guitar fingerboard which presents a learning problem, e.g., the dominant chord is located either seven frets above or five frets below the tonic. Another is that all chords evoked have a harmonic sameness but with wide pitch variations. Another characteristic is that chord inversions, i.e., playing the same chord at a different location, especially below the twelfth fret, are not facilitated since each fret thereby has but one chord and string octaves do not repeat short of the twelfth fret. Yet another undesirable characteristic is that, when tuning is thus altered from conventional, flexibility in playing single note passages is diminished; scale fingering patterns become difficult.


The principal object of this invention is to provide a distinctively economical and practical detached and hand held guitar chord fingering device for the conventionally tuned six course guitar with which persons can easily learn to either accompany most folk music, create interesting harmonic effects, or augment existing guitar teaching aids. The emphasis in this objective rests heavily on the phrase "distinctively economical and practical."

Another object of the invention is to overcome the previously cited disadvantages in the existing art by providing a small, unattached, unitary and hand held guitar chord fingering device which:

has no integral moving parts or complex mechanisms,

requires no guitar modification or thereto attachment,

is adaptable to all six course guitar types,

is aesthetically relatively unobtrusive, small and deft,

forms several commonly used folk music chords in every key without requiring a separate capotasto,

does not require significant moving up and/or down the fingerboard for other chords relative to the tonic,

allows immediate damping or sliding of tones evoked for staccato or glissando effects,

provides for manual interposition of a desirable choice of added note fingerings,

facilitates forming inversions of chords below the twelfth fret,

does not require tuning altered from conventional,

can be constructed from relatively inexpensive materials using ordinary workshop equipment, and,

when properly and sturdily constructed has an extremely marginal probability of malfunction or failure.

This invention comprises an especially shaped non-circular body, hereinafter called bracket, with which are appropriately incorporated several peculiarly dimensioned oblong string bearing surfaces, hereinafter called fingering pads, which are arranged in a uniquely functional pattern on the operative side of the bracket, as characterized by the accompanying illustrations. The specific embodiment described and illustrated herein provides four oblong felt fingering pads, so dimensioned, arranged, and affixed to the operative side of a wood or plastic bracket that, when said operative side with pads affixed is appropriately applied to conventionally tuned guitar strings of a standard classic guitar at a given fret position below the twelfth fret, the fingering pads will cause said strings to be stopped in concert at respective lengths required for forming any one, of the severally made possible, consonant musical chords at said fret position. A loop of elastic strap is appropriately incorporated across the palm or top side of the bracket for securing the device to the left hand index finger as an aid in manipulating, engaging, disengaging, damping and moving the device accurately and rapidly. The bracket's especial shape, featuring a cut out portion or crescent indentation, allows the ring and/or little finger access to desired fret intervals for manually fingering and interposing the sixth, seventh and other optional notes, either separately or in conjunction with chords formed. By virtue of the peculiar dimensioning and unique placement of the fingering pads, appropriate manipulation of the device at a given fret position either laterally, i.e., at a right angle to the fingerboard axis, or angularly at the same fret position allows other chords to be formed. In conjunction with appropriate manual fingering as provided for in the device, at least fourteen common chords can be formed at each fret position. For a given key signature these include the tonic major and its sixth or seventh, subdominant major and its sixth or seventh, subdominant minor and its sixth or seventh, and the dominant major and its seventh. With a little care the tonic minor and its sixth or seventh can be formed by turning the device slightly counterclockwise, as viewed from the top, from the tonic major position. Ninth and tenth notes can also be added to the tonic chords described if desired. By selective placement other transpositions of all major chords are possible below the twelfth fret.

In an alternate embodiment a bracket is equipped with steel or hard plastic rods, bars, or protuberances acting as the fingering pads. Such pads are about one quarter inch in diameter, rounded and smooth on the string bearing surface, and are incorporated with the bracket as protuberances on one shaped steel appliance, complete unto itself, or they could be attached to a bracket of any suitable material by means of appropriate cement, stirrups or fasteners extending up through the bracket, or by magnetic attraction wherein the bracket, pads, or both are magnetized and each individual pad is magnetically emplaced in a saddle of its own. Such an embodiment, or variation thereof, is designed for use on Hawaiian type or raised string guitars. In using such a device on such a guitar in the lap or table position the left hand middle and index fingers then make use of the crescent indentation for fingering sixth, seventh and other notes in conjunction with chords formed. In such an embodiment the fastening loop heretofore described is optional and a metal cap or thimble on the appropriate free finger can be used to touch and thus stop the string for conjunctional manual fingering. In this embodiment the device's bars or pads, themselves, stop the strings with no fret assistance. The pads should then be held as close to the exact fret markings as possible for proper pitch. Using this embodiment on a raised string type guitar there is a very slight disconsonance in chords formed at the first three or four fret positions and also beyond the ninth or tenth fret toward the bridge. This is true since the device's pad intervals are fixed but guitar fret intervals diminish progressively from lower to higher frets. Although this slight disconsonance is hardly noticeable to persons not having perfect pitch by ear, it could be eliminated by sophisticating this embodiment to include a pad/bar interval adjusting mechanism either internally or by making the bracket in several parts, sliding or spring loading one against the others so that the bracket could be squeezed together or expanded as it was being used up or down the fingerboard. The operative principle in both these envisioned embodiments, or with other consistencies or combinations thereof between these extremes is the same.

The major advantages of this invention accrue from its small size, simple but unique design, and its detachment from the guitar, resulting in an extreme reduction in the number of parts ordinarily required per functioning unit, less probability of malfunction, lighter, less bulky, and more flexibility of use with differing guitar types.

Additionally, the device as illustrated measures only about 31/2 inches × 2 inches × 3/4 inch. It is aesthetically relatively unobtrusive; in use only about two square inches are visible and, because of its unique hand integration when used, it retards the impression that a machine or complex lever housing is interposed between guitarist and guitar. Being small and light it is easily pocketed or unobtrusively employed in any physical stance, standing or sitting, normally adopted by the guitarist.

A given embodiment should be amenable to economical quantity production since it need have no integral moving parts, is small, light, durable and has no complex appendages. Adding to potential production simplicity, the device requires neither modification of nor attachment to the guitar.

The device requires only slight movements, as hereinafter described, at a given fret to finger at least fourteen different chords at that fret position. The chief advantage here, over the Bottle method is that it is considerably easier to learn how to correctly alter the device's position at a given fret than it is to learn where, up or down the chord tuned fingerboard, the other chords are relative to the tonic. Wide chord pitch variations are thus unnecessary and chording smoothness is enhanced. Yet, the musical effect derived from the bottle or bar technique can be essentially duplicated using this invention since it will also slide on the strings while holding a chord.

The device is harmonically practical since, while it is substantially confined to generally used folk music chords, it lends itself readily to interesting improvisations and harmonic effect; it slides easily while holding a chord, allows the operator to fill in one or several extra notes with prepositioned free fingers at option, and allows for immediate damping to achieve staccato effects. Since at least fourteen chords are possible at each fret, chord inversions are facilitated. The device works equally well in any key chosen and accomplishes this without requiring special tuning altered from the conventional EADGBE, thus allowing greater flexibility in playing single note passages than the bottle or bar methods. An additional advantage here is that the novice begins to learn the guitar with conventional tuning, thus diminishing the chance for confusion in any continuing guitar studies.

Summarily, this invention accomplishes the general goal of other related inventions but does so with one small, unattached, economical device and in a much less complex, more straightforward and practical manner.

Objects and advantages of the invention will become better understood from a consideration of the specifications with reference to the accompanying drawings.


FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the device shown as it would normally be used, with a fragmentary portion of the hand and guitar fingerboard included for reference.

FIG. 2 is a top view of the device.

FIG. 3 is a front elevation shown related to a fragmentary side view of a guitar neck.

FIG. 4 is a right side elevation of the device shown related to two end viewed sets of strings signifying two of the device's operative positions.

FIG. 5 is a sectional top view from line 5--5 of FIG. 4, with the bracket outlined for reference.

FIG. 6 is a diagram depicting the device's pads fingering a G major chord at the third fret position.

FIG. 7 is a diagram depicting the device's pads fingering a G minor chord at the third fret position.

FIG. 8 is a diagram depicting the devices's pad fingering a C major chord at the third fret position.

FIG. 9 is a diagram depicting the device's pads fingering a C minor chord at the third fret position.

FIG. 10 is a diagram depicting the device's pads fingering a D major chord at the third fret position.

FIG. 11 is a diagram depicting the device's pad fingering a D seventh (dom.) chord at the third fret position.


Referring to FIGS. 1 through 5 the device as illustrated, which characterizes this invention, has a small palm sized wood body, hereinafter called bracket 12 for supporting and maintaining in certain fixed positions on its operative side, FIG. 5, four felt fingering pads 13, 14, 15 and 16 which are cemented to the bracket 12. Although the illustrated bracket is one half inch thick, this dimension is not critical. A suitable length of approximately one half inch wide elastic strap 17 is attached across the top, or palm side, of the bracket in the position shown in FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 using a suitable cement on each strap end. Enough loop is provided so that the strap will fit snugly, but without uncomfortable tension, over the index finger first joint, FIG. 1. The strap functions only as a convenient means for securing the device to a finger 18. The crescent indentation 19 in the bracket allows operator finger access to part of a fret interval.

FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 reveal beveling about the top of the bracket. The bevel shown is 45° with about three eights inch of bevel face. These shaping features are in no way critical but are provided to impart a smooth, comfortable feel and appearance to the bracket. The width of the illustrated bracket is about two inches, however a specific width is arrived at after determining necessary fingering pad placements relative to a specific guitar type, as hereinafter described. The outer edges of fingering pads 13, 14 and 16 are flush with the bracket edges as shown in FIG. 3. The bracket's greater length dimension accomodates fingering pad 13, as hereinafter described, and will generally be about 33/4 inches. The acute angle described by the two longer edges will be about 60°. Excluding the oblique corner, the other corners are right angles. The placement of the crescent shaped indentation along the lesser length dimension is determined after dimensioning and placement of fingering pads 14 and 16, hereinafter described.

FIG. 3, the front elevation shows the juxtaposition of three rows of fingering pads. The pads on the illustrated device are of felt and one quarter inch wide by one quarter inch high. These dimensions are not critical but the fingering pads should be neither too bulky nor too skimpy to facilitate operating ease commensurate with clear tones evoked. For fretted guitar types having a slightly convex fingerboard surface, slightly higher and more pliant pads may be desired to conform to the slight curve. The pad shoulders are slightly rounded on the bottom, or functional surface, and the ends which contributes to a desired smoothness of movement over the strings. They are flat on top, the surface affixed to the bracket. The juxtaposed intervals will generally be slightly less than one inch on such a device designed for a full sized guitar. More precisely, when the device is employed at the first fret position, FIG. 3, pad 13 should just finger strings short of the first fret while pads 14 and 16 overhang the second fret just enough to cause string stopping at the third fret. The aforementioned required bracket width can then be determined. Pad 15 is then centered laterally between pad 13 and pads 14/16. Fret intervals diminish progressively toward the bridge, allowing the device's pads to fit between the frets properly until the eleventh or twelfth fret is reached. Beyond that point and toward the bridge pad intervals would have to be decreased to be usable. Harmonically, however, little advantage would accrue since each string octave ends at the eleventh fret and begins again at the twelfth.

FIG. 5 views the device's operative elements from the top. The peculiar dimensioning of the fingering pad lengths is derived as follows. The longer pad 13 can finger all six courses simultaneously. It has enough additional length to continue this function while allowing for the requisite movement at right angles to the fingerboard axis for other chords; a length of about nine average string intervals (distance between two adjacent strings measured at the fifth fret) should be provided. Pad 14 has a length of slightly more than two string intervals. It must finger three strings, with only a slight overhang on the outside two, which allows it to finger two strings with a more generous overhang on either side. Pad 15 may be as long as pad 14, however its length is not critical since a portion of it is masked by pad 14 as seen from FIG. 4. A portion of pad 15 protrudes however, and the length of this portion is about two-thirds of a string interval; it must protrude enough to finger the adjacent string when pad 14 is fingering two strings, but not enough to finger the adjacent string when pad 14 is fingering three strings. Pad 16 is long enough to finger one string easily or at least one string interval in length. It functions only on the high E string and then in only one of the positions herein described. Neck widths and string proximities vary slightly with guitar types but once a device is constructed for a given guitar size and type, e.g., standard classic, however, such a device will work equally well with other like sized classic guitars, etcetera.

FIG. 4 the right side elevation, shows the unique axial placement of the fingering pads as viewed from the guitar bridge were it in use. Also, if viewed from the bridge, and indicated for reference, conventionally tuned courses are, from left to right, EADGBE, from low to high. Referring accordingly to the upper illustrated set of reference strings and assuming pad 14 to be fingering the low E and A strings leaving an equal overhang on either side, pad 15 must be positioned to finger the D string with the midpoint of its protruding portion. The pad 16 midpoint must be positioned to finger the high E string. These placement verifications should be made at the fifth fret position, the midpoint of the device's playing range. Pad 13 fingers all strings with its excess length protruding on the low E string side. Referring now to the lower illustrated set of reference strings, the above cited protrudance of pad 13 must be great enough to continue fingering the low E string when the device is moved to the right to where pad 14 fingers the D, G and B strings. Note that pad 15 does not now finger the next adjacent or high E string. Pad 13 should thus be about nine string intervals long and the aforementioned greater bracket length dimension must accomodate this pad. The special crescent shaped indentation 19 begins at the proximate ends of pads 14 and 16 and is extensive enough to allow easy access to its part of the fret interval being fingered by pad 14.

Referring to FIGS. 6 through 11, the illustrated diagrammatic depictions show how the device functions in causing guitar strings to be stopped at the correct respective lengths to form chords. Dependent upon the particular embodiment and guitar type used the actual string stopping is accomplished either by pressing the device's pads on the strings short of the frets described, i.e. fingering, and with enough pressure to cause the strings to be stopped by the intervening fret, the usual case with fretted guitars, or in another embodiment by holding such a device equipped with pads/bars of metal or other hard material against raised strings just firmly enough to make full contact with the strings, as with six course Hawaiian guitar types. The depictions illustrate the former case where the strings are pressed and the intervening fret stops each string. For chords requiring a finger application the symbol (X) indicates the string is fully stopped and the symbol () indicates the string is muffled by light finger contact. The diagrams show the device as employed to form the three principal chords, amongst others, for the key of G major. This set includes the tonic (G major), subdominant (C major), and the dominant or its seventh (D or D seventh, dom.).

Accordingly, FIG. 6 shows the device employed at the third fret position 20 to form the tonic or G major chord. Strings EADGBE respectively are conventionally tuned. Pad 13 stops (causes to be stopped) all strings three semitones higher or to GCFA♯DG respectively. Pad 14 additionally stops the A and D strings two semitones higher yet, or to D and G. Pad 15 stops the G string one semitone higher than pad 13 or to B. The concerted result, in string order, is GDGBDG, a G major chord. As indicated a finger applied (X) to stop the B string raises it two semitones from pad 13 or to E, the sixth note in the G major scale, thus forming a G sixth chord. Similarly stopping the same string at (X') raises it to F, the dominant seventh note in G major, thus forming a G seventh (dom.) chord.

FIG. 7 shows how the device may be turned slightly counterclockwise (approximately 15°) from the position in FIG. 6. Pad 15 then releases the G string back to pad 13 or to A♯, the diminished third note in G major, while the other strings remain stopped as in FIG. 6. Thus the tonic minor, or with appropriate manual fingering as indicated by (X) or (X'), its sixth or seventh chord can also be formed.

FIG. 8 shows the device at the same third fret position forming the subdominant or C major chord. Pad 14 is now advanced and stops the D, G and B strings raising each two semitones from pad 13 or to G, C and E. The A string is released back to pad 13 or to C. The remaining strings are stopped as in FIG. 6. The result in string order is GCGCEG, a C major chord. As indicated by (X) or (X') a finger can be applied to stop the high E string at either A or A♯, the sixth or dominant seventh notes in C major, thus forming a C sixth or C seventh (dom.) chord.

FIG. 9 shows the device retarded slightly from C major so that pad 14 releases the B string. Pad 15 then stops this string at one semitone above pad 13 or to D♯, the diminished third note of C major. Thus the subdominant minor or with appropriate fingering, (X) or (X'), its sixth or seventh (dom.) chords can also be formed.

FIG. 10 shows the device at the same third fret position forming the dominant or D major chord. Pad 14 is now positioned so that the E and A strings are each stopped two semitones above pad 13 or to A and D. Pad 15 stops the D string at F♯. The G string is muffled () by touching it lightly. The B string is stopped at D as in FIG. 6. Pad 16 stops the high E string two semitones above pad 13 or to A. The result in order is ADF♯-DA, a D major chord.

FIG. 11 shows the position of finger application (X) to stop the G string two semitones above pad 13 or to C, the dominant seventh note in D major, thus forming a D seventh (dom.) chord, the dominant seventh chord of the aforementioned set.

A guitarist with some experience could note here that a major chord formed as in FIG. 8 but at the tenth fret is G major. Further, a major chord formed as in FIG. 6 but at the eighth fret is C major, and further, that a seventh (dom) chord formed as in FIG. 6 but at the tenth fret is D seventh. Thus chord inversions are possible for the three principal chords associated with the key of G major. In like manner similar inversions are possible for all principal chords associated with all twelve keys of the chromatic scale using this invention.

The preferred embodiment of this invention is as illustrated in FIGS. 1 through 5, i.e., having an adequately rigid bracket, incorporating slightly pliant fingering pads, characterized by felt, which offers little resistance to movement on the strings, and incorporating a comfortable, preferably self adjusting loop across the bracket top as illustrated. This embodiment would seen to be easy to fabricate in quantity and have wide application, the fretted or manually fingered type guitar population being far greater than the Hawaiian or raised string type. Although the felt pad, wood bracket, elastic strap components described are completely effective, a workable likeness of this embodiment can be cast or molded in one piece using a suitable thermo or chemical setting plastic. For such a likeness the "suitable" plastic should ideally encompass as many of the individual physical properties described for the several components as possible.

Various modifications and refinements of any embodiment of this invention are possible such as alternative means of securing the device to the fingers or none, a means of interchanging fingering pads with other pads of a harder or softer material, an incorporated means of adjusting relative pad positions and/or lengths, deleting any masked portions of pads, or varying the pad heights or widths. In essence, however, the concepts embodied in the illustrated device, including its general design, size, and particularly its especial shape featuring a crescent shape indentation as illustrated, and the unique placement of peculiarly dimensioned functional parts, which enable it to produce the results described herein, constitute this invention. Having thus described the invention, it is to be understood that modifications in the construction and content of the incorporated components thereof can be made, as deemed necessary, without departing from the scope of the appended claims.