My professor asked me to practice the following on any string: index finger on fret 1, ring finger on fret 3, little finger on fret 5. I keep practicing but this is pretty painful and hard for me to achieve it. On the contrary, if instead of using the ring finger on fret 3, I use the middle finger on the same fret, then it becomes much easier.

Do you thing it is very important for a guitarist to keep practicing with the ring finger on fret 3 ? Or is it okay if I use instead middle finger ? Won't it get me into troubles later when I will want to learn complex positions on guitar?

Thank you.

  • 1
    1) Ask your professor! Even if you need an answer immediately—when I was a violin professor I probably would have answered a question about technique within 24 hours. 2) Don't push yourself into pain. If a stretch is mildly uncomfortable, you might practice it carefully to help yourself become more flexible. But playing shouldn't involve frequent or significant pain. Dec 15, 2021 at 14:17
  • the 1-3-5 reach is the basis of e.g. "Johnny B Goode pattern," so it is useful to learn it. Anything that enhances pinky reach, independence and fretting strength is worthwhile really.
    – Yorik
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:18

3 Answers 3


I'd say that there is no harm in practicing both ways, but the way your professor taught you will be more useful in the long run.

To make it a bit easier to practice in that way, rotate your hand slightly counter-clockwise (e.g. if your forearm is vertical, rotate the hand counterclockwise by e.g. 15 degrees). This will make it a lot easier to extend the ring finger, and this is how you will use it in practice down the line.

Also, if it's too hard to do at fret 1, do it starting at fret 8 (index on fret 8, etc.) and then gradually start at lower frets where your fingers will have to stretch more. And if it hurts, stop! You must not risk injuring yourself. Some stretching is OK, but when that crosses into pain, it's time to stop, relax, and find a better approach! You can also observe how violin players use their ring finger in a similar way: the fingers are not perpendicular to the fretboard, but at an angle. Look at a few photos of violinists playing to get the idea. On the guitar, especially classical guitar, you will usually not go as far (rotation-wise) as those violinists go, but to some extent, definitely so.

Violin fingering

  • 2
    As a violin teacher, when teaching extreme reaches (for a violin, tenths), I often remind my students that they don't have to keep their hand positioned near their index finger and "reach" with their pinky; the index finger is longer and has more ability to "reach," so positioning the rest of the hand in between works better. Bottom line, whatever "normal hand posture" is, you sometimes alter it for certain combinations of notes. Dec 15, 2021 at 16:41

There really is no need to have all three frets with a string pressed on all three. When playing the three notes ascending, why hold on to fret 1, and when descending, fret 5 will be free when fret 3 needs playing.

I guess you're being asked to get your fingers used to being stretched, but if it's painful, your body's telling you something! Ask why he thinks it's necessary, but many players can't stretch like this, or need to. 1fpf works well on guitar (1 finger per fret), but that takes us to fret 4, not 5. Slightly less stretch on, say, a Strat than a Les Paul, but if one has short fingers and therefore a short span, even that's difficult to impossible. Moving the whole hand laterally usually works pretty well.

As an exercise, fret 1 with index, 5 with pinky, and just find what fits better on fret 3. For you, that's the one to use. Discuss with tutor, and argue your (our) case. If he convinces you he's right - only possible - continue in pain - or change tutor!


Anything that causes pain is wrong. You need to ask your professor to critique your technique. On the other hand I can think of applications of this fingering so it is not a senseless exercise. I would try the same fingering starting on the fifth fret, 5, 7, and 9 with index, ring, and pinky. Then move back one fret at a time. This might help you get used to the feel.

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