Big stretches with left hand

Hello all,

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted because it’s honestly been a long time since I played anything new/challenging. I’ve been into acoustic and classical a lot more than electric lately also which comes to me a bit easier, so this question is about the left hand rather than the right.

I started learning Level 40 by Ewan Dobson recently and it’s slow going because playing the piece is sort of like rubbing your belly while patting your head. Do-able but it takes a while for my brain to get used to it. My bigger problem though is the stretches he does. I’m a short person with small hands so the piece is incredibly difficult for me to play correctly even very early on.

The screenshot below is a perfect example of why. The 4th fret on the E string is sustained throughout the rest of that section. The 7th fret on the D is a bit of a stretch for my pinky while holding the 3rd fret on the A with my forefinger but it’s do-able. Then adding in the 4th and holding it… I don’t see how it’s possible. Once I get my pinky to the 7th fret, my middle finger on the 4th curls so much that it ends up lifting the string. If I lock the joint on my middle finger, my nail digs in and I simply can’t reach with my pinky. I’ve tried shifting my thumb all over on the neck, putting the guitar on my left leg, moving my elbow to different places, but I just can’t seem to find a way to keep pressure on the E string while reaching for that 7th fret.

EDL4 Tab Snip

Usually when I encounter a problem like this, it’s just a matter of stretching or playing around with the note and finding out that I can play the same note in a different location but this time neither of those options seem to work. My first thought is that it’s just not possible for my hand but surely there’s a way to do this. I can’t imagine classical guitarists that are infinitely more skilled than I am and happen to have small hands would come across a piece like this and say “oh well, I guess I can’t play it”. So they must either re-arrange the whole piece to suit their hand or have a way of making that dang stretch. Does anyone here know what I can do to make this stretch and/or do the smaller classical guitarists really re-arrange pieces to fit their hands?


That particular part can be re-fingered, switching the notes G A on the D string to the G string (so it becomes open, 2nd fret). Use finger 2 on low E, finger 3 on D, finger 1 for G, finger 4 for high E. That’s not a solution to the stretching issue, but it should make it more easily playable for you immediately.

I forgot to mention that this piece is not in standard tuning. It’s this nonsense lol:

That being said, I can re-finger it so it’s sort of playable and difficult for different reasons but then he takes that same pattern and re uses it from the 8th-12th and again to the 7th-11th frets where I don’t see a re-fingering solution at all.

Are the higher register positions doable for you with the original fingering? If so, you could use the one I suggested for the lowest, then switch to the original for the higher ones. If they all feel pretty bad, or you just don’t want to do that, your best bet would be to post some video so we can see if there are any possible things you could alter with left hand positioning to make this come together.

The higher positions are maybe do-able with a lot of practice but even then, I’m not sure it would be consistent because I can just barely barely get enough pressure with my middle finger during the stretch and even then it’s not great. I’ll try to post a video in a bit (probably in about an hour but maybe 30 minutes).

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Here are a couple short videos (different angles). Youtube says the HD will be processed in another 20 minutes or so. So if you need the higher quality, check back around 1 PM PST

I know you’ve said you’ve tried this already, but you might experiment some more with having the guitar on your left leg in the more traditional classical posture with the neck angled up higher. Your wrist looks really flexed and straightening it could help. Perhaps post another video in that posture?

Here is potentially something that would help:

I have no idea how you’re capable of that lol. Straightening my wrist points the pinky side of my palm in toward the fretboard making the stretch even harder.

Posted in response to riffdiculous, the other leg didn’t seem to feel much different but as described in my response to riffdiculous, straightening my wrist made it even more difficult. I’ve gotta be doing something else wrong with my body to make straightening my wrist a bad thing though, right?

(Disclaimer: I have no real idea what I’m talking about so I could be totally misleading you :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:)

It looks like when you’re straightening your wrist, you’re compensating by flexing your metacarpophalangeal (MPC) joints which seems like it would have a similar effect in terms of difficulty - both forms of flexion allow you to “wrap” your hand further around the neck to be able to reach the low E string, but they cause you to sacrifice finger mobility.

It looks like your elbow is fairly tucked into your side. Perhaps try opening it up a bit more like in this image:

If your elbow is not so tucked in, I think your arm would already be more parallel with the guitar neck and so you wouldn’t have to have that sudden extreme flex just to be able to reach the low E string.

Having the headstock extremely elevated and my elbow opened up does give the best results when straightening my wrist but still leaves me with a shorter span overall compared to the bent wrist because it’s still angling my hand back toward the fretboard. I also noticed that I can’t reach across the strings as well this way (maybe the bigger problem).

EDIT: Reaching across the strings is more of an issue when the headstock isn’t extremely elevated. With the headstock extremely elevated, it is just the reduced span issue.

I’m going to ponder it some more to see if I can think of any other cues to give, but you can note when I did it there was still a good deal of space between the palm of my hand and the bottom of a fretboard - you really choke up on it when you straighten out.

Thanks. I appreciate the help whatever the end result turns out to be :slight_smile:

I want to say that last video is a bit exaggerated but straightening my wrist in that position really brings my palm closer and closer the straighter my wrist gets. With the guitar positioned much higher on my chest, I’m able to straighten my wrist a bit more but even the slight straightening here takes it from just almost playable to not. And by just almost playable I mean I can have all my fingers where I want them but the “E” string gets muted and even if it weren’t muted, I would still barely have enough pressure with my pinky.

Play a shorter scale guitar.