Improving Finger Dexterity For Speed Playing

The Tried-and-True Guide for improving finger dexterity, including tabbed exercises with tabs.

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If a stage were to exist in a guitarist's mechanical growth that could be labeled as the point at which he is most likely to "plateau," most accomplished guitarists would agree that it takes the most practice and drive to overcome inadequate finger speed and dexterity. If you find yourself in this position, do not worry - THERE IS HOPE! Unfortunately, there is no long-forgotten secret to solve your problem in a matter of minutes. As you have probably been taught and come to regretably accept, mastery of the instrument (for the majority of us) comes with years and years of practice. In this regard, I am addressing this article to readers who already have a solid playing background and firm understanding of relative finger positioning with respect to musical scales on the guitar. Now it's time to pick up your guitar and follow along with the excercises below. Try using the following excercises as a 10 minute warm-up and 10 minute cool-down during your practice time/jam sessions. The first excercise is designed to develop the dexterity of your fingers, as well as improve the coordination between your fretting and picking hands. See below:
-0--------1/2-------1/2-------
--1-----2----3-----2---3------
---2---3------4---3-----4-----
----3/4--------5/4-------5/6--
------------------------------
------------------------------
While this tab has been abbreviated, the exercise is designed to span the entire neck of the guitar, and should be extended beyond what is shown by following the simple pattern. As each string is picked, remember to remove the finger fretting the corresponding string...the only time your fretting finger should remain on a string for more than 2 notes is when your index finger is sliding up/down along the high e string, or when your pinky is sliding up/down along the D string. Try hammering down on each string just as your picking hand is about to strike that string, and pull off that string just as you are hammering on the next. As you speed up, the exercise should become very rhythmical, wherein your count can be 1,2,3,4 and swith to 5,6,7,8 as you work back up. Additionally, you may wish to alternate between up and down strokes for added technical benefit. The variation between fret sizes as you move up and down the neck of the guitar will force you to adjust spacing on your fretting hand. Be sure to really focus as you work through the top of the neck (closest to the headstock), as stretching across the bigger frets will quickly improve your dexterity. The second excercise is designed to improve finger speed using alternate picking runs through a simple major scale. See below:
---------------------------6-7\6-5-----------------------------
-----------------------7-9---------8-6-------------------------
-----------------6-8-9-----------------8-7-5-------------------
-----------6-8-9-----------------------------8-7-5-------------
-----6-7-9-----------------------------------------8-6-5-------
-7-9-----------------------------------------------------8-6\5-
Again, this tab is simple a small sample to save time. As you move from the low E string to the high e string, you will have completed two runs through each major scale in varying octaves. Each time the second octave has been completed, simply slide down one fret with the same finger that was used to end the run and you should be in position to continue the pattern, only this time, one half-step lower. The excercise can be moved up and down the neck per your preference. The key to this excercise is to concentrate on your picking speed. If you are having a difficult time with coordinating your picking and fretting, SLOOOOOW DOOOOWN! Once you can successfully complete the excercise several times, begin to increase speed. That's it! While these excercises appear to be very basic in nature, extreme attention to detail and constant repetition at increasing speeds will begin to show results in no time. Aside from increasing your finger speed and improving dexterity, you will also begin to notice improved coordination between your fretting and picking hands, which is an important skill regardless of the style of music you choose to play.

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    aloehart
    this actually helps. i was having fingering issues with a particular song and it was getting on my nerves so i looked and found this guide. spent about 5ish hours of straight repetition of the 2 exercises with some variations in finger placement. and after all the practice i was able to play the part i had problems with flawlessly. ill be running 3 repetitions of each exercise every day before i start playing.
    dfisher_18
    I find the speed and dexterity part a little redundant when practicing, though our final exam is to sweep the C major scale...so i pick redundancy over failure. Great pointers, next time make sure to add using a metranome, some of us use them like a bad habit