I recently discovered that my ring finger and pinky seem to have the least amount of independence with respect to the rest of my fingers when fretting the guitar, and exceptionally so.

  • I experience this issue with pinky and ring finger independence in all of the following ways:
    • 3 notes per string sequences using index finger, pinky and ring finger.
    • 3 notes per string sequences using middle finger, pinky and ring finger.
    • 4 notes per strings sequences using all four of the above mentioned fingers.

Why is this so and what are some effective exercises to combat this issue?

4 Answers 4


I am not an expert in anatomy, but I believe this is because the picky and ring finger are connected to each other by the superficial ulnar nerve, whereas the remaining fingers are connected by branches of the deep ulnar nerve.

The good news is, despite the fact that your pinky and ring finger seem less independent, this is not permanent. It's normal for this to happen and the situation can be improved over time. Usually alot of time. But if you get the right practice regimen in order, you should see an improvement within 3 months.

Some helpful ways to improve your finger independence:

  • "Spider" exercises, especially ones where only one finger is allowed to move at a time.
  • Play slowly and focus not just on the finger independently playing notes, but also what it does when NOT playing notes. Does the pinky spring away from the guitar or flop around unnecessarily when other fingers are being used?
  • Trills exercises, especially between the pinky and fingers 1, 2 and 3, help train the pinky to be more independent, which I suspect is the crux of your problem.

The other thing to remember in conditioning your hands is that it could take a long time, but that doesn't mean you can't see results right away, too.

  • Amazing how on the outside the fingers appear like they should behave in a similar fashion, but in fact that's not the case. Could you perhaps link me to some exercises if you don't mind? Maybe even add them to your answer. Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 14:12

A John petrucci training exercise I used a while back helps a lot with finger dexterity You start off with a basic chord of : 1 2 3 4 X X Then move your index up a fret and switch positions with the middle finger like so: 2 1 3 4 X X Then you move up the whole 4 strings you are fretting with the index When you're done you should have: 4 1 2 3 X X Then you start moving your middle finger same pattern Go through the last two fingers including the pinky to reach the first chord again: 1 2 3 4 X X The idea is to keep all your fingers on the fret board except the ones that are being switched It will start off as being clumsy but then it will really strengthen your fingers and give you dexterity in all of the fingers and finger independence If you don't understand what I mean I'll make a more detailed answer The pattern ends with the same starting chord so rinse and repeat. You should have searched for the question it has been answered many times before

  • That seems like quite the challenge to me at this point. I would like to try it out as soon as I have time. Can you perhaps link me to the exercise? Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 14:15
  • It was a video on YouTube just search John petrucci rock discipline but its quite long like a couple of hours I recommend you watch it. It might seem really hard just do it really slow at first. my friend is still a beginner I taught him this exercise and he's doing really well now. It does wonders for you. This is what you call a spider exercise like the guy in the first comment said Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 16:43

You could also try doing interval scales in one position. They are great for getting your left hand dexterity going.


I find this exercise extremely helpful. It completely focuses on the fretting finger. I'll focus on the pinky but you can adapt it to the ring finger as well.

Put your index finger on the fifth fret of the first string. Now with your pinky hammer and pull off on the eighth fret. Let the the notes ring as best you can.

Next. Leaving your index on the fifth, alternate hammer/pull with your pinky from 8th fret to 7th to 8th to 9th to 8th to 7h etc. This will build up strength and dexterity.

As with any muscle building, the real advancement will come when you push yourself at the end of the exercise. Start off as fast as you can do it precisely, than when you can hardly keep it up, just slowly hammer and pull just a few more. Taking care of course that what you feel is muscle burn, not physical pain.

Next switch to a different fret and or a different string.

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