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Thread: Question about pinky use...

  1. #1

    Default Question about pinky use...

    When you all play a sequence of four notes on the same string up the neck, say as an example, starting on the D string, 7th fret, and playing the one, whole step, whole step, half step, are you using your pinky to play the half step (fourth note) or are you sliding your ring finger up a half step to play that fourth note?

    I have no problems using my pinky while playing guitar (in a vid critique Bryan Sutton once told me I use it too much), and on the mandolin I have no problem using my pinky when fretting a sequence of two notes that are 5 or 6 frets apart (such as when playing arpeggios), but if I have to fret a note with my pinky that is right next to the previous note played, I struggle. Just curious when to use pinky and when not to.

  2. #2
    harvester of clams Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    I always use the pinky unless I’m sliding for effect. But others don’t.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    I always use the pinky unless I’m sliding for effect. But others don’t.
    I'm in the same camp.

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    I use the pinky anytime it makes sense, I even hammer on with it in certain cases, but find it much more difficult to use it for slides effectively.

    It’s unusual that you find it more useful on guitar than mandolin, IMO, but I’m sure that with practice you can overcome the difficulty of using it on adjacent notes.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    In an example as you give I always use the pinky.

    Except in first position, where the choice is pinky or next open string, and I learned the tune in first position, I might then use the open string instead.
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    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    Quote Originally Posted by mikerofone View Post
    ... if I have to fret a note with my pinky that is right next to the previous note played, I struggle. Just curious when to use pinky and when not to.
    I'll guess you probably don't play in flat keys very much. A good exercise would be to play a one-octave Bb scale starting at fret one on the A strings and crossing to the E's. Fingering will be: 1-2-3-4 | 1-2-3-4. (Frets are 1-3-5-6 on each course.)

    This is the norm for mandolin (and violin) fingering: one finger for each scale step. On guitar it's one finger for each semitone.

    Hope this helps.

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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    Quote Originally Posted by mikerofone View Post
    When you all play a sequence of four notes on the same string up the neck, say as an example, starting on the D string, 7th fret, and playing the one, whole step, whole step, half step, are you using your pinky to play the half step (fourth note) or are you sliding your ring finger up a half step to play that fourth note?

    Depends on where I'm going next, but in most cases I use my pinky so as to keep my middle finger in place.

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    Registered User Ky Slim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    Quote Originally Posted by mikerofone View Post
    ... but if I have to fret a note with my pinky that is right next to the previous note played, I struggle.
    I have the same issue especially on the higher tighter frets - Like 11 with ring then 12 with pinky. My pinky doesn't want to drop just in front of my ring finger as my middle does in front of my index and my ring finger does in front of my middle. I have to focus on keeping my ring finger angled and pressing straight down into the fretboard to give my pinky room. I think it's because the pinky (or my pinky) is considerably shorter than my ring finger.

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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    You're right - I don't play in flat keys but thanks for the tip, this is a good exercise and something I need to learn.

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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    I use my pinky just as much as every other finger on my fretting hand! I use it much less with guitar and other larger instruments, but on mandolin and mandola it's essential. Learn the patterns for a two-course major scale and minor scale and that will unlock the whole fretboard for you! Either one is always four notes on each course (Do, Re, Mi/Me, Fa on the first course and Sol, La/Le, Ti/Te, Do on the second course), and those four notes are always played with your index, middle, ring, and pinky. Because these are closed patterns, you can shift them anywhere on the neck, and you can even play three octave scales starting on the G and D courses for the first octave, D and A courses for the second octave, and A and E courses for the third octave (depending on how low on the neck you started the first octave).

    A useful ear training exercise that I practice regularly while playing along with records is to find the tonal center (Do) for the tune, locate it on the neck, and then play the appropriate scale (major or minor) starting from that note and going up and down the neck. This can help break your improvisation out of home position notes, and make any key straightforward to play along with.
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    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    Funny, I just had this conversation with a student with respects to Big Sciota. IMO, which finger to use always requires the context of what is coming before / after. There's lots of reasons to break the rules without being "wrong".

    If I'm doing a straight scale with no slides etc (like open A, B, C# D E - with E on the 7th fret on the A string), then yeah, I'd use my pinky.

    In the context of Big Sciota in the B part, I usually slide in to the E notes using my ring finger. This somewhat changes the position, but works well in this song. It sounds better with the slide IMO and I'm not a huge fan of the pinky slide - so ring finger is better IMO here.

    That said, I use my pinky a lot as it's often (though not always) the best choice.
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    coming from guitar to mando, i just use the pinky. Once i assimilated the 2 frets per finger thing I never had a problem.

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    Conversely, it’s ok to use the ring finger when it makes more sense to do so, I think. I have pretty good finger independence from playing various instruments starting at a very young age, but the pinky has some built in disadvantages. Sometimes I shift positions rather than use the pinky to get a better sound or more fluid movement. As long as you don’t neglect it and include it in exercises, use what sounds best. If you watch David Benedict or John Reischman plus many others, they often shift to use the ring finger. To emphasize, using the ring finger instead should be a choice, not a necessity.

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    Registered User thesecretmandolinist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    it depends on where I am going next. I often slide with my pinky so my other fingers are free to jump to other strings etc.
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    Dave Berry
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    good thread. I use it when I can and am pleasantly surprised when it just happens but I have a really hard time using it in 1st position on the G string 7th fret. I agree going from 6th to 7th fret is not easy but can be improved with practice.
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    small instrument, big fun Dan in NH's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    In an example as you give I always use the pinky.

    Except in first position, where the choice is pinky or next open string, and I learned the tune in first position, I might then use the open string instead.
    Yeah, if you are practicing your closed scales at all then you HAVE to use your pinky.

    That’s the whole reason I practice my closed scales - to work my pinky, make it strong & agile.

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    Registered User Rickker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    Quote Originally Posted by tuhker View Post
    good thread. I use it when I can and am pleasantly surprised when it just happens but I have a really hard time using it in 1st position on the G string 7th fret. I agree going from 6th to 7th fret is not easy but can be improved with practice.
    Right! It is a matter of determined practice. The 6th to 7th fret by plunking the pinky down on the 7th was once difficult for me, but is now very easy. Having said that, it is more difficult to have the 3rd finger on the 5th fret and then play the 7th fret with the pinky. Especially on the G string. Pinky needs to be strong!

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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    I think how much you use the pinky may depend on what kind of finger you got. I use mine a fair bit from fiddling, but it's a lot shorter than the other fingers so sometimes it's harder than using the 3rd finger. My son's is almost as long as the 3rd, so he has no problems.

  26. #19
    Dave Berry
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    Default Re: Question about pinky use...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rickker View Post
    Right! It is a matter of determined practice. The 6th to 7th fret by plunking the pinky down on the 7th was once difficult for me, but is now very easy. Having said that, it is more difficult to have the 3rd finger on the 5th fret and then play the 7th fret with the pinky. Especially on the G string. Pinky needs to be strong!
    Mr Thile advocates practicing only using the 3rd and 4th fingers. I imagine a few days/weeks of that would help the little guy
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