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Thread: Pinky independence

  1. #1
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    Default Pinky independence

    I have been playing this mandolin for a year now. I have been working with my pinky but it just won't go where I tell it to. It seam to want to fowls my ring finger. I know it will find its own indepenances at so point, but when? What have you done to help the progress along.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Pinky independence

    I assume that "exercises" help, but I'll be darned if I can follow that regimen. Some people can, and my hat is off to them, but I can't. Amusingly, the only thing that has helped me has been to NOT play the mandolin, but to play the octave mandolin... because the stretches on that instrument without using the pinky simply are way too far for me to reach consistently. And so when I went back to the mandolin after a few weeks, the pinky was inherently involved now. I guess the muscle memory was built, or on its way to being built.

  3. #3
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pinky independence

    I've been using Pete Martin's pinky exercises for a few weeks now, and find them quite helpful. My mandolin teacher noticed the difference.
    If the links don't work, search YouTube for "Mandolin Basics Vol 5 The Pinkie".

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wyX...ature=youtu.be

    Last edited by Ranald; Feb-10-2020 at 11:22pm. Reason: error in linking video
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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  5. #4

    Default Re: Pinky independence

    Play scales. When learning a fiddle tune, always use the pinky instead of shifting to use the ring finger, even if it's easier. Especially if it is easier. Play scales in every key so you get all the possible combinations. Focus on the scales with no open notes. Get a metronome and play slow at first. Practice a G chop chord every day.
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    Registered User Carl Robin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pinky independence

    Choose a few tunes to practice that use that 5th finger, and pull them out to work on every day or every few days. Take it slow, and it will feel like you are beating up the poor pinky. It has never done such a thing before, and will have to get stronger, and tougher. You will be establishing new patterns of coordination. Brain, muscles, and callouses need to develop so that this can become smooth and automatic. There is no trick, besides practicing relentlessly. However, you need to have fun with your instrument, so enjoy playing and advancing on other things too, so as not to get agitated or discouraged about this one thing. There are many aspects that we have to just keep chipping away at over time. Using the pinky for those high notes is just one of the hurdles. The fact that you are already working on it, indicates you can succeed.

  8. #6

    Default Re: Pinky independence

    Play some simple tunes you know, but pretend you can't use your index finger - so you will be using your pinky where you would normally use your ring finger and so on back. This way you get to play some old tunes in a new way, and develop your pinky.

    Remember, to get good you don't have to do it all at once, you only have to get a tiny bit better every day for a really long time.

  9. #7

    Default Re: Pinky independence

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric "Trapper" G View Post
    I have been playing this mandolin for a year now. I have been working with my pinky but it just won't go where I tell it to. It seam to want to fowls my ring finger. I know it will find its own indepenances at so point, but when? What have you done to help the progress along.
    "I have been playing this mandolin for a year now".
    That's what I tell the people who hear me play. It's less humiliating than telling them how many years I've really been at it.

    Stick with it; it takes time.
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

  10. #8
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pinky independence

    Work that little sucker. Don't use open strings, work that seventh fret. Move up the neck... Really just constant repetition and mostly time. That's practice I guess but I hate practice.

  11. #9

    Default Re: Pinky independence

    The Dancla All Strings video (the first one at https://mandoscales.com/the-videos/) gives your pinky a good workout, with the added angle of being logical simply because it makes more sense to use your pinky than the open string.

  12. #10
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pinky independence

    The Aonzo scales drill is a combination of two of the ffcp major scales: the 1st finger and the 4th finger. Search for Aonzo scale in the forum. The tab was available. This exercise will work all of the fingers playing two octaves of each Major scale from Ab to F. Begin with the 1st finger on the 1st fret, 4th string and play two octaves ascending and descending. Then the 2nd fret and continue up to the 10th fret. Then reverse it and play every fret until you reach Ab on the 1st fret. This how I begin each lesson with my intermediate mandolin student.

  13. #11
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    Default Re: Pinky independence

    What worked for me on guitar was what some people call a spiderweb exercise or spider walk where you would start, in this case, first finger on the 1st fret of the G string, second finger on the second fret of the same string and then move one finger down to the D string. The other finger moves either down to the A string (or onto the same string depending where you are in finger mobility). Then work your way back up to the G string and then start again with 1st finger first fret, 3rd finger/3rd fret and so on and the do 2nd finger as the stationary position and work to the 4th finger. Continuing until you've worked through the pattern.

    You can extend to additional frets with it to work on range. It's boring but I find doing it sitting in front of the TV helps and consistently doing it gave me a lot of independence in my fretting

    I haven't tried it on mandolin yet as my first one arrives tomorrow. :-)

    Good luck,
    Clark

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  15. #12
    Registered User Kevin Stueve's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pinky independence

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Hall View Post
    The Aonzo scales drill is a combination of two of the ffcp major scales: the 1st finger and the 4th finger. Search for Aonzo scale in the forum. The tab was available. This exercise will work all of the fingers playing two octaves of each Major scale from Ab to F. Begin with the 1st finger on the 1st fret, 4th string and play two octaves ascending and descending. Then the 2nd fret and continue up to the 10th fret. Then reverse it and play every fret until you reach Ab on the 1st fret. This how I begin each lesson with my intermediate mandolin student.
    I have done both FFcp and the Aonzo scales. I feel like a blithering idiot. I never once thought of the Aonzo scales drill as 2 of the ffcp major scales.
    2012 Weber Bitterroot F5.

  16. #13

    Default Re: Pinky independence

    Ive found that taking a tune you know really well that uses open strings and playing it closed has helped me a lot.

    This not only forces you to work out the pinky but helps with transposing that tune into different keys where the open strings aren't available to you.

    And as others have pointed out....go slow. Be sure that you are getting a pure tone with the pinky.

  17. #14
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pinky independence

    Alternative view:

    Don't try and fight nature. The pinky is not a fully independent finger. Like a pet on a leash, it is tethered to the ring finger. The pinky has independence and strength, but only within a range, within a proximity of the ring finger.

    But you can take advantage of that. On a piece where the pinky needs to be deployed, send the ring finger out as well. The ring finger can safely land a couple of frets behind the pinky, on the same string, giving the pinky enough slack on the leash to do what it needs. Indeed on many pieces it will be needed there shortly anyway.

    When using chords that require the pinky, I found that putting the pinky down first allowed the other fingers and hand to arrange themselves in accommodation. Much easier than deploying the independent fingers and hoping there is enough leash for the pinky.

    I am not a skeleton expert or a hand mechanics expert. Far far from it. But regardless of what is truly the case, I found that if I thought of it that way, pinky being the yapping dog pet of the ring finger, I did much much better getting the pinky into the action.
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  19. #15
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    Default Re: Pinky independence

    Are you a converting guitar player, like many/most of us here?

    - If so, a basic error is positioning your fretting fingers like a guitarist's, to extend & retract across the fretboard, each finger at a single fret.
    - Instead, look carefully at what violinists do: angle you hand so that the fingers extend & retract along the length of the fretboard. (Hey, the reach across, on mandolin, is really short!) That, along with practice, could make all the difference.
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

  20. #16

    Default Re: Pinky independence

    Along Jeff's lines...

    My piano teacher pointed out that she'd seen a program where someone's brain had been exposed and stimulated with electrical currents, and that the thumb responded independently, as did the forefinger, but that the middle, ring and pinky fingers responded as a group. Pinky-independence has to be, for want of better wording, "force hard-wired", but you can take comfort in the fact that musicians everywhere are evidence that it's not as daunting an achievement as it sounds.

    Concentrate on relaxing the other fingers as much as you're concentrating on using your pinky.

  21. #17
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    Default Re: Pinky independence

    A suggestion from slightly-outside-the-box:

    Picking up the mandolin forced me to come to terms with how weak my hands were. I work in information technology and the majority of my time is spent seated and relaxed. I started looking for ways to train my hands separately from playing the mandolin and eventually found the IronMind Expand Your Hand bands (NFI). They work the extensor muscles in your forearms (used when you open your hand) rather than the flexors (used when you close your hand).

    Now, you might be tempted to look at these and say, "I've got rubber bands in my junk drawer that'll do the same thing" but IronMind is a company that caters specifically to strongmen types and provides training equipment for 'feats of strength' so these bands are beefier than you might expect. I struggled to use the lightest one when it first arrived and after a couple of months of (almost) daily exercise with them I have barely started to use the 3rd band.

    I feel that using the bands has done 2 things for my mandolin playing:
    1st) It strengthened my hands and allowed me to support pressure on my pinkie over greater stretches of the fingerboard and
    2nd) it helped me to get my fingers to release from fretted strings quicker and cleaner, which is something that -feels- better when I play but I'd have some difficulty decisively saying that it -sounds- better. It would probably be more useful if I played faster but I'm still a ways off from setting my sights on speed

    Combining the hand exercise with the FFcP scale exercises mentioned above has done wonders for my accuracy and comfort on the fretboard.

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