Fingerpicking Right Hand Strength

Some useful exercises for strengthening up the right hand.

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The following exercises are for the right hand only. The left hand isn't involved at all. So these exercises will not only strengthen your right hand but will also help develop your mental stamina. So if you haven't already, you really need to work on banishing that nagging little voice that is always trying to talk you into doing something less taxing and more enjoyable. I find that practicing technical exercises at the same time every day causes the mind to accept the inevitability of things and so it stops trying to rebel. For all of the following exercises, the thumb will be responsible for the 6th(E), 5th(A), and 4th(D) strings. And fingers 1, 2 and 3 will be responsible for the 3rd(G), 2nd(B) and 1st(e) strings respectively. The exercises are based on six permutations for the 3 fingers, and 6 for the thumb. These permutations ensure that your thumb and fingers get an all round work out. The permutations are as follows: Bass Permutations (thumb)
PermStringNote
16 5 4   E A D
26 4 5E D A
35 6 4A E D
45 4 6A D E
54 6 5 D E A
64 5 6 D A E
Treble Permutations (fingers)
PermStringNote
13 2 1G B e
23 1 2G e B
32 3 1B G e
42 1 3B e G
51 3 2e G B
61 2 3e B G

Exercises

Set.1
[Ex.1] 
6 3 2 1 - 5 3 2 1 - 4 3 2 1

[Ex.2] 
6 3 1 2 - 5 3 1 2 - 4 3 1 2

[Ex.3] 
6 2 3 1 - 5 2 3 1 - 4 2 3 1

[Ex.4] 
6 2 1 3 - 5 2 1 3 - 4 2 1 3

[Ex.5] 
6 1 3 2 - 5 1 3 2 - 4 1 3 2

[Ex.6] 
6 1 2 3 - 5 1 2 3 - 4 1 2 3
As you can see from the first set of exercises, we have played all 6 of the treble permutations interspersed with bass perm 1 (6 5 4). For example:
[Ex.1] (6) 3 2 1 - (5) 3 2 1 - (4) 3 2 1
To create the next group of 6 exercises, replace bass perm 1 (6 5 4) with bass perm 2 (6 4 5)
[Ex.7] (6) 3 2 1 - (4) 3 2 1 - (5) 3 2 1
And play through the 6 treble permutations now interspersed with bass perm 2. Continue in this way until you complete the 6 bass perms. This will create a total of 36 exercises. Even playing these exercises slowly and carefully should take little time to complete. Never let accuracy suffer because of timing and tempo; ; accuracy first, timing second, tempo third. Get into the habit of stopping, relaxing and repeating the exercise more slowly and carefully whenever you make a mistake. Never blunder through technical exercises at speed in the belief that if you cram more in you'll progress quicker. WRONG WRONG WRONG! Set.2 (bass notes have been bracketed)
[Ex.1] 
(6) 3 (5) 2 (4) 1 - (6) 3 (5) 1 (4) 2 - (6) 2 (5) 3 (4) 1
(6) 2 (5) 1 (4) 3 - (6) 1 (5) 3 (4) 2 - (6) 1 (5) 2 (4) 3
To creat the other 5 exercises of set.2 simply replace the bass notes with perms 2 through 6. Set.3 Set.3 involves playing pairs of strings simultaneously. These string pairs have been placed in brackets.
[Ex.1] 
(6 3) (5 2) (4 1) - (6 3) (5 1) (4 2) - (6 2) (5 3) (4 1)
(6 2) (5 1) (4 3) - (6 1) (5 3) (4 2) - (6 1) (5 2) (4 3)
Again, we have interspersed the 6 treble perms with bass perm 1. So to complete the set, simply replace bass perm 1 with perms 2-6. Hopefully that was clear enough to understand but just in case, here's a tab of a few of the exercises for anyone who might be unsure of how to play them.
SET.1
 [Ex.1]                   [Ex.2]
|------0-------0-------0-|----0-------0-------0---|
|----0-------0-------0---|------0-------0-------0-|
|--0-------0-------0-----|--0-------0-------0-----|
|----------------0-------|----------------0-------|
|--------0---------------|--------0---------------|
|0-----------------------|0-----------------------|

 [Ex.3]                   [Ex.4] 
|------0-------0-------0-|----0-------0-------0---|
|--0-------0-------0-----|--0-------0-------0-----|
|----0-------0-------0---|------0-------0-------0-|
|----------------0-------|----------------0-------|
|--------0---------------|--------0---------------|
|0-----------------------|0-----------------------|

 [Ex.5]                   [Ex.6]
|--0-------0-------0-----|--0-------0-------0-----|
|------0-------0-------0-|----0-------0-------0---|
|----0-------0-------0---|------0-------0-------0-|
|----------------0-------|----------------0-------|
|--------0---------------|--------0---------------|
|0-----------------------|0-----------------------|

 [Ex.31]                  [Ex.32]
|------0-------0-------0-|----0-------0-------0---|
|----0-------0-------0---|------0-------0-------0-|
|--0-------0-------0-----|--0-------0-------0-----|
|0-----------------------|0-----------------------|
|--------0---------------|--------0---------------|
|----------------0-------|----------------0-------|

 [Ex.33]                  [Ex.34]
|------0-------0-------0-|----0-------0-------0---|
|--0-------0-------0-----|--0-------0-------0-----|
|----0-------0-------0---|------0-------0-------0-|
|0-----------------------|0-----------------------|
|--------0---------------|--------0---------------|
|----------------0-------|----------------0-------|

 [Ex.35]                  [Ex.36]
|--0-------0-------0-----|--0-------0-------0-----|
|------0-------0-------0-|----0-------0-------0---|
|----0-------0-------0---|------0-------0-------0-|
|0-----------------------|0-----------------------|
|--------0---------------|--------0---------------|
|----------------0-------|----------------0-------|

SET.2
 [Ex.1]
|----------0-|------0-----|----------0-|------0-----|
|------0-----|----------0-|--0---------|--0---------|
|--0---------|--0---------|------0-----|----------0-|
|--------0---|--------0---|--------0---|--------0---|
|----0-------|----0-------|----0-------|----0-------|
|0-----------|0-----------|0-----------|0-----------|

|--0---------|--0---------|
|----------0-|------0-----|
|------0-----|----------0-|
|--------0---|--------0---|
|----0-------|----0-------|
|0-----------|0-----------|

SET.3 
[EX.1]
|----0-|--0---|----0-|--0---|0-----|0-----|
|--0---|----0-|0-----|0-----|----0-|--0---|
|0-----|0-----|--0---|----0-|--0---|----0-|
|----0-|----0-|----0-|----0-|----0-|----0-|
|--0---|--0---|--0---|--0---|--0---|--0---|
|0-----|0-----|0-----|0-----|0-----|0-----|
 
 [Ex.6]
|----0-|--0---|----0-|--0---|0-----|0-----|
|--0---|----0-|0-----|0-----|----0-|--0---|
|0-----|0-----|--0---|----0-|--0---|----0-|
|0-----|0-----|0-----|0-----|0-----|0-----|
|--0---|--0---|--0---|--0---|--0---|--0---|
|----0-|----0-|----0-|----0-|----0-|----0-|
Tip: I prefer to mute off the strings by placing a cloth up behind them. This is a strength exercise and not a musical one so there's no need to have all those strings ringing out. As long as there's enough tone to be able to distinguish the different strings it's fine. It also makes things a little easier not to have all those strings vibrating so much. And with the sound damped you wont drive your family nuts. Final Thought: If you want to train a dog not to pull on the leash, you need to stop walking whenever the dog pulls ahead. Pull the dog back to your side and wait a few seconds. Continue walking. As soon as the dog pulls ahead, repeat the above steps. The dog will eventually learn that the quickest way to the park is to trot calmly by it's master's side. If you want to meet your musical goals, don't strain at the leash!

17 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    uparoundtheben
    ReynboLightning wrote: awesome definitely gonna try these for a week or 2.Anybody know if it's possible to fav articles??
    ctrl-d
    sfaune92
    What if a lefty guitarist reads this ..? Refer to it as "fretting hand" instad please. I play righty tho, just wanted to mention it Apart from that, great article!
    NickDillon
    Chilli 3000 wrote: I've got no hands, what am I to do? But seriously, good article
    well if you can type without hands, then you should be able to find a way to manage... really good article, a lot of lessons are bad but this one did the job perfectly
    ordinary_story
    Thanks! I was just getting into Fingerpicking, and this should should help me get a good start. Cheers!
    ruletheneck
    awesome lesson, and damn nice way to sum it up at the end i should learn to use the mouse left-handed so that i can scroll down while still playing...
    batiboy06
    chris flatley wrote: And with the sound damped you wont drive your family nuts
    epic..
    JoeAmerican77
    HAHAHA sfaune92 seriously that is a pretty ridiculous request... Great finger picking practice though thanks for the post
    roaddawg07
    Cool artical. someone should post a artical about right hand bass exercises and techniques.
    ReynboLightning
    awesome definitely gonna try these for a week or 2.Anybody know if it's possible to fav articles??
    Dregen
    sfaune92 wrote: What if a lefty guitarist reads this ..? Refer to it as "fretting hand" instad please. I play righty tho, just wanted to mention it Apart from that, great article!
    I'm left handed and understood it just fine.
    Artemisery
    Sfaune please dont turn this into the next social movement...like the policeman to police person thing =\ that was the biggest bit of bollocks I had ever seen, if its a woman you're adressing, use the feminine form.
    onurcantolkien
    would it be 'more' beneficial to mute the bass strings (but not trebles) with your palm instead of clothing? i try to play chet atkins style and most of his songs have their basses muted. what do you think? great exercises btw. i appreciate the effort you made to compile all these info for people )