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Excercises/Practice to make my pinky more useful?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by TelZilla, Aug 28, 2020.

  1. TelZilla

    TelZilla Friend of Leo's

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    I've been playing for 35+ years, and I can make my way around rock/blues/country OK (basic chord theory/ blues/major pent/myxolydian, etc). But my pinky is relatively useless. Watching Tom Bukovac videos has given me profound pinky shame.

    What have you done to make your pinky a useful appendage? Any thoughts on what to work on? an excercise?
     
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  2. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Practice full scales in all patterns. And...here is an exercise I picked up in Guitar Player some decades ago....
    Ascending use 1st and 3rd fingers and down pick, descending uses 2nd and 4th fingers with up pick. You can use any four frets anywhere on the neck.


    ———————————5——6———————
    —————————3——————4—————
    ———————5——————————6———
    —————3——————————————4—-
    ———5——————————————————6
    —3—————————————————————-4
     
  3. brokenbones

    brokenbones Tele-Holic

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    If you play 2 note power chords, just starting using your pinky instead of your ring finger. That and practice hammer ons and pull offs with all 4 fingers.

    When I stretch out my fingers to begin playing I play this on every string. The numbers are frets and fingers.

    0 1 2 3 4 3 2 1 0
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2020
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  4. trxx

    trxx Tele-Afflicted

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    Just start using it wherever it seems practical. It will probably take a while before it doesn't feel awkward.
     
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  5. JL_LI

    JL_LI Friend of Leo's

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    You've already got a good start. I never used my pinkie in the blues box and I only used it for chords for rockabilly in the myxolydian mode. That changed when I learned country. Many, if not most, country solos are solos off chords. The way that's done is to hold down the chord, or at least a diad or triad from it, usually with your index and middle fingers using the ring finger and pinkie to add notes for the solo. It feels awkward at first but anything new feels that way. After a while you find yourself using your pinkie to reach for notes. Your solos keep getting better because you're not confining your playing to a tiny box. Then you find yourself using your pinkie for slides making sixteenth note triplets possible. You won't even realize what you did until you ask yourself, "How did I do that?" Then you go back to blues but you begin using the Dorian mode in your solos. You'll be reaching for notes again because a lot of what you want to play isn't tightly grouped any more. By that time, you're using all four fingers for chords and solos not even thinking about it. Another thing playing solos off chords does, especially for country, is you start thinking about open strings. You can't easily solo off barre chords and you can't use your index finger to hold part of a triad and at the same time use it for notes on the low E string. You have a thumb too. Not the lazy thumb used for fisting cowboy chords. You're actually using your thumb for single notes. Imagine that. You're now using all five fingers. I thought only the keyboard player did that. Something to think about, eh.
     
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  6. TelZilla

    TelZilla Friend of Leo's

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    See, I think that's probably my problem. I don't shred, and I've been doing it long enough that I've kind of learned to play "around" my pinky, if that makes sense. For instance, if I'm playing blues in C, and I need to bend the b flat (11th fret b string) up to a c, I probably "should" be doing that with my pinky, but I almost always cheat and use my ring finger. And ultimately, it hurts my ability to do a narrow, fast vibrato.

    I'm sure the actual answer is "Just start using your pinky, dum-dum", but I suppose I'm looking for an easy way out.
     
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  7. E5RSY

    E5RSY Doctor of Teleocity

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    I made it my dedicated nose-picking digit and that helped a lot.
     
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  8. TelZilla

    TelZilla Friend of Leo's

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    That is a great reply. I'm huge on thumb over. I rarely play barre chords the "right" way anymore. I almost always use the hendrix style (sort of an extended F with a thumb over. And as often as not, I leave the root out entirely, especially if there's a bass player. I try not to step on the bassist toes. That's one thing I realize more and more. If you're playing with a bassist, even more so with a two guitar set up, you can regard the guitar as a color instrument. You rarely need to play full chords, unless the dynamics of the song call for everyone pounding away at something for a couple bars. The stuff you hear that y9ou think "That is really cool" is often only two or three notes. And you're right, good players follow the chords.

    Anyway, do you have suggestions for songs/passages/lead breaks that showcase the kind of country stuff you're talking about?
     
  9. TelZilla

    TelZilla Friend of Leo's

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    Fair. But I feel some of the juiciest morsels remain beyond your reach.
     
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  10. Flaneur

    Flaneur Friend of Leo's

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    Change your tuning, put a slide on it.......:cool:

    IMG_20190303_122010837.jpg
     
  11. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Re: play8ng the 1/5, otherwise known as a power chord. I grew up playing the classic shuffle...1/5,1/6,1/7,1/6. This one of a number of reasons imho NOT to use the pinky to play the 5 in the 1/5. One other.....the pinky plays the dominant 7th when playing a barre E for 7th chord. And...the pinky plays the 6 when playing a 13th for: that same barre form. OT the 9th and #9. I am a big proponent of one finger per fret. Using the pinky to play the 5 in a barre E or barre A form James the 2nd and 3rd fingers, ime.....and robs the hand of the ability span as many frets as possible. yes, I know some do it. I simply do not see the rationale for that.
     
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  12. trxx

    trxx Tele-Afflicted

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    Using the pinky for bending isn't very practical, which is why almost no one does it. If you want to be one of the very few, go for it. But don't be too hard on yourself about it if it's really tough.
     
  13. E5RSY

    E5RSY Doctor of Teleocity

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    This is really the best, most straightforward advice. Just pick a scale, arpeggio or mode that is fully encompassed in four frets and play it repeatedly backward and forward.

    As for chords, start using the pinky for adding a 7th on E- (B-string) and A-form (high E-string) barre chords. That will start to get it used to being used.
     
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  14. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Playing bends is where I ‘break’ my rule of one finger per fret. To bend the minor third to the 4th or the dominant 7th to the 1; I stretch with the ring finger to play the 3m or that dom7 , back it up with the index and middle finger and bend away.
     
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  15. trxx

    trxx Tele-Afflicted

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    TelZilla, can you point to a phrase where you might want to use your pinky for bending?
     
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  16. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

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    The main thing is, you just have to use it (just as much and in lieu of using the 3rd [ring] finger). Relying too much on the 3rd finger in fretting makes it dominant beyond it's true potential and inhibits the development of the pinky. Many rock / blues players rely on the 3rd finger ... way.too.much.
     
  17. TelZilla

    TelZilla Friend of Leo's

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    1:20 in this video-

    Bending a flat 7 to a root on the B string with a really fast, narrow vibrato. Super common in blues-you've done it a million times. I usually use the ring finger. Maybe that's what everyone does.
     
  18. trxx

    trxx Tele-Afflicted

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    Yea, that bend is in a very typical blues/rock context. I do the bend with the ring, next note on high E string with the first finger, then pinky on the B string. If it gives you problems using your pinky for the third note, maybe practice it as an isolated exercise: bend, then the following three notes, using the pinky on the second of the three notes.
     
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  19. trxx

    trxx Tele-Afflicted

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    ring_pinky_lick.png
    This tab might look a little funky. I don't know what I'm doing. ;)
     
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  20. hepular

    hepular Tele-Holic

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    have a dog bite off the tip of your middle finger . . .

    or stop using one of the other fingers & force yourself to adapt.

    (& for some reason, my hands just won't do that thumb over thing), but:

    instead of playing the full e-shape barre chord, drop the 5th on the a-string & use your pinky to float around the shape: it works for all sorts of stuff (ellington's mood indigo, for instance, which has an octave-root bass figure & a third-based melody that you can make happen if you can get your pinky around the major-chord shape.

    similarly, chorus of "in a sentimental mood" places the melody right there on the high e-string around a major d-flat and b-7" IF you can get your pinky to it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2020
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