Let’s Get Something Straight

I end up teaching a lot of “remedial” students–students that come to me from other teachers. Most times these are electric or non-classical guitar students. The only thing they all have in common is a almost religious avoidance of using the fourth finger. As if teachers just accept that the left hand fourth finger is useless and should never be used.

The only way to get a student to really use his/her pinky is give them tasks that require it. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Most teachers do notation reading with young students–something that makes it easy to use the fourth finger approach. Even power chords can be taught using 1 and 4 instead of 1 and 3.

Teachers need to quit thinking the pinky just happens one day. We train the other three left hand fingers from the first lesson, why not train the so called weakest one?

By avoiding the use of the fourth finger you’re literally training your students not to use it.

Posted on in Guitar Teaching


  • Jamie

    I always get bugged by the whole little finger being the weakest thing. I agree with exactly what you’ve said. It’s the weakest because we tell ourselves it is. If you think about a baby, they grip things with the little finger and thumb. Pinch strength in the index and middle fingers are developed later, then takes over. And when looking at the anatomy of the arm, if you draw a straight line from the elbow toward the hand, you end up at the pinky, not the middle or thumb. Structurally, a very strong anchor point.

    Just saying…the little guy needs some love too.

  • GuitarVlog

    With the first ‘classical’ teacher I had, I was recommended fingerings that avoided the use of the pinky because I would get results faster than having to train the pinky and building up its strength, reach and dexterity. I knew that the pinky was supposed to be used extensively because my sheet music showed the recommended fingerings.

    I felt his approach was short-sighted and sacrificed long-term benefits for short-term gains. I chose not to continue lessons after our third session. More than a year later, I’m thankful for having made that decision.

  • Jordan

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Without my pinky, I would be lost. I have no idea how some people manage to play semi-technical pieces without it….

  • Carol A

    One advantage of being a clarinet/sax player is that my pinky finger is probably as strong as my other fingers -you can’t play these instruments without using your 4th finger! Now if I could just learn to play that guitar properly…….

    Not only is my 4th finger stronger but I can also move it independantly from my other fingers. Try this, it’s not a natural way for your hand to operate. I hadn’t realised this until someone demonstrating various things about the human hand pointed this out.

  • Chris Rushton

    Teachers who don’t encourage the use of all fingers shouldn’t be allowed to take money for teaching in my opinion! Especially for classical guitar. They are just setting the student up to fail