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I was wondering about how some guitarists can reach some pretty big stretch between their ring finger and their pinky finger.

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We can clearly see they have a big gap between their ring and their pinky on these pics. Are there some kind of exercises to do gaps like those ?

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Yes - the way I like to think of these wider voicings is like doing yoga. You wouldn't go into your first session expecting to be able to do full splits if you were a beginner, but with practice and patience it's definitely possible to improve.

Two things to practice - find a two chord voicings you like with a four fret span, one with the pinky on a high string and one on a low string. Here's two suggestions for you

Cmaj7 (use whereever you would play a C)

e -7-
B -8-
G -9-
D -10-
A -x-
E -x-

and

C7 (this one is pretty common for blues etc.)

e -8-
B -11-
G -9-
D -8-
A -10-
E -8-

Play those in songs whereever you would normally use a Cmaj or a C7 - it might sound a bit strange at times but it is just to build strength and flexibility in the hands.

Once you're happy with the four fret span, try moving them lower down the neck where the frets are further apart, e.g. Amaj7 or A7, continuing until you can easily play them with a good sound at the first fret (F).

After that, apply the same principle with a 5 fret span voicing. I'll give you two more to start with

C7 (this one is a workout)

e -6-
B -8-
G -9-
D -10-
A -x-
E -x-
Cadd9 (this one is a beautiful replacement for major chords.

e -8-
B -8-
G -9-
D -12-
A -10-
E -8-

That last voicing is used in the intro to "Every breath you take" by The Police. That whole intro is a great workout for stretch voicings.

If you want to take it even further, check out Johnny Smith who was a jazz guitarist from the 50s. Here is a fantastic example. Ted Greene is also a master of these.

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  • Thanks for the propositions ! I can play all those chords at 1st fret except for the last one, I'll try to train with that one
    – Pyth79
    Apr 17 at 15:00
  • Cool - check out that "every breath you take" transcription because it uses that last chord as part of the riff and all the other chords have a similar stretch shape. It's a 4 bar loop as well, so it's good for repeating over and over without having to memorize too much
    – xavriley
    Apr 17 at 19:46
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There are a lot of exercises you can do for this kind of thing - really you're trying to build strength, and also finger independence (the ring and pinky fingers tend to stick together because of the way your hand is put together).

There are a lot of different movements your hand can do while playing guitar, so there are a lot of exercises that cover different situations. The more you practice those situations, the more used to them you'll get. It's really an exercise thing. You can find all kinds of finger stretching and finger independence exercises, but a general rule of guitar is - if you struggle to do a certain thing, come up with an exercise where you do that thing a lot, and challenge yourself by starting easy and making it harder.

Here's an exercise you can try out: JustinGuitar: Finger Stretching Exercise. You're basically keeping all your fingers together on a four-fret span, then starting to add gaps between fingers. The pattern moves the gaps around (so you practice moving different fingers around, and handling different situations), and once you can do that, he recommends moving down a fret, so you have to handle slightly wider spacing. Starting easy and making it more difficult, you know?

Once you can do that on the lower frets, you'll be pretty good at stretching! Just take your time and don't do more than you can handle, you need to be careful you don't damage your hand. Make sure you have good form and don't fall into bad habits to make a stretch easier!

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  • Thanks for the answer ! I already saw the video from Justin, and I've tried doing the exercise, but I'm not entirely sure I'm doing it correctly. Still, I'll keep working on it !
    – Pyth79
    Apr 17 at 15:05
  • The exercise is basically one of those typical 1-2-3-4 on each string ones, where each finger covers a fret, and you play them in order before moving to the next string. The important difference is that you need to keep all your fingers down when you start a new string (so you end up with all of them fretting) - that's what gives you the basic stretch, you're not releasing any to make it easier! Apr 17 at 17:40
  • Once you've gone up and down, you move your 1st finger so it's covering the fret below the one it was on - so instead of doing the 8 9 10 and 11 frets, you're doing 7 9 10 and 11 - so you've added a gap and you're stretching your first finger out. Then you just do the same thing, 7, 9, 10, 11 on each string, keeping each finger in place as you place it, letting go when you start a new string (but try to keep your hand in the same shape). Then you stretch the pinky up a fret instead, and then you stretch the 1st and pinky at the same time. It's pretty basic but it's good exercise! Apr 17 at 17:44
  • When I said I was not sure, I meant the way I stretch my pinkie for the last part (7 9 10 12). I can reach it, but I always feel like it's not pinky who's stretching, but my wrist who's moving. If I don't move my wrist, I can't do the stretch
    – Pyth79
    Apr 17 at 17:48
  • Oh I see what you mean. Well Justin starts at the 8th fret, but you can start higher so it's less of a stretch - the important thing is to do it properly, you know? So it's tough but doable with good form, and once you can manage it then you can move down to a lower position. The full two-finger stretch is a tough one, much harder than just stretching them one at a time, so if you can't manage it cleanly then don't be afraid to shift to an easier position. It's something you have to judge for yourself though, but yeah you shouldn't move your wrist (but make sure it's in the right position!) Apr 17 at 17:54

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