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Thread: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

  1. #101
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Tim, one way to overcome that is to learn to keep the little finger right over the fingerboard and NOT let it hide.

    One exercise would be to hold a high B on the E string 7th fret with finger 4 and then use fingers 1, 2 and 3 to play the notes B, C and D on the A strings at frets 2, 4 and 5 while still holding the 4th finger on the E string 7th fret B note.
    Tiny niggle: fret 4 on A string is C#.

    But David's larger thrust here is the key: train that little puppy to *behave*

  2. #102

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolinespieler View Post
    Is there a way to "unlearn" this reflex?
    Well, the tried-and-true method is chromatic scales, up and down, keeping all fingers on the board at all times unless it must be lifted in order to sound the adjacent (lower) note.

    Ex, basic four-finger exercise: https://youtu.be/kIrriGJYnEY

    Do this daily as warm-ups - hammer-ons for ascending, pull-offs for descending.

    Then idiomatically, for example in ITM you can practice rolls, using all fingers, in the same manner, etc.

  3. #103

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolinespieler View Post
    .... I also have the annoying habit of moving it when i use my ring finger on the fretboard. Is there a way to "unlearn" this reflex?
    absolutely - it's called "practice" ... until yer pinky toes the line and remembers what you tell it to do. seriously.
    Mandolins are truly *magic*!

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  5. #105

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by rfd View Post
    it's quite surprising to see the number of posts in this thread that dis the use of the fretting hand pinky for mandolin playing.
    This is confusing me. I can't locate a single post in this thread that disses the use of the fretting hand pinky for mandolin playing - can anyone show me where they are? Thanks.

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  7. #106

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Well, you might get by sans pinky.
    I had to after i developed trigger finger in my pinky.........took eight months non use to fully heal.
    So.........not that this will happen to you, but,

    Ffcp exercises will help, and, many tabs require pinky reach, imho, for fluidity.

    Let me add, build your pinky daily, slowly , and dont overdo it. Play slowly, carefully, mindfully.
    It will take consistency.

    Grisman and others have great exercise for this.

    Simply. Mando assigns two frets up the neck to each finger. Guitar assigns one fret. This is basic technique for many, and likely, most.

    I hurt myself by too much playing-hours daily, ffcp, jams, rehearsals, gigs. Heavy gripping to avoid clams. Too prolonged a death grip/3 hour non stop jams.

    Point is to use it, but be aware, these muscles will take a bit of time to condition, even if already in use, say for guitar, as was the case for me. Key, rest in between exercises, stretch hand. Stop as soon as you feel discomfort (not frustration, but slightest physical pain).

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  9. #107
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanN View Post
    Tiny niggle: fret 4 on A string is C#.

    But David's larger thrust here is the key: train that little puppy to *behave*
    Ah, a mistype....I meant fret 3.

    But you could play fret 4 and C# too, same workout for finger 4.

  10. #108

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    According to his Mel Bay book, Jethro Burns seemed to be a big proponent of using and exercising the pinky.

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  12. #109
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Pickin Redwing, old Joe Clark, Some Glad Morning, I’ll fly away and a few other tunes. That pinky of mine making life easier and the tunes faster. The answer to my question is clear. Not using my pinky would be a mistake!
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  14. #110
    Orso grasso FatBear's Avatar
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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.
    We're all different, including teachers. It's possible that your second teacher is trying to make it easier and intends to introduce the pinky in the future, or it's possible that he doesn't or can't play with his pinky and thinks it unnecessary. But I'm with pretty much everyone else here that you will be better off in the long run if you learn to use it now. It's hard to break old habits.

    Four finger chords are obvious. But they take muscle and control, so why not use the pinky all the time so it will have an easier time with the four finger chords?

    Some other uses of the pinky that I can think of off hand: (and I am forever learning, so critiques from my betters are certainly welcome.)

    If you play above the first position, your index finger sorta becomes your nut and everything else shifts down a finger.

    Good players (not me, yet) think ahead and sometimes even when playing in the first position will use the seventh fret because it makes moving on to the next note easier.

    I was struggling with changing from one chord to another and quickly back to a single note in a song when I was in my second year. I was trying to keep my fingers in all of the right positions, but it wasn't working. My teacher said "why don't you try it like this" and showed me a way that would probably be rather unorthodox. It did involve using the pinky on the 5th fret. But that made it much easier. And he said that sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

    I have run across songs that call for playing 7th fret on a string and open on the next string up. Those are both the same notes (say playing 7th on the D and open A string) and give a more droning kind of sound.

    Sometimes in blues you'll play a bunch of sequential half steps and you'll run out of fingers pretty quickly if you don't use the pinky. Sometimes you'll use all four fingers and the pinky will still only be on the 5th fret.

    Can you play Irish Washerwoman without putting the pinky on the 7th fret? :-)

    Iíve noticed on YouTube a number of instructors just use three fingers when picking melodies.
    I wonder if they are just doing that for beginner's courses or something. Look up some of their non-instructional videos and see how they play.

    Who is right? Should I change my style to three fingers instead of four?
    I don't think there's a right or wrong. As was pointed out elsewhere, Django Reinhardt played well enough with just two fingers to establish a whole genre of music and to live forever in our memories. That's not bad. But I bet even he wished he had at least three.

  15. #111
    Registered User Tom C's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Pink ah always been difficult for me but I use it as much as possible. It's easier and quicker to stay on current string.

  16. #112
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    I'm all in favor of using the pinkie, and for some of us, it's essential for actually reaching all the notes we're trying to play.

    That said, I've watched a number of great mandolinists play solo after beautifully rendered solo with nary a pinky in play. You might not be able to play solo Bach pieces or bebop in Eb without using your pinkie, but you can certainly play the hell out of a bunch of fiddle tunes and bluegrass solos with just three fingers.
    Just one guy's opinion
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  18. #113

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    I would love to hear someone explain how to play the B section of Big Sciota or St Ann's Reel reasonably without the pinky. As a guitarist who has taught well over a thousand people how to play (and a couple of mando students as well), I can tell you that the no pinky mentality comes from people who are either too lazy to start using it or have poor teachers who also never used it and therefore tell people not to. It is a similar mentality to the people who quit after two weeks because "their fingers sting". Really??? How do you get through the day and pay bills if thats how easily you give up? Same mentality.

    Use it, frequently, treat it like a normal finger even if its annoying, and it will eventually get stronger and more independent. Stop looking for shortcuts and do the work needed.

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  20. #114
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by NJmando View Post
    I would love to hear someone explain how to play the B section of Big Sciota or St Ann's Reel reasonably without the pinky.
    Shift positions.



  21. #115

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    lol fair enough! He is not playing the melody as I know it (he's leaving out the F#, which makes a position change less practical). Worth noting that Mr Steffey still uses his pinky quite a bit.
    Last edited by NJmando; Oct-26-2017 at 9:45am.

  22. #116

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Really, it boils down to matters of formalisms. Can you play without using Mr pinkie? Yes. Is it more economical to use Mr P? Yes. Does it matter (to you) whether or not to adhere to formalisms such as economy of movement, etc?

    You could play with your teeth, but as teachers (teaching formalisms), we advocate for economy of movement and finger independence as fundamental. Given the legacy of pedagogies, this would seem "best practice" - given we have four fingers (opp pollex), resources generally exploit optimum capacities. But I'm familiar only with classical models. I've long felt that this is the optimal model for fundamentals. It's up to an individual to determine what model to pursue.

    Otherwise, for example, in standard tuning, how would you drone an open E, A, or D and have ability to play semitones on top without twisting your hand out of position? You can do it, but all the while with your 4th finger hanging there like dead weight. So, we teach you to use it, because it's logical.

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  24. #117
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by NJmando View Post
    I would love to hear someone explain how to play the B section of Big Sciota or St Ann's Reel reasonably without the pinky.
    I can answer that for St Anne's B part - fast forward to 3:21 here; that E-B doublestop on both 7th frets would be harder to do with just a pinkie.
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  25. #118
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    My index finger was giving me trouble at one time, and it kept getting worse. I thought well I better learn to play with out it. So I relearned a lot of tunes using fingers 2,3 and 4. Wow. What a great exercise.

    After getting my blood glucose correct all my hand and finger problems went away, but that exercise really really helped advance my playing.

    Here is the main reason to use the pinky, IMO - It is just so much fun. So much. FFcP and position play and a whole world of stuff becomes as easy as walking. Its just too fun once you get it.
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  27. #119
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Ky Slim View Post
    Shift positions.
    Well, it may work for that tune played in that style, but in Irish/Scottish fiddle tunes, a position shift means you lose access to drone strings. You can't stay in an upper position as long as in that video example either, because ornaments can't be played as easily in the upper position. The whole point of a pinky stretch to the B note on the E string is that you can do it without leaving first position. Bluegrass players use upper positions because it's needed for solos. OldTime and Irish/Scottish trad players don't need that.

    What it comes down to is efficiency. With efficiency comes speed, and with speed comes the ability to hang in with the Alpha fiddlers at an OldTime or Irish session.

    Speaking of fiddlers... watch a fiddler playing a tune like Silver Spear or the Tarbolton with a high B note in the second part of the tune. Do you ever see them shifting out of position? Or do they just use their pinky? The tuning and scale length (close enough) is the same as our mandolin. If they don't do it, why should we? Are our hands incapable of doing what every fiddler does?

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  29. #120

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    I can answer that for St Anne's B part - fast forward to 3:21 here; that E-B doublestop on both 7th frets would be harder to do with just a pinkie.
    Once again, not the version that I know. I'm very happy to hear/learn different versions of songs (in fact, I like that about folk music), but generally speaking, the B section in St Ann's reel as played traditionally (ie most versions) just makes sense with the pinky. With modern or modified melodies/improv, of course you can avoid it.

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  31. #121

    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Fiddle? The 4th is essential in trad musics around the world, I don't know how you'd get around not using it .. I guess if you didn't want to use drones and execute any number of figures and ornaments when 3rd finger is placed/noted.

    If you should ever wish to execute techniques such as drones, extended reaches, or take up fiddle or other longer-scale instrument...

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  33. #122
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Here's the answer for St. Anne's Reel. For the record, I'm a proponent of using the pinky. But when I saw this video I liked the way this sounded better. So I shift up to hit the B now. Although I can still do it the old way using my pinky if I want it to sound different.


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  35. #123
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    120+ posts devoted to the pinkie?????
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  36. #124
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    120+ posts devoted to the pinkie?????
    Brain: We must prepare for tomorrow night.

    Pinky: Why? What are we going to do tomorrow night?

    Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky - try to take over the world!

    Chorus: They're Pinky, They're Pinky and the Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain!

  37. #125
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Pinkie or Not Pinkie is my Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Stevo75 View Post
    Here's the answer for St. Anne's Reel. For the record, I'm a proponent of using the pinky. But when I saw this video I liked the way this sounded better. So I shift up to hit the B now. Although I can still do it the old way using my pinky if I want it to sound different.

    He is doing a slide where I am using a doublestop. Whenever you need extra strength for something other than a simple plink, the pinky may not be strong enough. Mine surely isn't.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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