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I don't play guitar with my pinkie and its been over 8 months now and I am starting to worry... Advice?

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  • I waited a few years before really forcing myself to use my pinkie on my fretting hand. It did hold me back, but I was able to practice enough to bring my pinkie up to speed. My pinkies are much smaller than my other fingers so it's just not possible for me to be as strong with my pinkie as with my other fingers, but it does the work that is required of it when I don't have any better fingering options. May 6, 2016 at 20:42

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As you have discovered, you can play guitar without using your pinkie, but doing so will limit you to a great extent and certain chord voicings cannot be played without using the pinkie. Therefore I would strongly encourage you to begin incorporating the use of your pinkie into your playing.

Many beginning guitarist tend to avoid using the pinkie because for most folks, the pinkie is the finger that is not only the weakest, but we tend to have less control over it until we train it. This is probably due to the fact that task in everyday life don't often incorporate the use of the pinkie (it just hangs out and doesn't do much). Think of how you hold a fork, hold a coffee mug, hold your keys to unlock a door. Many folks even hold their wine glass with their pinkie just pointing into space.

That's why I like to get my beginning guitar students using their pinkie right up front. Everything you do as a beginning guitar student seems strange and difficult, so why not get the pinkie involved in all that strangeness up front?

One thing I teach beginning students that seems to go against standard practice - but I believe benefits them in the long run - is to play an open G chord using your pinkie. Not only does this get them using their pinkie in the beginning, it just makes so much more sense from a practical playing point of view.

Most guitar lesson books I have encountered and most guitar teachers I am familiar with teach beginners to play a G without the pinkie using the fingers shown in the diagram below.

G chord version 1

The only logical explanation I know of is that this method is taught because beginning students lack control of their pinkie - as explained in full detail in the answer's to this question on Stack Exchange Why are beginning guitar students taught to play an open G without pinkie?

The most logical and versatile and practical way to play an open G chord in my opinion is by using the pinkie on the high e string with the bass strings played with middle and ring finger like this:

G chord Ver 2

From this position it is easy to transition to either a C or G7 chord (some of the most common chords that follow G major) without having to awkwardly flop your hand in the total opposite direction.

Another way to play an open G chord that brings your pinkie into play and sounds very nice is pictured below.

G chord ver 3

With this version it is easier to get your pinkie to do what you need it to do because it kind of follows your ring finger. Also, since your ring finger is fretting the b string, you can't accidently mute the b string with your pinkie. From this four finger version of an open G you can transition to a C chord easily if you substitute a Cadd9 chord by leaving your pinkie and ring finger on the b and e string and moving your other two fingers down one each. The Cadd9 chord chart is pictured below.

Cadd9

So my recommendation for you is that you begin to use one or both of the G chord formations shown above that use your pinkie. You will find your transitions easier and you will begin using your pinkie every time you play any song with a G chord in it. By using your pinkie more - you will begin to develop more strength and coordination.

You might start with the four finger version of G as shown above if you have trouble getting your pinkie to land on the high e by itself in the beginning.

Once you get used to playing the G chord using your pinkie, it will be easier to learn to add an open C7 or B7 using your pinkie.

If you play lead or melody lines, the best way to gain control of your pinkie is to start playing scales using your pinkie. If you are playing scales now without your pinkie, try playing them without your first finger instead. Make playing scales using your pinkie a part of your regular practice routine.

It does take a little more time to gain coordination in your pinkie. But the good news is, once you start using it regularly, it becomes easier and easier to control. Start using it today.

Good luck!

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Assuming you're right handed (reverse answer if otherwise ):

Not using right hand pinkie: perfectly normal, it would be awkward if you did, unless playing some flamenco style "rasgeado".

Not using left hand pinkie: rather limitative for chord shapes, specially using barres (is that the word?) . But I've known of pretty good guitarists with some sort of handycap or limitation who have been able to make do without the pinkie. If you don't have any kind of physical limitation, though, it's advisable that you practice to overcome the habit of not using it.

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