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.

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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.

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:

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.

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That’s a terrific visual explanation, Stephen!


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.

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.

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.