Hands of Steel I

The first in a series of lessons designed to enhance your command of the fretboard.

logo
Ultimate Guitar
40
Welcome to the first in a series of lessons designed to build your command of the fretboard. I'm hoping to make this a monthly affair, so please send me your feedback. Here are some things you need to know before we continue with this lesson:
  • Play every note clearly and evenly. Don't cheat yourself by playing sloppy or uneven notes, because it will just lead to problems further down the road.
  • It helps to have regular practice every day. I'd recommend at least 30 minutes a day, though more is usually better.
  • Relax! Excessive tension can cause discomfort, repetitive strain injuries, and it can greatly limit your playing ability. I'd also recommend that you stretch before practice to prevent injury.
Now on to the lesson. The first lesson will contain simple chromatic exercises. These are beneficial for players of any skill level because they help build finger strength, flexibility, and muscle memory. The first exercise is a simple 1-2-3-4 pattern up and down the neck on individual strings.

 ex.1) ascending                         descending
e|-1-2-3-4-2-3-4-5-3-4-5-6-etc--| e|-12-11-10-9-11-10-9-8-10-9-8-7-etc--|
b|------------------------------| b|------------------------------------|
g|------------------------------| g|------------------------------------|
d|------------------------------| d|------------------------------------|
a|------------------------------| a|------------------------------------|
E|------------------------------| E|------------------------------------|
The second one is the same 1-2-3-4 pattern across the neck followed by a 4-3-2-1 pattern back across.
 ex.2) 
e|-----------------------------------------1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-----------------|
b|---------------------------------1-2-3-4-----------------5-4-3-2---------|
g|-------------------------1-2-3-4--------------------------------5-4-3-2--|
d|-----------------1-2-3-4----------------------------------------------etc|
a|---------1-2-3-4---------------------------------------------------------|
E|-1-2-3-4-----------------------------------------------------------------|
This next one is a 1-2-3 pattern that will help you with your triplets.
 ex.3)
e|-------------------------------1-2-3-4-3-2-------------------------------|
b|-------------------------1-2-3-------------4-3-2-------------------------|
g|-------------------1-2-3-------------------------4-3-2-------------------|
d|-------------1-2-3-------------------------------------4-3-2-------------|
a|-------1-2-3-------------------------------------------------4-3-2-------|
E|-1-2-3------------------------------------------------------------4-3-2--|
Now we'll get a little more advanced. This one has a 1-2-3-4 pattern that moves diagonally across the neck.
 ex.4)
e|-----------------------------------------6-7-8-9-9-8-7-6-----------------|
b|---------------------------------5-6-7-8-----------------8-7-6-5---------|
g|-------------------------4-5-6-7---------------------------------7-6-5-4-|
d|-----------------3-4-5-6-------------------------------------------------|
a|---------2-3-4-5---------------------------------------------------------|
E|-1-2-3-4-----------------------------------------------------------------|
These next 3 exercises are 3 note patterns that will help you with scales because the major scale is based on these 3 shapes.
 ex.5) 1-2-4
e|-------------------------------1-2-4-5-3-2-------------------------------|
b|-------------------------1-2-4-------------5-3-2-------------------------|
g|-------------------1-2-4-------------------------5-3-2-------------------|
d|-------------1-2-4-------------------------------------5-3-2-------------|
a|-------1-2-4-------------------------------------------------5-3-2-------|
E|-1-2-4------------------------------------------------------------5-3-2--|
 ex.6) 1-3-4
e|-------------------------------1-3-4-5-4-2-------------------------------|
b|-------------------------1-3-4-------------5-4-2-------------------------|
g|-------------------1-3-4-------------------------5-4-2-------------------|
d|-------------1-3-4-------------------------------------5-4-2-------------|
a|-------1-3-4-------------------------------------------------5-4-2-------|
E|-1-3-4------------------------------------------------------------5-4-2--|
 ex.7) 1-3-5
e|-------------------------------1-3-5-6-4-2-------------------------------|
b|-------------------------1-3-5-------------6-4-2-------------------------|
g|-------------------1-3-5-------------------------6-4-2-------------------|
d|-------------1-3-5-------------------------------------6-4-2-------------|
a|-------1-3-5-------------------------------------------------6-4-2-------|
E|-1-3-5-------------------------------------------------------------6-4-2-|

The last one is a bit more difficult. It has a 1-2-3-4, 2-3-4-1, 3-4-1-2, 4-1-2-3 pattern. It's kind of a brain-twister, but it really helps with finger dexterity.
 ex.8)
e|-----------------------------------------2-3-4-1-------------------------|
b|---------------------------------1-2-3-4---------3-4-1-2-----------------|
g|-------------------------4-1-2-3-------------------------4-1-2-3---------|
d|-----------------3-4-1-2-----------------------------------------1-2-3-4-|
a|---------2-3-4-1---------------------------------------------------------|
e|-1-2-3-4-----------------------------------------------------------------|
Make sure you practice these exercises at least once a day if at all possible. Remember to make sure that every single note is clear and precise. Once you feel comfortable at a certain speed, try increasing it a bit. In this way, you will constantly improve your playing. Also remember to relax when you play these, because tension won't help you at all. Well, that's it! I hope this will help you out!

Trending lessons

31 comments sorted by best / new / date

    hiwaychild1
    wow, i thot my finger strength wasnt an issue until i started doing these exercises. and i do solos and am in a band and all that good stuff so i thought i was doing okay for myself as a guitarist. now i feel like a noob again. haha this should help alot.
    Rinibugg
    Man, this is pretty awesome. I come from a pretty lengthy music background and am picking up my 15th instrument so these exercises are definitely going to help. Keep it up ~Rini
    Shadow Khan
    Quite the fanbase here lol, look at all the comments! Anyway, keep up the good work.
    Ahteh
    So is the goal here to just repeat the exercises at a pace you can handle over and over to build strength/speed through repetition, or to push yourself to play it faster and faster?
    Sevenstring18
    Hey, this is JL_Shredder. I recently created this new screenname. I've been writing some lessons for 7 string guitars. I'm hoping to come back and write a few more of these soon as well.
    syfg91
    good lesson looking forward to a slightly more advanced one cheers
    Zeroxsk8er1
    im not really a beginner but this helps a lot for warm ups! thanks a lot man. im improving my speed every day. i love being a fast learner.
    Tooltillidie
    no matter your skill level this helps because it builds your finger strength...I'm doing these on bass(cause that's what I play) and I find that helps thanks a bunch !
    JL_Shredder
    jjack wrote: Definitely looking forward to more of these. I am collecting all kinds of scale exercises and stuff so I don't get bored. I think the most important part of this lesson is the first advice. I think pretty much any scale exercises will help you improve as long as you are using the proper technique, that is the key.
    Yeah, that's the advice is the part that most guitarists overlook. They get so focused on the destination that they forget the journey.
    jjack
    Definitely looking forward to more of these. I am collecting all kinds of scale exercises and stuff so I don't get bored. I think the most important part of this lesson is the first advice. I think pretty much any scale exercises will help you improve as long as you are using the proper technique, that is the key.
    JL_Shredder
    I'm getting some cool licks and excercises from Paul Gilbert's "Intense Rock" I've been on a hiatus from lesson writing. Next one's coming soon!
    pyrogod
    i hope this helps me out with improving my finger strength thank u for posting this lesson
    krisr9706
    I am just starting to learn to play, and this definitely helps! Thank you a lot!
    JL_Shredder
    misfitsramones wrote: good for beginners i guess. make the next 1 more advanced plz
    It'll definitely happen bro. This one was made for beginners as a primer for the stuff ahead. I'm planning on going through as many aspects of guitar playing as I can i.e. scales, modes, arpeggios, etc. Thanks for the feedback guys, this is my first lesson for UG.