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7 Guitar Finger Exercises to Improve Your Left Hand Technique

When playing the guitar, your right and your left hand should be synchronized together. In order to be able to do that fluently you need to train your right hand and your left hand separately as well as together.

In today’s guitar finger exercises we’ll focus specifically on training your left hand. 
Though you will still use your right hand to strike the notes, the hard work here is being done by your left hand (check this lesson for similar exercises focusing on your right hand)

The exercises in this lesson will help you build guitar finger calluses, as does every exercise where your left hand fingers are being used.

That said, building finger calluses should not be your main concern. 

If you’re a beginner and your finger calluses aren’t formed yet, keep in mind this is a very minor task that wouldn’t be bothering you in a few weeks or, at worst, months.

What really makes you able to play the guitar is developing muscle memory, which is the main purpose of these exercises.

While there are other physical aspects at play when training your left hand – such as stretching and strengthening your fingers – what really makes you learn the instrument is your brain recognizing the movements your fingers are making and replicating them with ease at will.

A good guitarist may not know all the guitar scales that exist. Or thousands of chords.

But the ability that he cannot do without is getting his brain to order his fingers to do what it wants them to do at will.

Keep this in mind while practicing these exercises.

Also note, that you don’t need to learn a lot of guitar finger exercises, neither should you keep repeating the exercises given in this lesson for an eternity.

Exercises like these are aimed to give your left hand fingers a basic foundation to get you started but eventually you will be developing muscle memory with every piece of music, guitar lick, riff or solo that you learn.

One last point before we start….

In order to develop good muscle memory, rather than bad habits, it is important to use the correct finger positions.

Your thumb should be pointed towards the sky. It’s okay for the tip of your thumb to be curled a little over the neck. It’s not my preferred choice, but it’s not a bad habit.

However the thumb should form a 90 degree position with the neck, not dragging behind, or in a parallel position with the strings.

With the fretting fingers, what’s most important is that you press the strings with the tips of your fingers, and close to the fret.

Guitar finger exercise 1

The first exercise is an easy chromatic exercise.

Use the simplicity of this exercise to make sure that you’re using the correct finger positions, as stated above.

Guitar finger exercise 2

The next exercise is similar to the first, except that your fingers are playing the chromatic notes in a different order.

This helps your fingers gain muscle memory for different note combinations you’ll be playing on the guitar.

Guitar finger exercise 3

In the next exercise, your fingers will be playing the same pattern as in the example above, but change the string after every two notes.

It’s harder to play notes when changing strings, thus it’s important that your fingers remain in the correct position.

You should also start noticing whether you’re making any unnecessary movements. When your fingers press the next note, try to make as little movement as possible.

Wide movements make it harder to play the guitar especially when you start building speed.

Guitar finger exercise 4

This is another chromatic exercise but this time we’re making use of string skipping, that is, after each group of four notes, your fingers don’t go on the adjacent string but skip it.

Which is more difficult. You can practice more string skipping exercises in this lesson.

Guitar finger exercise 5

In this exercise we’ll introduce rests, that is periods of time where no sound at all comes out of your guitar.

You achieve this by having your left hand finger stop pressing the note, but still touch the string (if your finger stops touching the string, a small, but unwanted sound will be heard, especially if you’re playing with your distortion on)

Guitar finger exercise 6

In the last two exercises we’ll introduce phrasing techniques, that is, different ways you can get the same note sound different. 

A beginner guitar player usually plays the notes by just pressing them but as soon as you start reaching an intermediate level of guitar playing, you should start exploring different ways you can play the same note.

One of the most common of these techniques is the slide. 

In this exercise, where you see the sign of the slide, simply slide the finger pressing the present note to the next note, rather than plucking it with the pick again.

It’s important that you use the given picking pattern in the exercise, which  could be played on any string of the guitar. In fact this exercise is also good training for your right hand as well as for two-hand synchronisation.

Guitar finger exercise 7

In this exercise you will be training your fingers to perform hammer ons and pull offs.

The exercise given below is very basic if you’re just starting out in this technique. You can go to this lesson to find more examples of this technique being used in real musical situations.

Conclusion: Where to go from here

As stated in the introduction to this lesson, you don’t become good at playing the guitar by simply repeating similar exercises over and over again.

Think of these exercises as a starter in getting muscle memory in your left hand fingers.

The guitar exercises in this lesson, will take things a step further. Instead of focusing on one aspect, as in today’s lesson, I will take you through different areas of your guitar playing to help you identify your strengths, as well as the weaknesses that are holding you back from reaching your goals.


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