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I am a beginner at guitar. My friend recently told me that bending my fingers this way while playing a chord can cause damage to the fingers. I cant help playing this way because of force of habit.

Is it true that playing this way damages the fingers?

Can you recommend exercises to overcome this habit? enter image description here

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    Our bodies have ways of saying don't do something - it's pain and discomfort usually! If you don't get either, immediately or after, it's probably o.k. I've been bending fingers like that playing guitar for 60 yrs so far, and they're still o.k. Just make sure that you only press as hard as you need, not strangle the poor thing's neck!
    – Tim
    Jan 10, 2020 at 8:27
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    @Tim that's not necessarily the best advice. Just because something doesn't cause immediate pain or discomfort doesn't mean that a) it won't at some point down the line, or b) there aren't other reasons to not do something. Playing piano with straight fingers probably isn't going to injure them, but you still limit your control and power by not playing with bent fingers. Pointing a trumpet straight down while you play probably isn't going to hurt anything, but you're constricting your lungs and probably your diaphragm, which is going to impact your air flow.
    – John Doe
    Jan 10, 2020 at 17:10
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    @Tim ...and Dizzy Gillespie pointed his trumpet down and blew out his cheeks. Lots of individual things will not hamper your progress as a musician too much, but, especially as one is starting out, eliminating impediments to progress AND preventing incorrect habits go a long way in ensuring success. One of the more common reasons that people stop learning how to play an instrument is the thought that, "It's just too hard, I can't do it," when really it's a) an equipment issue (ie, bad or broken instrument), or b) something that two lessons with a private instructor could fix.
    – John Doe
    Jan 10, 2020 at 17:56
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    @Tim That's horrible advice! Collapsing the fingers like that (like the ring finger in the included photo) is known to cause serious injuries long-term, even if no immediate discomfort or pain can be felt.
    – NPN328
    Jan 10, 2020 at 18:36
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    Plus, it's just bad form. Keeping your fingers bent will let you play faster in the long run, so you might as well start forming good habits as early as possible.
    – user428517
    Jan 10, 2020 at 21:08

3 Answers 3

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In general, locked joints are slow joints. They take time to lock and time to unlock and in the mean time, other joints have to move larger units through a zigzagged tendon sheaf. So it's something that tends to be worth avoiding. It's a matter of finger strength and resisting the finger snapping into that position. That's not specific to guitar: for example, the pinky in the fingering hand of a violin is similarly susceptible to this kind of final joint lock.

Training your last finger joints is something you can habitually do with a tabletop and do not need to confine to instrument playing practice.

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    I believe the current two answers that mention locked / collapsed joints are ignoring the most important part: it's a serious health risk. Yes, it makes you slower, but more importantly: it can lead to severe injuries. Speed is secondary, you avoid collapsing fingers because it can harm you.
    – NPN328
    Jan 10, 2020 at 18:57
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It looks like you are trying to play an open G maj chord but that's hard to tell from the pic. In general a collapsed finger joint is not proper. With practice and correct posture that should not happen. Of course there are exceptions to every rule and people have different body sizes and shapes. Sometimes deviations make certain fingering difficult.

There are some other issue with your hand that make the bent joint secondary.

  1. Your second finger on the low E string is covering the A string and probably dampening that string. You want to hear the B (maj 3rd) of the G chord and that will not happen with your second finger touching the string under it. That finger should be more on the tip to provide clearance.

  2. You pinky is curled up in your palm and that is not proper posture. You fingers should float over the finger board in a relaxed and comfortable manner, ready to land on the strings. Of course this is very hard for beginners to master. Fatigue and dependence of the fingers on each other lead to "floppy" fingers and curled up fingers. The ring and pinky are connected by tendons and curling the pinky under might be forcing the ring into an unnatural position. Try floating the pink next to the ring.

  3. Your finger nail looks a little too long. If you clip the ring finger nail back you should be able to land on the tip rather that the pad, i.e. roll the ring finger up a little and that should unlock the joint.

Other than the nail being long I think that if you roll your entire hand forward a little all the other issues will correct themselves.

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  • This straightening of the ring finger usually occurs when I try to change from a chord like E minor to G major quickly.As I dont have much time to land the ring finger accurately on the high E string,the ring finger quickly straightens out. Jan 10, 2020 at 17:49
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    Finally someone mentions the collapsed joint! I don't think it's secondary though, if anything it's the most important technique mistake found in the photo! It might not be impacting the note and tone too much, but it can cause serious injuries long-term. The collapsed fingers should be the first thing OP needs to correct.
    – NPN328
    Jan 10, 2020 at 18:40
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    @NeelSabhahit Don't even start worrying about speed if you don't have correct form yet. That collapsed joint needs to go away from your technique asap. It is not only slowing you down, it's also a severe injury time bomb. Start practicing really really slow first, slow enough that you can fret without collapsing. Once you can, increase speed a little bit each day / week (depending on how much you practice), and that bad habit should be gone pretty soon. The more you practice with bad technique, the harder (and time consuming, and boring) it becomes to correct it.
    – NPN328
    Jan 10, 2020 at 18:44
  • @ByBw, I agree about the issue with the collapsed joint but in my experience even goo players can get this to occur if their hand posture is poor, for example playing in a reclined posture on the couch, trying new chord forms for the first time. But in this case if the OP is a beginner it may be that there is basic technique lacking. But that will NOT develop if the other issues are not addressed.
    – user50691
    Jan 10, 2020 at 22:50
  • What I see in the pic is an alternate voicing of G where the A string is supposed to be muted (as pictured) and the maj 3rd is present on the open b string (second string open). If playing the most common voicing of G major chord then you are correct, you would want the B note fretted on 2nd fret of the A string to ring out. There are many ways to play a G chord with open strings as seen here (music.stackexchange.com/a/31061/16897). Jan 11, 2020 at 2:26
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I am not a doctor, nor an academically trained musician who received formal posture education, but I'll try to answer. Also this is my first activity on here, so If I get anything wrong, please let me know.

Just a couple of observations:

1) Different peoples have different bodies. As an example, my fingers are physically unable to bend like that, while some of my friends can effortlessly do crazy things with their hands (I ignore if this difference is due to genetics, early-life habits or what else). Some of those appear to be unable to do normal things (keeping a finger straight, for example). If that hand position is what your body finds more natural, I guess you have a physiological trait I appear to lack, but this should be no cause of great concern, as far as I can tell.

2) Developing a good posture while playing is essential. This is not a finger issue only: the position of your wrist is a most important factor in order to develop good hand posture and avoid long term injury ("keep you wrist straight" is the mantra). This is not even a hand-only problem, the way you sit and how you keep your guitar can greatly effect how easily you can play. Also, keep an eye to your right wrist, too. The angle at which you keep your guitar plays an important role. The length of your straps is also important if you are playing standing up.

3) If you are a total beginner, it is natural to adopt awkward positions while trying to perform chords. This is a matter of muscular memory which is still to be formed. But when you say "I cant help playing this way because of force of habit", i guess that some sort of adaptation has already taken place. How long have you been practicing?

4) In this specific case, you are using two consecutive fingers in order to press two string which are very far (the first and the last). This is the most strange aspect and, as far as I can tell, playing this chord would not cause any bending of the fingers if done differently (As soon as I go home I'll try on my guitar how I'd play this strange chord... F#min11(b6,b9)? EDIT: I use my index finger on the low E string and my pinky on the high E)

So, my final verdict (edited):

The fact that your fingers appear to be able to bend like that is not a big deal per se, but as some of the other contributors pointed out, doing that can lead to injuries, i guess it is something which is better to avoid. In general, to avoid long term problems watch your whole body position, and always keep an eye on your wrists! Try to figure out which finger combination better works for a specific chord and for your body.

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  • Got a feeling it was a (really) badly formed G! And - welcome!
    – Tim
    Jan 10, 2020 at 12:17
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    I have been playing only for about 3 months,and in this specific picture I was only trying to show how the finger straightens out,though it does only when I play the G major! Jan 10, 2020 at 17:57
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    @NeelSabhahit: A lot of fingering diagrams try to avoid using the pinkie for the G chord, but I think the chord works out much better if one fingers it like a G7, but places the pinkie on the first string third fret (when playing standard tuning, I also play D like a D7, but with pinkie on the second string third fret).
    – supercat
    Jan 10, 2020 at 19:16
  • @NeelSabhahit I agree with your comment about playing the G with the pinkie on first string. See the comment I just posted under the question before I read your comment to this answer. Jan 11, 2020 at 2:37
  • Welcome to Stack Exchange Music. Thanks for contributing. I see you put a great deal of thought into your answer and provided some new information about how your body position in relation to the guitar affects your hand position on the fretboard. I hope to see more answers (and questions) from you in the future. Jan 11, 2020 at 2:41

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