I would like to find out if there are particular exercises for problems with hand structure. I have been playing for 30 some years and discovered 10 or so years ago that the muscular structure of hands can vary.

My problem was or is that I have a small curved little finger of which I had very little dexterity and difficulty moving my fingers independently (I can't give a Vulcan greeting without working on it a little while and I can't bend just one of my fingers without the rest of my fingers bend some also). Which explained why I was a three finger player.

I created various physical therapy exercises and over the years have been able to create a sizable improvement in my control over the my little finger, however only to some extent. It also appears that the little finger problem is linked to a problem with my ring finger. I don't have completely independent movement between the ring and little finger. For example I can't bend one without the other fingers bending also.

I understand from what I have read that this is not an uncommon condition, however, one I am not content to live with. I practice 3 hours every day and am willing to do anything to help this problem.

  • Is it your right hand you are concerned about, or your left hand? My answer assumed left hand, but it just hit me that may not be your question. Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 15:44

5 Answers 5


Doing P-I-M-A-E pickling exercises is a great idea for introducing the right hand pinky.

Play scales with your right hand thumb plucking the Low E and A strings your Index plucking the D, middle gets G, Annular gets B and pinky gets high E.

It is very counter intuitive at first but after a while you do get the hang of it. This will give a depth of strumming that would be tremendous. You can even think of growing your pinky nail.

EDIT: It seems my post is moot.

More in line with what the OP means.

You can consider playing chords in half positions. This introduces the less smart fingers into the equation. So instead of strumming with the first three left hand fingers rather strum with I/M/A

  • Thank you I should have been more clear, it is my left hand that is the problem, especially when I try to trill it is incredibly slow.
    – gztone
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 16:34

There are little finger exercising gadgets you can buy. I've never used one, but I knew someone who found it helpful. It looks a bit like a set of trumpet valves, without the trumpet. Maybe a physical therapist could help too.

I'm a cellist, not a guitarist, so I can't swear these ideas will carry over for you -- but I'd like to give it a try. First, I try to avoid trilling with fingers 3-4 and 2-4, if I can. (I suppose it's harder to avoid trilling with a 4 on guitar because the music is asking you to use other fingers to stop strings to make a chord, whereas I'm usually playing a single-line melody.)

Second, the distance the trilling (upper) finger needs to rise (up in the air away from the string) is actually very small. I try to keep my hand relaxed, and lift the fourth finger as little as possible. Lifting more tends to create too much tension, which can really get in the way of playing fast passages and trills.

The only thing I'm not sure about is, perhaps one needs to bring the finger down with force for guitar? It used to be thought this was necessary for cello (one was advised to play with "hammer fingers"), but it was discovered that it is really not necessary most of the time. Anyway, I don't know if on guitar it's okay to use arm weight instead of pick-up-high-and-slam-down-on-string.

I would imagine that you would have a slightly easier time on a slightly smaller than standard instrument, where your fingers are slightly closer together than on a standard size. This is possible with cello, but I don't know if guitars are always one standard measurement.


For range, you can do finger stretches away from your guitar. Things like spreading your fingers fingers apart (two at a time) using your other hand to push them apart, pulling individual fingers backwards, and also pulling all fingers backward together (kind of a palm stretch). You can do this frequently at any time without having your guitar present. And it's important to not cause sharp pain while doing these. Gentle stretches and hold them.

For independence on the guitar, one of the best methods I've seen to improve this is to play the classic "1-2-3-4" finger exercise pattern across the 6 strings, with a few additional restrictions that make this exercise very difficult:

  • Hover all of your fingers just barely above the strings keeping each finger the same distance away from the strings.
  • Play at a painfully slow speed (like playing in slow-mo).
  • Move ONLY one finger at a time while keeping the others perfectly still (this is difficult to play one note without moving any of the other fingers at all, which is why it's a good idea to try it in super slow-mo until you can do it more easily).

This concept can be applied to other exercises as well (and the independence with minimal movement will become a natural part of your playing over time), but the 1-2-3-4 exercise works each finger and requires only up/down movement with no outward stretching so it's a good one to use while focusing on only moving one finger at a time and keeping the others perfectly still.


Look up some George Lynch exercises and just noodle around with them, getting them into your regular practice regimen. That guy is murder on the pinky. (http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7yIjX-Pq5Sc)


Try to practice playing each note with little vibrato, even chords, so Your hand grip becomes stronger. I have noticed, that pulling strings down on scale run during bends really helps with stretching fingers .

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