Pentatonic pinky

So after struggling for days with one of the Eric Johnson licks I narrowed down the issue to my left hand.
At some point in my life someone taught me to play most things with one finger per fret in box positions, in particular the classic minor pentatonic first position.

However I think can be quite unhelpful - the pinky and ring fingers are much less independent than the others and I think it becomes a problem when playing fast on the G and B strings.

I had noticed that @Troy mostly relied on his first three fingers for a lot of these licks and sure enough on that pattern ( ) he actually doesn’t use the pinky at all. I tried it and found it instantly faster and more controlled.

So I’m thinking I should relearn to play my pentatonics this way, although of course it’s not always possible on the lower frets ( or at least not comfortable ).

Thoughts ?

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Here is my two cents. Both ways are valid in my opinion. Sometimes in learning there is the right way and the other way that works better in certain situations. I think people tend to use 1 and 3 for pentatonics cause it helps with bending but this can also be learned with the 1 and 4 with help/support from 3 for bends. Utilizing 4 will also help when doing the full 7 note scale so perhaps using both off and on will make each one better. I forgot to mention if you want to add the 9 and 6 that most everyone adds even johnson, using 4 makes sense in this situation unless you use 1 as a pivot and go between scale degree 1 and 9 then 1 and b3 on the top string and same goes for the B string. 5 to 6 then 5 to b7.


I think a lot has to do with hand size and where things are played on the fretboard, but as a general rule, I like to stick to the first 3 fingers when doing pentatonic licks.

Actually, the more I got into players like Michael Schenker and watching guitarists like John Sykes, who spend a lot of time doing these licks, I’ve even gotten hip to using the 2nd finger for the bend on the G string when doing fast licks on the top 3 strings in the root position box, as well as on the b7 note on the B string when doing those repetitive Kirk Hammett style licks. It seems awkward at first, but once I got the hang of it, I was able to do all those licks crazy fast. The key is angling your hand so your fingers are at a bit more of a diagonal to the frets and your thumb is more up on the side of the neck rather than the back.

For a more “shreddy” application of the ideas I’m talking about, its similar to what Shawn Lane describes here:


Thanks ! That makes a lot of sense, and is very helpful, especially that Shawn Lane video, man is his speed ridiculous :smile:
I have fairly big hands so it’s not an issue.
It’s funny I’ve never questioned this before, even though on the piano it wouldn’t even cross my mind to use the pinky for something that I can do with the first three fingers.

Reading Troy’s comment in another thread that if speeding up doesn’t seem natural or is tense then it means the technique is probably wrong was a good trigger :+1:

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Wow, good stuff! Thanks!

Relatable. I use my pinky for like everything I can, which sometimes is not the best approach. For example I play Yngwie’s sixes much faster withmy ring finger.
I guess I have this habit because - despite my pinky is damaged, it’s tip doesn’t feel anything so I used it a lot when I had just started to play a guitar. You know, no pain form thin strings etc )