I started to learn to play acoustic again, and my entire left hand is fine other than my forefinger. I had an accident where the finger end was removed, meaning that I can't use that finger at all. I don't want to have to learn to play right handed, so is there any way in which I could suffice with my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers alone? I also have super small hands — I can't reach the whole way across the fret to barre it.

I repeat: There is no way in which I can use that finger.

  • There's a similar question here with a few tips (pun not intended): music.stackexchange.com/questions/42034/…
    – Andy
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 17:46
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    Check out the many YouTube vids of guitarist who have only two fingers. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 17:50
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    I'd also reinforce the point (if you missed it) that people missing the end joint can often use the "flat" of that finger to form a partial barre chord across the strings. Then use the other fingers to form the rest of the chord. It will probably take a long time to harden the skin, but it's worth trying.
    – Andy
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 17:53
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    What style do you play? If you're playing lots of complex chords but not fingerstyle, it might actually be better to learn to play reverse.
    – user28
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 18:36
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    Django Reinhardt was probably the best jazz guitarist ever, and he only had two working fingers on his left hand.
    – rlms
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 22:18

5 Answers 5


Of course you are likely not going to be able to play songs written by others exactly the same way they play them. Here are some ideas for adjusting your playing and/or the guitar to help you at least play chord progressions:

  • Use a capo so you can play mostly open chords. I'm not able to think of a truly open chord that can't be played with only three fingers.
  • Look for alternate voicings that can be played with only three fingers. If you can at least mute a string or two with your first finger then that will help a lot. Especially in an ensemble of any kind, you can easily get away with chords that only use three strings without sounding too thin.
  • Find other musicians to play along with. That will free you up to play with more unusual voicings.
  • Look at alternate/open tunings. Combined with a capo, the right tuning could make it possible to play all kinds of interesting things.
  • Learn to play slide guitar. Along with open tunings and/or playing with others, you can do a lot with slide. If you want to play solos, slide may be your best bet. If you can wear the slide on your first finger, then you might be able to "barre" with the slide and use your other fingers to alter the chords.

Regarding having "super small" hands, I suggest looking at super small guitars. I know that Martin and Taylor make "mini" acoustic guitars, and Fender makes at least one mini electric. You could also consider switching to banjo or mandolin, each of which only have four strings (or courses) and very thin necks. The mandolin in particular is quite small, while still being a very fun and professional instrument.

In case you are feeling down about your situation, I think there is a big bright side: No matter how you figure out how to make it work for yourself, you will have a unique sound that no one else will have. If you can put in the practice hours, you may find that you can be creative with your techniques and come up with ideas that no other musician would come up with. If you love it, you'll get there.

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    Great answer Brother Todd. I like the way the mando sounds as well. Thought about learning to play it but the tuning is different. And my fingers might be too fat to fit between the courses. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 17:52
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    Another option is to learn bass. One note at a time - it just has to be the right note!
    – Transistor
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 22:24
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    "Reinvent your playing around the difficulty" is the best answer. 30 years into this stuff, and I still haven't found a triad, major or minor, with more than three notes. All of guitar playing is making the best of the notes you can reach. Jack White has made a good point about creativity arising out of working around arbitrary limitations. It's more work, but OP is asking if it's possible, not if it's easy. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 2:05

I have a few pat answers for this, some that have been mentioned in the comments. Among them:

  • Django Reinhardt was badly burned in a fire and had just two working fingers, and he became a master of jazz guitar.
  • Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath lost the tips of two fretting fingers just before he quit his day job to become a professional musician, and has become well-regarded guitarist after. Iommi has made fake fingertips out of plastic bottles and started down-tuning in order to make things easier for him, and that low tuning has become a foundation for many genres of music.
  • Angus Young is a very small person with very small hands, and he still makes tremendous music.
  • Of all the left-handed guitarists I can name, some like Mark Knopfler play right-handed, some like Elizabeth Cotton play left-handed on guitars tuned like they're right-handed, and some like Jimi Hendrix left-handed on guitars tuned for left-handed.

So, my general message is "Don't let any this hold you back".

I'd go back and say that, yes, there are ways to use your index finger, but they aren't going to be the ways most use theirs. Consider the first-position A chord. You fret the B, G and D strings on the second fret. I often fret this with my index finger, leaving my other fingers open to ornament the chord in other ways. This is certainly within your capabilities.

That's just the first thing that comes to mind. You didn't mention what kind of music you desire to play, and the next steps would be far different if you wanted to be an acoustic singer-songwriter, a thrash-djent-doom player, or a shred master. Todd Wilcox has many other ideas on how to make this work for you, but we all want you to know that there are many ways to make it work for you.


As @ToddWilcox suggested above, alternate tunings will aid your fingering. In particular, I would recommend that you investigate the DADGAD tuning. In this tuning, many chords reduce to a barre with one or two additional fingers. See the wiki page on this for further details. Many celtic tunes employ this tuning, but appears in rock as well, such as Led Zeppelin's Kashmir.


I am a Bass player, and due to an accident I lost my ring finger of my left hand, lost the tendons on the top of my middle finger and deformed my little finger. So I ended up with only one good finger of my left hand and two fingers that hardly work. I still play (have a Fender 1974 Jazz Bass and a 1974 Gibson EB3) and so long as I plan the fingering I play very well, and I am involved with 3 bands. Just goes to show, with enough perseverance and drive you can overcome whatever life throws at you. Just hang in there and push yourself.


I play acoustic guitars and electric guitars and have played for 7 years. I had to learn to play with only 3 fingers which are my pointer middle and ring finger. I had an incident where I had broken my hand and I destroyed the tendon in my pinky so I can no longer straighten it and I have no strength in so I figured out how to do fingering and I learned how to play alternate chords. It takes practice but if you love guitar and want to keep playing and it is your passion you will find methods that will work for you. Like I said I have been playing for 7 years and I'm now 17 and I play in cafes and I get paid by people to play guitar and I play guitar for my church. It does not matter if you have disabilities that prevent you from using certain fingers you can play amazingly no matter what. I would also suggest if you want to play and want softer strings then get Nylon strings or get a classical guitar.

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