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Super charge your learning curve on guitar with finger exercise '1'

When I started playing the guitar 38 years ago, chromatic finger exercises were something that advanced guitar players usually used to develop their lead playing. I remember first reading about them in a guitar magazine guitar lesson segment when I was a teenager and they blew my mind. I set my metronome up and devoured every exercise in the magazine. I mastered and memorized all of the exercises in the article and then I started inventing my own exercises to develop speed and coordination around the specific songs that I was mastering at the time.

Teaching beginners with guitar finger exercise '1'

Later when I started tutoring guitar I naturally showed these exercises to my more advanced pupils. I noted that not only did their solo, melody, and lead playing improve much faster but also their chord changes. It got me thinking and soon I began to introduce finger exercise '1' to pupils who were only at the stage of playing chords, pupils that had only been playing for a year. This had amazing results so I started to introduce exercise '1' to pupils that had been playing for 6 months. These pupils also had great results. I was keeping it easy and just giving them the most basic chromatic exercise I could.

Finger exercise 1

First 'e' string: --1--2--3--4--------2--3--4--5-------3--4--5--6------- to the 11th fret and backwards.

Fingers: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

Once I saw how fast they picked it up and how much faster they were learning I decided to give exercise 1 to a pupil that had only had 3 lessons. They picked it up easily and developed their guitar playing at a much much faster rate.

The other benefits

I find learning finger exercises with a metronome gives you 4 important things when learning the guitar.

  1. Speed and coordination

  2. Timing

  3. Dynamics

  4. Listening ability

Speed and coordination

The first thing you get from learning this exercise with a metronome is that your speed and coordination improve. This is the most obvious thing that you can see. It's tangible.


The second thing that improves is your timing. This is something that pupils don't often see in themselves but I see every single pupil improve in this area.


Dynamics is also hard for the pupil to see or hear improve in their playing. But often I have cured clunky sounding rhythm/strumming with this exercise. As pick control improves so does the ability to express yourself through your strumming and picking. Pupils have the ability to play soft or hard and every weight in between once their pick/picking/fingers control improves. The improvements can be mind-blowing.

Listening ability

The last thing is the ability to listen and hear more. When you are forced to listen to the timing of a metronome your ability to hear and listen improves greatly. Your ear is like a muscle and when you exercise it, it strengthens. Once you can hear 'better' you can hear yourself playing with more accuracy, you can hear what sounds good and what needs improving. You will also be able to play with other people much easier if you have the ability to listen to yourself and others at the same time.

Thanks for reading and good luck on your musical journey.

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