Fun With Pinky

A pinky sucks. Can we change it? Of course.

Ultimate Guitar
Start Use Your Pinky. And Always When It's Possible! Try this, play E on A string (5th string 7th fret) without context or thinking. Done? Which finger did you unconsciously use? Why not pinky? Think about that. That's right, we unconsciously try to avoid using pinky cause it's the clumsy outsider and it's clumsy cause we don't use it. It's like a magic circle. Is there a way from that circle? Not really, but we can switch it to the opposite way, a positive one (it's competent cause it's used and it's used cause it's competent). Don't worry I'm aware that it's not just ease as that. For instance size and shape of pinky can be a big issue, but I saw a boy who played the full size guitar easily without any tensions. His index finger was smaller and thinner than my pinky. And I saw the people who had lost their arms create a beautiful things by their feet. Again, think about that. There are lots of lessons for developing fretting fingers and most of them include pinky. There are many great lessons specialized for pinky exclusively. But do you have same good callous skin on your baby finger as on the other fretting fingers? Therefore more lessons without context are not the answer. What you need to change is an approach to a pinky. Don't worry I'll try to explain what I mean by this vague idea. Change Your Fingering. Not for 10 minutes, not for 1 hour, not for one day. Minimum for one week and for everything if it's possible and you will see what I'm talking about. After that it's just your decision how long or how often you will use it. The goal is start to use pinky almost every time when you play and not just occasionally when it's necessary. Every time when you practice, when you play song or just play around to find a melody or correct chord. For example here is how you can change fingering of a few easy "three fingers" chords: (just imagine that you lost your index, I know it's horrible!) I: index M: middle R: ring P: pinky
Your playing will suck at first, but sooner or later magic happened. Don't worry about your old comfortable fingering, you will not forget it. Next example with C scale:
     M  P     R  P     R  P     R     M  P     M  P  
Are you familiar with scale patterns and you can play them without thinking up and down? So, if you're comfortable with scales, start to play them little different. Start from pinky and tray to use it as a guide instead of index finger. If you are in process of learning scales, learn them by fundamental way. Don't tray this, other way it will confuse you. Example of tradition way over two octaves :
Play same notes but start from pinky, also you can use accent for "pinky tones". Think about your pinky as a guide finger.
  >        >        >        >         >  
Play power chords with middle and pinky instead by index and ring. Try everything what you play to shift to the pinky. Let say you have something in repertoire which is very easy to play, but you play it anyway cause it's cool song. Change your fingering for it. For instance notoriously famous riff from Metallica "Enter Sandman" can be played like this: (P and M mean Pinky / Middle here, don't be confused with Palm Mute)
  P   P  R  M        P          P     P  P  P  P  
                     M          M     M  M  M 
You can argue that you already use pinky with your power chords you play over three strings. But with octave power chord we usually use our ring finger as a guide which doesn't help to pinky for independence. If you play in a band, this funny kind of fingering is an extremely important for developing pinky. Most of the time you practice same songs over and over (the more people play, the more mistakes happened), but this time you will do something for your pinky. Change Order Of You Practice Lesson. Most of lessons for developing fingering start with practice for index finger then middle finger, ring finger and finally pinky, which is usually on the end of the lesson. It's almost as a rule. How many times you started lesson, but in the middle you become bored and less focused? How many times you didn't finish it at all? It's hard to change it, it's our nature. But what is ease to change it's the order in lessons, start them from the end. So next time when you practice for instance pull-off/hammer-on start it with patterns which include pinky. Similar with every lessons for developing fingering or any technique (vibrato, trill, bend, slide etc...) Conclusion. The concept of changing your fingering is probably the easiest way how to improve pinky without spending extra time over specialized pinky lessons. What's more, it's much more intensive. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against pinky lessons, they are great. Problem is that we can't spent whole time just on them. Don't forget your correct position of fingering hand, players tend to put their thumb under pinky when they start to use it as the most important finger, don't do it. Watch your other fingers, keep them close to strings as always. That's it, stop reading, start use your pinky. And always when it's possible. "I feel tricked. I came here to read some fun and I get this nonsense about approach!?" Tell me about that. But type your comment about your frustration with one finger chopstick technique. Type whole comment with your fretting pinky. Have fun!

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I see a good method in developing pinky. Begginers, or all those who don't use pinky much - have a read !
    Funny cause ive been playing for a while and I have always instinctively used my pinky. It just doesn't make sense to leave a valid part of hour fretting hand out.
    if the pinky exercises get too boring , try playing the outro to the song "Floods" by Pantera using the fingering that Dimebag Darrell originally used . It should get your pinky up and running .
    just commenting here so I can type it all using my pinky - it ain't as bad as I thought@