Guitar Finger Exercises – Play Faster With These Exercises

guitar finger exercises

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Playing the guitar is an activity that presents many difficulties for beginners when they start playing this instrument. The most common troubles that a beginner player experiments are note changes, fingers moving too slowly, not having control in the movement of the fingers, or not having coordination between both hands when playing. In this article, we will learn some guitar finger exercises to help with these difficulties.

We will see a very effective group of exercises to acquire more independence and agility in the fingers of the left or right hand. These exercises are also designed to help you speed up the hand with which you use the pick if practiced using an alternate movement. Even if you are practicing fingerpicking, they can also help you. By involving both your right and left hands in these exercises, you’ll be working on coordination between the two.

Let’s do some exercises with our fingers 

First of all, I present you with a table with all the exercises that we will be doing. Then I will explain how this table works to do exercises.

1) 1234 2134 3124 4231
2) 1243 2143 3142 4213
3) 1324 2413 3214 4132
4) 1342 2431 3241 4123
5) 1423 2314 3412 4312
6) 1432 2341 3421 4321

Each cell in the table contains 1 exercise that uses each of the fingers of your left hand (or right, if you play left-handed). The basic exercise is 1234; the others are variants of this exercise. You will see that this table has a total of 24 exercises. Because these are all the possible combinations with the 4 fingers of your left or right hand without repeating fingers. In each set of 4 numbers, each number corresponds to both the space to be stepped on and the finger to be used.

For example, in exercise 1234:

  • Play the note of the first space with the first (index) finger.
  • Play the note of the second space with the second (middle) finger.
  • Play the note of the third space with the third (ring) finger.
  • Play the note of the fourth space with your fourth (little) finger.

This sequence should be done starting on the first string. Once you have memorized the exercise well, do it by going up to the sixth string and going down again in the same position. It is also advisable to do it through the whole fretboard.

How to do these exercises without getting tired?

If you saw this table of exercises and thought about practicing all of them one after the other, that would be a big mistake. It would be like a beginner athlete trying to run a 10-mile stretch on his first try. He probably won’t even get halfway there. If he is to make it to 10 miles, he’s probably so exhausted that he doesn’t feel like doing it again for a long time.

But that’s not the idea of these exercises. Instead of practicing all the exercises in one day, and doing all 24 technique exercises at once, I suggest you do 4 exercises per week. The reason for this is that if you are a beginner, you will get tired quickly. That would totally destroy one of the goals of these exercises. You could even be at risk of injury your fingers if you try too hard.

Not everything is what it seems when it comes to exercise

Some of these exercises are not as easy as they look, and it takes time to master them. If you practice them all at once, you probably won’t spend as much time on each one. For this reason, I have organized this table in 6 rows, and I have placed 4 exercises in each row. I also added a column on the left with numbers from 1 to 6, which represent the weeks. In other words, if you follow my suggestion of doing 4 exercises per week, in 6 weeks, you will finish all 24 technique exercises.

Once you finish all the exercises during your first 6 weeks of training, you can repeat the routine again from week #1. But this time, run the exercises a little faster, as a challenge to yourself. Note that these 4 exercises per week are a suggestion. Take it as a starting point and adapt it to your needs. If you think you can do more exercises in a week, go ahead. Or if you feel it is too much to do 4 exercises per week, reduce it to 2 or whatever you think is best for you.

How to use the right hand with these exercises?

You can perform these exercises using a pick or using your fingers by fingerpicking. If you do them with a pick, I recommend using an alternate picking movement. You can start by picking down on the string at the first contact with the string. Then do it by picking the string up at the second contact. You will notice that it feels a bit uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it with practice.

If you do it with your fingers, use an alternate movement between your index and middle fingers, and avoid repeating fingers. You can still practice it by starting with the index finger, and then the middle finger. Starting with a different finger is uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it with practice. For additional practice, do these exercises by alternating between the index and ring fingers, and then the middle and ring fingers. This will help you develop more strength and agility in the middle and ring fingers, which are usually weaker than the index due to the little exercise we give them (especially the ring finger).

Some final recommendations 

To ensure you get the maximum benefit from the exercises, practice these exercises before you practice reading or playing your song repertoire. Once you are familiar with them, they are ideal for warm-up. I recommend you always practice these exercises with a metronome. Start with a time that is comfortable for you, and then gradually increase the time. When doing the exercises, avoid raising your fingers more than necessary. Ideally, they should be kept as close to the fretboard as possible at all times. If you raise your fingers too much, you lose time, which will take away your agility and speed.

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Damián is an author of All Stringed. He started playing with an electric guitar when he was 14 as a self-taught boy at home. He has almost 30 years of experience playing electric and acoustic guitar. You can find more about him here.