Some finger warmups

The first obstacle the student faces when first trying to learn guitar is trying to push down the strings.
This might be caused by :
1.) using strings that are too heavy for you,
2.) having the action set too high, or
3.) just being new to the guitar, and having never developed the specific muscles in the fingers before.

This lesson gives some exercises to deal with finger strength (and other finger issues).

Check with someone who is knowledgable about guitars to make sure your action is ok. (the strings shouldn't be too far from the fretboard).

I recommend using light gauge strings (0.09 in.) or lighter when first learning the guitar (up to the point where you can comfortably play barre chords).

For the benefits it will reap over the long run (being able to play what's in your head), I advise singing every note you play.


These exercises are to be done at the end of practice, as they will fatigue your fingers.

Here is a trilling exercise to build endurance and muscle strength:
1.)Place your first finger on any fret (I suggest starting somewhere in the middle of the neck) on any string (I suggest starting on the thinner strings) then trill to the 2nd finger on the next fret up, for as long as your fingers can do it.
2.)Then keeping 1rst finger on same fret, trill to the 3rd finger two frets higher than 1rst finger, for as long as your fingers can. Repeat process for 1rst and 4th fingers (3 frets higher).
3.)Take the 1rst finger off, put 2nd finger down. trill from 2nd finger to 3rd finger (one fret higher), then trill from 2nd finger to 4th finger (two frets higher) then take 2nd finger off.
4.)Put 3rd finger down and trill from the 3rd finger to the pinky (one fret higher).

Work on maintaining an even rhythm while trilling, and the speed and endurance will come.

Barre Practice
The problem with learning barre chords is that the fingers don't usually have strong enough muscles to correctly create the barre. We over come this by first learning to make the barre on its own while learning open chords.
So lay you first finger across all six strings (in the same fret), push down and pluck each string individually making sure each string sounds and is not muffled. Then move the finger up a fret, and repeat. Practice 5 - 10 minutes a day until it is no longer difficult. When this becomes easy, we then add the other fingers below it (to create barre chords).


These can be done at the beginning of your practice. Don't overdo it, as it is possible to damage your fingers and hands through overexertion. (don't stretch beyond 5-6 frets based on size of hand).

Finger Flanging
Play (as ascending and descending scales) the following patterns:

|O|O|     |O|-|O|     |O|-|-|O|
|O|O|     |O|-|O|     |O|-|-|O|
|O|O|     |O|-|O|     |O|-|-|O|
|O|O|     |O|-|O|     |O|-|-|O|
|O|O|     |O|-|O|     |O|-|-|O|
|O|O|     |O|-|O|     |O|-|-|O|

|O|-|-|-|O|     |O|-|-|-|-|O|
|O|-|-|-|O|     |O|-|-|-|-|O|
|O|-|-|-|O|     |O|-|-|-|-|O|
|O|-|-|-|O|     |O|-|-|-|-|O|
|O|-|-|-|O|     |O|-|-|-|-|O|
|O|-|-|-|O|     |O|-|-|-|-|O|

*note: do not overstretch your fingers. If something causes pain, stop.
Serious joint and tendon conditions can develop from abusing your fingers (such as sprains, arthritis, tendonitis, carpal tunnel, etc.)

Looking at right hand exercises for the moment...


1.) Picking open strings
Strictly alternate pick (up-down-up-down...) on just an open string in strict even beats (the same time given to both the note on the up stoke and the down stroke)

     V   V

( V stands for an upstroke, any non documented notes in the picking section will construed as downstrokes).

1a.) Begin on any string the above exercise, and at whim pick another string to switch to and repeat without making any mistakes, and without missing a beat. Slow down if necessary so that no mistakes are made. (there is a philosophy of practice that until you eliminate mistakes in your practice, you're only practicing your mistakes).

1b.) Repeat #1, but vary your picking pattern (all downstrokes, all upstrokes, two down-one up, etc.)

2.) Two strings at once.



Practicing each measure in a looped fashion will help develop common picking patterns by themselves without the added distraction (divided attention of what chord you're playing, isolation of right hand only).




In reality, very few occassions call for only using one hand. Most situations require a coordination between both hands. Here are some exercises that help to synchronize the hands.

1.) On a single string, pick a fret and place the index finger on it, down stroke with the pick, keep the index finger down. Place middle finger down on the same string, next fret down, play an upstroke.Place ring finger down on the same string, next fret down, play an downstroke.Place pinky finger down on the same string, next fret down, play an upstroke. Lift middle, ring, and pinky and repeat.

2.) Expanding the first exercise. Start on the 6th string. Alternate pick the first four frets with fingerings the same as above. The move 1rst finger to the 5th string and repeat on 5th string. Repeat then on strings 4,3,2, and 1. Then reverse. (frets 4 to 1, strings E to B to G to Dto A to E). When you get back to the 1rst E string (6th string), shaift hand to frets 2-5 and repeat. etc.

3.) This last one will help with chord switching: Use downstrokes when moving from thicker strings to thinner, and upstrokes when moving from thinner strings to thicker.


when you get back to ascending all 4 from the low E string switch to frets 2-5, etc.

the next lesson is an introduction to scales.

Christopher Roberts

How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart

Back to theScale lessons index
Next lesson - First scales
Previous lesson - chromatic scale

Last updated December 24, 2002
Copyright 2002, 2008. All rights reserved.