i don’t use my pinky finger most of the time, is this detrimental to my playing??

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by bon viesta, Jun 13, 2021.

  1. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    i’m sort of a “learn how to do it and then be done with it” kind of musician, with exception as my time on an instrument increases. but simply put, once i learn how to play the instrument well i get onto the playing part. so all of this time, about a year or so, i haven’t been using my pinky and i don’t know if my playing really even suffers from it. my main fretting finger is my index finger but of course when going places i use my ring and middle finger. the pinky just sort of sits there because i don’t even know when i can use it. am i supposed to be using it a lot or what?
    dasherf17 likes this.
  2. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member


    many players don't, some can't (physical), most probably do (to one extent or another), and for some: it's a very important digit!

    if you need permission not to use that finger = permission granted! :D if you need help learning to use that finger better: prepare for an abundance of helpful suggestions! ;)

    all-in-all: expanding your abilities while you're young(er) could save you a lot of time/trouble in your bass-playing future! either way: good luck! :thumbsup:
    cassanova, TH63, timplog and 22 others like this.
  3. That very mindset will severely impede your progress later on.

    I’ve been playing bass 32 years and I’m still learning new techniques (and unlearning bad habits) in my playing.

    Pace yourself, learn things in stages, but keep an open mind.
    timplog, therumour, retslock and 24 others like this.
  4. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    I use it extensively.
    A minadd9 chord

    F Maj

    Open E C#DB formation
    20210307_083927 (2).jpg

    Gb to F reach
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2021
    timplog, therumour, cjp54 and 22 others like this.
  5. AboutSweetSue

    AboutSweetSue Guest

    Sep 29, 2018
    Depends on your style.
    dasherf17 likes this.
  6. J_Bass

    J_Bass Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2008
    Porto, Portugal
    Depends on the music you play, but in my opinion (that counts for nothing), you should absolutely use the pinky finger.
  7. I gotta have that pinky with walking bass lines!
  8. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Guest

    Nov 22, 2017
    I smashed my left pinky in a door when I was five. I've had a trigger finger almost all my life as a result. When I first started playing, I relied heavily on my first three fingers and didn't use my pinky much at all. Through the years I've developed the ability to use it because I need it to play octaves, and I use it a lot these days.

    Because I can't move it quickly, I'll never be the world's flashiest or fastest player. I also have stiffness in my joints, so I'm a utilitarian player at best. But you can find ways to use it more if you want to. A lot of what I end up doing comes through necessity. When I encounter a part I can't play any other way, the technique adjusts.
  9. Whatever works for you but wow, I think you use whatever you have available. I don’t particularly like using my pinkie a ton, as it’s kinda bent from being broken as a kid and doesn’t seem very strong in relation to the others but there are songs where it’s almost unavoidable. Case in point - just yesterday I was playing This Years Girl by Elvis Costello. Maybe you could find a way to do it without the pinkie, but even if you can, it might be harder than just bearing down and doing it. As for me, surprise - working that line over and over and over (such a great bassline) and I’ve gotten much better with the pinkie all the way around.
  10. Cutter8


    Feb 4, 2018
    I don’t know what you are “supposed to do”, but I use my pinky constantly and wouldn’t know how to even begin to play without it.
    dasherf17, retslock, tri2bob and 9 others like this.
  11. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017

    You probably use it all the time, to mute the strings, without even realising it.

    Apparently the pinky is (from an evolutionary standpoint) almost as important as the opposable thumb, and extremely significant in our ability to grip.

    It turns out, that if you're ever actually faced with the hypothetical dilemma of choosing which finger to loose, the left hand pinky is the wrong answer.

    The least valuable digit is, ironically, the ring finger (try explaining that to your spouse, when you reveal that you had a choice in the matter).
    dasherf17, RoketRdr, Joris 55 and 6 others like this.
  12. Bo-Weevil

    Bo-Weevil Supporting Member

    Jun 5, 2006
    SW Ohio, USA
    My mits are small, so the pinky was an absolute requirement. However I rarely used the ring finger.
    (I later found out that upright players use “it” vs the ring finger.)
    Anyway, over the last few years I have really worked to incorporate the ring finger in as opposed to the pinky, but the pinky is still getting used a lot.
    Basically, I’m now using all my fingers more efficiently.
    As said before, start with what is most comfortable but keep your options and mind open to change.
    Learning and discovery is a beautiful thing!
  13. DrThumpenstein

    DrThumpenstein Living for the groove Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    St Louis, MO
    I guess I’d have to hear you play to answer your question accurately, but it may limit your ability to do reaches. There are, of course, ways of working around that, but if your pinkie works, you could probably develop more dexterity if you practiced using it more. I use mine a lot, to the point where I have to work on my skills to just keep my ring finger agile. I’ve got fairly big hands (I can palm a basketball) but I need my pinkie for a 3-fret reach.
    timplog, Hawk9300 and bon viesta like this.
  14. HardNHeavy


    Apr 17, 2014
    definitely yes...it just came naturally..i like crawling all over the neck
    gebass6 and J R Knots like this.
  15. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    You’d do yourself a favor if you learn to use all fingers.
    Les Fret, barrenelly, cjp54 and 9 others like this.
  16. tyohars


    Nov 11, 2016
    When I was younger, I have many motorcycle incident so my pinky kinda off. I'm using my first three fingers when I first playing, but now slowly use my pinky. It's fine!
    barrenelly and johnnynitro like this.
  17. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    it sounds naval gaze-y (is that the correct term?) but i play quite fast pretty easily, i can do octave bass lines but it just means i have to move around slightly more. my bass playing less like a full hand moving it’s little fingers around in a pattern and more like a hand moving around like a little robot in specific areas, especially on octave lines. basically, my hands move around a bit more than a pinky-heavy bassist who sort of splays out their hand and does a little hand dance. my absence of a pinky usually means that there’s more of a wind up to octaves, because i might as well play notes with my fingers on the way up to the octave. it’s very weird and difficult to describe, but basically my playing hand is more compartmentalized in movement.
  18. KohanMike

    KohanMike Gold Supporting Member

    I use all my fingers, pinky is as integral as the others. I walk all the time, and since I only play 21" to 24" bass ukes/mini bass guitars, my hand never has to move too far.
    barrenelly and gebass6 like this.
  19. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Not knowing any better, I started using my pinkie immediately when I first started playing, glad I did, but plenty Of great players dont use it much. Bass is mostly single lines, more like lead guitar playing, and a lot of guitarists use three fingers for lead, with a thumb hung over the board. Supposedly thats "wrong", but Hendrix, Page, and SRV seemed to make it work. If it sounds good, do what works for you. Not everybody strives to be a virtuoso.
    barrenelly, timplog, retslock and 4 others like this.
  20. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    IME yes.
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