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. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    It’s a good idea to be able to use your pinky. But I don’t use mine as much as I used to.
  2. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Yes - learn to incorporate the pinky in your playing.
  3. MichelD


    May 19, 2014
    I play electric and upright and use 1,2, 4 fingering on both to avoid confusion.

    Finger 3 (ring finger) moves simultaneously with finger four to support it.

    Refer back to Post # 74.
    J R Knots likes this.
  4. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    There are actually two schools of thought on this, broadly speaking, 1-2-4 and 1-2-3-4 technique. There are also techniques that use a fixed hand position, and those that use the thumb as a pivot. For me, continuing to use 1-2-4 on electric bass is just a path of least resistance given that upright has become my main instrument. I don't find that it's limiting for what I play, mostly jazz. And ironically, though I play 41" scale upright comfortably, I find the hand position of 34" scale electric to be awkward.
  5. David76112


    Feb 19, 2012
    Whatever works for you.
    I met a Bass player once who only used his ring and pinky fingers. He lost his thumb, index, and half his middle finger to a table saw. He splinted his middle finger to make it somewhat useable. i saw this guy play several times before i actually noticed his left hand. He had learned to make it work.
  6. smtp4me


    Sep 30, 2013
    Philadelphia, PA
    You're not doing something wrong, and if you are able to play what you want, then what you are doing is working. It might make things easier if you learn to/start to use the pinky. It may for example, prevent shifting hand position, which is a good thing.

    I am a bit of a technique "purist". That is, I try to follow what is considered best practices and "good" technique for the bass. I think of it this way, and I'll use golf as an analogy: There is a lot of science and technique around what is considered a "good" golf swing, and for good reason. A "good" golf swing allows you to hit the ball further, harder, and more accurately - and here is the paradox - with less physical effort. I personally see that using "good" technique on bass has the same effect - your playing improves with less effort while playing.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2021
  7. Koshchei


    Mar 17, 2019
    Peterborough, ON
    You're supposed to be using it, yes. How much depends on what you're playing though. :) I'd advise getting it into rotation by running chromatics and scalar patterns for a bit.
  8. It’s funny, I use my pinkie a lot, but my ring finger is kind of weak! I do a lot of 1,2,4 below the 5th fret, and 1FPF quite a bit, but the ring often winds up being a passing tone. I find if I really have to work out the ring finger it is noticeably weaker than the other 3!

    Always something to work on, amiright?
  9. WarwickE36


    Oct 28, 2010
    A strong pinky is important...it'll never make you a worse player....
    lfmn16 and marchone like this.
  10. marchone

    marchone Since 1951 Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2009
    The first blues patterns I learned required four finger positioning. Then a teacher emphasized a claw-like hand position. Your pinky is important.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2021
  11. DanBass

    DanBass Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2003
    Gainesville, FL
    Fact for me is, I can’t.. playing hoops back in the day, took a hard pass and jammed the hell out of it. Hospital?! BAH. Put that bad boy in my shirt and PULLED!!

    Stupid kid. :bawl:

    What I have is what you see in the picture.

    Stretch to a fret.. it locks. I was playing then, 30+ years ago and still playing now. I adapted to pretty much playing without that finger. It’s common for me.

    do I wish I could use it? Yes but my playing isn’t lacking.. well at least not because of that. Hahahaha

    Attached Files:

  12. OregonJim


    Apr 3, 2021
    That's probably because your pinkie is weak and you just let it sit on the bench.

    While there's no right or wrong, it seems silly to ignore a perfectly functional digit. Using it can increase your reach and add fluidity to your lines.

    My advice: Develop some strength in your pinky with exercises and then try it out for awhile.
    WarwickE36 likes this.
  13. dbsfgyd1


    Jun 11, 2012
    Mascoutah, IL
    Other than gradual atrophy, you won’t risk it falling off. That’s the good news. That said, like you I played for almost 45 years not using my pinkey. As long as you can play the notes you aren’t likely to miss it. But when you get older and you hands don’t work as fast, and playing for a while starts hurting, you’re going to want to play efficiently to save wear and tear.

    My advice I’d to pick up an exercise book and spend 5 minutes a day working out the kinks.
  14. NOVAX


    Feb 7, 2009
    It's the disco digit! octave up!
    A good exercise is lifting gallon jugs of milk with that pinky. Preferably 2% chocolate.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2021
    stringthrough likes this.
  15. stringthrough

    stringthrough Supporting Member

    The pinky plays a very important part in my technique. Closer to the headstock I will often use my pinky rather than ring finder for 2 fret stretches. It requires less stretching and pressure (because it's aided by the ring finger) to go from, say Bb to C on the A, string than using just the ring finger.
    NOVAX likes this.
  16. Brother Goose

    Brother Goose The Process IS the Reward!

    Dec 4, 2013
    Syracuse NY
    God Is Love
    The answer to your question is...

    Very yes!

    The good Lord gave you a little finger- now go forth and funk with it!

    bon viesta likes this.
  17. MTN.bass72

    MTN.bass72 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2010
    Blue Ridge, Ga
    I've been a three finger player since I started playing... no shame in it.
    I've tried to learn to use my pinky, but I just can't make it work... I was blessed with stumpy fingers, but for what I play, I don't necessarily have to use it... I've found ways to hit octaves when needed that works... for me.

    If you're doing soloing, or lots of chords, then yes... you need that pinky..

    But, don't listen to folks that say you absolutely have to use it... you don't..
    Keep working at it, maybe you'll be able to pull it off with more practice
    Chrome Dome and bon viesta like this.
  18. NOVAX


    Feb 7, 2009
    I use it a lot. But rarely in the "one fret per finger" approach. A lot like a rover. A free safety. A game changer once you make it work. My technique is based around eliminating wasted motion - Refining fundamentals and making things seem effortless - even when they're not.
  19. Topkat13

    Topkat13 Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    What do you think?
  20. I use my pinky constantly when playing guitar and rarely when playing bass. The stretching required isn't the issue, it's the choice of notes available and hand positioning. This may vary for other players. I play an active style with lots of runs, countermelodies and solos on both fretted and fretless basses. Still my pinky remains mostly an innocent bystander. On guitar it's completely a different story. Using a pinky to add a ninth or thirteenth to a chord adds color and life to an otherwise drab composition. When soloing you increase the number of notes available substantially. Maybe it's a fault of being self taught and having terrible technique but the pinky doesn't carry it's own weight when playing the bass.