Help needed: Terrible pinky problems

Hey guys,

I’ve been acutely aware of issues with my pinky for many years now. I’ve been trying to improve its strength on and off for the last year or so, wanting to improve it for pentatonic stuff (yes I know that I could just use my ring finger but I’m aiming for one finger per fret) and also for descending 3nps scales because pulling off and leading with the pinky to the next string above is a nightmare for me (4-2-1 fingering, because my 4-3-1 pull-offs are fine). The problem I’ve been getting recently is seen in this video:

I’m just doing simple and slow hammer-ons but you’ll notice that the second and third fingers want to come down onto the fretboard and hit the frets between the index and the pinky. It’s also difficult for me to play faster than the speed in the video because I feel so much tension, it feels like I’m constantly fighting against my second and third fingers and have to concentrate hard so they don’t come down fully. Why is this? Can anyone recommend some exercises to improve this?

What’s weird is that it got worse over the last few days since I started a slow and deliberate 3nps hammer-on exercise (1-2-4). I did notice the last day or so that my little finger was shaking and quivering when it was fretted though (no pain though - perhaps I just have some muscle fatigue?) By the way, for context, I can play fast (120bpm sextuplet) 3nps hammer-ons almost perfectly and quite cleanly, whereas my 3nps pull-offs are hideous (probably due to my terrible pinky ability?).

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I don’t want to diagnose anything here since I’m not a doctor, but it sounds like you might be exhibiting some dystonic movements. I was diagnosed with focal dystonia in 2012 and have managed to make a recovery by essentially relearning my technique (with the help of a body mapping instructor) and changing my style, as well as addressing the psychological/emotional roots of the issue (focal dystonia is very much linked to anxiety and emotions, so much so that I recommend reading up on the techniques pioneered by Dr Sarno to address back pain). The Body mapping practitioner I studied with is named Jerald Harscher and his website is

I know this is probably a more extreme answer than you might have anticipated, but it’s important to address these things if they are indeed presenting themselves sooner than later.


I think you make a great point. I really have been obsessing over the little finger too much over the last few years, sometimes jumping into strenuous exercises with no warm-ups that focus ONLY on the little finger. I think my mindset has been: “this is my weak point, so I have to intensely focus on that ONLY and then I’ll be using my practice time as efficiently as possible”. Looking back, I guess this isn’t healthy.

I’ve decided to stop focusing on the little finger. For a few weeks/months I’ll only be learning and practising classical pieces and rhythm so that, while I keep all four of my fretting fingers strong, I’ll be more balanced. Perhaps it will provide some psychological relief too, since it’s got to the point where I don’t enjoy playing anymore like I used to and it was only ever about ‘strengthening’ the little finger and attaining a certain BPM using it.

Thank you again for your comments, as I think it’s been a wake-up call. Even if I don’t have the early signs of FD, I think my mindset needed to be corrected anyway, so your comments have redirected me towards a positive direction.

I may make an update on my progress…

@flaggiani I would also take a wholistic look at your left hand technique in general as your thumb position looks incredibly tense (your thumb appears deep down the back of the neck and opposing the 4th finger, which is an incredibly tense position for it, the thumb is most relaxed opposing the 1st finger, sometimes 2nd). If I have time later I’ll explain in a bit further detail what I’m seeing.

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Great feedback, I’ll keep that in mind! I think I forced myself into that position after hearing “don’t play the note with the pad of your little finger, but rather, the tip of your little finger”. Playing on the very tip feels like I need to contort my hand to do it properly.

I did my masters thesis on hand anatomy and guitar playing. The first thing I noticed is your wrist is overly bent. You should try to keep the wrist fairly straight and make your fingers reach over the fret board. Raise your arm up a little to reach the bass strings instead of bending the wrist. Most peoples anatomy share a tendon between the middle and angular finger. (ring finger) Try an experiment, put your left hand palm down on a table and then bring your middle finger in under your palm. You will notice that you can lift every finger except the angular one. That is the shared tendon, so it is easy to understand why when you move either the middle or angular the other finger moves slightly. A good strengthening tool is therapeutic putty, which you find at a place that sells crutches or braces. It is basically Silly Putty. These spring devices you can buy to strengthen your hand can injure you. The putty in you hand allows you to gently push one finger at a time into it. After using it for a week you will notice a difference in endurance and even your independence of each finger.


@Jazguitfrk Thanks for the tip on the wrist and the therapy putty–I’ll keep these in mind!

A way that I got my pinky much stronger was by practicing the intro to the song “Sea Of Lies” by Symphony X (great band!!). No matter what level of playing you are, going on youtube and slowing down the video to however slow you need it to practice the riff right will do WONDERS to your overall finger strength.

And you should check out the album “Divine Wings Of Tragedy” by Symphony X, absolute masterpiece \m/ keep shreddin