The Pinky Anchor (Guitar Lesson)

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Jim Deeming

The Pinky Anchor

Many guitarists use their pinky as an anchor. Jim explains the pros and cons of this technique.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Basic Guitar with Jim seriesLength: 9:00Difficulty: 1.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (06:20) The Pinky Anchor Recently in the JamPlay member forum, instructors as well as members have debated whether the right pinky finger should be used as an anchor. When someone refers to the pinky as an anchor finger, he / she means that the pinky is fixed to the body of the guitar in order to keep the right hand stationary. Some players anchor their pinky to the bridge or pickguard. Some electric players prefer to anchor the pinky finger to the bridge or middle pickup.

Various instructors encourage this technique, and others feel that it should never be used. For this reason, Jim has decided to film a lesson in hopes of clearing up some of the confusion surrounding this debate. In this lesson, Jim explains why and when he uses the pinky finger as an anchor. He also provides an explanation of why many teachers disapprove of this technique.

Common Arguments Against Using the Pinky As an Anchor

Many guitar teachers can point to several specific reasons regarding why this technique should never be used. Almost all classically trained guitarists feel very strongly that this technique should never be used. Here are some of the arguments that many guitar teachers use to discourage using the pinky finger as an anchor:

1. The pinky is the weakest finger. Using the pinky as an anchor puts unnecessary strain on it. Built up tension in the pinky easily spreads to the other fingers in your hand. This will lead to an overall lack of control in your playing. It can also result in injuries such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

2. Using the pinky as an anchor greatly limits the overall range of movement of the right hand. This may disallow you from playing musical examples that incorporate strumming, string skipping, low bass notes, and arpeggio figures. It also severely limits your ability to play solo arrangements with a flatpick.

3. Using the pinky as an anchor decreases independence between the fingers of the right hand. Anchoring the pinky forces your other right hand fingers closer to the strings. This may result in accidentally bumping these strings with the index, middle, or ring fingers.

4. Anchoring the pinky finger disallows you from using it. It also greatly limits your ability to use the third finger. Although the pinky finger is rarely used for anything, it does play a very important role in flamenco techniques such as the rasgueado.

Common Arguments For Using the Pinky As an Anchor

On the flipside, many guitar teachers strongly urge students to use the pinky finger as an anchor. Two of JamPlay's finest, Jim Deeming and Steve Eulberg, frequently play with this technique. In the member forum, Jim mentioned that he anchors his pinky finger all the time. This was a simple exaggeration. By this statement, he meant that he frequently uses the pinky as an anchor.

Also, like Jim mentions, disciples of the great Chet Atkins also encourage this technique. Contrary to what most classical and jazz guitarists believe, these players feel that using the pinky as an anchor provides several advantages. Jim argues that anchoring the pinky provides the following advantages:

1. Anchoring the pinky enables you to play faster. This idea applies to fingerpicking as well as playing with a thumb or flatpick.

2. The pinky finger keeps the right hand from moving out of position.

3. Anchoring the pinky helps maintain control over the rest of the right hand fingers within the context of a fingerpicked arpeggio pattern. Jim demonstrates a rapid arpeggio figure borrowed from banjo vocabulary to help demonstrate this point.

4. As mentioned before, using the pinky as an anchor brings the right hand closer to the strings. This does have one advantage. The closer your hand is to the strings, the easier it is to palm mute.

Should the Pinky Be Used As an Anchor?

After reading the preceding arguments, you must be wondering whether or not you should anchor your pinky. This decision ultimately rests in your hands. If you do decide to anchor your pinky, you must do it deliberately. Be aware of when you are anchoring the pinky and why you are doing it. Do not get in a habit of anchoring the pinky finger without any good reason for doing so.
Chapter 2: (02:25) The Pinky Anchor and Flatpicking In the previous scene, Jim discussed using the pinky as an anchor within the context of fingerstyle playing. In this scene, he examines the pinky anchor within the context of playing with a pick. Essentially, the same advantages and disadvantages that were mentioned earlier also apply to playing with a pick. Using the pinky as an anchor may help you play with more speed and control when your playing is limited to the three treble strings. This technique may result in faster tremolo picking and arpeggios played on the high strings. However, it hinders your ability to play musical examples that involve the three lowest strings or a mixed combination of all six strings.

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Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

AreejAreej replied

Personally prefer not to anchor my pinky while playing fingerstyle because it cramps my space to play string and makes my fingers rigid, mostly I hover my fingers over the strings, I think it is lot easy as it gives me freedom of space and doesn't cramps the space nor make my hand rigid

noveenmorrisnoveenmorris replied

Thanks for doing a video on this topic; I was very confused about this.

randyhatchrandyhatch replied

I plant my pinky as the situation determines. I don't seem to stick to a hard and fast rule. That may change as I continue to progress, especially with finger-picking.

jeriann3jeriann3 replied

Jim, et al.... I'm having a little struggle when using a "thumb pick" and finger picking with other fingers, of the picked thumb sounding much louder than the finger-picked strings.... wonder what's a way to fix this? thanks Jeri Ann!

bebosworthbebosworth replied

Took lessons from a guy who got on me all the time about doing it so much that I quit taking from him (plus his hygiene was awful, phew). Glad to see that it is acceptable. Thanks for the great set of lessons Jim.

ripleyripley replied

the pinky is too short. I use my ring finger for an anchor.

doghousedoghouse replied

Hi Jim et al. I enjoy fingerpicking and have been playing for just over three years. for hile I was having lessons from a classical guitarist and I have never anchored my pinky. I am 57 and my fingers are almost welded togetherbut I have started giving it a go. After a while I am getting used to it and it does seem to make things faster and more accurate!. Great lesson Jim!

rumble dollrumble doll replied

I found myself anchoring my pinky naturally before I even knew it was actually a topic in guitar playing. It just seems to go there by itself when it's required. Is it just me or are some of the lessons cut short? I find myself concentrating on what Jim is teaching/saying then suddenly the scene/lesson is cut short & moves on or ends. I don't know if it is a problem with my PC or if it is something on JamPlay. It's a little frustrating as I find myself wondering what he was going on to say next & that it may have been important.

mattbrownmattbrown replied

Boo pinky anchor...haha. I'm really glad that you did this lesson. Great job of discussing both sides of the argument!

a strummina strummin replied

yes the pinky rules.. as its just hanging about not doing nothing but the problem is when to use. Depends on style of play and for me flat picking with strum, no.. only if your picking alot of strings. oh.. and the barre chords lesson great.. with fret board too. Great lessons here at jamplay :-) thanks jim..

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Fingerstyle master Jim Deeming teaches you the basics of guitar playing. With over 30 years of experience teaching and playing, Jim will definitely start you in the right direction. This is a great series for beginners and guitarists looking to refresh their knowledge.

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Introduction Lesson

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Choosing a GuitarLesson 2

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New Chords and KeysLesson 8

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This lesson provides additional information about chords and keys.

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Let's PlayLesson 9

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Alternating Bass and ChordsLesson 10

Alternating Bass and Chords

Jim teaches you a few more commonly used chords. Then, he discusses a technique known as the alternating bass line.

Length: 40:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
A Shape ChordsLesson 11

A Shape Chords

Jim covers all possible fingering options pertaining to the basic open A chord shape.

Length: 17:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Basic Guitar CheckupLesson 12

Basic Guitar Checkup

Jim talks about the future of his Phase 1 guitar series and where to go from here.

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Notes, Scales and TheoryLesson 13

Notes, Scales and Theory

Jim delves into basic music theory. He starts from square one in this lesson.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Chord FiestaLesson 14

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Jim Deeming invites you to a veritable chord fiesta. He demonstrates common dominant and minor chord shapes.

Length: 43:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Movable ChordsLesson 15

Movable Chords

This lesson is all about movable chords. Learn the importance of barre chords and other movable shapes.

Length: 40:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Proper PracticingLesson 16

Proper Practicing

Jim Deeming explains how to create a productive practice routine. Make sure you aren't wasting needless time!

Length: 30:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Pinky AnchorLesson 17

The Pinky Anchor

Many guitarists use their pinky as an anchor. Jim explains the pros and cons of this technique.

Length: 9:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Palm MutingLesson 18

Palm Muting

Jim discusses an important technique--palm muting. He explains how palm muting is used by flatpickers and fingerstyle players.

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Reading TablatureLesson 19

Reading Tablature

Jim Deeming covers the basics of reading guitar tablature. Knowledge of tablature will help with JamPlay lessons as well as learning your favorite songs.

Length: 21:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Tuning ExtravaganzaLesson 20

Tuning Extravaganza

Jim explains various tuning methods. He provides useful tips and tricks that will ensure that your guitar is sounding its best.

Length: 31:45 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Let's Play: Lesson 21

Let's Play: "Red River Valley"

Jim is back with another "let's play" style lesson. He teaches the classic song "Red River Valley" and encourages you to play along.

Length: 52:38 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Drop D TuningLesson 22

Drop D Tuning

Jim Deeming introduces drop D tuning. Drop D is a popular alternate tuning used in many styles of music including rock, fingerstyle and blues.

Length: 25:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Let's Play: Lesson 23

Let's Play: "Wayfaring Stranger"

Jim Deeming breaks down the song sections to the classic tune "Wayfaring Stranger".

Length: 29:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
More On Drop DLesson 24

More On Drop D

Jim Deeming takes another, more focused look at drop D tuning.

Length: 6:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Your Friend, the MetronomeLesson 25

Your Friend, the Metronome

Jim Deeming discusses how to use a metronome for practice, skill building, and speed building.

Length: 24:02 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Jim Deeming

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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