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Finger Exercises for Beginner Guitarists

Of the many problems plaguing novice guitarists, weak muscles in the hand and wrist can often be some of the most devastating. Weak muscles can cause hand pain, exhaustion and impede flexibility making barre chords and other big stretches feel like an insurmountable task. With these two exercises, perfect for beginners or skilled players alike, you can start the process of strengthening your hand and improving your playing. The best part is, it only takes a few minutes per day.

Exercise #1
This is an exercise exclusively for your left hand, or fretting hand. Lay your first finger gently across all six strings on the fifth fret. You are not pushing down or fretting any of the notes, as in a barre chord, just gently resting the finger. Take your second finger and rest it on the 6th fret, third finger on the 7th fret and fourth finger the 8th fret. Every finger should be resting comfortably on it’s own fret.

Now practice raising each finger in order, while keeping the rest of the fingers comfortably on the fret board. So, lift your first finger while keeping the other three on the neck of the guitar, then your second finger, third finger and fourth finger. The main idea behind this exercise is to facilitate finger independence and muscle strength.

The third and fourth fingers may be more difficult, especially at first, due to the tendon structure of the hand and arm. Don’t worry if you are not able to lift them as high, just so long as they are off the fret boards and the other fingers remain anchored.

After you have accomplished the basic exercise above several times, things will get a bit more difficult. Arch your fingers as if you were going to properly fret notes on the 6th string. One finger per fret, just as in the last exercise, the first finger on the 5th fret, second finger on the 6th fret, third finger on the 7th fret and fourth finger on the 8th fret. This time you will keep your first finger anchored to the guitar and lift the fourth finger up. With the fourth finger still in the air, lift up the third and second fingers as well. Then reverse it by putting your second finger, third finger and fourth fingers back on the fretboard in order. Complete three rounds of this exercise and then move to the 5th string (a string) and repeat. Be sure to do this on all six strings, always remembering to keep your fingers arched.

One the two variations of this exercise become easy, start them on the fourth fret instead of the fifth. When that becomes too easy, start on the third fret, until all of the exercises can be deftly played on the first fret. The fingers will be placed farther apart on the first fret in comparison to the fifth, creating longer stretches and greater finger tension, so be sure to progress towards this goal at your own pace.

(NOTE: Want to MASTER barre chords once and for all? Get JamPlay’s Barre Chord Cheat Sheet here for free!)

Exercise #2
This exercise is very similar to the first. We start off with all four fingers laying gently across the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th frets. As before they are only resting gently and not attempting to barre or fret notes. Life up the first finger, but instead of simply lifting and lowering it gently, curl the finger and touch it to your palm. When the fingertip has gently touched the palm, slowly extend the finger and rest it back on the fretboard. As in the last example, repeat this exercise with all four fingers. When the fifth fret becomes too easy, move to the fourth fret, then the third, until mastery has been achieved on the dreaded first fret. This exercise will take your finger independence to the next level and further target the strength of crucial muscles.

Use these two exercises at the start of each and every practice session and you will be pleasantly surprised at the rapidity in which your strength and flexibility will increase.

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