I want to begin by saying that this is a very good instructional video that I saw on Guitar World’s Blog. He covers some really good, simple techniques for working on some basic bluesy riffs that involve bending the strings. In this video he specifically covers bending the 2nd (B) string to the 1st (E) string. If you are trying to get this stuff down please do check it out. He does a great job breaking it down.
HOWEVER, there is a BIG caveat to my recommendation. (I’m sure you were wondering where the “beef” part was coming from!). I want to direct you to around 7:50 into the video and the riff he shows you. Watch it, then come back…
Ok, so let’s look at our left hand. Go ahead. Now, assuming you weren’t the victim of an accident or have a birth defect (I almost lost part of my left ring finger when I was 13, it was obviously saved), you should have FOUR fingers plus your thumb. My question is this, if you were playing an instrument like this, wouldn’t you want to use ALL of them or at least make the attempt? I mean, think of how much more you can do? Or, how much easier it would be to play certain riffs?
There are a number of guitar players, and many are bonified skilled pros, who don’t use that little finger when playing leads (Alex Lifeson and Michael Schenker come to mind right away and I love both of their playing). Whatever method they learned the guitar, it seemed to work for them quite well. But please do remember, you aren’t them and don’t possess their skills. You want to develop your own. I do know that there are many more greats who do use that finger.
As another analogy: you could go see some blues players who are left handed who simply turned the guitar upside down and learned that way because the supply of left handed guitars was non-existent to them – or scarce at best. They had to figure it out on their own in the only way they could; given their circumstances – whatever they were. Now, as a teacher, would you really teach a student how to play guitar that way? My guess is that you would encourage them to learn righty (I have done that successfully to some students, my brother is one) or to search and purchase an actual left handed guitar. The availability is better these days.
My thinking is the same regarding using the left hand pinky when playing leads. Let’s start off that way right from the beginning and open up the possibilities! Yes, I show those leads on the video utilizing the left pinky on the 1st (E) string. There is so much less unecessary movement. The notes are played in a much more fluid manner. It goes like this:
One great way to work on this is to use the chromatic scale. It’s one of the first scales I teach beginners and I personally still use variations on the scale as a warmup to this day. It utilizes the “one finger per fret” idea. Now, the scale has many other uses to work on technique (that’s for another post!), but the point of this exercise is to use ALL of the fingers, including that elusive pinky finger.
Here is an instructional video I send to my students:
And the TAB:
Make those fingers work for you!
Take care and rock on!
Guitar Finger Gymnastics
- A simple exercise to warm up the fingers. A must for every guitar player!
- Exercises to improve finger coordination and dexterity. Train the fingers to do what you want them to do on the guitar!
- You will learn steps to take to stretch the fingers. Helps to form the chords and make them sound better!