Beginner Finger Stretches

Hi @Al_TheNoob and welcome to the community.
That little finger certainly looks like an awkward little fellow and something to create issues that you will uniquely have to solve.
That said, solutions are there to be found with determination and creative approaches.
For instance, the Peter Gunn riff, and some others in the early beginner course, are designed to be played on the thick E string (the 6th string).
That is not a fixed unbreakable rule.
Playing that riff is meant to be fun - and have some hand dexterity and technique value.
But if you struggle then try playing it on the 5th or the 4th strings instead. There’s no rule that says you can’t.
In general, seek to utilise the exercises that are there to stretch and create finger independence and make your limitations a virtue, not an obstacle.
Hope that helps.


Hi all.

I hope, when going for the thickest strings, its ok to touch strings I’m not targeting, and/or touch the bottom of the neck with my palm a little bit. Otherwise I have to bring my thumb down to at least the middle of the neck, and bend my wrist quite a bit (which doesn’t feel great) putting the palm outward to get the reach I need in order to not touch anything I shouldn’t be touching. And I’m trying to not arch the fingers too much if I can help it. I realize we do want to arch the fingers on the thinner strings but I’m not having too much problem there.

Thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement!


Stacy Hi !!

This is all about the stretch so it does not matter if you are touching the strings below. In some respects that is good as they would be muted when playing the strings you are fretting.
Thumb in the middle of the neck is also quite normal as you fret the thicker strings. Again don’t worry about the arch, concentrate on the stretch. You can arch to your hearts desire when playing chords, this all about opening the finger span and nothing else.

I have just picked up a couple of basses. My old hands always need a good stretch before I start to get practicing. So I now grab one of my basses and do the exercise from the 12th to first fret. Then practice on the “normal” guitars,

Just do it slow and methodical and you’ll song have a great span.




Hello everyone,

I’ve been working on finger stretches all this week and thinking about the biomechanics of the hands and fingers. What I’ve found from my week of experiments is that most of the limitations to stretching my fingers apart depend on how much I bend the large knuckles of my hand. You can verify that yourself by holding your hand up with the palm facing your face and the fingers spread out. Try bending the big knuckles of your hand and notice how the fingers fold together and you can’t pull them apart. Now keep the largest knuckles of your hand extended and just bend the other two finger joints with fingers extended. It looks like forming the tiger claw in Qi Gong or for those who saw the movie “Liar, Liar” remember “The Claw”. Notice you can spread your fingers apart in this position.

To avoid bending the wrist and big knuckles it helps to drop down the elbow and not wrap your hands around the neck and fretboard and keep some space between the guitar neck and your fretting hand palm. Try bending more at the joints closest to the fingertips and that will help free up spreading the fingers. Another example is to put your palms together and slide your right hand down so that the right hand fingertips are just below the first or second knuckles on the left hand. Now bend the fingers on the left hand and see how you can spread your fingers apart. You can’t keep your large knuckles straight in these exercises, but focusing on using the smaller knuckles or joints for bending the finger tips to the fretboard will allow you to spread out your fingers.

I did this and starting at the 9th fret, was eventually about to spread out the fingers of my left hand at the first fret this week.

I hope this helps for some of you. It did for me.


My suggestion about bending the fingers at the joints closest to the fingertips helps with a short pinkie finger also. I have a 3 inch pinkie, but when I bend the small joints of my index, middle and ring finger but leave the pinkie mostly extended then the pinkie lines up with the other 3 fingers when I am playing 1 finger to a fret. It still takes practice and focus for me to get my pinkie to hit the fret correctly when playing.

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I read my description, but even I had trouble following it, so for those of you that have small hands like me, I am including some pictures of what I have found works for me.

Just to show I can relate to others with small hands:

But I have still been able to improve my stretch to cover the first four frets of my guitar:

To illustrate the bending of the fingers to line up with the pinkie start with the hand with fingers spread apart and straight:

Then curl the index, middle and ring finger to line up with the pinky:

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To make this even easier I use the illustration of gripping the ball

To make that work for the guitar though, you have to start with the ball resting at the place where the fingers meet the palm, not in the center of your palm (i.e. resting on the ring of the ring finger) :


Then curl your fingers around the ball:

Now the view without the ball

same pose facing you (note that you should extend your pink a little to line up with the fingers:

The next step is BIG - you need to bend at the wrist:

same view facing you:

just move your thumb to the middle for good grip at the back of the neck for classic grip:

I apologize if I have included too many pictures, but I think that this topic deserves a lot of discussion. I’ll be glad to hear from others if you think that I have some things wrong.


That’s a terrific visual explanation, Stephen!

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I forgot to mention, welcome to the community. I’ve only recently started joining this discussion group and wanted to add my encouragement. While it was before my time (and I’m 66 ), Django Reinhardt’s story has alway inspired me (I rechecked my facts via Wikipedia). He injured his fretting fingers in a fire and only had full use of two fingers (not his pinkie) and he was able to become a guitar virtuoso.
I noticed from your pictures that you are somewhat double jointed (or you are pressing down REALLY hard). Take encouragement from the fact that you’ll be able to do some things with chords that I will never be able to do with my partially bending fingers (arthritis). Later on you’ll be able to do A form barre chords with 2 fingers with ease, something that I’ve never fully mastered. So even though you are struggling now, you’ll find some things later that you’ll find easy that may frustrate other guitarist. Good luck on your practice.


Thanks for your kind words of encouragement.

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Hello @Al_TheNoob Welcome to the Justin Guitar community, again. I had just learned how to notify others on the post, so I wanted to let you know that I included some advice on the post ( Beginner Guitar Stretches). I am working through the beginner course again and working on fundamental myself, even though I’ve been strumming open chord songs for over 40 years.

Good luck with practice and have fun.

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Communities like this are so useful for reminding beginners they are not alone! My issue with the Peter Gunn riff and the finger stretching exercise is my tendency for both ring and pinky finger to curl inwards. I thought I was falling at the first hurdle when struggling with the D chord, but using an angle got me there. I hope with time and practice the pinky will straighten out onto its own fret instead of trying to hide under my ring finger. I suppose there are some lucky folk whose hands are built for guitar, but it’s clear that’s not the case for many of us.


My pinky finger is 2 1/4 inches long, from base of finger to the tip. 57mm. This is going to be rough.


58mm. It’s definitely a challenge.

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Hi Donald and Chris… @DeeGee1967 and @jacksprat ,
58mm here’s my pinky, and the rest of the fingers aren’t exactly giants either :grimacing:…but now I’m playing a blues shuffle in F first fret with no “cheating” option :partying_face:…so the c on the A string with the ring finger ,…practice a lot and more, a lot of acidity in the hand but especially the lower arm often had it bad… a lot of success, build it up slowly and above all …enjoy it :sunglasses:… and celebrate every fret that you get closer to the nut :grin:

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Below are a couple of things I’m having trouble with and the questions I have:

  • The 3rd and 4th fingers always seems to touch the below string, mostly the 4th. When I move the 1st finger down a fret, the 4th finger that is still resting on the above fret touches the string below, and ends up muting that string you want to play. One way I’m sort of fixing this problem is by really curling my wrist but I don’t think it’s a good idea. In a response @Richard_close2u said “This is all about exercising your fingers laterally. Touching the strings below the one your are targeting is no problem. You are not trying to form an arch over them and avoid contact.” so I’m going to ignore correcting this issue for now. @Richard_close2u When you move the 1st finger down a string is it important that the other fingers are still in tact with the above strings? I see that’s how Justin is doing it. Or can I take all the fingers off?

  • As many have mentioned, keeping the fingers parallel with the fretboard is difficult. In my case the elbow tends to move towards the oblique area when fretting the last two fingers. I thing this is bad because that’s essentially what causes the palms to be not parallel to the fretboard.

  • Funnily enough the 6th string was the hardest and gets easier as I move down, 1st string being the easiest, contrast to what justin was saying here.

  • Is it important that I exert a lot of strength into holding the string? Especially the pinky on the 6th string. If I don’t the finger slips out.

  • Is this a variation of the spider exercise where we only stay within fret 5-8 and doesn’t move around? I’ve seen similar exercises recommended here. I’m curious if doing the spider would also have the same affect in stretching the muscles?

As a motivation I just want to say that there are >10 year olds with tiny hands that play better than some of the adults. Keep practicing and you’ll get there. Myself included. Don’t be discouraged.

I’m writing this so I can come back to this post after some time to see if I was able to improve. In the meantime please let me know if you have any tips. Thanks!

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In the lesson, Justin visibly lifts all fingers in readiness for the next string. Not by much, they remain hovering close to the strings and the fret positions.

RE: finding the 1st string tricky, Justin knows that there is not very much guitar neck to ‘hold on to’ when playing there so some find it awkward.

RE: the spider exercise
Justin has his own version of something called the spider exercise on his site here The Spider |

It is in the Technique section if you have never explored it: Technique Study |

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@DeeGee1967 and @jacksprat Donald and Chris, I definitely feel your pain. My pinkie is close to 2 1/8 inches (54 mm). I put a picture above (notice base of pinky at 2 1/2 inch and tip of pinkie at 4 1/2 inches. After a lot lot of playing and practicing riffs and scale exercises I am finally able to play almost anything in the first 4 frets So have patience and you will eventually have success.

I have since modified my stretching suggestions above for myself. The key to getting the most separation of the 3rd and 4th fingers is to minimize bending of the big knuckles of the hand (the joint at the base of your fingers.)

As you can see in the first few pictures start with your palm in Front of your face, elbow down.

You should be able to move your pinkie to the side to form a V between the 3rd and 4th finger. If you can’t, then read no further, you will need to some extra help and special stretching exercises.

Curl the ends of your fingers like you are holding on to a ledge.

Make sure that the pinkie is almost straight and only a little bent at the first joint at the end of the pinkie and lined up with the other finger tips.

You should still be able to form a V with your 3rd and 4th finger.

Now bend the hand forward at the wrist and you should be able to play 1 finger per fret.

I hope this is helpful. I just wanted to share the results of my struggles and how I solved my problem.


Just so I understand the finger stretching exercise - when you press your third finger on the fret. your first and second fingers are not supposed to become vertical. They are supposed to remain parallel to the fret? UGH!

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Hi there,

I have been working on Justin’s finger stretches and have a question for the experienced folks in the forum.

It is pretty hard to get to 4, 5 & 6 strings with my pinky finger w/o re-adjusting my my hand, arm and almost my whole body. The pinky really bends inward ALOT and it makes it hard for me to play these strings. Will it get better over time? Are there any other exercises that you recommend specifically for the pinky? Thank you for your feedback.

Best Regards,

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