how do i learn to use my baby finger while playing guitar?

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Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Feb 13, 2006 3:57 am

ive been playing guitar for 2 years and i have gotten pretty good but im having trouble playing faster solos that have notes a few frets apart.

i have gotten into the habit of just using my first 3 fingers and i cant use my baby finger to play. when i have my ring finger down on a fret my baby finger wont do what i want it to do unless i stop and slowly place my finger on the fret which doesnt help me.

what can i do to make my baby finger start working when i play?
(and just for the record there isnt anything physically wrong with my finger its just a bit lazy)
Posts: 259
Joined: Mon Aug 21, 2006 2:41 am

play some easy trills like

(on any string, you may want to start with high e tho)


and some basic tapping licks such as

e-t12p0h4h7 etc

also this kind of a picking excercise should do no harm to your usage of the pinky

b----------15-12 repeat after repeat

hope this helps. i got my pinky working just by using it as much as possible. it was ridiculously difficult at first but once i got it working i never had to think about it again.


i know it sounds stupid and nobody wants to do it but play chromatics legato. 1h2h3h4. a very affective way of building finger strength.
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Joined: Tue Mar 21, 2006 9:24 pm

Vai's ten hour workout got me using all four of my fingers fine and alternate picking :wink:
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Mr Clark
Posts: 198
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2005 12:32 am

you can practice on the intro of hot for teacher, that's real good practice for the left hand.. and aside from trills on one string i do, h5p2-h5p2 on the high e and then h5p2 once on the b string, and you do it really fast, it's the start of a frusciante solo, on one of the songs from stadium arcadium (only it sould be h15p12, but it's not as good a practice if you play it there :D).. sounds cool :)
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Big Bad Bill
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Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2003 12:40 am

Baby finger? Never heard it called that before :D Play three notes per string scales slowly and keep a strict one fret per finger spacing. You could try just taping your fourth digit to the third so you're forced to use the fifth digit.
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Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2003 10:45 am

Just keep playing with it. Before you know it you'll be using it all the time.
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spanishphrygian wrote:Just keep playing with it. Before you know it you'll be using it all the time.
You are talking about the finger, right.........?
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I used to do this really tough excercise when I was a kid. Really helped.

Try to do hammer-ons and pull-offs between the third and fourth fingers on the 1st and 3rd frets. :twisted:

It's fecking hard, and you shouldn't do it if it becomes painful, but short phrases doing that is gonna help big time.

Another thing I used to do was try to do all my bends with the little finger. Like, half-step bends with the little finger alone. For full-step bends, use all four fingers.

This helps. I dunno what I'd do today if I couldn't use my pinky. I'd be lost!
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Joined: Sat May 03, 2003 8:59 pm

try this:

-4-1-4-1-4-1-4-1- -4-2-4-2-4-2-4-2- -4-3-4-3-4-3-4-3- -4-2-4-2-4-2-4-2-

Repeat each figure two times. Pick a comfortable tempo preferrably with a metronome. Play the notes as sixteenth or eight notes. Repeat as many times as you can and stop before your hands hurts too much. Rest for a while and then start over.

It's easiest to do it on the high E-string since you're just building strength. And the higher up on the fretboard the easier.

This should build up your pinky muscle pretty quickly.
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another virtuoso
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:23 pm

what can i do to make my baby finger start working when i play?
by using it. yes, that's a horrible answer, but it's the best one anyone has given you so far. if you want to use all four fingers, then make a conscious effort during 100% of your practice and playing time to use it like you should. anywhere/anytime you see yourself using the wrong finger to fret a note, do it over again the right way.
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Posts: 184
Joined: Sat Oct 06, 2007 12:43 pm

Pretty much. Try playing riffs like Sea of Lies, or playing Phrygian dominant in A, where the first string is 5, 6 ,9.

Chromatics, picking patterns that use every finger (Technical difficulties by Racer X is full of those, as is a lot of PG stuff)

Memories by Satch is a good one for that.

Also, I can send you guitar pro tabs for a bunch of songs I've written that use the little finger in more strange ways in regards to chords. I've developed a style where I very much try to play using every possible finger, at least when it comes to clean chordal picking patterns, and part of what makes that sound the way it does, is my tendency to hammer on notes to change chords while playing with the right hand to tap harmonics and so on.

Because of that, every finger on my left hand tends to end up in some pretty strange positions, (These WILL make your hands ache at first, fingers aren't normally used to doing some of the things I do. Many is the time I've written a song only to find that I have trouble playing it for extended periods)

The main advantage this will have in your case is that my little finger can be a lot more active than in more conventional patterns, since it frequently hammers on slides, bends, or just has to move somewhere quickly in order to facilitate something else in the song like a tapped harm.
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Playing songs that involve certain techniques or problems is great, but I think it's better to isolate the problem, make up an exercise that involves what you're bad at, and only work on that. It saves a lot of time

Then you can go back to the song and try it out. If it didn't work, you might have to practice some more or change the exercise.
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Start slow, maybe 60 beats per minute (240 notes/minute). Practice 10 min/day, about 3 minutes each of the following permutations(all hammerons/pulloffs)
Try to excercise precise posture and use as little force as possible to achieve evenness of each note (with accent on the first). You'll probably have to start with a light attack on the notes played with the first three fingers to compensate for lack of strength in the 4th, but this is an acceptable compromise because you really need to hear the accents (and not train your ear to unnevenness)
1234 1243 1324 1342 1423 1432

After you've done that (and all over the neck, all combinations of strings), add another permutation and change the rhythmic grouping to another group, like 7's phrased with accents on the 4th and 5th notes respectively
like this:
123 4234
1234 234
but still keeping the 8th notes even (a group of 7, not triplets and 16ths)
1234 yields
1234120 1234123 1234124 1234142
1234130 1234132 1234134
1234140 1234142 1234143

1234210 1234212 1234213 1234214
1234230 1234232 1234234
1234240 1234242 1234243

1234310 1234312 1234313 1234314
1234320 1234323 1234324
1234340 1234342 1234343

You can also substitute and open string for the repeats that occur between the 7th and 1st notes, like the combo's such as 1234241(0)
Then take the above and change the 1st 4-note group to the other 5 patterns built from 1234 (1st paragraph), substituting open string where the 4th note is the same finger as the 5th note.
Making even volume between fretted and open notes is difficult but will really open up your technique.

After you've done that, add a fret gap in between 1 of the 4 fingers so there's a stretch. After about a year of exploring these excercises in 10 min/day, there really shouldn't be ANY gaps in your strength. I can say from experience that discipline with this program really improved my playing in ways that nothing else has.
A final note, some of my favorite groups:
1424324 1243140 1324314 1232134 1232323 1321314 1321324 1231242 1213414 1212134 1241312 1214342
Hope that helps
Last edited by j3 on Wed Apr 09, 2008 8:32 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2008 11:52 pm

Just play with it and it will eventually come natural. If youre looking for exersice the 1234 model is the way to go :)
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Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2005 10:11 am

How about the chromatic scale? The chromatic scale is all twelve notes in the octave, skipping none. Here it is in A. Besides using all four fingers you will have the added benefit of hearing the chromatic scale as “music”. Note that if you go straight across the strings, i.e. [5-6-7-8] on every string, it won’t be the chromatic scale because you will be skipping notes.

Also, note how you don’t shift between the G and B strings, due to standard tuning.
Chromatic scale in A:
(All roots in boldface)


For a real "treat", learn to sing this as you play it. :)
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