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The Best Guitar Finger Exercises for
Speed, Dexterity & Soloing
Intro: Why Guitar Finger Exercises Are Essential
(What will they do for me?)
One of the biggest frustrations for a beginning guitarist is not being able to get your hands working together. Know the feeling? You try to pick up the speed on a riff or lick that just sounds so much better at 120 BPM but your fingers only allow half that.
As soon as you bump the speed up it’s as if your left hand just conks out and can’t keep up or often remember where it’s supposed to be next.
This is a problem solved with practice. However, if you're tired of struggling with this problem- like so many people are- there are guitar finger exercises that boost this process.
This free guitar lesson is derived from a video series which is also included on the page. I have written out my summary of the video as well as several of my own tips, tricks and hints for you in case you’d like to print any of this out or share. So without further adieu, let’s begin…
Former Darkest Hour Guitarist Kris Norris Shares His Best Guitar Finger Exercises
Phase 1: Chromatic Guitar Finger Exercises
The chromatic scale is one of the greatest scales out there for building finger dexterity. If you have problems with what finger goes where, chromatic guitar finger exercises will take you a long way.
First the boring part: The chromatic scale is a scale that is comprised of every note, so essentially, playing any note in any order is technically the chromatic scale. But beware, unless you’ve got some good theory (or rhythm guitar) knowledge, this will likely sound like crap.
Now the fun part: The chromatic scale is damn easy. Being made of every note means there are no diagrams, or patterns, for you to study or memorize. Everything is kept nice and simple.
These guitar finger exercises should be a staple in your daily practice routine.
Breaking it Down
Come up with as many finger combinations as you possibly can with your index being "1" and pinky being "4"
These guitar finger exercises focus mainly on randomizing what frets you play. The more patterns you master, the greater your finger dexterity will become.
- You may find any spot on the neck you like for this guitar finger exercises, I like to do this @ the 5th fret but it’s entirely up to you
- Set up your metronome
- Play these patterns on each string, going down each string then back up. I recommend starting at 80 BPM, but adjust accordingly.
- Be sure to play with different picking styles as well. I recommend mastering the following picking patterns:
2. All Down Strokes
3. All Up Strokes
4. Gallop (Down, Down-Up-Down, down-up-down..)
Phase 2: Gaining Speed and Muscle Memory With Guitar Finger Exercises
If the above is too challenging you may want to take a minute to run through this next guide. Don’t expect to be able to do all of this right away. The guitar isn’t known for being one of the hardest instruments to learn and master for no reason. But don’t get discouraged, you'll get there.
Alright, what was I saying? Oh yeah… Building your speed. Okay, the main thing we want you to focus on here is rhythm and progression.
These guitar finger exercises tend not to focus on the specifics of how fast your are going or where you WANT to be. Just erase your mind for a second and focus on the basics here. You are going to practice the same hand exercise as above, but with ONLY alternate picking. So here are the next guitar finger exercises:
- Using only alternate picking, start at 60 beats per minute playing quarter notes (one note per metronome click)
- Play just the 4 notes on one string to the metronome
- Work your way up in intervals of 5 BPM to 90 Beats Per Minute
- Now for the tricky part, once you’re comfortable lower the speed back down to about 70 beats per minute or whatever is comfortable (you’ll know when you try just keep reading)
- Try skipping from the 6th (low E) string to the 4th while sticking to the rhythm of the metronome. Play the same pattern
- Repeat this until you can successfully complete the exercises at 100 BPM
- Once this is easy, start skipping to random strings but remember to keep you hand in the same position the entire way through
Once you can rip up and down the strings fairly quickly you’ll notice you’ll have to look at the fretboard less and less. This is because of something called “muscle memory”.
Muscle memory is extremely important to you as a guitarist and I’ll tell you why. You simply DON’T want to be staring at your guitar the whole time you play. You’ll develop back and neck problems, and it just plain looks bad! They key to playing without looking is developing muscle memory, more on that in another lesson.
These guitar finger exercises are also incredible ways to develop muscle memory. You simply want to practice them often and once you start to feel really bored and like “you get it” in a certain spot, simply move to another position on the neck and repeat.
Muscle memory is developed by doing the same thing over and over again, so it makes sense that you should be practicing all of this often.
Phase 3: Scale-Based Guitar Finger Exercises
Often overlooked, scales are excellent guitar finger exercises. Not only will your speed and dexterity increase drastically, but your solo arsenal will be powerful enough to take on an army.
Guitar solos are nothing but scales with phrasing, so start playing attention! What we are going to do in this part of the lesson is very flexible. You may choose any scale you wish, so if you’re currently struggling with one or being able to play one cleanly- now’s your chance to kill it.
An easy alternative option is the pentatonic scale. However, if you’re the type of person that likes to follow it down to the letter, for this guitar finger exercises: use the G Major scale.
- Again, we are going to start slow so set your metronome to 60 BPM
- Play the scale all the way through using quarter notes (one note per beat)
- Work your way up to playing the scale at 120 BPM comfortable, being sure to play the scale in BOTH directions
- Now adjust your metronome back down to 80 or 100, whatever feels right to you and start playing 1/8 notes (2 notes per beat)
CHALLENGE: Once this is comfortable for you start trying different picking styles. You’ve likely been doing this whole part of the exercise using alternate picking. That’s the easiest way to learn a scale and bring it’s speed up quick. However now it's time to challenge yourself.
Try playing the scale with all down strokes at 100 BPM. Then try palm muting each note. Now try playing the scale with economy picking (all down strokes going down the scale and all upstrokes going back up). Try and get funky with it. Keep building on what YOU can do with one guitar scale.
Guitar Finger Exercises Conclusion
These guitar finger exercises are proven effective for building speed and dexterity. I recommend you invest at least 10 minutes a day of your practice time to these guitar finger exercises. You will notice an almost immediate increase in the comfort of your playing.
I hope this lesson has helped you. I'm sure if applied you'll see results. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below.
Until next time,