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My Pinky...

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Jeff2287, Apr 21, 2003.

  1. Jeff2287


    May 4, 2002
    Hello again. I've been having a bit of a delema with my pinky. When I arrived at my most recent bass lesson, my teacher told me that my technique concerning my pinky was wrong. When I'm playing a piece that requires the use of my pinky (as well as when I improvise), I tend to have my pinky pointing straight out when I'm not using it and my teacher says that I should keep it's tip pointed towards my fingerboard at all times under these circumstances.
    I've been practicing this for a day or two now and I'm finding that my hand feels very strained after a short while when I attempt to keep my pinky pointed at the fingerboard. It causes my hand a lot of pain doing this as opposed to just keeping it pointed outward when not in use. The way I was doing it before (pointed outward) felt a lot better than what the teacher tells me to do.
    My teacher's explanation is that my pinky will be far more available if I keep it pointed at the fingerboard instead of pointed outwards. I can understand the logic but I've got to say that I'm just far more comfortable with what I was doing before and I wasn't experiencing any problems what so ever pinky-wise.
    One thing I remember hearing him mutter was something about me not being old enough to have to worry about tendinits. Why the heck did he say that? Is his suggested technique going to potentially mess up my left (fretting) hand?
    There's my dilema. What should I do? Should I keep doing what I'm doing? Should I listen to my teacher and just cope with the hand pain? Is there any risk doing it his way? :confused:
  2. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
    Never just "cope with pain". Pain is your body's way of telling you somethign is wrong. If you feel pain in your hand, stop!!!!!! Rest it. Causing pain, and continuing to do it, will only make the pain worse, and cause serious damage in the long run. If it hurts, don't do it.
  3. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    Perhaps your teachers method is a little harsh,but his intent is good.We strive for the fingers to be as close as possible to the strings at all time for economy of motion especially when playing something difficult.Like anything though it takes time,it won't happen over night.You have to conciously be aware of it and when practicing passages that are difficult to fret,look at your fretting hand,is your pinky way out there or is it arced close to the string and ready to strike?
    I don't think your in any danger trying to improve your technique,if your hand is fatigued,stop playing for a bit.Common sense negates all hand injuries or problems.
  4. In his book 101 Bass Tips, Gary Willis refers to the fretting-hand pinky's pointing outwards as 'salute' and suggests that one should avoid it.

    The reason he gives is, like your teacher and ConU have said, to do with efficiency: keep the fingers in contact with the fingerboard at all times, so that they're more available. The involuntary motion caused by the salute is actually a lot of work for the finger and it makes your fretting hand work less efficiently.

    The thing to watch out here, however, is that Gary Willis also stresses the importance of keeping your fingers relaxed. I've been working on this myself and find it quite difficult too. But since someone's done it, it should be possible for us to do as as well!

    Another thing that my first bass teacher taught me which might help here is to anticipate your fretting hand motion, i.e. to think ahead of what it's gonna do and where it's gonna go next. That's another way to help you keep the fretting hand relaxed while being efficient. Especially for big jumps, try actually looking at the spot the fretting hand's gonna move to while it's still at the original position.

    Hope this helps!
  5. I always have problems with my pinky finger... But when trying to use it my hand cranes oddly and I have problems holding down the string.. my pinky's just weak and I know that.. but it's also as thin as a toothpick... j/k but still it's weak ass..
  6. Jeff2287


    May 4, 2002
    Well, my teacher is classically trained so I guess he knows best and has had plenty of practice with his pinky. I was just a tad concerned with the hand pain but my hand isn't aching much anymore so I guess he (and you all) were right. Thanks y'all! :D
  7. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    The flying pinky is pretty common, something about the way our hands are wired. What others have said here pretty much covers the way I view it.

    The truth is that it takes extra effort to have your pinky fly back and forth, and also it's fairly common that when it's "out", it's held there with a pretty good amount of (wasted) tension.

    It's also true that, at first, it takes a good deal of effort to restrain it. Until you figure out how to apply force with the other fingers without the pinky going flying. The advice I got from my instructor was: work on taming the pinky first, then relaxing it that way.

    As for the pain, it's not quite that simple. Under-used muscles can get sore very quickly (5 min) when you begin exercising them. But you can give them a pretty good work out beyond this point without risking much - once they begin cramping, probably not much point in gonig further. Of course "firm but gentle" is always good to keep in mind. A slow burn is better for the muscles than quickly bringing them to their knees.

    Joint pain, and tendon/ligament issues, you definitely don't want to push though. Stop doing what it is that causes the pain (or, you might want to stop using the joint in general as much as possible), and mention it to your teacher.

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