Finger Dexterity For Guitar

In the course of this three part mini-series, I am going to give you ways in which to create your perfect guitar warm up regime. Over the course of my teaching and playing career I started to realise that certain days, I could play at the top of my ability fairly quickly, but on other days it took much longer than I anticipated. The days I played at my best  I had properly warmed up all areas of my playing. In today’s lesson, we are going to cover how to improve your dexterity and co-ordination which will ultimately warm your fingers up extremely fast. Before we get going there are a few points I want you to consider at all times when working on the following examples.

1. Make sure you start off playing every example slowly and with a metronome.

2. Try to always keep each finger in one designated fret (finger per fret).

3. Use minimal movement of your fretting and picking hands

With those in mind lets get going!

Finger Dexterity Example 1 – Finger Per Fret Dexterity

The first example is one of the most popular guitar warm-ups around. Start off at around 60bpm and make sure that each pick stroke is clean and is perfectly in time with both the metronome and you placing your finger on each fret. Be sure to use alternate picking (down up) throughout this example.

Finger Dexterity Example 2 – Legato Hammer-ons

In example two I have created a hammer-on warm up for each finger. The first and second fingers will likely feel the strongest here, so you may find that your 3rd and 4th finger require more practice to get the hammer-ons to sound clean. Use a down pick before every hammer-on on each string.

Finger Dexterity Example 3 – Legato Pull-Offs

Example three is the complete reverse of example two. This time, we are using pull-offs on every string instead of hammer-ons. The third and fourth finger pattern here is particularly difficult. The extra time spent making sure each pattern sounds as smooth as the next will pay off in your lead guitar playing.

Finger Dexterity Example 4 – Satriani Warm Up 1

I first started dedicating time to working on my co-ordination and dexterity after watching videos of Joe Satriani warming up. Example four is a pattern he often uses when preparing for a session or to play live. By getting your hands used to playing notes in different frets on different strings, you will quickly be able to warm yourself up for almost any fingering placement you will play. Make sure you watch how I play this example in the YouTube video before you attempt to play it.

Finger Dexterity Example 5 – Satriani Warm Up 2

Example five is the reversed pattern of example four. Once again start off really slowly with a metronome and only speed the metronome up once you can play the pattern five times perfectly in a row.

For more important exercises, check out The Guitar Finger Gym

Recommended listening

A lot of guitarists have fantastic dexterity but I first got into developing this technique by watching Joe Satriani video. I recommend buying the album “Surfing With The Alien.” My favourite track on that album being “Satch Boogie.”

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Guitar Lesson Video Transcription

Hey YouTube, Simon here once again for the amazing Fundamental Changes. Today we are off to the finger gym to improve your coordination and dexterity. Let’s go and have a look at a few examples, just after this.

I wanted to talk to a little bit today about a technique that we all neglect, and that’s going to the finger gym: working on coordination and dexterity, and being able to make sure that your plectrum hand, or your picking hand, and your fingers are bang, sync, in entirety in moving through some fairly uncomfortable shapes. What I’ve put together is creating a perfect practice regime/warm up regime that’s going to be this part 1, and 2 other parts. Today is really about building classic dexterity exercises. Let’s go and have a look at Example 1, and then I’ll explain it.

[guitar playing]

Example 1 here is a very, very common guitar exercise, and one of the best. If you only start with this one, it will be very well worth it. We’re basically taking frets 1, 2, 3, and 4, and we’re going all the way through the strings. We’re using alternate picking, and we’ve got a finger per fret, which simply means you can’t use 1 finger to play all of these. You have to do index or 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th finger all going through the strings. What you want to try and do is make sure your hand is not coming off and on the guitar. You want to keep them fairly close and ready, arched around so you can tap knuckles on the top of the guitar there as well. As I mentioned, alternate pick down, up, down, up, down up, down up, down, up, down up, down up down, up. My metronome was set at 80 beats per minute (BPM) for this. I recommend starting off even slower, because this is written as 16th notes, or 1 e & a, 2 e & a, 3 e & a, 4 e & a. You want to start off say 50-60 BPM, or just go as slow as you like and just try and keep it in time. It’s a fantastic exercise. After you’ve gone all the way through 1 to 4, you can go 2 to 5, 3 to 6, and move this and make this a longer example, but it’s an absolute classic one, and its finger gym fundamentals. Let’s move on to Example 2.

[guitar playing]

Like with any gym work, the more you do of these, the better and the easier it will all become. That will hugely affect how you approach licks, lines, riffs, in whatever genre of playing you are. It might be rock, blues, funk, jazz, and pop, whatever. If you work on the core fundamentals of making sure your fingers can play any way they like, it’ll make a huge difference. Example 2 is a hammer-on example, where you’re hammering on 1 to 2, all the way through the strings from 6 to 1, and then you’re coming back 2 to 3. Once again, like in Example 1, you want to keep your fingers designated in their frets. You don’t want to just move your index and your middle fingers to do all of these, you want to go up 1 and 2, or index and middle, come back 2 and 3, go up 3 and 4, and then come back 2 and 3, and that loops the exercise. You’re going to pick – you can pick – all down strokes: down, hammer, down, hammer, down, hammer, down, hammer, down, hammer, down, hammer, etc, like that. Coming back the same: down, hammer, down, hammer, down, hammer, down, hammer, down, hammer, down, hammer.

Now, for some of you, you might find the 3rd to 4th hammer-on really difficult. Don’t worry, that is normal. These are trying to push you to make sure all your core techniques and dexterity exercises are working well. If that one’s really difficult for you, just slow it down and get used to moving between these fingers( 3rd and 4th), because they are D students of the class. These 2 – the 1st and 2nd – are usually A and B students most of the time. These guys struggle a bit more, so they require a bit more work. The ultimate goal of course is to be able to play evenly across all your fingers. Let’s go and have a look at Example 3.

[guitar playing]

Example 3 then is the exact reverse of Example 2. Everything you’re going to do, you’re going to pull-off a note. Instead of hammering on all the way, you’re going to pick a note with a down stroke, pull off; Pick, pull off. 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1 all the way through. 3, 2, 3, 2, 3, 2; 3,2,3,2,3,2 ; 4,3,4,3,4,3 – really tough – 3, 4, 3, 4, 3 and back 3,2 all the way through. Make sure you refer to the article in the tab when it comes online when Joseph sends out the email. That’s example 3, again you’re building these up slowly with a metronome. Let’s have a look at Example 4.

[guitar playing]

I first got into these warm ups when I first watched Satriani warming up in old videos, and he’d use combinations of these. This is one of his favorites, so if you want to call this the Satriani warm up, then cool. If it’s good enough for Satriani, it’s good enough for me. Let’s have a look at this one here. This time you’re going to go 1st fret of the 6th, 2nd fret of the 5th, 3rd fret of the 4th, and 4th fret of the 3rd, so it makes this weird shape going across the strings. Instead of having them all in a line like example 1, you’ve now got the same spacing, but all on different strings. Once again you’re going to alternate pick, and you’re going to move that little spider-y shape through the string. And then you start – you go through 1 to 4, all the way, then you come back 5 to 2; 5-4-3-2; 5-4-3-2; 5-4-3-2; up 3 to 6; and back 7 to 4. Very classic Satch-style warm up, getting your fingers warm quickly, so everyday you can play your highest level as quickly as possible. Let’s have a look at Satch part 2 in the next example.

[guitar playing]

To round up our finger gym today, we’re going to do the opposite of what you’ve just done in example 1. This time you’re going to come 4-3-2-1, again finger per fret, don’t let it slide. So 1st finger will always be in the 1st fret to start off, 2nd in the 2nd, and 3rd in the 3rd, and the 4th in 4th. 4-3-2-1, 4-3-2, then you can move them all down a string, and then 4-3-2-1. Then you’re going to come back 2-3-4-5, 2-3-4-5, 2-3-4-5, alternate picking as you do this. Some of you might find that difficult, but that’s what gives you the momentum and the practice regime with that as well.

Today I really want you to concentrate on building core dexterity exercises. These are not the most fun thing in the world to practice, but they do set you up for all your other licks. You’ll notice that your fingers are playing really really – sort of feeling great after you’ve warmed up well, and you might find that sometimes if you’re struggling to get up to your highest level, if you apply these warm up exercises first you will get there more speedily. I should also – just notice that I mentioned earlier on that you should have your knuckles out on your fingers there. On these types of exercises, you want to try and have some oxygen between your fingers. Something I come across a lot when I’m teaching is especially these 2, the 3rd and the 4th fingers – often bunch up and they sort of love each other. Try and get it so they are not together. You want to have space between the first fingers so they’re all working independently, and you can build up the strength and dexterity in the tendons in the back of the hands because each finger works individually.

So take care, I’ll see you next time for way more free videos. Work on your dexterity. Any questions, comment below, subscribe now.