Learning to use all four fingers on the fretting-hand is an incredibly useful thing to develop for any budding lead guitarist. Having really good finger independence, strength and control can really help make the learning process less frustrating. If you have a very well-developed fretting-hand, it will generally take you less time to learn new things. (It’s harder to learn a new lick or solo if you can’t make your fingers do what you want!).
In this lesson we’re going to look at an exercise that I used to practice constantly when I started playing guitar. It’s definitely not the sexiest sounding thing that you could play. But if you practice it regularly, in the way that I recommend, I think you’ll notice a big improvement in your fretting-hand technique.
Let’s take a look at the exercise…
Guitar Finger Training Exercise 1: Practice For Five Minutes
Although this exercise looks simple, it needs to be practiced in a very specific way to get optimum results. I highly recommend watching this video as it’s hard to describe everything using text…
Here are a few practice recommendations that will help you to extract the most value from the exercise…
- Use the classical hand position. Doing this will make it easier for you to control all your fingers.
- Repeat each measure at least four times before moving onto the next one. It doesn’t really matter exactly how many times. But just make sure you do it repeatedly, making sure that for each repetition you try to improve something.
- Keep the fingers that aren’t playing as still as possible. For Example: In the first measure you will be using fingers 1 and 2 to fret the notes. As you do this, you’ll need to watch fingers 3 and 4 closely to see that they aren’t moving a lot. Try to keep them both hovering just a little bit above the string.
- Don’t focus on your picking-hand at all. Don’t worry about what pick motions you’re using to play each note. It doesn’t matter. For this exercise, the goal is to focus 100% of your attention on your fretting-hand.
- Don’t use a metronome. If you use a metronome, some of your attention will go towards playing in time. And that means that you won’t be focusing 100% on your fretting-hand fingers.
- Practice it insanely slow. The goal of the exercise is to keep your fingers under control at all times. To do that you’ll need to pay close attention to everything that you’re doing. This means that you need to practice the exercise VERY slowly. As you play each note, take your time before you move onto the next note. If this means that each note takes 5 seconds to play, then so be it! :-)
- Choose a different string each time you practice it. Although the exercise is written out on the thin E-string, it’s a really good idea practicing it on different strings. [Side Note: You could also experiment with playing the exercise at different fret locations. For Example: Rather than playing it where it’s written, you could try playing it starting from the 10th fret].
- Don’t practice the exercise for longer than five minutes without a short break. Practicing this exercise in a mindless way will give you almost zero benefit. If you “zone out” while practicing it, then you’re wasting your time. For this reason, I highly recommend only practicing it for as long as you can concentrate. A good guideline is to take a break after every five minutes of practice you’ve done on the exercise.
A Few Last Words
I hope that you make the time to practice this exercise on a regular basis. It would be a great idea to practice it at the start of each of your practice sessions as part of your warm-up.
I know it’s not the most fun thing to practice. But if you currently have fingers that are hard to control, it will help a lot.