How To Make Your Pinky Stronger And More Useful
Today is going to be all about the pinky. It doesn't matter if you just picked up the guitar today, or if you're a 30 year veteran of the craft; your pinky is your weakest digit. Now I do think that the pinky gets a bad wrap in ways that isn't its fault! And while it is the weaker finger that doesn't mean it shouldn't be used.
On the contrary. The pinky is as important as the rest of your fingers. It just needs a little more care. And I'm going to show you a great exercise that will help strengthen your pinky and get it better coordinated with the rest of your fingers.
But first let's talk about some body mechanics and why it gets a bad wrap.
Why Is The Pinky Weak?
I think on a lot of people their pinky feels weaker than it actually is. Try this experiment with me.
On you left hand, touch each one of your fingers to your thumb, one at a time. This should feel pretty natural and easy. Now, put your thumb off to the side and try to touch each one of your fingers to you palm. This is considerably more difficult.
Now grab your guitar and play a chord. Where does your thumb sit? It should be relatively straight and in the same position as when you were touching your finger tips. This is going to give you the maximum amount of leverage. For most people, having their thumb somewhere between the middle and top of the neck is the best spot. This varies by person, but is a great guideline.
Pinky Strengthening Exercise On Guitar
I'm going to teach you this pinky strengthening exercise in 3 sections. The best way to learn this is to get each section to about 80% and then move onto the next. Doing this section by section makes it a bit more attainable and not overwhelming. Eventually you'll end up putting all 3 sections together.
Start by playing the 5th fret of the 6th string with your index finger. Then play the 8th fret of the 6th string with your pinky. Make sure you're doing a down-up-down-up picking pattern. This is called alternate picking.
Now, do the same thing on the 5th string. 5th fret with your index finger and 8th fret with your pinky. Do this all the way up to the 1st string. After that you can do it in reverse. 8th fret with your pinky and 5th fret with your index finger on the 1st string. Then the same on the 2nd, 3rd, and all the way down to the 6th string.
You can work on just this exercise and see good improvement after a week or so. Make sure you go slow at first. And make sure the note your pinky plays rings out.
Section 2 is similar to section 1, but you'll use your middle finger and pinky. Start by playing the 6th fret of the 6th string with your middle finger. Then play the 8th fret of the 6th string with your pinky. Do the same all the way up to the 1st string, and then all the way back down in reverse.
This should feel pretty challenging. Just make sure you take it slow, that all notes ring out clearly, and that you're using alternate picking.
I bet you can see what's coming...section 3 will use your ring finger and pinky. Your ring finger will play the 7th fret and your pinky will play the 8th fret. This will be very challenging so go slow. It's not a race and not really a speed builder either. Though you absolutely could take this and make it a speed building exercise.
Putting Them All Together
Once you have a good grasp on each section you can put them all together. Here's what that will look like:
Index finger and pinky on the 6th string, then middle finger and pinky on the same string, then ring finger and pinky on the same string. Then you'll do the same all the way up to the 1st string, and then in reverse to get back to the 6th string.
Making The Most Out Of This Exercise
Make sure to start by learning one exercise at a time. Bookmark this page so you can come back to the next. When you play the exercises, go slow. Speed isn't the goal here.
I recommend doing these for just a few minutes each day. Somewhere between 3-6 minutes at a time, a couple times throughout the day. You'll be amazed at how big of a difference this small amount of time can make.
As you're playing this exercise be mindful of what your fingers and hand are doing. Keep your fingers pretty close to the strings and avoid big movements. Big movements will slow you down. When you move to the next string make that movement small too. Keep your fingers pretty close to the strings.
If your fingers get sore and tired, that's a good thing! It's just like any other muscle that gets sore and tired after working out. If you're feeling any negative pain, then stop what you're doing. That's definitely not right. Take a break for a few hours and come back it. If you're still experiencing pain (and not just muscle soreness in your fingers or hand) then you would want to get that checked out by a doctor.
And lastly, try to go at an even tempo. You don't have to practice with a metronome right away. But it can be highly beneficial once you have the exercises down.
Thanks for joining me today for day 16 of my 30 day guitar coaching series. I hope you enjoyed it and give these exercises a try!
Have you used any other finger strengthening exercise that's been helpful? Let me know in the comments, and let me know if there are any other exercises you'd like to see!