I am currently playing a piece on the guitar which is going fine so far, but I have encountered a problem, and I am unsure whether this will have an effect on my guitar playing in the future.

When I play notes with any finger other than my pinky, my pinky seems to curl inwards. This looks strange but feels comfortable.

Will this affect me as a guitarist?

  • Almost impossible to answer as is. A picture paints a thousand words, etc. – Tim Apr 15 '16 at 7:55
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    Can you clear up - which hand is the problem on, as it could be either. – Tim Apr 15 '16 at 9:19

If you mean the pinkie on your fretting hand, this should not be a problem when playing chords as long as you can easily transition to and from chords that involve the pinkie in fretting.

I just played through a number of chord progressions on my guitar and noticed that when moving to chords that involved the use of the pinkie as a fretting finger, having it curled actually meant it was closer to the position it needed to be in when it was needed for a chord. Barre chords were the exception but most of those use the pinkie as a fretting finger and those that don't often use the pinkie to help press down the ring finger.

When playing individual notes, having it curled too tightly may make it more difficult to get it in proper position when it's time to use it to fret a note. The best way to train your mind to keep your pinkie in position above the strings is to play exercises (scales, runs, sections of a melody) that use the pinkie often (every other note or so). That will automatically get you in the habit of keeping your pinkie poised above the fretboard - particularly as you build speed playing these exercises.

In other words, just use your pinkie more often - and without really thinking about it, you will develop more finger independence with your pinkie and begin to habitually keep it in proper position.

As far as your picking hand goes, many classical and/or fingerstyle guitarist use their pinkie to anchor their picking hand by placing it on the top of the guitar below the strings. This helps stabilize your picking hand and provides a constant frame of reference for your other fingers because it keeps your hand in a fixed location relative to all the strings.

EDIT: Community member Alex shared in a comment that many guitarist have gotten away from anchoring with the pinkie to allow more freedom in the picking hand using the forearm to anchor instead. Try both methods and see what is more comfortable to you. But according to Alex, the free pinkie technique is winning favor among the majority of classical and fingerstyle guitarists.

Have fun improving your skills. It's a lifelong journey - enjoy it!

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  • One thing about pinky planting. As you say, many players do it, but surprisingly there's an 80%+ consensus in the fingerstyle and classical world that it's a bad habit. (Google "guitar anchoring" and you'll find pages and pages of savage opposition in fingerstyle forums and Reddit threads.) It limits your right hand dramatically, and most players find it surprisingly easy to steady from the forearm. The opposition is so intense that it sometimes spills over into the pick style world, where anchoring does make some sense, because you're constantly adjusting your distance over the strings. – Alex Apr 16 '16 at 12:46
  • (I'm not correcting you, just thought people who run into this thread looking for info on whether to plant should know about the other side too.) – Alex Apr 16 '16 at 13:16
  • @Alex Thanks Alex. I have not been keeping up with the trends. Seems I read a long time ago that you should anchor. But I feel better now because I feel more comfortable NOT anchoring and all this time I thought I was doing it wrong. Your comment validated my own technique (which I always thought was unsound - lol). – Rockin Cowboy Apr 16 '16 at 18:21
  • @Alex In an effort to provide the highest quality content on this site, you and I have put our heads together to improve it. Check out my edit as a result of your comment. That is exactly what comments should be used for. Thanks again for your contribution. – Rockin Cowboy Apr 16 '16 at 18:28

Most often this happens simply because your pinky is controlled by some of the same musculature as your other fingers. Every instrumentalist knows all too well that the ring and middle fingers are almost impossible to move independently (until you learn how to compensate). It's not so bad with the pinky, but the same principle applies. If you curl the other fingers, the pinky tends to curl. You can learn more about the anatomy here.

If you stick to a three finger technique this probably won't affect your playing much. However: if you want to take your right hand technique a notch up, you could learn to play from your first joint (where the finger meets the hand). This feels extremely awkward at first, but it's the standard stroke in classical guitar and often considered the most technically correct way to play, because the fingers are almost totally independent at that joint. You can flex any finger halfway to the palm and the others will hardly budge. Moreover, it's the strongest joint by far, so you'll find yourself playing with more power and authority. Read up about basic classical guitar technique to learn more.

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  • I'd +million for this if I could. I have never noticed that the fingers are so much more independent at that joint :) – Whelkaholism Apr 15 '16 at 14:27

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