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. thmsjordan


    Jan 10, 2010
    Currently off planet
    Eschew Obfuscation
    I know as an upright and electric player that many of us who double simply use our upright fingerings (1-2-3&4 together) for a lot of things on electric. It works fine and you can always throw the 4th finger in the mix when you need it. I know I see a lot of patterns bassists use that don't involve the 4th finger. It can be very helpful but certainly you can play your whole career without using the 4th finger that much. I know I did.
  2. Artman

    Artman a.k.a. Eddy Garcia Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2017
    Georgetown, TX
    Learn to use all of the fingers on your fretting hand. You and everyone you ever work with musically will be glad that you have full command of the fretboard/fingerboard. No reason to impose a limitation on yourself right from the start.
    J R Knots likes this.
  3. Manticore


    Feb 27, 2016
    SoCal and PNW
    Detrimental? Likely not. Limiting? Absolutely.
  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Force yourself to use it. You'll be glad you did. I use it and I don't even have to think about it because I had a teacher who insisted on it.
  5. Nightman

    Nightman If it ain't low, it's got to go! Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    It’s essential in my playing! I’m glad I learned to use it.
    J R Knots likes this.
  6. Try to use it. With the exception of the trumpet and valve instruments, you are expected to use 4 fingers.. Some trumpet guys use the pinky instead of the ring or both as one unit. Even drummers use it for better stick control . Of course there is Django Reinhart and Tony Iommi but they really had no choice.

    You can use the mitten grip - actually using the palm as your "finger". Double bass layers sometimes use it when they get tired or need a break -whether it's a ballad or just a pedal note.
    LBS-bass likes this.
  7. marchone

    marchone Since 1951 Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2009
    Django Reinhardt used only two fingers. It wasn’t Bass but still. Just sayin’.
    westrock likes this.
  8. johnnynitro


    Jan 14, 2012
    I didn't use my pinky for about 30 years. The guitarist I had played with since a teen freaked out one day when he noticed I wasn't using it.( He never realized) That was over 20 years ago. I prob. use it Too Much Now !
    Eli_Kyiv likes this.
  9. sxaxsx


    May 23, 2012
    When I first started I never used it, now I do. But oddly as I started using my pinky now I use my ring finger less. It's kind of like I can use all of them, but only need three so one is always going to be left out. Using the pinky is more comfortable because you don't have to reach so far. It's not really like you have to learn to use your pinky, you need to build muscle and dexterity.
    Kipp Harrington likes this.
  10. JW56789

    JW56789 Guest

    Feb 18, 2017
    It would give you more options on your fretting hand, and personally I use it and would recommend it.

    However . . . .

    Every time I saddle up my High Horse and make pronouncements along the lines of 'you can't do that that way', next thing you know, I see someone doing it that (wrong) way and just killing it. So the real advice is do what seems best FOR YOU.
    marchone likes this.
  11. marchone

    marchone Since 1951 Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2009
    And while I’m at it. BB King didn’t play chords.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2021
    Eli_Kyiv and 12BitSlab like this.
  12. Acoop


    Feb 21, 2012
    Keep trying. ... On electric bass one finger per fret well get you further faster. ... Even upright player use the pinky, some leave out the ring finger. ... Learning and maintaining the one finger per fret will help you in the future so don't give up.
  13. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I’m not sure how anyone could think that using 75% of your assets instead of 100% of your assets could NOT be detrimental.
  14. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I was self taught on electric bass, and finally decided near the end of high school, to take some lessons during the summer. I though I was "good" at that point, was working my way through the tunes in the Real Book, and so forth.

    My teacher took one look at my left hand technique, and said: "You need to start over."

    Now, each teacher has their own idea of what technique to teach, I won't push any specific method. He taught me the 1-2-4 fingering, assuming correctly that I would want to learn upright bass at some point. It was hell. I could already play, but I couldn't play. But I stuck with it, and by the end of the summer, I was back up to speed and had even progressed further.

    I can't say that my technique is the holy grail for electric bass, but I have been playing both electric and upright for 40 years since then with no injuries or discomfort when I play, including extensive jazz soloing. That's something.

    The conventional wisdom among most upright players is that the ring finger is the weakest finger, and 1-2-4 is more ergonomic and safer for most of us. I do know a bassist who destroyed his hands by attempting a 1-2-3-4 fingering system against his teacher's advice. He was on his way towards being a good professional, applying for grad school etc., and had to hang it up.

    So, annoying as it seems, getting on a better track for technique now, rather than later when it is totally ingrained, is my advice.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2021
  15. madmaskbass


    Apr 29, 2008
    I, like many here, taught myself to play bass and learnt some bad lessons. I have committed myself so many times to try to undo the habits and learn the best techniques. I realised after a few really good attempts that because I am too overweight for my arm to sit in a position to allow me to utilise these techniques I was able to move away from the need to do so. I am not saying that I don't use/try to use my pinky. I just stopped worrying about it being the most important thing in getting better at bass. I think that once I realised this I started to find the next level in my playing. It may impede me from being a shred master but it sure doesnt stop me from learning a huge proportion of music.
  16. Ross W. Lovell

    Ross W. Lovell

    Oct 31, 2015

    4 strings, 4 fingers. Discard one or the other.........25% less effective.....your choice.
    lfmn16 likes this.
  17. Matty Koff

    Matty Koff Inactive

    Aug 21, 2014
    I'm in the "The pinky is important" camp. For one it will save you some stretching on the lower side of the fretboard for 5ths, octaves, or even just whole steps. It isn't hard to wear one's hand out using the ring finger instead of index for this purpose. For two you may run into situations where you need to use a different finger than the most obvious one in order to smoothly transition from one passage to another.

    If you really want to develop your pinky. Make yourself use it. Put in a few months of drills that focus on making you utilize your pinky more than any other finger It is a weak weak little digit and because you are less likely to use it through normal playing, the easiest way to build its strength up is to utilize exercises that make you use it primarily.
  18. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    If you are serious about playing bass and don't have some sort of physical disability, then yes you should definitely be using your pinky. In my opinion it is more valuable than the ring finger.
  19. Steadfast


    Sep 28, 2015
    Search Me
    I discovered as I advanced in skill.... that the pinky is required.
    J R Knots likes this.
  20. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    i do often find myself in whole step bass lines playing index and pinky instead of index and ring finger… but i heard that it was weird to do that and each finger must be for a certain fret so i dropped it mostly