Stretching small hands

Guitar Tricks Forum > Guitar Basics > Stretching small hands

Finger Pickin Good

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Joined: 01/01/17

Posts: 6

Hey there stringheads,

I recently started practicing electric guitar and I have (very) small hands.

When trying the 'Spider Legs exercize' the muscles in my hand hurt quite bit around the connection between my thumb and my wrist, and the other side of my wrist.

I have to use my right hand to place my fingers on the strings and even then I can press down the first and the second fret at about the right location, but I can only reach the third fret at the beginning / half.

No matter how I hold the guitar it feels like I'm doing some real damage to my hand if I do it more than 30 seconds to a minute at a time.

Is this normal?

Do my hands stretch out over time?

And should I keep practicing like this or maybe change something?

#1

Hey there stringheads,

I recently started practicing electric guitar and I have (very) small hands.

When trying the 'Spider Legs exercize' the muscles in my hand hurt quite bit around the connection between my thumb and my wrist, and the other side of my wrist.

I have to use my right hand to place my fingers on the strings and even then I can press down the first and the second fret at about the right location, but I can only reach the third fret at the beginning / half.

No matter how I hold the guitar it feels like I'm doing some real damage to my hand if I do it more than 30 seconds to a minute at a time.

Is this normal?

Do my hands stretch out over time?

And should I keep practicing like this or maybe change something?

DraconusJLM

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Joined: 06/21/21

Posts: 144

Stop!

Playing shouldn't be causing "pain". Aches are normal at times, but not actual "pain", which could be an indication of causing damage to your hands.

Try doing this exercise starting on the 15th fret (or even higher up the neck) and see how that feels. You can then move down to the 14th fret after a couple of weeks, then the 13th and so on. If you started higher than the 15th fret, then just move down one fret from wherever that was.

Don't be in a rush to try starting from the first fret. Your hands might be too small to enable that, but it won't stop you from learning to play.

Don't worry if you can't manage four fingers from the start. It took me months to manage that, and I have large hands. And only spend a few minutes on this, resting your hand afterwards by laying it down on a flat surface, fingers spread slightly and completely relaxed.

Trying to do too much, by trying to stretch your fingers beyond what is possible could permanently stop you from playing.

Six strings, but only four fingers. Twelve simi-tones, but only eight notes to an octive. Part of me thinks mathematicians should steer well clear of guitars.....

#2

Stop!

Playing shouldn't be causing "pain". Aches are normal at times, but not actual "pain", which could be an indication of causing damage to your hands.

Try doing this exercise starting on the 15th fret (or even higher up the neck) and see how that feels. You can then move down to the 14th fret after a couple of weeks, then the 13th and so on. If you started higher than the 15th fret, then just move down one fret from wherever that was.

Don't be in a rush to try starting from the first fret. Your hands might be too small to enable that, but it won't stop you from learning to play.

Don't worry if you can't manage four fingers from the start. It took me months to manage that, and I have large hands. And only spend a few minutes on this, resting your hand afterwards by laying it down on a flat surface, fingers spread slightly and completely relaxed.

Trying to do too much, by trying to stretch your fingers beyond what is possible could permanently stop you from playing.

Six strings, but only four fingers. Twelve simi-tones, but only eight notes to an octive. Part of me thinks mathematicians should steer well clear of guitars.....

Finger Pickin Good

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Joined: 01/01/17

Posts: 6

Alright, I'll stop doing exercices around the first frets for now and find a more comfortable grip around the start of the neck, I just checked this a little bit and it does help.

And yeah, it really seems like something I should do for short bursts throughout the day and then rest my hand.

Thanks for the advice.

#3

Alright, I'll stop doing exercices around the first frets for now and find a more comfortable grip around the start of the neck, I just checked this a little bit and it does help.

And yeah, it really seems like something I should do for short bursts throughout the day and then rest my hand.

Thanks for the advice.

DraconusJLM

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Joined: 06/21/21

Posts: 144

You're welcome.

Six strings, but only four fingers. Twelve simi-tones, but only eight notes to an octive. Part of me thinks mathematicians should steer well clear of guitars.....

#4

You're welcome.

Six strings, but only four fingers. Twelve simi-tones, but only eight notes to an octive. Part of me thinks mathematicians should steer well clear of guitars.....

Sore.fingers

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Joined: 07/15/21

Posts: 38

I found out that holding the neck of the guitar higher, also helped a bit. I made a small box to put my right foot on. This elevates the guitar a few inches and makes it more comfortable.

Instead of using 4 fingers to do spider legs, I think that you could start with 3 or even 2. (I started with 3 and that is much more comfortable than with 4 fingers.)

Good luck.

#5

I found out that holding the neck of the guitar higher, also helped a bit. I made a small box to put my right foot on. This elevates the guitar a few inches and makes it more comfortable.

Instead of using 4 fingers to do spider legs, I think that you could start with 3 or even 2. (I started with 3 and that is much more comfortable than with 4 fingers.)

Good luck.

UkuleleChicken

Registered User

Joined: 07/06/21

Posts: 1

I was so happy to find this thread. I can not keep all three fingers down; my fingers just won't stretch that far. I think I have been playing too much period. My hands and fingers, wrist, and my forearm are all hurting. Having had a battle with severe tendonitis last year from too much playing my ukulele I recognize the signs and know I have to rest it. I'm going to take these suggestions in a few days and see if I can do spider legs that way.

#6

I was so happy to find this thread. I can not keep all three fingers down; my fingers just won't stretch that far. I think I have been playing too much period. My hands and fingers, wrist, and my forearm are all hurting. Having had a battle with severe tendonitis last year from too much playing my ukulele I recognize the signs and know I have to rest it. I'm going to take these suggestions in a few days and see if I can do spider legs that way.

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7322

Originally Posted by: Finger

I recently started practicing electric guitar and I have (very) small hands.

When trying the 'Spider Legs exercize' the muscles in my hand hurt quite bit around the connection between my thumb and my wrist, and the other side of my wrist.

Some of that might be just normal building strength & dexterity. But like other members have correctly posted, don't hurt yourself! Stop if you feel continuous pain or discomfort.

It sounds like you might benefit from better technique which I will address as I answer the parts of your post.

Originally Posted by: Finger

I have to use my right hand to place my fingers on the strings and even then I can press down the first and the second fret at about the right location, but I can only reach the third fret at the beginning / half.

It's not necessary to hold on to lower notes as you play higher notes. In fact it will become an invaluable skill to learn to slightly adjust your hand position in order to accomodate for this technique.

I also have relatively small hands. I have to anchor my thumb and use it as a pivot on some wide stretches. I have to move slightly from position to position as needed to make up for this.

It's also important to relax. Beginners often sqeeze too hard when fretting notes. At first it's necessary just to get notes to sound! But gradually as your finger strength & calluses build you should make a conscious effort to relax and back off on the amount of pressure required to fret any note.

Fretting any note only requires a certain amount of pressure. Any more is wasted effort that will actually hinder your dexterity in getting to the next note on time. It will also cause finger pain & fatigue which in turn affects your endurance making it hard to play for very long.

With all that in mind, try this.

Play the 1st fret with your index finger. Then as you play the 2nd fret with your middle finger, relax your index finger pressure. Don't move it too much, maintain light contact with the string, just release pressure.

As you start to place your ring finger on the 3rd fret release the middle finger pressure. If necessary slightly slide your hand position up. This might mean that your index finger slides up the string past the 1st fret. That's okay. Just make sure it maintains light contact with the string. That way you don't have to move it as much when you get back down to using it.

Same thing with your pinky on the 4th fret. The lower fingers release pressure but still maintain light contact with the string. Slide them up if necessary.

Reverse the pocess on the way down.

Make sure you are creating a good, solid tone on the current note, while using just enough pressure, and minimizing your motions to move through the exercise.

Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#7

Originally Posted by: Finger

I recently started practicing electric guitar and I have (very) small hands.

When trying the 'Spider Legs exercize' the muscles in my hand hurt quite bit around the connection between my thumb and my wrist, and the other side of my wrist.

Some of that might be just normal building strength & dexterity. But like other members have correctly posted, don't hurt yourself! Stop if you feel continuous pain or discomfort.

It sounds like you might benefit from better technique which I will address as I answer the parts of your post.

Originally Posted by: Finger

I have to use my right hand to place my fingers on the strings and even then I can press down the first and the second fret at about the right location, but I can only reach the third fret at the beginning / half.

It's not necessary to hold on to lower notes as you play higher notes. In fact it will become an invaluable skill to learn to slightly adjust your hand position in order to accomodate for this technique.

I also have relatively small hands. I have to anchor my thumb and use it as a pivot on some wide stretches. I have to move slightly from position to position as needed to make up for this.

It's also important to relax. Beginners often sqeeze too hard when fretting notes. At first it's necessary just to get notes to sound! But gradually as your finger strength & calluses build you should make a conscious effort to relax and back off on the amount of pressure required to fret any note.

Fretting any note only requires a certain amount of pressure. Any more is wasted effort that will actually hinder your dexterity in getting to the next note on time. It will also cause finger pain & fatigue which in turn affects your endurance making it hard to play for very long.

With all that in mind, try this.

Play the 1st fret with your index finger. Then as you play the 2nd fret with your middle finger, relax your index finger pressure. Don't move it too much, maintain light contact with the string, just release pressure.

As you start to place your ring finger on the 3rd fret release the middle finger pressure. If necessary slightly slide your hand position up. This might mean that your index finger slides up the string past the 1st fret. That's okay. Just make sure it maintains light contact with the string. That way you don't have to move it as much when you get back down to using it.

Same thing with your pinky on the 4th fret. The lower fingers release pressure but still maintain light contact with the string. Slide them up if necessary.

Reverse the pocess on the way down.

Make sure you are creating a good, solid tone on the current note, while using just enough pressure, and minimizing your motions to move through the exercise.

Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

smahboobani

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Joined: 08/04/21

Posts: 1

I saw a similar finger stretching exercise on another site, but the recommendation was to start with all four fingers on the fifth fret, and slowly (over weeks) move up the neck of the guitar. I find that that works for me, giving all my fingers a reasonable workout and I'm not straining ring and pinky as much. If starting at the fifth fret doesn't work for you, try starting lower down the neck (at the higher number frets).

#8

I saw a similar finger stretching exercise on another site, but the recommendation was to start with all four fingers on the fifth fret, and slowly (over weeks) move up the neck of the guitar. I find that that works for me, giving all my fingers a reasonable workout and I'm not straining ring and pinky as much. If starting at the fifth fret doesn't work for you, try starting lower down the neck (at the higher number frets).

DraconusJLM

Full Access

Joined: 06/21/21

Posts: 144

Moving towards the body of a guitar is moving UP the neck; moving towards the head is moving DOWN the neck.

As for the starting point, pick any fret that feels comfortable. There are no rules, and if you look around the internet and books you can find lots of variations instead of working fingers 1 to 4 (such as 1,4,2,4,3,4 on each string to build pinky finger strength - try this starting on the 12th fret and work along every string from 6 to 1, then work down the neck one fret at a time until you either: a) get pain, in which case stop immediately; or b) run out of frets. If you reach the 1st fret, you probably have nothing to gain from this exercise unless you want to increase the speed of doing it).

Exercises like this can be good but getting a riff or lick locked in gives far more satisfaction, especially if the technique is good

Six strings, but only four fingers. Twelve simi-tones, but only eight notes to an octive. Part of me thinks mathematicians should steer well clear of guitars.....

#9

Moving towards the body of a guitar is moving UP the neck; moving towards the head is moving DOWN the neck.

As for the starting point, pick any fret that feels comfortable. There are no rules, and if you look around the internet and books you can find lots of variations instead of working fingers 1 to 4 (such as 1,4,2,4,3,4 on each string to build pinky finger strength - try this starting on the 12th fret and work along every string from 6 to 1, then work down the neck one fret at a time until you either: a) get pain, in which case stop immediately; or b) run out of frets. If you reach the 1st fret, you probably have nothing to gain from this exercise unless you want to increase the speed of doing it).

Exercises like this can be good but getting a riff or lick locked in gives far more satisfaction, especially if the technique is good

Six strings, but only four fingers. Twelve simi-tones, but only eight notes to an octive. Part of me thinks mathematicians should steer well clear of guitars.....

Finger Pickin Good

Full Access

Joined: 01/01/17

Posts: 6

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

I have to anchor my thumb and use it as a pivot on some wide stretches.

Do you mean pivot your thumb left and right towards a more horizontal position (at times)?

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

It's also important to relax. Beginners often sqeeze too hard when fretting notes...

I definitely do that when putting my fingers in chord positions that are new, but after I get used to playing the chord my fingers relax much more naturally.

However, I still re-test how much pressure is actually necessary from time to time.

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

With all that in mind, try this.....

Invaluable information, thank you!

#10

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

I have to anchor my thumb and use it as a pivot on some wide stretches.

Do you mean pivot your thumb left and right towards a more horizontal position (at times)?

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

It's also important to relax. Beginners often sqeeze too hard when fretting notes...

I definitely do that when putting my fingers in chord positions that are new, but after I get used to playing the chord my fingers relax much more naturally.

However, I still re-test how much pressure is actually necessary from time to time.

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

With all that in mind, try this.....

Invaluable information, thank you!