Finger Technique Building Exercises for Guitar

fingers playing on guitar

Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images

Looking for speed and technique building exercises for guitar? The following drill has been designed to improve both your picking accuracy and to strengthen the fingers in your fretting hand. Learning good technique involves paying attention to small detail - play these exercises carefully, and critically. Try and move seamlessly from step to step - don't stop playing to start the next part of the exercise. If your technique is at all sloppy, then you're playing them too fast. Use of a metronome is suggested, but not required.

01
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Exercise #1a

guitar exercise 1a

Dan Cross 

Start with your first finger on the fifth fret of the first string. Strike note with a downstroke. Next, place the second finger on the sixth fret of the second string, and play the note with an upstroke. Then, place the first finger on the fifth fret of the second string, and play the note with a downstroke. Lastly, use your second finger to hold down the sixth fret of the first string, and play with an upstroke. Begin this cycle again, for at least 30 seconds, taking care to play all notes evenly, and at equal volumes.

02
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Exercise #1b

guitar exercise 1b

 Dan Cross

Once you've played the first step of this exercise for a reasonable length of time, try moving smoothly to this second pattern. Using the same fingers (one and two), play the same frets as above, except on the first and third strings. Take care not to vary your alternate picking pattern. Play this one for at least 30 seconds as well.

03
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Exercise #1c

guitar exercise 1c

 Dan Cross

Follow the above guidelines for part three of this exercise. Play these notes on strings one and four, steadily, for at least 30 seconds.

04
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Exercise #1d

guitar exercise 1d

Dan Cross

When you begin to play the later stages of this exercise, with notes several strings apart, it is common for your technique to degrade slightly. A common error is "throwing" your fingers on the fretboard. Be sure to use your fingertips only when fretting all notes. Play this stage of the exercise for at least 30 seconds.

05
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Exercise #1e

guitar exercise 1e

Dan Cross

For the final stage in the first phase of this technical exercise, play notes on the first and sixth strings. Again, pay careful attention to your technique, and make sure it remains flawless. Play for at least 30 seconds. At this point, you can either begin playing the above exercises in reverse or move on two-phase two of this technical drill.

06
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Exercise #2a

guitar exercise 2a

 Dan Cross

Follow initial guidelines (from the first step) for the first part of the second phase of this exercise, except use your third finger to play notes on the seventh fret (instead of the second finger for notes on the sixth fret). 

07
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Exercise #2b

guitar exercise 2b

 Dan Cross

As with phase one of this exercise, you can move this new shape through all six strings on the guitar. Always use your first and third fingers to play the notes, and always use alternate picking. Play each part of the exercise for at least 30 seconds, and keep an eye on your technique. For the sake of space, not the rest of the exercises from this phase have been omitted.

08
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Exercise #3

guitar exercise 3

Dan Cross 

The only difference involved in playing phase three of this exercise is using your fourth finger to play notes on the eighth fret. Be sure you're using the tip of your fourth (pinky) finger, as many people have a tendency to let this finger go flat on the fretboard. Play each part of this exercise for at least 30 seconds before continuing. For the sake of space, the rest of the parts of this phase have been omitted. 

09
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Exercise #4

guitar exercise 4

 Dan Cross

Comfortable so far? Here's a challenge! Now, try the concept of the original exercise, except using your second and third fingers to fret notes. Most guitarists will find this difficult. As with previous exercises, take this new finger shape through all six strings, playing each part for at least 30 seconds. 

10
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Exercise #5

guitar exercise 5

 Dan Cross

No surprises here. Using your second and fourth fingers, take this exercise through all six strings. Continue paying careful attention to your technique. 

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Exercise #6

guitar exercise 6

Dan Cross 

In the final phase of this exercise, you use your third and fourth fingers to play this four not repeating pattern. Take this shape through all six strings, playing each stage for at least 30 seconds.

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Wrap Up

female guitarist practicing

Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images

 That's it! This is an exercise that takes some time and attention in order for it to have an effect on your technique. Pay extremely close attention to detail, and be sure to play the exercise only as fast as your technique will allow. If you are making small flaws, then you're playing the exercise too fast. Slow down! In a short while, you should see both your picking accuracy and your finger dexterity improving.