Learning how to stretch your fingers for guitar is essential to developing the strength and speed needed to play chords and to play solos. There are exercises you can use that will help you stretch your fingers and develop the skills needed to be an effective guitar player in any playing situation. These exercises include both playing and non-playing activities designed to help improve your reach (the distance your fingers span on the guitar) and your finger control and strength. Things you'll need to stretch your fingers are:
- Rubber ball
- Practice playing scales. Don't just play the scales in ascending order or in one position on the neck of your guitar. A single scale can be played in several positions on your guitar. When you choose a scale to play, use a scale chart that maps out all the positions your particular scale can be played, then play the scale from its lowest position on your guitar to the highest, making sure to use all of your fingers. If, for instance, you begin with a C major scale that begins on the third fret of the fifth string, you'll play the the third fret (fifth string) with your index finger, the fifth fret (fifth string) with your ring finger, and the seventh fret (fifth string) with your little finger. The seventh fret note is the E of the C scale, normally played by placing your index finger to the second fret of the fourth string. Since you are stretching your fingers, playing the E on the seventh fret of the same string as the first two notes, you're forcing yourself to stretch your little finger. Continue playing the scale with this pattern, playing all notes fretted.
- Exercise your grip. One of the best ways to do this is to keep a rubber ball handy that you can squeeze when you're sitting around doing nothing. This will help increase the strength in your fingers you'll need to practice stretching on barre chords and fifth chords.
Play fifth chords, stretching your fourth (little) finger to alternate between the fifth note and the seventh note. Here's an example. Make a G5 chord by placing your index finger on the third fret of the lowest (sixth string) and your ring finger on the fifth fret of the fourth string. This is a G5 chord, so named because it contains only the first and fifth notes of a G major scale. Count one and, two and, three and, four and while you play these two strings. Play the fifth chord on the one and, then stretch your little finger to the seventh fret on the fifth string. Play the seventh fret not on the two, then back to the G5 on the "and." Continue playing this pattern to a count of four, timed like this: one and, two and, three and, four and.
- Add a C5 played with the same pattern. The C5 is made of the first and fifth notes of the C major scale, played with your first finger on the third fret of the fifth string and your ring finger on the fifth fret of the fourth string. Stretch your little finger on this one like you did on the G5, up to the seventh fret on the fourth string. You'll recognize this chord riff in a lot of Chuck Berry's music as well as countless rock, country, and blues tunes through the years.