1

I've recently taken up guitar again after an absence, I played for 10 years from 14-24. I am now 44, been playing again for about 2 years. I never really used my pinky when I was young, apart from chord basics. I am trying to learn more complicated stuff, but my pinky will not work properly. I have tried different exercises (variations on the spider, scales, pentatonic variations) but the main problem is while the other 3 fingers move like "little pistons" my pinky tends to reach out and "grab" the fret rather than plonking down nice and neatly, firmly but not too firmly. When I am on the high E-string doing a lead part or a quick trill, sometimes it misses the fretboard completely. I understand this is often referred to as pinky "fly away", but I think there's a few other problems as well. The callus is not forming on the tip but over on the outer edge of the finger. This seems wrong to me.

Any tips would be much appreciated, as I am ready to go back to my old blues "claw grip" and give up on playing "properly". Thank you.

1

Ring and pinky are more attached to each other than the other fingers, so it's often an awkward situation. Sounding flippant, but not meaning to be, just go with the flow. If you can do most things without it, carry on. One Django did o.k. that way, so make the best of what you have, and develop that way. There is no one 'proper' way to play, we all adapt even if only slightly. Some adapt, and actually it gives them their own edge - not a bad thing.

As far as callouses are concerned - regular readers will know I don't believe in them. They're not necessary and often form due to bad fretting, playing and/or not good action on the part of the guitar used.

The oft chanted mantra of 'see a teacher, if only for a few lessons' is an obvious track to go down; personal scrutiny by an expert is always a good move!

  • OK, thanks. Trouble is, I can't do many of the things I need to do without using the pinky. I guess by "proper" I meant good form. – Matt Davenport Jun 12 '17 at 13:18
  • A short scale guitar may help a little. Plus lots of exercises to encourage your pinky to be independent, but, as I said, if it won't, then it won't. Develop your style despite it. – Tim Jun 12 '17 at 13:43
  • It's a bit disheartening tbh. So many players who can do all kinds of wizard moves. Idk when electric guitar became so competitive! – Matt Davenport Jun 12 '17 at 14:53
  • 3
    I find that being philosophical stops me banging my head against the wall... we do what we can, and leave others to appear brilliant! – Tim Jun 12 '17 at 15:20
  • You were right. It just won't. I've been doing the exercises suggested below plus some others and if anything it has gotten even worse. It's bad enough sitting down, but standing up I can't use the fourth at all. I'm too old and have left it too late. I'll just use 3. – Matt Davenport Jul 21 '17 at 23:56
0

Strengthening your pinky will increase your response, tone and accuracy. Being able to use your pinky effectively will open up the instrument so much for you.

You said that you are able to incorporate the pinky in chord basics. Take a E form bar chord and practice playing a major chord (a major E form with the bar behind it) and change to the 7th chord by moving your pinky from the D string 2 frets above the bar to the B string 3 frets above the bar. Practice this with a steady even tempo.

EForm

Take the E form bar chord and add your pinky to the E string 3 frets above the bar and slide up 1 fret with your pinky to the major third. Again, a steady tempo - strum the chord on beat one and slide to the major 3rd on the next beat. Move your pinky back and repeat.

Slide to major 3rd

A similar chord exercise using the A form bar. Play an the A form bar chord and place your pinky on the E string for a high octave. This is a big stretch. Then play the 7th on the E string. (An easier way would to play the bottom 4 strings of the G form bar chord and switch between the octave and the 7th on the E string.) I would practice both sliding and fretting normally.

GForm

As in the common excersise where you asign each finger a fret and move up the fret board then to the next string. (Play the Index finger on the 1st fret of the E string, then the 2nd finger on the second fret then the ring finger on the 3rd fret and the pinky on the 4th. then move to the next string and repeat.) When you get to the last string, move up a fret and do the same thing backwards. (4,3,2,1 next string.. etc..)

Basic finger

Try this type of exercise using only the index and pinky. (I would probably add a 5th fret to stretch the pinky a bit.) On the way up through the strings use a 1st to 4th finger pattern (1,4,1,4,1,4,1,4 then next string) and on the way down use a 4th finger then 1st finger pattern. Move up a fret and repeat. Keep the tempo steady when moving to the next string as well as when you slide your hand position up a fret.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

The key to all of these exercises is keeping an even tempo. You need to go slow enough that the tone is nice and even nice and smooth.

I hope all of this makes sense. These exercises vary in difficulty and may be a good place to start. If you find one too frustrating try a different one and go back to the "tough one" later.

Most importantly, DON"T GIVE UP!!!! Give any exercise or technique a fair shake by practicing daily. Wait at least 2 weeks until you decide if any exercise is working for you or not and needs to be re-evaluated. I think you will be surprised. Good Luck!

  • I give up. These are impossible. I'm too old and my hands are too small and stiff. – Matt Davenport Jul 21 '17 at 23:55
0

The one octave major pentatonic scale with the following fingering is a useful one for 'remedial pinky'. Don't expect instant finesse, rather just use the pinky somewhat like a hook. You've probably been using the first and third fingers for a long time, to the exclusion of your pinky. Now it's time for 'Pinky's Revenge': excluding the third finger for a change.

6th string 2,4 then 5th string 1,4 then 4th string 1,4

Start the scale on A (6th string, 5th fret).

Once you get the scale fingering happening in A, slip it up the neck four frets to C and start shredding over a blues in A or just an A minor chord. You'll be making a little bit of music while you're letting Pinky off the chain.

  • Start shredding? Haha, you must be joking. Thanks mate. I'll try it. The pinky keeps missing the string tho – Matt Davenport Jun 16 '17 at 16:19
  • This exercise is most helpful. Thank you! – Matt Davenport Jun 17 '17 at 10:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.