Is your pinky finger in pain? Do you struggle with using your pinky finger when playing guitar? This article will address some of the most common issues with pinky finger. I hope you’ll find valuable info and tips.
Why Does My Pinky Finger Hurt When I Play Guitar?
If your pinky finger hurts, that’s probably because it is sore. And your pinky is sore probably because it’s underdeveloped in the context of guitar playing.
We can divide this problem into two components. First, muscle soreness. Guitar beginners usually feel soreness in their fingers when they play a longer session. That’s because their fingers’ muscles are not strong enough to withstand the stress they’re subjected to during a guitar playing.
It’s like going to the gym, starting to lift heavy weights. After a few hours, your body aches; in other words, you’re experiencing muscle soreness. The same applies for fingers.
Pinky finger is our weakest fingers. It is small, and it’s the finger we guitarists usually use the least in guitar playing. That’s why it is often the case that pinky finger gets painful and hurt. Logically, if you experience this issue, take a day or two of rest.
Second component of this issue is callus building. When finger presses onto the string against the fretboard, after a while a callus is developed on its fingertip. Basically, after some time of playing guitar, your fingertips will harden. They will get thicker. That’s because fingertips are subjected to pressure and friction caused by guitar playing.
If you’re experiencing a pain in your pinky fingertip, don’t worry about it. You just have to take a day or two of rest. During that rest time, your pinky fingertip will start to develop callus. Next time, the strength and durability of your pinky finger will improve.
Acoustic steel guitar strings are notorious for being harsh to our fingers. If you’re playing an acoustic guitar, and your pinky finger hurts, you should take a rest. Still, if you just want to play the guitar, maybe you can think about playing a classical guitar that has a nylon strings. Just for a few days. Nylon strings are easier on fingers; they are softer and more comfortable to our fingertips.
How To Strengthen Pinky Finger?
There are a few good exercises for strengthening pinky finger. My favorite one is called finger gym. Here, take a look at how it’s done.
This is the exercise that strengthens all of your fretting hand’s fingers. It’s not just for a pinky finger strength. It’s basically a hammer on and pull off exercise. You’re hammering on a fret. Then you’re pulling off.
Keep in mind that this should be done no more than 5 to 10 minutes a day. This exercise is hard on your finger muscles. Probably you won’t feel anything after doing it, and probably you’ll want to do it more, but don’t. Wait until tomorrow, and then you’ll realize the impact it has on your fingers’ muscles.
Anyway, the exercise is good not only for strength, but for callus building on fingertips. Do it for 5 to 10 minutes every day, or every other day, and you’ll soon see improvements, you’ll start to notice how your fingers, pinky finger especially, get stronger.
Problem: Pinky Finger Flail
Pinky finger flailing away from fretboard is common to all of the beginner and intermediate guitar players. It’s also known as a “flying pinky”. How to resolve this issue?
How to make your pinky finger still? It’s not easy thing to do. Naturally, your pinky finger tends to fly away from fretboard whenever it’s not used.
Luckily, there are exercises for this problem. Basically, you don’t want your pinky to flail around. So what do you do? Obviously, you focus on it when playing something. For example, when you practice scales. Then, when you’re playing scales up and down, focus on your pinky finger.
Play it very slow. You’ll see that it is a real struggle to keep your pinky from flying away. However, after some time and with a lot of patience, you’ll notice a significant improvement. Take a look at this exercise.
Problem: Pinky Finger Bending Inward
If you experience your pinky finger bending inward, that’s probably because of its weakness and lack of coordination. Here’s how it looks like.
In other words, your pinky finger is too weak to press onto a string against a fretboard in a way it stays on it properly and firmly.
How to resolve this issue? Like everything else, it has to do with dexterity and strength. To avoid this situation, you’ll need to do certain exercises.
Above in the article you can watch finger gym exercise from youtube. That exercise should help. Also, focus on curling your wrist outward. That way you’ll put your hand in a position of bigger control. That way the pressure exerted by your pinky finger will stabilize more.
Problem: Short Pinky Finger
Some guitar players have shorter pinky finger, and they think of that as a big problem. Is it really a problem? Fingers are very adaptable by nature. Fingers’ ligaments can stretch when situation demands it.
In other words, if you have a shorter pinky finger than average people do, don’t worry. Just do guitar exercises that make your fingers stretch. After a while, you’ll be fine.
Also, if you want, you can try to curl the wrist of your playing hand more outward. That way, you’ll be able to reach frets you want with a pinky easier.
How To Improve Pinky Finger Dexterity
Dexterity is extremely important when it comes to guitar playing. Without proper dexterity skill, your playing will inevitably sound sloppy. And sloppiness is guitarist’s greatest enemy, IMO.
Obviously, pinky finger should be strong enough for you to sound confident when using it. You want to control your pinky finger, and make it more independent. Here’s the exercise that will improve dexterity of your pinky finger, significantly.
Can You Play Guitar Without Pinky Finger?
Yes, you can, but your playing will be limited without pinky finger. Without pinky finger, you can only play some chord voicings, and not all.
With index, middle and ring finger in use only, not only you wouldn’t be able to play all chord shapes. You wouldn’t be able to play some riffs, scales and so on. You could play solos fairly well without pinky finger. There are many guitarists that refrain from using pinky finger while they’re soloing, like Eric Clapton.
You can always adapt to certain situations, but why choosing that hard way?
It’s much better to strengthen your pinky enough so that you can use it whenever the situation demands it.
Why Do Some Guitarists Not Use Their Pinky?
Some guitarists don’t use their pinky when playing guitar. Usually, that’s the case for playing guitar solos. Why do some guitarist not use their pinky?
It’s probably just a habit. Or they just don’t play technically advanced and fast solos that demand use of pinky finger. It doesn’t matter, really. If you feel like you could do a solo without pinky finger, go for it.
Playing Power Chords With Pinky Finger – Yes or No?
You can play power chords with pinky finger if you wish. Or not. There’s no right or wrong.
I can tell you about it from my experience. Usually, I play power chords with just two fingers. Index finger that is pressing the root note, and ring finger that is pressing over two strings, the fifth note and the octave (from root).
However, sometimes I use index, ring and pinky finger for power chords. It depends on the song. It depends on the progression, and how it suits me at the moment. I can’t recognize the pattern for when to use power chord with pinky and when to not use it.
It comes naturally to me. All I can say is this: I don’t use pinky for power chords in most cases. However, if you feel like using it, go for it. There’s no right or wrong in this situation.
Anchoring Pinky Finger – Should You Do It?
First of all – what does anchoring mean? It means you’re placing and kinda locking the finger of your playing hand while you’re playing.
Usually, guitarists tend to anchor their pinky finger in a lot of situations. Why? Because anchoring gives a feeling of hand stability. It is natural. Our hand “tends” to anchor itself, especially pinky finger.
The opposite of anchoring is called floating. It’s when you’re not anchoring, in other words, locking or stabilizing any of your playing hand fingers.
Should you anchor your pinky finger? There’s a whole debate going on in guitarist circles all over the world about this issue. However, I think the majority of guitarists agree that you should stay away from anchoring your pinky. Anchoring will limit your progress in a long run. Without anchoring, you’re able to play faster and with more control.
Read more about it in this article.
Is Pinky Finger Used In Fingerpicking?
In fingerpicking, playing hand do not uses pinky finger. At least I haven’t seen that from any other guitarist. That’s because pinky finger on our playing hand is too weak to be used for string plucking.
Try to use it, just for demonstration to yourself. It’s just to weak and frankly, it is unnecessary to use it in this way. Our fingerstyle playing doesn’t demand using pinky finger in that fashion. Index, middle and ring finger are just enough for fingerpicking.
Pinky finger can be used only when strumming. In that situation, you’re using your whole hand. But that’s different.
I hope this article gave you valuable information on pinky finger issues. Pinky finger is our weakest finger when it comes to playing guitar. Still, you have to learn to use it confidently. Using pinky finger when it’s needed will expand your guitar playing.
If you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it, I’m more than happy about it. Don’t forget to check out other guitar related articles on this site.
Cheers, and rock on!