How do I get my fingers to remain closer to fret board while playing scales?

I am a beginner still, although Ive played off and on for several years. I can run through C-Major & Pentatonic scale decently, however when I watch someone who is really experienced (Justin), it almost looks like their other fingers are on the strings but they are not. When I do scales, my fingers are definitely farther away from the fret board (not horribly, but def looks like more of a beginner). I was wondering if this is something that just comes with time, as your hand/fingers become used to the guitar, or should I be practicing something specifically to eventually be able to do this?

Try this.


Thanks, I will check it out. It mostly has to do with the first finger on my left hand. It always wants to point out or up. I am definitely trying to make a point to keep it closer. I know I am a long way from being proficient, but I have always had this question of when my hand will naturally gravitate closer to the guitar. Like Justin’s first finger is basically on the strings as he plays the other notes of the c-major scale. Thanks for the reply. Much appreciated. These are great lessons and I definitely feel improvement since I started a few months ago.

Go back to playing the scale slow during practice to keep fingers relaxed. the idea here is that you are practicing NOT flexing your finger(s) too far.

If you sill want to practice a scale fast, I’d say do the relax practice first, and see how the fast practice goes for you. Keep relaxed in mind.

One thing that made sense to me was someone saying that you don’t need to lift your finger off the string, it is sufficient to just stop squeezing. That is mostly accurate and I have done that since I newly started.

No problem and welcome to this community.

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Im trying that, but if I do not lift my pinky off, I tend to mute the 5th string at this point. Prob need more strength and stretch in my hand as I am “used to” (bad habit) lifting the pinky off the 6th string before I hit the first note on the 5th string. Def need a lot of practice. Another thing I am noticing is if I keep my pinky pressed down on 6th string, or even touching the string, I do not have the dexterity or coordination to move my ring finger down. Its like the muscles are just not independently working. Obv when I pull my pinky off, ring finger works…but then Ive pulled off to far compared to what is shown in the exercise. Wow this is really tough. Just got to keep trying.

Hi Jordan,
I struggle with similar-but-different problems. I’ve added both the Minimum Movement Exercise that @Stuartw mentioned above and the Finger Stretching Exercise to my practice routine (finger stretching first, then minimum movement). I think Justin mentions in both lessons that this can take months. I have small hands and a wonky pinky, so I’m trying to be patient!

I’m not sure you should expect to have string 5 ring with pinky on string 6. I can do it, but it really puts my hand in an odd and very bent position. I haven’t found a reason to need that yet. Maybe someone with more experience will say something about that?

Sounds like you need to get your mind-to-finger connection working for the dexterity. this is pretty typical for ring finger and pinky. Also, the ring finger is connected by a common tendon to the middle finger, so it is difficult to move independently.

See item #3 in this to get better control of the ring finger and others:

Some great advice here already. Where are you in the course? Remember Justin has been playing for decades, don’t expect your fingers to do what his do easily.

The minimum movement exercise is introduced in grade 4. Finger stretching and strengthening exercises are in each grade. So try to focus on what’s been introduced at your level.

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Plus one for Justin’s Minimal Movement routine but do not expect overnight miracles.

A couple of years ago I stumbled on this video with some good overall information but the exercise shown at 7:30 has really improved my flying pinky. But leave it for a few days and that pesky digit discovers its own brain again and start doing its own thing.

So keep this in you daily warm up along with Justin’s MM. I’m even doing this fingerstyle the last month, to not only control my pinky and fretting hand but to reinforce string placement for my picking hand.

Hope you find it useful.



Here’s a different approach (and I’m someone that really struggled with first finger pointing up and off the fretboard). Play barre chords starting with A maj, then C#m, G maj, and then Bm. Reverse direction and just repeat. Goal is to leave all fingers just grazing the strings as you shift and feeling relaxed. Moving up and down the neck as well as shifting laterally; going as slow as necessary to keep hand tension free. This exercise addresses all fingers at same time. This will carryover to scales and teach a Bob Dylan song as a bonus.

With the root on the E or the A string?
Nothing personal but I am not convinced this is good advice for the issue mentioned.

1.) Yes, chords with “root” on E and A strings. Alternate, E A E A. That is why I said shifting laterally as well as vertically. It’s the same “E shape”, but moved with each chord change.

2.) Sometimes to address a motor problem, it’s helpful to learn a movement incorporating similar skills, but using a different pattern. In this case, chords using all fingers at once vs scales using one finger at a time.

3.) To be comprehensive, I should have included thumb placement which I think is often overlooked as a potential barrier. For me, I made significant improvement when I starting placing my thumb under my middle finger. Typically, my thumb wants to be under my index (first) finger or even further out in the direction of the nut. When the latter happens, my whole hand is under more tension and the fingers come higher off the neck when changing positions. This is easily seen without holding a guitar. Look at your fretting hand with the palm up; palm flat and finger slightly curled upwards as if placed on the neck. Bring your thumb over towards your ring finger and then stretched back out to the side. With thumb more inward, fingers want to move closer to it.

4.) I have not seen references to where the thumb should be located when playing scales. Again, for me, it makes a big difference to have the fingers and hand feel relaxed when playing scales or chords. I play scales better when my thumb is more under my hand than when stretched away.

5.) The original question is really about accuracy of finger placement and speed. The exercise I mentioned made a significant difference for me in playing both scales and chord patterns. The brain has to learn how to keep the hand relaxed; the more ways this is practiced has to have some benefit.