Finger Exercises – This is What You Should Be Doing

This is one of the Finger exercises for Guitar that I often give to my students and some of the things I teach that are almost never really discussed but are so important for good technique!

This exercise is extremely difficult, but also extremely useful for your technique, your ability to play fast and also to think ahead when you are playing. The key things you want to train is your finger independence and your ability to use preparation. In this case preparation is about having the left hand fingers already in place before you want to play the note. This can make your playing much more secure and set you up for playing a lot faster with a good tone.

For me it is coming out of the classical lesson I had when I just started playing guitar, and it is a bit curious to me that we don’t talk more about it with Jazz and Rock music.

I am curious about this so leave a comment if you think there are more things we can learn from classical music!

Left Hand Preparation Exercise

The main exercise I am using in the video to demonstrate what to focus on is this simple semi-chromatic exercise. I often call it the 1234 exercise.

Making it more musical

When playing this it is of course about getting your hands synchronized, but if you focus on playing long more connected notes and preparing the next note all the time then you are going to be able to get much closer to get it to sound like a musical statement.

The idea is to have the next finger in place before you need it. When playing ascending in this exercise that is mostly not possible, but especially when going to a new string you can put your index finger in place in advance

The same type of strategy with the descending version is to put down all the fingers in advance when starting on a string. This is shown here:

Then when playing the exercise you lift one finger at the time.

You can of course after working on this for some time try to incorporate it into your playing when working on scales and arpeggios. I demonstrate this in the video.

Finger Independence and Control

The other aspect that you can work on with this exercise is to improve you control of your fingers. This is mostly your ability to move your fingers independently of each others to the degree that you can do that, this varies and most people (like me) don’t have completely independent 3rd and 4th fingers.

The way to exercise this control is to only move the fingers only as much as you need. Often this is described as making the fingers move less and allow for more speed. I think it is more about being more precise and having control of the movements. 

Often I see students who let go of a string and the finger flies away from the guitar. This means that you have no control when you let the finger go and you have to force it back to wherever it needs to go. This is not so practical when playing.

Improving Finger independence

The way you can work on this with this exercise is that you also stay in control when you let go of the note. This means keeping the finger close to the string and not “flying away”

In the beginning this exercise can be extremely annoying and frustrating. But it is very much worthwhile to spend a few minutes on everyday.

How to work with these exercises

Exercises like this are very dry or boring and I actually don’t think you should spend a lot of time on this, but instead take the approach of just working on them by playing them slowly once or twice and then leave it at that. That approach worked very well for me at least.

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