Finger Exercises for Guitar

Posted on October 25, 2023

One way to get better at playing the guitar is by learning and playing new songs. However, to improve your accuracy and endurance as a guitar player, you should put in the effort to practice your playing technique as well. Just like professional athletes use different exercises to master their sport, using guitar exercises helps you become a more skilled musician.

Here are a few guitar finger exercises to add to your repertoire. This includes both exercises for training your playing technique and also stretches that make for a great warm-up before you start playing. After learning the exercises, increase the tempo gradually as you improve. For faster playing, we also recommend using a guitar pick instead of plucking the strings with only your thumb.

Exercises for developing muscles memory and finger independence

Here are some great beginner-friendly exercises to get started. Use these guitar finger exercises to improve your hand-eye coordination, endurance, muscle memory, finger independence, playing speed, and dexterity.

To build up speed, it’s a good idea to incorporate a metronome into your exercise routine. Set the metronome up at a slow tempo until you can perform the exercises with ease.

Spider exercise

Ah, the good old spider exercise. This one helps you develop muscle memory and dexterity. The spider exercise also works as a great warm-up exercise at the beginning of your playing session. To do this guitar exercise, walk your fingers up and down the guitar fretboard like a spider. It isn’t just a good exercise for improving the dexterity of your fretting hand; it also makes for a superb picking exercise as well.

Here’s how you do the spider exercise:

  1. Place the index finger of your fretting hand on a fret on the low E string and pluck the string. Let’s use the fifth fret as our starting point.
  2. Place your middle finger on the next fret below the previous one. If you started on the fifth fret of the low E string with your index finger, play the next note on the sixth fret of the same string using your middle finger.
  3. Repeat the same with your ring finger on the seventh fret and your pinky finger on the eighth fret. Keep holding each finger down until you have played all four notes and are ready to move on to the next string.
  4. Play the next four notes on the string above.
  5. You can also play the fretted notes again in reverse order by releasing one finger at a time.
  6. Do the exercise slowly until you can play all four notes on each of the six strings. Gradually increase your speed once you feel comfortable and the notes come out sounding clean and accurate.

e |———————————————————————-5–6–7–8–-|
B |———————————————————5–6–7–8—————|
G |——————————————-5–6–7–8—————————–|
D |—————————–5–6–7–8——————————————-|
A |—————5–6–7–8———————————————————|
E |–5–6–7–8———————————————————————-|

To ensure that each individual note sounds clean, use the tips of your fingers to hold the strings down. Position your fingers close above the fret (i.e. the thin metallic strip embedded into the fretboard) but not directly on top of it. If the note sounds muted or doesn’t ring out cleanly despite correct positioning, make sure you’re applying enough pressure to press the string down against the fretboard.

Diagonal finger exercise

Similar to the previous exercise, use this one to improve your picking skills and muscle memory. Start on the low E string with your index finger on the first fret, for instance. Just like in the spider exercise, play the second fret with your middle finger. However, instead of playing the second fret of the same string, move up to the string above, the A string. Repeat the same with your ring finger on the third fret of the D string and your pinky finger on the fourth fret of the G string.

Next, make your way back down by starting with your pinky finger and reversing the order of notes you play. You can try doing this guitar finger exercise by starting on the low E string, A string, or D string. You can also choose any fret as your starting point in this exercise.


Hammer-ons and pull-offs

Once you’ve passed the beginner stage of playing the guitar, consider incorporating hammer-ons and pull-offs into your skillset. These two guitar-playing techniques are similar, making them a great pair to practice together.

When playing hammer-ons and pull-offs, you can play two or more notes by plucking or picking a string only once with your picking hand. This creates a smoother transition from one note to the next when compared to picking two consecutive notes separately. Using hammer-ons and pull-offs as part of your guitar exercise routine helps you develop finger strength and coordination. You can also play notes faster using these two techniques.

  • Hammer-ons: Place your index finger on a fret and pluck the string with your thumb or use a pick. Then use your middle or index finger to “hammer” down on a fret higher up the fretboard on the same string. Don’t use your picking hand at this point. If you used enough force to hammer the other finger down, the string should still be ringing but playing the higher note. Practice hammer-ons to move from one note to the next. You can even add a third (or a fourth) note to the sequence once moving from one note to another starts to feel natural.
  • Pull-offs: You can think of this technique as the mirror image of hammer-ons. First, fret two notes on a single string and pick the string. Immediately after picking, release the finger higher up on the fretboard. If your timing is correct, the string should continue ringing and change to the lower note you had fingered in a lower position.

Finger stretches for guitar

We know it’s tempting to just grab your guitar and start shredding right away. But slow down! You wouldn’t pick up the heaviest weights at the gym without warming up first either, so don’t let playing the guitar be an exception.

There are other benefits to stretching your fingers than just warming up. Sufficient stretching can also help prevent injuries, improve the flexibility of your fingers, and relieve tension and stiffness. In other words, you’ll get much more out of your practice sessions by stretching.

Here are some helpful finger stretches that’ll get you ready to start playing:

  • Single-finger stretch: Start by extending your index finger. Now press it gently against the inside of your palm. You can use a flat surface such as a table for this as well. Apply pressure gently, and don’t overdo it. Repeat the same for all fingers. This stretch helps to improve your finger independence and flexibility.
  • Finger and wrist stretch: Interlace your fingers and extend your hands in front of you. Open your hands so that your palms are facing away from you while keeping your fingers interlaced. Reach your arms as far away from you as you can. You should feel this stretch in your fingers and wrists.
  • Thumb stretch: Remember to stretch your thumb as well. Make a thumbs-up gesture and grab the extended thumb with your other hand. Give the thumb a gentle stretch.

Make sure not to overdo the stretches. Always listen to your body, and don’t force the stretches. The goal is to prevent injuries, not cause them. Each stretch should be held for about 15 to 30 seconds. Release the stretch after holding it for a moment, and repeat the stretch a few times. Shake your hands lightly between different stretching exercises to get the blood flowing.

Guitar finger exercises for improving your skills

Playing guitar is fortunately more than just repeating finger exercises. To make learning motivating and fun, try Yousician, your personal guitar teacher. Yousician’s interactive online guitar lessons are a great way to level up your playing skills. On top of that, Yousician comes with an extensive library of songs for the guitar. Try Yousician for guitar and get started!

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