Just like athletes, guitarists need to exercise regularly to stay in performance shape. Only, instead of hitting the gym and pumping iron, guitarists need to work on hand coordination and finger strength to expand their musical capabilities.
In this article, we’ll break down five beginner-friendly guitar finger exercises that all levels of guitarist will benefit from. You can use these finger exercises for the guitar as part of your warm-up routine or your regular coordination practice.
- Ex 1: Coordination exercise for beginners
- Ex 2: Spider position with picking
- EX 3: Diagonal spider position
- Ex 4: Joe Satriani’s smart fingers
- Ex 5: Pinky and coordination exercise
We’ll start with the most basic finger coordination exercise. Even if you’re not a beginner, this is a great warmup routine. This first exercise will set the foundation for the remaining exercises demonstrated below.
If you are an advanced guitarist, check out the finger exercises for advanced guitarists here.
Exercise 1: Fretting-hand warmup
First, place your fingers along the low E string in chromatic order, starting at the first fret. If you’re a complete beginner, you could start at the 5th or 7th fret, which are closer together and will be easier to play.
When you have your fingers in the position pictured below, raise your index finger and place it on the same fret on the A string. Don’t pick the notes, simply walk your fingers along the string.
- When you lift your finger off the string, do it with control – try not to keep it as close to the string as possible without touching it.
- All the other fingers should remain still while you move the index finger.
Next, do the same thing but with your middle finger. Now you have two fingers on low E and two fingers on A.
Do this with all your fingers, across all strings a few times moving vertically across your fretboard.
Remember to take your time! Your goal is to develop coordination with proper technique.
Exercise 2: Chromatic warmup
Next, we’ll add picking into the mix.
When you’re starting on the first fret, pick each note in chromatic order across all six strings until you reach the high e string, then head back down to the low E string
- Let each note ring out before you pick the next one.
- Use your thumb to make fretting the notes easier by positioning it on the otherside of your guitar neck opposite your fretting fingers
- Focuse on finding a sweet spot of pressure – avoid death gripping the guitar!
Important point: When you move your fingers, keep them as close to the strings as possible without touching them. This will help you develop control in your fingers.
Perform this exercise until you’re comfortable with the movements and have solid control over your fingers.
Although the main focus of this exercise is to improve technique and coordination, you can decide to use alternate picking with your picking hand. That means you alternate between a downstroke and an upstroke as you pluck each string.
Practice this guitar finger exercise all over the neck and at various starting positions.
More advanced players can perform this exercise to a metronome and practice their sting-skipping abilities. For example, you could jump from the E string to the D string to the B string, etc.
Exercise 3: Diagonal movement
A more advanced version of this finger exercise involves playing notes diagonally across your fretboard. That means the fingers start will move chromatically (fret-wise), but each finger will fret a different string, like this:
This will help you develop control over your fingers across strings. You’ll have to mute each note before you pluck the next one to avoid having two notes ringing out simultaneously.
Perform this exercise up and down in the same position and across the neck. Try starting with the pinky finger and go the other direction.
Exercise 4: Joe Satriani’s smart fingers
This exercise – which comes from iconic prog rock guitarist Joe Satriani – will use the same diagonal movement as the last one. However, this time we’ll introduce strumming into the mix.
This guitar finger exercise will help you build coordination in your fretting hand.
Here you are going to strum through the shape diagonally and alternate between two positions demonstrated in the images below:
As you can see, this exercise moves up and down the neck. One way to perform this is to start as high up on the neck as you can, then chromatically move down one fret at a time.
Use a metronome as you play and keep track of your tempo. As you get comfortable with the exercise, bump up the tempo in increments of 1-5 beats per minute to hone your speed.
Exercise 5: Coordination exercise
This next exercise incorporates three fingers at a time and is great for strengthening your pinky, particularly.
- Starting on the 1st fret on the low E string, play this order of fretted notes: 1-3-2-3.
- Repeat this on all the strings, including the high e string.
- Now, instead of going back the other way in the same fashion, play 2-4-3-4 back to the low E string.
See the images below for clarification.
For players who are slightly more advanced, this is a great exercise to perform to practice playing triplets.
Practicing with a metronome
Make sure to practice these exercises with a metronome – just make sure you don’t ramp up too fast!
- Start at a speed where you can play the exercise easily five times in a row.
- Then, increase the speed slightly by 1-5 bpm.
- Again, don’t increase until you can play it without any hiccups.
You can find our free online metronome here.
Guitar finger exercises are crucial for players of all ability levels. If you don’t maintain or practice control and coordination, you’ll start to lose your dexterity on the guitar and won’t be able to play to your fullest potential.
Control, coordination, and strength are the path to accuracy. Completing these exercises with a metronome will help you increase your top playing speed, which is crucial if you’re looking to shred guitar solos!
Need more exercises to work on? Check out a free 14-day trial to Pickup Music – we have step-by-step Learning Pathways for every style and level of guitar so you always know what to work on.
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