Beginner struggling with pinky finger

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Bass_Drummer, Apr 8, 2012.

  1. Bass_Drummer

    Bass_Drummer Guest

    Mar 20, 2012
    I have been doing some finger exercises lately to strengthen my fingers. And have really been struggling with holding the strings down with my pinky finger. I've been getting really frustrated lately with it because it just pisses me off. No matter how much I practice it doesn't work. So do I have to use my pinky finger? Is it a sacrilegious thing to use the pinky finger? Can't I just use my ring finger?
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    You will get by without using the pinkie finger, but it is worth the time and effort to persevere with working on it. Fellow TB'er Fergie Fulton has some good tips on this link for developing the pinkie.

    Exercises away from the bass. - YouTube

    You could check out his threads for more tips on developing the fingers.
  3. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Put one finger per fret on your choice of string. Then play each note placing the first index finger, then the middle finger (while keeping the index finger down), then the ring finger (keeping the previous fingers down), then the pinky. Since the pinky needs more work, lift the pinky up and play the note that from the ring finger, and then place the pinky back down. Repeat the pinky finger a few times.

    Then go in reverse, playing the ring finger, then the middle, etc. Then shift your index finger up one fret and repeat.

    Do this all the way up the fretboard and back down. When you get more strength, do more than one string each day. It'll take time but you will develop the strength in your pinky. You can't rush progress.
  4. Alembic7

    Alembic7 Guest

    Mar 13, 2012
    Atlanta and all northern Areas
    Author The Groove Monster Method Bass Guidebook
    I promise this exercise will make your pinky strong, it will also make the muscle that runs from your pinky to your wrist much bigger. I came up with this on my own years ago. Make sure you keep your thumb on back of the neck during this work out. Start on the E string at the 4th fret " G #" with your ring finger, now make a half step movement to the 5th fret "A" Also on the E string with your pinky. Do this for every string at the 4th and 5th fret in this sequence. G# A, C# D, F# G, B C. Now reverse the sequence until you get back to the starting note "G#. Repeat this exercise until you start to feel pressure building in your hand, rest for a moment and start again.Try to make this a flowing motion without a rest. This is a good passive exercise to do as you watch TV . When your fingers get stronger try playing scales only using these 2 fingers. A promise this will make your fingers stronger and it will make your fingering hand wider. Let me know how this works out for you. Thanks Winn [email protected]
  5. Bass_Drummer

    Bass_Drummer Guest

    Mar 20, 2012
    I have been doing the 1 fret 1 string per finger thing...but not keeping my fingers on the string after I play the note so maybe that will help
  6. SeaBassTheFish

    SeaBassTheFish Guest

    May 19, 2011
    I agree with Freddels. Think of it this way - you're using your whole hand to support your pinky. It might feel a little strange at first, but once you get used to it, you'll probably find it to be effortless. The exercise Alembic7 mentioned is good. It will also help you to practice moving all the fingers at once from string to string. Again, it might feel awkward or like it's slowing you down, but after having learned to play this way, I can't imagine doing it any other way.
  7. germ_77

    germ_77 Guest

    Jul 16, 2011
    What really helped me was learning to also use the 1-2-4 fingering like you would on an upright bass in the lower fret range.

    I would alternate practicing one finger per fret and the 1-2-4 fingering, now I find I actually prefer using my pinky over my ring finger atleast half of the time.
  8. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    ^ that is the secret.
    you are not using your pinky, you are using your entire muscle system of shoulder/forearm/hand/fingers, all to back up the pinky.

    also, just because it's called one finger per fret doesn't mean your fingertips must be glued to their frets.
    Don't waste energy trying to keep your fingers spidered out on the neck
    to slavishly maintain 'one finger per fret' spacing in those lower frets, just to play that one note under your pinky.
    your left hand is allowed to move and flex to reach the note needed comfortably.
  9. Alembic7

    Alembic7 Guest

    Mar 13, 2012
    Atlanta and all northern Areas
    Author The Groove Monster Method Bass Guidebook
    The statement " you are not using your pinky, you are using your entire muscle system of shoulder/forearm/hand/fingers, all to back up the pinky" is wrong. The muscle that controls the grip in both hands stops at the elbow at the Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus, Medical books including Grays Anatomy back this up. I also know this from a injury sustained in a auto accident which damaged and tore my Extensor Carpi Radialis Longus in my elbow making it impossible and painful to grip anything much less play bass.
  10. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    It's true that hand grip is all about forearm muscles, but you can use your shoulder to pull your entire arm back and add a bit of leverage, which I have done at times -tho certainly not constantly.

    But the important point is it ain't just the pinky.
  11. BioDriver

    BioDriver A Cinderella story

    Aug 29, 2008
    Austin, TX

    Probably the best $8 I spent when I was starting out. And a +1 to keeping your other fingers down.

    As for trying to get by without using your pinkie, it's possible with a bass guitar but impractical, since it's one less finger to use. However, you'd be a fool to not use your pinkie when playing an upright.
  12. taphappy

    taphappy doot de doo

    Sep 28, 2007
    Tempe, Arizona
    If you gave up the first time you tried to throw a ball and hit yourself in the head with it, you'd throw like a girl today.

    Suck it up and work that pinky!

    Film suggestions during pinky work:

    Rocky (any)
    Over the Top
    Schwarzenegger (any)
    Lundgren (any)
    Jet Li (any)

    Or just put The Expendables on repeat :hyper:
  13. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    I don't recommend any type of mechanical strength thingy like the Grip Master. You don't need much strength at all in your pinky. You just need to get used to using it.
  14. Alembic7

    Alembic7 Guest

    Mar 13, 2012
    Atlanta and all northern Areas
    Author The Groove Monster Method Bass Guidebook
    I agree with the Colonel, The grip master is over kill, I have had fellow musicians that over did it with this device. Be careful!
  15. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    the best exercise tool for fingering a bass = a bass.
  16. ZBirdV8


    Feb 26, 2012
    Detroit Michigan
    Take a large rubber band, wrap it around pinky and thumb, touch them together, and pull them apart thoughtout the day.

    Totally worked for me, and I play in C-standard with very heavy gage strings.
  17. I think while building grip strength is important, don't forget about the muscle on the other side, top of the forearm. You want to lift off the string with the same speed that you press down with, otherwise you get a lazy pinkie that just doesn't get out the way fast enough. And I also think that working this out on the fretboard is the most specialized way to improve that grip masters or tennis balls.

    There are 6 different variations of fingerings that can be had with each of 24. For the pinkie they would be:

    So make that into an exercise. On the top string, fret 1234 (1 finger per fret) making sure your index finger is almost on top of 1st fret and your pinkie is as close to the 4th fret as possible. Keep your thumb in the center of the neck, opposite your 1st or 2nd finger. Now turn on your metronome (around 120) and start with the 1st variation playing each note on the eighth beat. Then move that pattern up 1 fret. Do this all the way up until your pinkie reaches the 12th fret and then go back down to the starting position. Then go across the fret board, top string to lowest string and then back up. Your goal is to do this as clean as possible up to 200bpm. It's going to burn like hell at first but if you keep working at it you will see a noticeable improvement in dexterity, strength and endurance. Wouldn't hurt to use this approach with the other fingers as well...
  18. Kamael83

    Kamael83 Guest

    Dec 7, 2011
    Cork City, Ireland
    +1000 on finger permutation exercise!!
    Few days ago I bought bass exercises for dummies book and finger permutation exercise is called there an exercise for life :)

    ps. I recommend this book to everyone!
    ps2. If you just started your bass adventure...don`t get frustrated by small things like pinky....practice practice practice....pinky is a finger you were useing untill now only to support rest of fingers / hand in gripping you want your pinky to start acting like your index finger while playing have to develop some muscles that weren`t used before in that part of your hand.
    I had the same problem (and still have to some extent) when I couldn`t make my pinky work in some song I just didn`t untill I felt comfortable with that song...then I started making my pinky do what he supposed to...I find The Cure love song bass line great song for pinky exercising...
    ps3. keep trying...finally it will click :)
  19. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Hang in there... think about supporting your pinky with your ring finger. In time, with practice, you'll find the little finger is actually by far the stronger of the two, and much better able to support itself and work a whole gig without pain or fatigue. Plus, the fingering patterns it will open up for you are worth the effort. Make yourself a better bass player.
  20. What this guy said!

    I spent many years playing OFPF religiously to the point of doing octaves with 1-3 (could anything be more awkward?).

    After spending the last 5 years studying SITSOM and jazz lines, I use my pinky for 90% of the situations where I used to use my ring finger. I also use open strings rather than 5th fret for most lines now and developed excellent muting skills as a result.

    I use 1-2-4 as my default fingering now and go back to 1-2-3-4 when it is necessary (not that often).

    My overall playing improved significantly over 2-3 years after switching to 1-2-4 and integrating open strings/muting ni to my technique.

    You're on the right track with this question.

    Good luck!