There are many different ways to use the right hand little finger (labeled c). Some pedagogues recommend training it as you would any other finger, others advocate keeping it straight (or do that themselves) or having it follow along the ring finger.
Is there a right way?
Probably not. Everyone has different hands. For some the best way to avoid tension is to use a straight pinky, for others that creates more tension.
The best method to use is the one that doesn’t create tension in the right hand.
What I tell my students
I outlined my thoughts about right hand technique in Giuliani 120+. Essentially, the right hand works in three units: The thumb, the index, and everything else. The thumb and index are relatively independent, while the middle, ring, and little fingers are less independent of each other.
We can work with this and use it to our advantage with things like sympathetic motion, but it also provides the basis for what to do with the pinky. m a c work as a unit. If one moves, the others should not be restrained: they should move along. The pinky, should come along for the ride with every moment of a or, sometimes, m.
Some people think of “glueing” the pinky the to the ring finger, which works fine (and is how I learned to have it move along). The pinky just has to move with the ring finger, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be right next to it.
How to Fix a Misbehaving Pinky
Easy: pay attention to it. Awareness practice, practicing something while paying attention to a very specific aspect, in this case the pinky, works well.
If you want to practice technical exercises, work on moving m a c as a unit while doing basic arpeggios such as p i m, p m i, p i a, and p a i. Patterns that involve m and a start to get into the use of the compound stroke which changes the game for what the pinky does.
To take p i m as an example: try playing the arpeggio. Now play it again while moving a and c along with m. It has a different feel. The motion of a c might not be as big as the motion of m, but just allowing them to move along can eliminate a lot of tension.
When the little finger is not in use, try keep it relaxed and gently curved like the rest of the fingers normally are. Most times, any issues can be solved by allowing the finger to come along with the others as discussed above.
With all the above in mind, here are a few things I watch for in my students’ playing.
- Straight- c sticks straight out.
- Hooked- c curls up tight and holds that position.