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can't reach the fret

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Active Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 7
Topic starter  

I was following the lessons about 12 bar blues. In the second lesson (Roll over Beethoven) it has some examples which have partial chords that I just can't reach.

In the "Shuffle in the Key of C" example, I can reach 035000 with my index and pinky, but 037000 is almost impossible for me. Which is too bad, because the shuffle from the previous lesson is the first thing I ever played that sounded like a 'real' song to me.

It is kind of frustrating. How can I reach those notes? I have small hands and small fingers. I'm 35 so I doubt I'll grow any :). Are there exercises to help improve my reach?

Please do not hesitate to give me the right words for the things I'm talking about.

I have a Yamaha Pacifica which I enjoy playing, the action is nice and low. I also have an acoustic (Walden) which is in shipment... so I've never tried on it. I bought it before I knew what "action" is, so I don't even know how the action is on it. And a friend loaned me his Fender acoustic, but I'm finding the action on it impossibly high. I haven't even tried this "fingering" (right word?) on it.

I am just getting started. Bought the acoustic in January, but only really noodled with it. Bought the electric about a month ago, because I really want to start learning again. Might even get some lessons this time. My point is that I don't want to quit now.


Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 2167

How's your thumb position? Sometimes if the thumb creeps up from the center of the back of the neck and goes toward the top edge of the neck, it can lessen your reach.

That is kind of a stretch though, I agree.

Other than that you could try a little of that cellist/violinist stretching thing where you just point your hand down at the table and then spread pairs of fingers and gently push down. Gently though.

But let us know about the thumb position thing. It's subtle but it creeps up there.

Take care.

Eminent Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 45

..... I can reach 035000 with my index and pinky, but 037000 is almost impossible for me.

It does take a while to get your fingers to make that stretch. What I've done is to start practicing the same basic idea much further up the neck. For example, I'll fret the 6th string at the 7th fret with my index, the 5th string at the 9th fret with my middle, then the 5th string 11th fret with my pinky. The frets are closer together up the neck, so find a place where the frets are close enough together that you can do the stretch fairly easily. Once you're comfortable at where ever you choose to start - move up a couple frets, or maybe one at a time. What ever it takes to allow your hands to gradually make the strecth. Takes quite a while, but your hands do eventually adapt.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5582

For those stretches it is very important for your thumb to be on the back of the neck. Keep your palm off the neck as well.

You could try an alternate fingering.


Instead of using your index and ring finger for the C5 chord, try your index and middle finger. Then you will probably find it much easier to
stretch your pinky out to the 7th fret for the C6 chord.

You will always see traditional fingerings for guitar, and they are best to use. But everyone is different. Some people have very small hands, while others have very large hands. And sometimes you have to adapt for that.

Really, when you watch many guitar players, you will see many different fingerings. If you can play the notes cleanly it doesn't really matter if you use non-traditional fingering.

But first make sure your thumb is in the correct position. You do not grip the neck like a baseball bat. That will greatly restrict your reach.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 4921

Thumb behind the neck, as noted... and keep the headstock high. If I have to do a lot of those boogie type patterns in F, F#, or G (which have the biggest stretches), I turn my shoulder slightly, too, towards the neck... combined with keeping the headstock high, it will take some of the strain off your wrist.

It's really position and practice. Starting high and working your way down will build your stretch gradually.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL

Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 120

Just a note from my experience, I've been playing for only one year now, and I'm in my forties. About 8 months ago I first saw that lesson and thought "this is completely impossible, how long do your fingers have to be??!!!" I have small hands too. Anyway I didn't worry about it and have just been doing other things that don't require such a strech but just a couple days ago I ran across that lesson again and tried it and those stretches really were not so hard. So I guess your hands really do stretch over time. I don't do any special stretching excercises, just a little stretch before I start practicing. So stick with it and if those big stretches are too much right now don't worry too much about it, because it will probably get better. :wink:
(Certainly some stretches will always be beyond us regular folk. I saw Yes last week and Steve Howe's fingers looked like they were about 10 inches long. :lol: :lol: :lol: )

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5349

In the meantime, you could just play the notes somewhere else:

is the same as:

Active Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 7
Topic starter  

I've tried to keep my thumb more or less centered on the back of the neck, pointing up the neck.

I've tried the other fingering someone posted, moving to the E and A strings, it is a bit easier since the frets are closer, but I feel it in my wrist.

I even tried keeping the headstock high, which helped as well.

Mainly I've decided to do other stuff first. I really need to learn some basic songs and scales that will let me practice for longer periods of time, rather than play short snippets. I followed the lesson on this site that is a simple twelve bar blues song. That has kept me interested and trying. I guess I just need to find the right 'method' for me.