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Thread: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

  1. #26
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Even if you play old time music the pinky is important. A lot of tunes go from the open to the 7th fret quickly and without a pinky I would find it much harder. I use a lot of pinky on guitar and more on mandolin.
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  3. #27
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies View Post
    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.
    The counter-argument to "do what's comfortable" is that it can block access to certain important techniques, and can also slow you down. Speed isn't the ultimate goal for most of us, but we still need to play up to tempo when we play with others, or along with a recording.

    For example, try playing the Irish fiddle tune "The Silver Spear," which has a phrase at the start of the second section that in most settings goes F-A-F-B-F-A-F, with the pinky whipping out to hit that high B note. There are many fiddle tunes like this, where you're expected to nail that high B note on the E strings just as strongly as the rest of the notes.

    If you don't use your pinky on this tune, you might get away with playing it at home by shifting your hand back and forth to reach the B note with your third finger. But that will slow you down, compared to flicking your pinky out to nail the note. In an OldTime or Irish session with fiddlers playing this tune, you'll need to play at a comfortable 112 bpm or so (counting 2/2). It's going to be much more difficult to reach that tempo by shifting your hand back and forth. It's just not as efficient.

    Playing fast -- not too fast, just fast enough for the style of music you're playing -- is all about maximizing fingering efficiency. You'll see the same thing if you get into playing Bluegrass or Jazz. You can't just stick with what's comfortable and easy as a beginner, if you want to play certain styles of music well.

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  5. #28

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    I remember the pinky debate from when I started playing electric guitar. My dad said be sure to use it. I pointed out that Clapton famously didn't use his. He asked me if I really thought not using his pinky was what made Clapton sound good. I understood his point and spent a very short period of time making an effort to use my pinky. For the 25 years since then, it's just been natural to use it.

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  7. #29

    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.
    Uh...let me get this straight... you’ve never met this teacher, never taken a lesson from him, never heard him play, and yet you feel qualified to “question [his/her] ability to both play and teach mandolin”... based upon one hearsay comment from the OP?

    I’ve never met ANY teacher in any subject who’s right about everything, every time.

    I’m really glad to see Old Sausage commenting on the forum again... always a knowledgeable, reasonable voice.
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  9. #30
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Gies View Post
    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.
    Using four fingers is what Iíve gotten use to and I am working on playing without looking at my hands. Going to three fingers would mess me up in that regard. Using four fingers makes sense. Iím gonna find a new teacher
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  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jstring View Post
    Uh...let me get this straight... you’ve never met this teacher, never taken a lesson from him, never heard him play, and yet you feel qualified to “question [his/her] ability to both play and teach mandolin”... based upon one hearsay comment from the OP?

    I’ve never met ANY teacher in any subject who’s right about everything, every time.

    I’m really glad to see Old Sausage commenting on the forum again... always a knowledgeable, reasonable voice.
    The teacher in question is an accomplished musician on the fiddle and gutair. A fiddler friend recommended him. Towards the end of the lesson he said he really wasn’t a mandolin player, can play the instrument and teaches beginners. We jammed a bit and he did a good job. His insistence on me not using my pinky was problematic.

    My goal is to learn the instrument. I need someone who is an accomplished mandolin player, not just someone who is willing to take $40 an hour and provide a lesson.
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  13. #32

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Hey, it’s your money... don’t waste it on a teacher you don’t feel comfortable with.

    Your teacher DID say to use it on chop chords and when reaching up to seventh fret, right? That’s indisputably correct... if you stay with that teacher, he might work more on the pinky as you advance. Especially if the teacher is a violin player... many violin players are religious about using the pinky and avoid open strings if at all possible.

    My comment was directed more at anyone who is telling you to quit your teacher without knowing anything about your teacher. If you think you need a different teacher, than you should make the switch.

    FYI I use the pinky whenever possible. If you want great practice, get ahold of the FFCP exercises...
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  14. #33

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr5150 View Post
    ......My goal is to learn the instrument. I need someone who is an accomplished mandolin player, not just someone who is willing to take $40 an hour and provide a lesson.
    ...use your pinky or not but for someone (who doesn’t even play the mandolin, how would he even know if you need the pinky) to tell a beginner to not do something to the point of it being an issue is just wrong...ditch this guy and find someone who is a mandolinist...there are tons of online and Skype offerings.
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  15. #34

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    One more thought: my fiddle teacher uses the pinky whenever it makes a passage easier, but plays an open string whenever it’s faster. He definitely doesn’t get all wrapped up about using the pinky just to use it. And he is mind-blowingly good... released several CDs etc.
    Old Sausage is right about many top mandolin players using their pinkies when helpful, but not if an open string is easier. Thile seems to be an exception... whenever I’ve seen him play, he seems to use his pinky as much as a classical violinist, and just as fluently. If that’s your goal, have at it!
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  17. #35
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    I don't really understand all of this. If you want to use your little finger, use it. If you can't or don't want to use it, don't. No two pickers are exactly the same. There's no right or wrong.
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  18. #36

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Completely disagree with the above poster. If you want to get to the next level of mandolin playing, you must master your pinky finger.

    Not doing so puts you at a serious disadvantage regarding position shifting and even improvisational phrasing.
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  20. #37
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    There is no right or wrong, or is there? Methods of playing have evolved over time and while some have gotten very good not using conventional methods, more have gotten good using them. I cannot understand why you would not want to use every available resource on your hand that you can. Yes it takes work, but it is worth it. When I started playing guitar I used a small bar to play a D chord because it was easier, later when I needed to use a standard D fingering to do other ornamental things it took a long time and extra work to relearn what I should have learned in the first place. Yes do what is comfortable, but only a few make something out of the norm work. Jimi and Elizabeth both played guitar upside down and backwards, but I would be willing to bet few will find that as easy as playing either right or left handed on the proper instrument.
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  22. #38
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Such passion on this subject.

    Violin and piano's proper technique has been determined, accepted and passed down.

    Mandolin technique has been determined and set down...humm 100 years ago or so by varied individuals with a reasonable degree of consistency.

    Yet somehow today the accepted ambiguity somehow prevails, a certain type of Egalitarian allowance of whatever works for U.

    I play with my whole left hand, one for all & all for one. We don't operate exclusive of one part or another, we are one. We train together, rehearse together, perform together, we are never separated. Whatever is required to play the tune we accommodate.

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  23. #39
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    I don't really understand all of this. If you want to use your little finger, use it. If you can't or don't want to use it, don't. No two pickers are exactly the same. There's no right or wrong.
    I disagree, but it depends on the genre of music you're playing. In the genre I know best -- "fiddle tunes" made to be played in first position -- there is a definite "wrong" in not using the pinky, because it makes it much harder to play at the tempos these tunes were meant to be played at. Similar considerations apply in other genres like Jazz or Classical, but this is the genre I know best. You're just fighting an uphill, unnecessary battle to play these tunes fast enough if you don't use your pinky.

    Now, if playing these tunes "fast enough," meaning the tempos they're intended to be played, doesn't matter to you... if you only play at home with slow tempos... then sure, ignore the advice about efficient fingering.

    I'm not trying to be pedantic here. The music requires certain things, whether you're a fiddler or a mandolin player. The music doesn't care if it hurts a little to make that stretch, when you're getting started on a new instrument.

    This is reminding me of conversations I had years ago with other guitar players, about why they should learn to play a barre chord. "But it hurts!." Well yeah, but not for long, if you keep at it.

  24. #40
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    In the OP's case - we really don't know 'what' the teacher's teaching him. If he's not a mandolin player,then maybe it's music theory ,or ...??. Personally,rather than walk away from the guy,i'd learn what he was teaching me,but 'play' the music as i want to play it = with all 4 fingers. There's nothing wrong with that - it's no different than holding your pick the way that suits 'you',
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  25. #41

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Watch these two guys (closely) and then tell me again how playing the mandolin is all about your pinky.


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  27. #42

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    To Pinkie or not to Pinkie, that is the question.
    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to disregard the pinkie
    Or to take arms against the cramps and callouses
    And by opposing them
    Embrace the great pitch
    Perchance to play Rawhide.
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  29. #43
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    OldSausage, Thanks for posting Steffey and Roberts. That was the first thing I thought of. I would give my left pinkie to play like Steffey. But Compton uses his all the time, so I press on


    my fretboard with my pinky.

  30. #44
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    Watch these two guys (closely) and then tell me again how playing the mandolin is all about your pinky.
    I see it - you need the pinky for muting the strings.
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  31. #45
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    this thread is forcing me to write haiku!

    f-d
    °papŠ gordo ainít no madre flaca!

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  32. #46
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    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.
    I disagree. Fingering is an essential technical skill and to knowingly teach wrong technique is just bad pedagogy.

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    The counter-argument to "do what's comfortable" is that it can block access to certain important techniques, and can also slow you down.....

    If you don't use your pinky on this tune, you might get away with playing it at home by shifting your hand back and forth to reach the B note with your third finger. But that will slow you down, compared to flicking your pinky out to nail the note.
    ... You'll see the same thing if you get into playing Bluegrass or Jazz. You can't just stick with what's comfortable and easy as a beginner, if you want to play certain styles of music well.
    Correct!

    The "do what you want" school of playing is very limited compared to what one can do with a full command of proper mandolin technique.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jstring View Post
    Uh...let me get this straight... you’ve never met this teacher, never taken a lesson from him, never heard him play, and yet you feel qualified to “question [his/her] ability to both play and teach mandolin”... based upon one hearsay comment from the OP?

    I’ve never met ANY teacher in any subject who’s right about everything, every time.
    True, no teacher is correct about everything - but correct fingering is a basic issue and I stand by my judgement.

    As professional musician with over 45 years of playing, teaching and recording experience, and a Master's in Music, I can say that a teacher that sloughs off technical proficiency and "teaches" incorrect technique is a bad teacher.

    EVERY classical mandolin book (and most other methods) stress the use of all 4 fingers.

    For a "teacher" to not do so is inexcusable.

    Would you learn from a golfer that cannot hold the club properly? From a chef that does not know who to use knives correctly? Form a tennis player that hold the racket incorrectly?

    So why try to learn from someone that does not play the mandolin properly and is happy to pass that lack of technique on to students?

    There are plenty of mandolin players that play with the correct use of all 4 fingers, so why not learn from one of them?

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  34. #47
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Due to Dupuytren's contracture, I am now facing the problem of learning to play with three fingers after years of playing with four. I'm hoping this situation gets fixed with surgery next month.

    I recommend lots of pinky practice if you plan on playing beyond the first position.
    -Newtonamic

  35. #48
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    Watch these two guys (closely) and then tell me again how playing the mandolin is all about your pinky.

    Well, they sound good...but both players DO use the little finger at times, although the player on the left rarely uses it in melodic passages.

    But honestly, this is not the most technical mandolin playing, it's pleasant and all, but nothing like this:



    Viva finger 4!

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  37. #49

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    I somehow suspected the responding argument would be that Steffey was not as good as Chris Thile playing Bach. You've moved the bar pretty high just to squeeze your pinky under it.

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  39. #50
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by OldSausage View Post
    I somehow suspected the responding argument would be that Steffey was not as good as Chris Thile playing Bach. You've moved the bar pretty high just to squeeze your pinky under it.
    "You've moved the bar pretty high just to squeeze your pinky under it."

    With so many fine mandolin players, the bar is already set very high, I just call it as I see it.

    I do confess to liking Bach more than "Bill Cheatem" though.

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