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That pinky thing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Alba McBass, Apr 7, 2015.

  1. Alba McBass

    Alba McBass

    Jan 5, 2015
    Sorry if this has been covered before, but do any of you have the issue of NOT using your pinky when fretting notes on your bass. Is this right or wrong ? I try to use my pinky but it just seems to get in the way ! ( new bass player here BTW )
  2. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon.

    No right or wrong, but using my pinky and other 3 fingers on a 5er gives me access to 20 notes without shifting horizontally. Using 3 fingers does not. I use all of my fingers including the pinky and always have.

    Some may disagree, but I would work on the one finger per fret method. It will get you using all 4 fingers for fretting.
    StinkFoot, CM63, interp and 9 others like this.
  3. You mention you are new to bass - a lot of us do use patterns that take place over 4 frets and we happen to have 4 fingers. I did learn to use the 4 fret - 4 finger method and it really makes a lot of since IMO.

    As to it being right or wrong. I see more right than wrong. I think what you will find is that a lot of us find what is comfortable and works for us. And that ends up being what we use.

    Give your pinky a little more time.
    StinkFoot, paparoof and Short-scale like this.
  4. pravus


    Feb 5, 2013
    Broomfield, CO
    I use my pinky all the time. It takes time to build strength in it but eventually it becomes a workhorse. You'll also have to learn how to coordinate with other finger combinations as these movements are far from natural. You can use it in a variety of play styles like classic 4-finger/4-fret, thumb over blues, slap/pop and funk. I use it heavily in Meshuggah covers. If it produces the sound you want comfortably, do it. It's never wrong.
  5. thabassmon


    Sep 26, 2013
    New Zealand
    All four for me too.

    But I've seen fantastic players that use three. There's no right or wrong.

    It's what comes out of the instrument that is most important.
  6. anavar


    Oct 10, 2013
    my bass tone can beat up your dad's bass tone.
    economy of motion. if the pinky help then it helps. if it doesnt then it doesnt.

    Alex may play only death metal, but his section about economy of motion is very good. from about 5:50 onwards

    Last edited: Apr 7, 2015
    CM63, DwaynieAD, okcrum and 2 others like this.
  7. Technicality


    Feb 10, 2011
    I didn't use my pinky for the first six months or so of playing. It just felt awkward and uncomfortable. Eventually my playing progressed to the point where my fretting hand was positioning itself better and fretting lighter and it just went from being uncomfortable to being natural.

    If it doesn't feel right I wouldn't force it. As MalcomAmos says give it time.
    Jay Mastro and Scooberto like this.
  8. It usually bugs me when I see a bass player not using their pinky, but I suck it up and not say anything especially if they are good. It works for them.

    I try to use all fingers, but have the habit of using my first, second, fourth finger like you do on upright, at least on the lower notes.
    Short-scale and KickingBass like this.
  9. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I generally agree, but find myself practicing "two frets per finger" arpeggios to improve my "stretch" accuracy.
  10. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I hardly ever use my right ring and pinky fingers, though, have to work on that.
  11. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    I didn't use my pinky for years, then I got a hard ass teacher who forced me to. It's second nature, now...but I admit that sometimes my ring finger helps by stacking on.
  12. Bondobass


    Mar 14, 2014
    Like Technicality said
    “Fretting lighter”

    I was amazed when this concept was presented to me, I was like “What? You mean I don’t need to put a death grip on the fret board?” The pinky isn’t long or strong so, this idea went a long way with me.
  13. Plectrum72

    Plectrum72 Supporting Member

    I tend to use my pinky in slower passages, but admittedly have only really been making an effort to use my pinky over the last year. For faster passages I still tend to forget I have a pinky. Still trying to develop the speed and dexterity in it after years of neglect.
  14. frsbdg


    Jan 4, 2015
    Anchorage, AK
    After playing guitar for many years, I've only been playing bass for about 5 months. Been using the pinky from the get-go. It's not the strongest-fretting finger of course, but it gets the job done.
  15. Brother Goose

    Brother Goose The Process IS the Reward! Supporting Member

    Dec 4, 2013
    Syracuse NY
    God Is Love
    Learn to play one finger per fret in order to learn standard movable scales.

    This will allow you to visualize a major scale via your middle finger on the root or index finger for a minor scale.

    Chord / Scale Relationships

    For ease of use, I'll often play my octaves index-pinky and utilize acoustic bass fingering in the first position.

    I also tend to play all but the lowest notes (on a 35" scale 5/6 string) in the second position- so that I can really man-handle patterns without additional effort in stretching.
    TyBo, Bodhammer and emblymouse like this.
  16. bassistheplaceofcourse


    Oct 26, 2014
    It's normal when you start playing bass that your fretting pinky is the weakest finger. But I'd recommend taking steps to rectify that, the earlier in your bass playing days the better. This right here is the book you want. I wish I'd had it when I started to play bass.

    I've seen guys get by and have a good ol' time on bass without that pinky just fine. Usually when the music is not very demanding for the bass. They simply learn their own technique. But if one day you decide you need to master your scales and arpeggios, (and you probably will), then four frets four fingers is where it's at. Also, after working hard on my finger independence, I've found that it is the ring finger that is naturally the weakest. I choose to use the pinky ahead of my ring finger often.

    Certain intervals are just much more comfortable for the pinky. Octaves come to mind. Or even simply sitting back on a root to 5th, or b7th to root groove, I'll take index to pinky any day of the week.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2015
  17. I tend to use my pinky more on bass than I do on guitar. The pinky helps you stretch to reach notes cleanly. Take advantage of all the things you can! 4 fingers vs 3? Sounds like a no brainer. Then again you can "play around" not using a pinky - just takes more hand motion.
    heynorm likes this.
  18. strictlybass_ic

    strictlybass_ic Mediocrity is a journey

    Jan 9, 2014
    Northern Indiana
    If anything I use mine too much. But if you don't need it and aren't having ergonomics issues then keep rocking.
  19. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg , Conquest Sound
    I use my pinky quite a bit, but I have been playing for 37 years. The use of the pinky did take longer to master than the other fingers though. I know bass players who never use the pinky. Do what works best for you.
  20. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Takes time, but using all fingers makes life much easier. Here is an easy way to start, and get you thinking. Play an A major scale

    A - e string, fifth fret, use middle finger
    B - e string, seventh fret, use pinkie
    C# - a string, fourth fret, index finger
    D - a string, fifth fret, middle finger
    E - a string, severnth fret, pinkie
    F# - d string, fourth fret, index finger
    G# - d string, sixth fret, ring finger
    A - d string, seventh fret, pinkie

    After that, you should be able to figure out a minor scale, but start with your index finger.

    No position shifting.

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