I’ve been playing guitar for about a year and I’m learning to play RnB style chord embellishments and right now they seem absolutely impossible. Playing an Emin7 and hammering on the 10th fret seems so hard. Any help?

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    What are the dimensions of your fingers and your palm size? Hard to tell from this picture. I will say this though - your fingering for that chord seems too cluttered, and you don't have much economy of movement with the slant your fingers are on. Try straightening up your fingers so they are more parallel with the frets. It may take more strength, but you will get there eventually.
    – Numpy
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 20:32
  • Index is about 5 Cm and middle is 6. Palm size is about 8 cm. Straightening my fingers feels very uncomfortable and i feel a strain in my wrist but i will try.
    – user69889
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 21:12
  • Do your hands hurt?
    – Mazura
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 10:14
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    You need a pic of you seating posture. Your entire hand and arm look very contorted and I suspect that it is because of the way you are sitting.
    – user50691
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 21:15
  • you dont state your gender and females tend to have smaller hands, however my petite 14 year old can do that chord so I cannot see why you could not do so also, physiologically. I suggest you do hand stretches and see a teacher for a few lessons at least Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 12:34

7 Answers 7


Your hands don't seem extremely small. It's your hand-position that makes things impossible for you. I can't see your thumb but it seems to be stretched completely to the left, and your wrist is totally straight. Your fingers shouldn't be pressed against each other. Try to bend your wrist a bit, put your thumb behind your middle finger, and let it point upwards. Also point the neck of your guitar a bit upwards instead of downwards or parallel to the floor. This should help fix many of your problems.

Maybe something like this:

enter image description here

  • Well the problem with that is that it’s super hard for me to play barre chords with my index finger flat on the fretboard. I have to slant it a bit or i lose all strength.
    – user69889
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 21:03
  • @user69889: I think that your index finger position is similar to mine. It's more about your whole hand position, the position of your thumb, and of the other two fingers.
    – Matt L.
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 8:07
  • Surely my technique was crap (+1), but for ten years I wrapped my 1st and 2nd knuckle of my left index finger, 1st on middle finger, and my thumb to drum twice a week, at least, to go over the calluses I kept burning off. But I wouldn't have traded that for one second of what it feels like to play a guitar.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 9:50
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    @user69889 One year of playing guitar isn't much. Especially when it comes to barre chords. They take a lot of strength to play right, and the vast majority of non-guitarist fingers simply don't have that strength. That strength comes with training, only. More training than just a year of casual practicing. Try to have fun with what you can do, keep pushing at the boundaries of your strength (start with songs that only have one easy barre for a short time, then more and more), and the hand position that Matt shows will become natural in time. Commented May 30, 2020 at 19:09
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    Wow those nails are long. But good answer.
    – user50691
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 21:14

Trying to understand why your fingers slant over like in the picture, I get the impression you may be "gripping" the chord with a lot of force squeezing the ball of your thumb onto the back of the guitar neck.

When you position your hand like in @MattL's photo you should have the tip of the thumb (your thumb print area) on the neck. It may take some time to get used to this position, but eventually when your hand becomes trained it should not take much force.

Think of your finger position when making a fist compared to wrapping your hand around a tennis ball. With a fist your fingers collapse against the palm. Holding a ball the fingers are arched away from the palm. You want to fingers more in that arched position.

Pay attention to your whole arm and elbow position. You might try holding your elbow away from your body a bit to get your whole forearm more perpendicular to the neck. Instead of gripping with just the hand, think of your whole arm sort of pulling back. I'm exaggerating things, but it's like pulling your forearm back instead of only gripping a fist.

Also, if are not already playing these embellishment in open position, try that first and then move into the barre chords. Barre chords can be tough to play. If you first get your fingers coordinated to embellish with hammers and pull offs in open position, embellishing the barre chords should be easier.

  • Thanks! Will definitely take some practice to get used to the position but i’m already seeing improvements.
    – user69889
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 21:52

Looking at the tips of your fingers, you are pressing way too hard. There's no blood left in them! Bear in mind with that shape, only 3 strings need pressing hard enough to sound - 5, 3 and 1. You could also do with having the neck higher, the lower it goes, the harder it is to get your hand round.

Maybe also rotate the guitar so the neck isn't parallel to the floor, but the head of the guitar is higher. That will help the whole of your hand from having to be bent in the way shown in the pic. For tht shape, fingers need to be almost perpendicular to the fretboard, which then brings pinky in line for that 10th fret.

Maybe the action on the guitar is bad enough for you to have to press really hard - in which case, lower it.

Checking dimensions, yes, your hand is small - even smaller than mine, which is not even medium. Consider looking at other guitars with different profile necks and different radius fingerboards.

  • What would you say is a good action? Checking on the 12th fret low e mines looks like 3.5 mm. I’m pushing about as hard as i need to. I think the biggest issue i’ve discovered is that from the start i learned to play barre chords with my other fingers resting on my index for extra strength, and now when i straighten my hand i can’t do that anymore
    – user69889
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 16:51

Usually I would recommend lighter strings to aid a beginner.

But in this case it looks like your wrist is too bent, forcing your hand to 'claw' the neck. Try positioning the guitar to allow your elbow to move further away from your body, straightening your wrist. This will give extra free movement for your fingers to achieve the better position in the photo someone else shared.

It will be difficult and feel unnatural at first, partly because you have to unlearn your existing position.


Not at all, your hand is good enough. The issue is in the angle of the wrist. It is not perpendicular to the neck. If you keep the wrist straight then the pinky finger can get to the 10th fret.

During my early days, I would try this method.

  1. First practice normal bar chord. I pick all strings in a clean way.
  2. Next, I reach some higher frets with my pinky finger, keep it there and play clean.
  3. I take of my pinky finger and sound clean.
  4. I then repeat 2 with the pinky fingers and other higher frets as much as I can.

Note not only the requirement is to sound clean, but the requirement is also to hold it quickly.

Some stretching exercises are surely going to help, before you begin your playing.


It is readily apparent that you don't have a guitar teacher. You are bunching up your fingers and are pressing them to the frets as a bulk piece. I'd not even call that bad technique as the name "technique" for something that wrong and ad-hoc seems misplaced. Every finger should be placed independently. There is a bit of an exception with the thumb that may be required to provide counterpressure from the back of the neck particularly for barré. Fingers should go down independently on the frets and be at right angles to the string, pressing down on the fretboard. That's sort of indispensible.

A bit of a corollary is that you don't lock finger joints: they should all curve inward (your ring finger doesn't). A locked joint slows down your finger action. However, keeping all joints curved inward may take extended training of finger strength and position and will not likely work out of the box while your fingers are not trained for it. There may also be some chords where the distortion of the hand is large enough to leave little leeway. But as a rule, you should practice your finger strength such that the last joint does not collapse backwards but is always curved: that allows more accurate fingering action.


I hope some of these answers help me. I have the same problem with small hands. I fear I may have to switch to a much smaller instrument or drop guitar which I like a lot altogether. The reason the initial person has his Barre finger at such an odd angle rather than at a 90 degree angle to the fretboard is because that is the only way he can get his pinky finger in place two frets below.

  • 1
    This does not really answer the question. If you have a different question, you can ask it by clicking Ask Question. To get notified when this question gets new answers, you can follow this question. Once you have enough reputation, you can also add a bounty to draw more attention to this question. - From Review
    – Aaron
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 0:57

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