What to do with my pinky?

Jonesy

Senior Member
I find that when I'm holding my drumsticks (I play matched), I don't know what to do with my pinky finger. Over the years, my right pinky has learned to rest on top of my ring finger, but my left pinky stays under my ring finger. I have a feeling that neither of these tendencies are correct so I'm wondering if you guys can tell me what I should be trying to do. Thanks!
 

Cadet311

Member
Pinky should be in a position that causes no excess tension in your hand. If your pinky makes it on the stick, great, if not, no biggie. It shouldn't be jutting straight out like your having tea.

In the words of Tommy Igoe "Pinky gets a free ride".
 

Garvin

Pioneer Member
Well if you have been playing a certain way for years and the only problem is that you don't know if its "right" then I say absolutely do NOT worry about it. I think it would be detrimental to concentrate on something that doesn't really affect your playing.

Do you feel like the location of your pinky finger on the stick causes you to play poorly, or not able to achieve what you are striving for musically?

I would caution you not to get distracted by this. I can understand wanting to hone technque, but not at the cost of sacrificing your ability to concentrate on the music itself.

I've found (in live situations) that when I "check in" on my technique, I inevitably miss a cue, or do something that sounds weird. On occasion, toward the end of a third set, I'll check out how loose or tight I'm holding the stick and kind of play with my grip a little bit and end up dropping a stick or not paying attention to the song. Just some stuff to watch out for.
 

Jonesy

Senior Member
Well if you have been playing a certain way for years and the only problem is that you don't know if its "right" then I say absolutely do NOT worry about it. I think it would be detrimental to concentrate on something that doesn't really affect your playing.

Do you feel like the location of your pinky finger on the stick causes you to play poorly, or not able to achieve what you are striving for musically?

I would caution you not to get distracted by this. I can understand wanting to hone technque, but not at the cost of sacrificing your ability to concentrate on the music itself.

I've found (in live situations) that when I "check in" on my technique, I inevitably miss a cue, or do something that sounds weird. On occasion, toward the end of a third set, I'll check out how loose or tight I'm holding the stick and kind of play with my grip a little bit and end up dropping a stick or not paying attention to the song. Just some stuff to watch out for.
Well after reading Wavelength's post I went out to my kit and tried to keep my pinky on the stick... man did it ever screw up my playing. When I just let it hang under the ring finger it feels much more natural, and I really don't think it affects my playing it any way.

This was indeed part of my attempt to improve every facet of my drumming technique, but if you guys think that it's more of a "you do it or you don't" kind of thing, then I'll gladly keep going the way I am now.

Thanks again for the responses guys.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Well after reading Wavelength's post I went out to my kit and tried to keep my pinky on the stick... man did it ever screw up my playing. When I just let it hang under the ring finger it feels much more natural,
Of course playing the way you've played for years is going to feel more "natural". But that's the wrong word. The word you're looking for is habitual. Anytime we alter our familiar postures or movement patterns it seems uncomfortable at first. Even people with terrible - potentially damaging - posture will claim that standing with a straight back and relaxing their shoulders feels "weird" and "unnatural". Our bodies/brains simply become accustomed to our habitual poses. This, by no means, suggests they are "natural" or even beneficial.

and I really don't think it affects my playing it any way.
That's a different question. Sometimes the most subtle things can cause adjustments elsewhere in the grip and stroke and lead to inefficiencies. That said, there are several schools of thought on the pinky. While Tommy Igoe might say that "pinky gets a free ride", Jim Chapin or Tony Williams or Jojo Mayer would disagree.

My thinking is this: it's there, why not let it help us? It can be VERY useful for certain finger-based techniques, and is also very useful for gripping the stick in the Swiss/Moeller/Williams style - a grip which provides a lot of power as well as a near-direct transfer of force from wrist to stick. Note that when you grip the stick with the last two fingers on it, any movement of the wrist leads to motion of the stick without delay. This may, or may not, be advantageous to you.

This was indeed part of my attempt to improve every facet of my drumming technique, but if you guys think that it's more of a "you do it or you don't" kind of thing, then I'll gladly keep going the way I am now.
You mention it being under or over your ring finger depending on the hand. For starters, unless your hands are different - and assuming you play matched grip - wouldn't it make sense to construct your grip in the same way for both hands? Moreover, if the pinky is over the third finger, it suggest to me that it is out of its normal, relaxed alignment with the hand, meaning that there are muscles and tendons engaged somewhere which may not need to be -- depending on your hands, of course.
 
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Garvin

Pioneer Member
I think there's nothing wrong with fine tuning things, but you wanna make sure you are doing it in practice, not at the gig. Unfortunately for me, gigs are my practice most of the time, thus I also get to practice dropping sticks LOL!

I'm sure the "technicians" will weigh in here eventually. I would love to heat their perspectives as well.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
You can use your pinky to aid in the execution of strokes. It adds its own amount of power to the rest of your fingers, thereby making your finger strokes more efficient, which, in turn, make your wrist strokes more efficient as well.

It's not that it's any more or less "natural", but it's what you're comfortable with or not. Don't sweat it if you have no intentions of drumming beyond your current level of ability. If you want to maximize your use of energy and your potential for playing faster, longer, and with more control, then every little bit (in this case, energy and stability from your fingers) helps!
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
I think there's nothing wrong with fine tuning things, but you wanna make sure you are doing it in practice, not at the gig. Unfortunately for me, gigs are my practice most of the time, thus I also get to practice dropping sticks LOL!

I'm sure the "technicians" will weigh in here eventually. I would love to heat their perspectives as well.
I think you're right that excessive attention to things like grip and technique can detract from our musical performance in that moment. That said, when I playing, part of my mental routine is short, rotating spotchecks on various aspects of my technique and posture. A couple of milliseconds of attention paid to making sure I'm breathing freely and generally relaxed can do wonders for overall tension levels and endurance.
 
I use the back of my grip, pinky included, for fast strokes. Like up tempo swing or a fast shuffle.
for like fast rolls and stuff, the pinkies don't really have a function since I am usually a the top of my grip applying pressure at the thumb/first finger.
 

Jonesy

Senior Member
Of course playing the way you've played for years is going to feel more "natural". But that's the wrong word. The word you're looking for is habitual. Anytime we alter our familiar postures or movement patterns it seems uncomfortable at first. Even people with terrible - potentially damaging - posture will claim that standing with a straight back and relaxing their shoulders feels "weird" and "unnatural". Our bodies/brains simply become accustomed to our habitual poses. This, by no means, suggests they are "natural" or even beneficial.



That's a different question. Sometimes the most subtle things can cause adjustments elsewhere in the grip and stroke and lead to inefficiencies. That said, there are several schools of thought on the pinky. While Tommy Igoe might say that "pinky gets a free ride", Jim Chapin or Tony Williams or Jojo Mayer would disagree.

My thinking is this: it's there, why not let it help us? It can be VERY useful for certain finger-based techniques, and is also very useful for gripping the stick in the Swiss/Moeller/Williams style - a grip which provides a lot of power as well as a near-direct transfer of force from wrist to stick. Note that when you grip the stick with the last two fingers on it, any movement of the wrist leads to motion of the stick without delay. This may, or may not, be advantageous to you.



You mention it being under or over your ring finger depending on the hand. For starters, unless your hands are different - and assuming you play matched grip - wouldn't it make sense to construct your grip in the same way for both hands? Moreover, if the pinky is over the third finger, it suggest to me that it is out of its normal, relaxed alignment with the hand, meaning that there are muscles and tendons engaged somewhere which may not need to be -- depending on your hands, of course.
You're right, natural is much different from habitual and it would probably take a lot of practice to make it feel natural.

However, the thing I noticed most when I tried to use my pinky is that both fingers are actually slightly curved inward (not drastically, but enough). This makes it very awkward when I try to place it next to my ring finger in a relaxed manner. I don't know if this is extremely uncommon or not, but i'm worried as to how must it's going to impede my efforts.

So, if I decide to try and incorporate my pinkys into my grip, should I be ALWAYS trying to incorporate them, or just when I practice?

As for the under/over thing, I'm going to deal with that no matter what I do.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
The great thing about the pinky is that:
(a) it is connected to the strongest of the hand musles
(b) it is located furthest away from the fulcrum, compared to the other fingers, giving you the substantial benefit of more leverage ( which translates to power and control) than any other finger.

Of course, this would mean altering your grip to include the pinky, but there are good reasons to do it this way. I agree with Boomka in that with matched grip, the right hand and left hand should look as identical as possible with regard to the way the hand touches the stick. Plus the more fingers on the stick, the more control you have.
 

Jonesy

Senior Member
The great thing about the pinky is that:
(a) it is connected to the strongest of the hand musles
(b) it is located furthest away from the fulcrum, compared to the other fingers, giving you the substantial benefit of more leverage ( which translates to power and control) than any other finger.

Of course, this would mean altering your grip to include the pinky, but there are good reasons to do it this way. I agree with Boomka in that with matched grip, the right hand and left hand should look as identical as possible with regard to the way the hand touches the stick. Plus the more fingers on the stick, the more control you have.
Your post was sufficiently convincing for me to try and incorporate my pinky into my grip, and after only a few days of practice, I'm REALLY glad I decided to do it.
It has given increased control over the stick extraordinarily. in fact at first, it felt like I was gripping the stick like you would a baseball bat. Of course I wasn't, but that's how unusual if felt to have so much control.

It still feels a little awkward and I have to continually force myself to make sure that my pinky doesn't force my ring finger off the stick, but I think it's going to be more than worth the effort.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who gave me advice regarding this change of technique and special thanks to those who encouraged me to bear with it!
 

jazzin'

Silver Member
You should try to incorporate your pinky. It's not there for no reason and can actually add quite bit extra to your playing if trained up.

One exercise that I found highly beneficial was to get you stick in your hand, then slide your hand up to the very tip of your stick so that the butt is resting along your forearm right? In your natural grip position keep just your fulcrum fingers on the stick, letting go with the middle and ring fingers okay? All you need to do is start playing the stick with only your pinky. You should be bouncing the stick into your forearm, with just the tip of your stick held by your thumb and index and all the work being done by your pinky finger. It is exactly like you're doing a single stroke roll but the stick is hitting your forearm muscles and you're holding the tip while the butt is playing into your forearm. Does this make sense?

It's a great exercise to get it started and build up the motion and strength. The pinky is the forgotten finger that has as much use as you other fingers. Too often it is forgotten completely and often I even see players that play with their pinky hanging out to the side or something! It's a good exercise to do while just watching TV or something as it doesn't make any noise at all and you don't need to concentrate. Just make sure that you are getting full range of motion and that it's only your pinky doing the work. Give it a shot for a while. You might find it adds some extra strength to your grip and playing.
 

Jonesy

Senior Member
You should try to incorporate your pinky. It's not there for no reason and can actually add quite bit extra to your playing if trained up.

One exercise that I found highly beneficial was to get you stick in your hand, then slide your hand up to the very tip of your stick so that the butt is resting along your forearm right? In your natural grip position keep just your fulcrum fingers on the stick, letting go with the middle and ring fingers okay? All you need to do is start playing the stick with only your pinky. You should be bouncing the stick into your forearm, with just the tip of your stick held by your thumb and index and all the work being done by your pinky finger. It is exactly like you're doing a single stroke roll but the stick is hitting your forearm muscles and you're holding the tip while the butt is playing into your forearm. Does this make sense?

It's a great exercise to get it started and build up the motion and strength. The pinky is the forgotten finger that has as much use as you other fingers. Too often it is forgotten completely and often I even see players that play with their pinky hanging out to the side or something! It's a good exercise to do while just watching TV or something as it doesn't make any noise at all and you don't need to concentrate. Just make sure that you are getting full range of motion and that it's only your pinky doing the work. Give it a shot for a while. You might find it adds some extra strength to your grip and playing.
Ya, I understand what you're getting at and this looks like it could be a very worthwhile practice regiment, especially considering my situation - I'm gonna try this out as well.

Larryace - I know what you mean, and it blows my mind that people can come to this site so often and yet almost refuse to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge that other members have to contribute. The amount of knowledge I've gained in the few months I've been here is staggering.
 

rootheart

Senior Member
You should try to incorporate your pinky. It's not there for no reason and can actually add quite bit extra to your playing if trained up.

One exercise that I found highly beneficial was to get you stick in your hand, then slide your hand up to the very tip of your stick so that the butt is resting along your forearm right? In your natural grip position keep just your fulcrum fingers on the stick, letting go with the middle and ring fingers okay? All you need to do is start playing the stick with only your pinky. You should be bouncing the stick into your forearm, with just the tip of your stick held by your thumb and index and all the work being done by your pinky finger. It is exactly like you're doing a single stroke roll but the stick is hitting your forearm muscles and you're holding the tip while the butt is playing into your forearm. Does this make sense?
Yes this does make sense. I also used to practise like this.
Another exercise is: hold the stick with your ringfinger and you pinky only, spread the other fingers away from the stick. Then play. Soon you can play pretty frigging fast singlestrokes with this grip.
 
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