Hovering Finger Syndrome

Question by Mr. Hoverfingers
(San Francisco CA USA)

I have lots of chord material, but even though I’ve been practicing for some time, I can’t get rid of my HFS, Hovering Finger Syndrome. I get the chords correctly, but my fingers always hover over the fretboard too long to keep the rhythm. The only advice I’ve found is “Keep practicing,” or “Relax into it.” Sometimes I get “Practice easier material.” All of this I’m sure is very helpful.

My question is: is this very common, and is there any other advice besides “Keep at it” that can help me keep the beat. I feel like my soloing technique is progressing at the same level as my understanding, but my chordal technique is miles behind my harmonic comprehension. What to do?

Mr. Hoverfingers

M-A’s Answer:


This is curious, I’ve never heard of your syndrome. Could you please explain in more details what you are going through (physically/mentally) and I’ll give my best advice to you.

Simply reply in the comments below.

Thank you
Marc-Andre Seguin

Old Comments for Hovering Finger Syndrome

Aug 18, 2011
by: Marc-Andre Seguin (admin)

Hey Steven,

I think you just found a system to work things out for your “problem”. I understand what your saying and practicing *consciously* in this fashion will certainly yield results with time.

Nice expression “Overfingering” (-:

Regarding a set of exercises : I highly recommend the Modern Method for Guitar. In books 1 and 2, I have practiced such patterns. I have a slight memory of the first time I switched from Gmaj7 to G6 (with pain, I must admit). But in the books, you’ll find other examples with different shapes and on different sets of strings also.

Thank you,

Aug 18, 2011
by: Steven Hoverfingers

Hi Marc,

Steven HF here. Thanks for your advice. It’s been helping. I’ve developed a certain exercise that I think is pretty useful, and perhaps you could help improve it. It’s called Overfingering.

Certain chord changes require you to move more fingers than notes you are changing. A simple example: an open D to a D minor. The only note that changes is an F# to an F, but you have to move two fingers for the change. Because your 2nd finger can?t slide past your 1st finger, you have to re-finger the A with your 2nd finger so your 1st finger can play the F. This process of re-fingering, I call Overfingering because a) you have to finger certain notes over again, and b) your fingers have to jump over each other. A jazzier example would be changing from Gmaj7 (3x443x) to a Gmaj6 (3x243x): only one note changes, but three out of four finger have to move (even the pinky probably jumps up and down on the B).

I like your idea of doing chord-change reps. I think the advantage of doing Overfingering reps is that you are fingering almost the same shape with a new set of fingers. In the above example of Gmaj7 to Gmaj6, the notes B and D and fingered first with the 2nd and 4th finger, and then the same notes are gripped with the 3rd and 4th. Such overfingering shows you that different finger groups can maintain similar intervals, while other fingers are dynamically making the changes.

I don?t know if this is an overly theoretical approach to my problem. If you think this is useful, let me know. I would be great to have a series of progression that used this principle, preferably in a pedagogically progressive way. My hope is that such a series of progressions could bridge the gap between explanatory chord charts (very easy) and complicated arrangements (very challenging).

Thanks for your help,

Jul 08, 2011
by: Marc-A (Admin)


Oh. I understand what you are saying.

It will be hard for me advising anything because I never saw or heard you play… but here’s my best shot at it :

1- I think it’s only a matter of experience (I mean, physically, with the instrument)

2- Have you ever tried alternating between only two shapes? Do like in the gym, and alternate “10 reps” of, say Am7 going to D7. It usually works with my students.

Please, ask more questions or post comments here, this is valuable information for everyone.


Jun 28, 2011
Finger Independence
by: Anonymous

Hi Marc,

Thanks for your response and I appreciate any advice you can offer.

While I’ve been playing guitar for a long time, and my open chords and standard E- and A- shaped barre chords pose no problems, the more complex jazz chords do (6th, 9th, dim, inversions …). I can never put all my fingers down at the same time, but I usually have to plant one or two, and then, slowly, put the remaining fingers down. I usually watch my fingers as they hover above the strings, and often I get only 3 out of 4 to sound out fully. Practicing slowing and patiently, even with a metronome, makes thing a little easier, but while playing a song, I can never keep the rhythm. It generally feels and sounds like I am practicing, and never playing music.

I don’t know if this is a correct approach, but I am looking for a way to practice that is a gradual step-by-step method for overcoming this difficulty. Most chord exercises I’ve seen stress understanding harmonic theory or fretboard shapes, but both of these come quite easy for me. I think I need drills of gradually increasing difficulty on finger independence.

Any suggestions would help.

Thanks a lot,
Steven Hoverfingers

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