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Thread: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

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    Default To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Been playing for over a year and a half and doing well. Comfortable jamming with friends.

    My first teacher had me use all four fingers when picking or reading tabs. Pinkie was weak but got stronger with time. Still a little weaker than my ring finger for playing. My new teacher said I should basically use my pinkie only for chording or reaching into the second course when picking.

    Iíve noticed on YouTube a number of instructors just use three fingers when picking melodies.

    Who is right? Should I change my style to three fingers instead of four?
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    I don't see how eliminating 25% of your resources puts you at an advantage. I use my little finger all the time but I went out of my way to develop it too.
    Steve

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Sometimes it is right to use a pinky so use it as needed. It will always be weaker than your ring finger. Less finger length and the same muscles doing the work means less leverage at the tip. But not using it will cause you to use more open strings and do more position shifting. Most of the work will be done by three fingers but using the pinky will smooth out some phrases. R/
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr5150 View Post
    My first teacher had me use all four fingers when picking or reading tabs. Pinkie was weak but got stronger with time. Still a little weaker than my ring finger for playing. My new teacher said I should basically use my pinkie only for chording or reaching into the second course when picking.
    Find a new teacher. The first one is correct, the second is wrong.

    ............

    I was going to leave it at that, but seriously, the little finger is not the strongest finger but hey, mandolin - 4 strings, 4 fingers.

    That settles chords, and the 2nd teacher is OK on that, and it is true the 4th finger can be the weakest.

    However, to really use the mandolin fingerboard in all registers and keys, you need all 4 fingers for melodic playing, even the simple scale pattern of fingers 1-2-3-4/w-w-w-h steps on any adjacent pair of strings.

    Plus, when you learn to use lower position fingers to support the 3rd and 4th finger, it all becomes pretty much a level field...uh, fingerboard.

    All 4 fingers, all the time!

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Another vote for continuing to use all four.

    First off, take the key of Bb. If you play a two-octave Bb scale, how in the world are you going to play the second Eb—the one on the A course—without a little finger? Sliding the third from the D to the Eb? Not on a quick run.

    Second, each course has a different timbre, or tone quality. Using the open E strings in a passage that's otherwise on the A strings will make those notes jump out in a way you probably don't want.

    Finally, as you move up the fingerboard out of first position, you just can't play without either using all four fingers or shifting all the time. The beauty of the ratio of intervals to fingers to strings on a mandolin is that you can start with your first finger anywhere you choose and play a scale without having to change position— just 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4.

    I'm a little puzzled as to why anyone would suggest not using your little finger, as long as it is functional.

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve L View Post
    I don't see how eliminating 25% of your resources puts you at an advantage. I use my little finger all the time but I went out of my way to develop it too.
    I figured as much.
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Generally, the little finger is not as coordinated or as strong as the others because it doesn't get used much. It's smaller and it's mostly used to poke in the air when enjoying your afternoon tea.

    Using it will develop the coordination and strength. Use it when you need it. I use it all the time. The callous is beginning to resemble those on the other fingers.

    Incidentally, I also occasionally even use my thumb on the G string, just like Tony Rice does on his guitar.
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Find a new teacher. The first one is correct, the second is wrong.
    I almost said that, so I'm glad you did.

    To the OP:

    Go to YouTube and watch videos of fiddlers in genres like OldTime, Irish trad, or other folk music genres. Even in music that sits mainly in first position and never climbs up the neck, the vast majority of fiddlers will be using their pinky. Even if it's just to hit that high B note on the E string in a fiddle tune. And of course the Bluegrass, Jazz and Classical violin players will be using their pinky in other positions up the neck.

    If the fiddlers use their pinky, then you should too, because the mandolin is essentially a fiddle with frets on it. We borrow much of our left-hand technique from those fiddlers.

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    It's possible to play the fiddle without a pinky finger, but I don't know how you do it. Vesta Johnson is one example. I prefer to use all my fingers as you're supposed to. My pinky is weak and uncoordinated. I tend to sort of roll my hand a bit so as to be able to apply more pressure. I'm not an expert player, though, and I only play old-time.

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    I started on violin so I use mine all the time , so I say keep using it
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    ... possible to play the fiddle without a pinky finger, but I don't know how you do it.
    Most likely, by sticking to simple tunes, and/or "pinkyless-friendly" keys, and/or by moving around way more than most - on any instrument. But for someone aspiring to any degree of versatility, I can't imagine intentionally leaving the pinky out.
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Your pinky and ring finger have a shared tendon insertion in the forearm, and the muscles for flextion mix together somewhere near there, thus it works best when used in conjunction with your ring finger...if I remember my anatomy class info form 15 years ago...
    You need to target your pinky and whip it into shape
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    My own pinky is under-average sized and I therefore use it only if I must.
    Since you have a fully functional pinky, apparently, by all means use it!
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Steve L got it in one !!. The thing to do isn't to sideline your pinky,but to get it involved as much as possible in your playing.
    Make use of it as much as you can - most other stringed instrument players do.

    Sometimes i think that we 'overthink' things. When i started playing banjo,it never entered my head to start think of what i could or couldn't use regarding fingering - i just got it done,
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Firing a teacher every time they are wrong about something is not really cool.

    Pinky use is great if you can do it well, you should try to play with it, but it doesn't work for all and some top level players do not pinky much.

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  25. #16

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    New to mando, old to guitar. Have always used my left pinky on guitar - mostly out of laziness, because with three I'd have to move my hand more or stretch my other fingers farther. And you can't really do double- and triple-pull-offs without it.

    I thought.

    Until about a year ago, when I saw a close-up video of Eric Clapton soloing. He wasn't using his pinky at all. He does all those fast "slow-hand" licks with only three fingers.

    Grr!

    Oh, well. Django just used two . . . .

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    PS -

    I dont think it matters.

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    I use all four. My pinky is not very reliable (clams). If I can I'll move a half-position and cheat on the ring finger up to the 7th fret.

    Bach is relentless though and you end up with no choices. Fiddle tunes and Irish stuff you can often cheat!

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    You bet I use it. For chords, chromatics, big stretches, octaves, triplets, Vassar-isms....everything.

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    I played a gig last night with a bandleader who has no advance set lists - he puts them together right before the show. Sometimes it's familiar, Folsom Prison Blues in G. Sometimes not so much, (surprise, some random pop song on G#..
    If you want to play these gigs without having head handed to you on a platter, you are better off using all of your fingers.
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    It seems like most of us use all four fingers but why not do what is most enjoyable and productive for your style of playing. Use it, don't use it, it's up to you.

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    Firing a teacher every time they are wrong about something is not really cool.
    Fingering is a serious issue to be wrong about. I question that teacher's ability both to play and teach mandolin. Sorry.

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Fingering is a serious issue to be wrong about. I question that teacher's ability both to play and teach mandolin. Sorry.
    Maybe somewhat, but not firing-serious.

    If we were talking about life-and-death fields like medicine, law, or engineering, I'd say throw the bum out. But for the arts, how much a teacher inspires is a lot more important than how much a teacher knows.

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Not only use it,,but the goal should be to have it lively and independent as the rest of them..a seasoned players pinkie looks like it has a mind of its own...

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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Sometimes i think that we 'overthink' things. When i started playing banjo,it never entered my head to start think of what i could or couldn't use regarding fingering - i just got it done,
    Ivan
    I was the same way. It never occurred to me not to use it.
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