ULTIMATE Fingerstyle Guitar Exercises for All Guitar Styles

ULTIMATE Fingerstyle Guitar Exercises for All Guitar Styles

ULTIMATE Fingerstyle Guitar Exercises for All Guitar Styles

Get the PDF for this lesson HERE: https://www.fretdojo.com/pdf 

In this episode I’m going to show you the ultimate fast path to building fingerstyle guitar technique with these three handy fingerpicking exercises for guitar.

These 3 simple fingerstyle guitar exercises will quickly enable you to develop your fingerpicking accuracy and speed on guitar, regardless of what style of guitar you like to play! Whether you like to play jazz, rock, pop, classical or country, you’ll find this lesson useful.

I’ll also show you the core principles of good fingerstyle technique to set you up for success and so you avoid injuries when it comes to fingerstyle guitar. 

Thanks for watching and let me know what you think by leaving a comment below this video. 

Peace, 

Greg O’Rourke 

Founder, FretDojo
World Leader in Online Guitar Education
https://www.fretdojo.com 

► Become a FretDojo Patreon here: https: https://www.patreon.com/fretdojo

► Start Your FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy Membership here: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

Now the exciting bit:

If you're keen to have a structured, step-by-step approach to learning jazz guitar, it might be worth checking out my online learning system, the FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy.

Here's what you get when you join up:

  • Detailed step-by-step video lessons on new classic jazz tunes and essential jazz guitar skills added to the club website each month. Includes listening recommendations, demonstrations of the melody, analysis of the harmony, and detailed explanations on how to solo over the tune.
  • Key improvisation concepts and techniques for soloing, and classic licks and example solos that relate to each tune, so you can continue to expand your jazz vocabulary and have more options when it comes to soloing.
  • Detailed comping ideas to suit the style of each jazz standard covered
  • Lessons on how to make chord melody and solo jazz guitar versions of tunes featured - play a complete jazz standard completely on your own like Joe Pass!
  • Members only forum - A worldwide community of jazz guitarists from all around the globe.
  • Regular workshops, masterclasses, and Q & A Sessions - get direct answers from me on anything holding you back in the practice room. Replays of all sessions are available to access for all members even if you can’t make it live.
  • Massive searchable database of jazz licks and soloing concepts - the ultimate idea "grab bag" for your solos.
  • Optional monthly challenges where members participate to get feedback on their playing, reach new milestones and be eligible for cool prizes.

Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

 

Before you go…

Join my 30 Day Jazz Guitar Challenge

Instant access:

•  A step-by-step guide on building core improvisation skills

• Fundamental comping techniques to be a hero on the bandstand

• Discover the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitarists…and how YOU can avoid them

• The ultimate fast path for establishing a foundation in jazz guitar

• Instant access – find out more and sign up by clicking the button below:

 

What did you think of this jazz guitar quick tip? Leave your comments below…

Peace,

Greg O’Rourke

Founder, Fret Dojo

Innovation in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Jazz Guitar Warmup: (Almost) Slurred Scale Exercise

Jazz Guitar Warmup: (Almost) Slurred Scale Exercise

Jazz Guitar Warmup: (Almost) Slurred Scale Exercise

Get the PDF and Backing Track for this lesson HERE: https://www.fretdojo.com/pdf

In this FretDojo episode we’re going to cover a very cool jazz guitar warmup which I call the ‘Almost Slurred Scale Exercise’ – a multilayered exercise to work out your speed, phrasing, position shifting, slurs and more – and also help get those creative juices flowing for your jazz guitar practice session. Enjoy!

► Become a FretDojo Patreon here: https: https://www.patreon.com/fretdojo

► Start Your FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy Membership here: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

Now the exciting bit:

If you're keen to have a structured, step-by-step approach to learning jazz guitar, it might be worth checking out my online learning system, the FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy.

Here's what you get when you join up:

  • Detailed step-by-step video lessons on new classic jazz tunes and essential jazz guitar skills added to the club website each month. Includes listening recommendations, demonstrations of the melody, analysis of the harmony, and detailed explanations on how to solo over the tune.
  • Key improvisation concepts and techniques for soloing, and classic licks and example solos that relate to each tune, so you can continue to expand your jazz vocabulary and have more options when it comes to soloing.
  • Detailed comping ideas to suit the style of each jazz standard covered
  • Lessons on how to make chord melody and solo jazz guitar versions of tunes featured - play a complete jazz standard completely on your own like Joe Pass!
  • Members only forum - A worldwide community of jazz guitarists from all around the globe.
  • Regular workshops, masterclasses, and Q & A Sessions - get direct answers from me on anything holding you back in the practice room. Replays of all sessions are available to access for all members even if you can’t make it live.
  • Massive searchable database of jazz licks and soloing concepts - the ultimate idea "grab bag" for your solos.
  • Optional monthly challenges where members participate to get feedback on their playing, reach new milestones and be eligible for cool prizes.

Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

 

Before you go…

Join my 30 Day Jazz Guitar Challenge

Instant access:

•  A step-by-step guide on building core improvisation skills

• Fundamental comping techniques to be a hero on the bandstand

• Discover the biggest mistakes made by aspiring jazz guitarists…and how YOU can avoid them

• The ultimate fast path for establishing a foundation in jazz guitar

• Instant access – find out more and sign up by clicking the button below:

 

What did you think of this jazz guitar quick tip? Leave your comments below…

Peace,

Greg O’Rourke

Founder, Fret Dojo

Innovation in Online Jazz Guitar Education

Building your GUITAR SPEED – Fast Tips

Building your GUITAR SPEED – Fast Tips

Building your GUITAR SPEED – Fast Tips

In this video, you’re going to learn the roadmap to building speed on guitar. When you want to build a fine motor skill like developing guitar speed you need to have a strategy and a consistent approach – and this video will show you how.

You’ll find out the answers to the following:

– The most important considerations for making rapid and consistent progress with speed development

– The big mistakes that players make when trying to build their guitar speed

– A fun and easy exercise that anyone can learn to rapidly develop your speed – using only two strings.

Serious about improving your speed? Get your free eBook: Click here to get your FREE Guitar Speed Building Secrets eBook.

Now the exciting bit:

If you're keen to have a structured, step-by-step approach to learning jazz guitar, it might be worth checking out my online learning system, the FretDojo Jazz Guitar Academy.

Here's what you get when you join up:

  • Detailed step-by-step video lessons on new classic jazz tunes and essential jazz guitar skills added to the club website each month. Includes listening recommendations, demonstrations of the melody, analysis of the harmony, and detailed explanations on how to solo over the tune.
  • Key improvisation concepts and techniques for soloing, and classic licks and example solos that relate to each tune, so you can continue to expand your jazz vocabulary and have more options when it comes to soloing.
  • Detailed comping ideas to suit the style of each jazz standard covered
  • Lessons on how to make chord melody and solo jazz guitar versions of tunes featured - play a complete jazz standard completely on your own like Joe Pass!
  • Members only forum - A worldwide community of jazz guitarists from all around the globe.
  • Regular workshops, masterclasses, and Q & A Sessions - get direct answers from me on anything holding you back in the practice room. Replays of all sessions are available to access for all members even if you can’t make it live.
  • Massive searchable database of jazz licks and soloing concepts - the ultimate idea "grab bag" for your solos.
  • Optional monthly challenges where members participate to get feedback on their playing, reach new milestones and be eligible for cool prizes.

Go here for more info: https://www.fretdojo.com/signup-offer

What did you think of this jazz guitar quick tip? Leave your comments below…

Peace,

Greg O’Rourke

Founder, Fret Dojo

World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education

8 Steps to Slaying The Speed Demon: Speed Picking Secrets for Jazz Guitar with Stuart King

8 Steps to Slaying The Speed Demon: Speed Picking Secrets for Jazz Guitar with Stuart King

8 Steps to Slaying The Speed Demon: Speed Picking Secrets for Jazz Guitar with Stuart King

As you can see in the lesson video below, I’m pretty excited today.

There’s a good reason for this:

I was lucky to pin down my good friend and virtuoso guitarist Stuart King to record a lesson on how jazz guitarists can build their speed picking.

Why did I pick this topic?

Because learning to play lines fast is a critical skill for any jazz guitarist.

Besides being a great all round musician and a top jazz guitarist (and a nice bloke to boot), Stuart is endowed with incredible chops.

He’s simply the fastest guitarist I’ve played with to date!

The lesson video (below), is a sensational how-to-guide on building speed – you’re going to enjoy this one.

It turns out Stuart is one of those ‘hidden guitar yogis’, who has quietly worked out an incredible shortcut to boosting your speed and accuracy on the guitar.

Since recording this video, I’ve been practicing Stuart’s approaches to speed picking daily.

After one week of following the step-by-step process in this lesson, I’ve noticed a significant boost in my maximum speed, and my speed picking accuracy has increased as well.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

 

Video Lesson: Speed Picking Workshop With Stuart King

Don’t have time to read this post now? Get your Handy PDF Download: Click this link to get a print freindly version of all the exercises in this post for your practice.

 

Why Do I Want To Learn To Play So Fast Anyway?

There’s no doubt about it:

Whether you are interested in shredding it up or not, any serious study of jazz guitar requires an ability to play fast tempos.

Why?

The majority of single line solos by the jazz guitar greats are stuffed full of double time runs that are often tricky to play.

So, if your chops aren’t up to the job, you’re missing out on being able to incorporate critically important jazz guitar vocabulary into your playing.

That’s not all:

If you can play quickly, you’ll be able to think more quickly when you improvise.

This means that you’ll have a greater ability to be more creative when you solo, regardless of the tempo, as your mind will be working faster.

Now that I’ve convinced you why you need to get your speed picking up to scratch, here’s what not to do…

 

The WRONG Approach

Like what Stuart mentioned in the video above, I myself have always had issues with building speed.

Here’s the typical approach when it comes to guitar speed exercises:

Take a passage and practice it over and over, bumping up the metronome 1 to 5 bpm at a time, gradually increasing the speed until you reach your desired tempo.

But…

It doesn’t work.

Most of my colleagues and students I’ve talked to about this approach describe a threshold that, upon reaching it, is impossible to get past.

But there’s another way.

Initially, Stuart was unwilling to part with his hidden secrets about speed picking…

…but I got them out of him eventually.

Read on for his method in all its glory!

(Hint: Fast forward the above video to the time code (in green) to get to the spot in the lesson video that demonstrates the steps below.)

 

Step 1: Presenting The Sprinting Technique (4:04)

To get started, choose a lick that you want to practice building your speed picking with. Ideally, a longer line will be the most useful to study.

Try to stick with just one lick initially – you’ll see why later.

Here’s the one that Stuart was using in the video above:

 

speed-picking-guitar-speed-exercises-jazz-1

 

As Stuart describes in the video, a ‘sprint’ is:

“…a short burst of fast notes, interspersed by slower notes either side.”

To start building your chops with the Sprinting Technique, take the first 5 notes out of this lick and isolate it:

 

speed-picking-guitar-speed-exercises-jazz-2

 

Why 5 notes?

The reason:

You want the cell to start and end on a downbeat.

Practice this short cell of notes at a slow tempo a few times until you get the hang of it before moving to the next step.

 

Step 2: Choose Your ‘Target Tempo’ (5:55)

What you need to do now is choose a fast tempo that you’d ideally like to become comfortable at.

Stuart refers to this as your ‘target tempo’.

We aren’t talking about bumping your speed picking tempo up only 10 bpm.

You want a tempo where you could keep up with Pat Martino at least:

Stuart chose 150bpm as the target tempo in this video, because you won’t often find double time licks played much faster than that in jazz.

If you can play 16th notes at 150bpm, you should be pretty comfortable with most tunes and transcriptions.

Ok, let’s not mess around:

You’re going to learn to do speed picking at this tempo right now.

“Whaaaat?!? But I could never play that fast!”

Never fear my friend.

At the end of this lesson, you’ll be carving it up like there’s no tomorrow.

Let’s take these guitar speed exercises step-by-step.

As Stuart demonstrates in the lesson video above, first practice ‘sprinting’ at your target tempo with tremolo speed picking on just the first note of the 5 note cell, along with a metronome.

Here are a few exercises to show you what I mean:

 

speed-picking-guitar-speed-exercises-jazz-2a

 

speed-picking-guitar-speed-exercises-jazz-2b

 

speed-picking-guitar-speed-exercises-jazz-2c

 

Speed picking isn’t so much about building muscles as it is about being able to hear fast tempos.

The above exercises are pretty straightforward, but make sure that you’re nailing the notes on each downbeat precisely along with a metronome.

These are really ear training exercises to get you familiar with moving at a fast tempo.

Notice how on either side of the 16th note sprints in each exercise, you play simple quarter notes on each downbeat.

This helps you verify you actually did, in fact, nail the sprint with rhythmic accuracy.

It’s easy to think that you’ve played a sprint rhythmically in time, but…

…you can make subtle errors that will, when it comes to playing a longer sprint, start to skew you away from the metronome.

Playing quarter notes either side of the sprint helps you avoid this problem, forcing you to zero in on the beat.

Onwards to Step 3…

 

Step 3: Sprint on the First 5 Note Cell At Your Target Tempo (8:12)

Now that you’ve gotten used to the target tempo of 150bpm on a single note, the next step is to take the 5 note cell we isolated and use the Sprinting Technique on that.

Remember to pump out those quarter notes before and after each sprint. This will help you check if you’re getting the sprints rhythmically in time. Here’s an example:

 

speed-picking-guitar-speed-exercises-jazz-2d

 

If you aren’t sure you’re playing the sprints exactly in time with the metronome, record yourself using an audio recorder or smartphone and check how accurate your rhythm is.

An important point to mention here:

Don’t worry if you’re technique is a bit messy, i.e. missing strings or hitting wrong strings with your pick as you play the sprint.

Ignore all that for now, we’ll clean it up later.

Just focus on developing your rhythmic awareness of the target tempo, regardless of any technical flaws.

 

Step 4: Isolate The Next 5 Note Cell – Rinse And Repeat (8:35)

Now that you’ve used the Sprinting Technique on the first cell, isolate the next cell of the lick and repeat the process:

 

speed-picking-guitar-speed-exercises-jazz-3

 

Here’s how you would practice a sprint with this cell:

 

speed-picking-guitar-speed-exercises-jazz-3a

 

Step 5: Start to Glue The Cells Together (9:08)

Now we have two ‘chunks’ out of the lick that you can play pretty quickly. I want you to now glue them together, to make a longer sprint:

 

speed-picking-guitar-speed-exercises-jazz-4

 

This is where things can get tricky.

It can be a struggle to be able to play a longer sprint like this at a fast tempo like 150 bpm.

But if you can’t play them together – don’t slow down the metronome!

Instead, take a couple of notes temporarily off the end of the sprint and try again:

 

speed-picking-guitar-speed-exercises-jazz-5

 

Once you can play this shorter version of the sprint, add the notes back on that you removed and it should start to work for you.

In this way, work through the lick, one 5 note cell at a time.

Then, gradually combine them until you have cobbled together the entire lick at the target tempo.

Here’s the thing:

You’re likely going to find that the lick still won’t sound that good and you are dropping notes, playing messy and generally struggling.

Don’t stress – the point of this exercise so far is not to have clean speed picking…yet.

We’ll sort that out later.

For now, you’re just trying to train your ears to hear that fast target tempo of 150 bpm.

Read on, because Stuart has a great trick here when you get to this point, and things start to get mind-bendingly interesting…

 

Step 6: Drop the Tempo to 80% Of Your Target Tempo (10:54)

At this point, notice how Stuart on the lesson video took the tempo down from 150bpm to 140bpm.

He was able to play the lick pretty cleanly at that slower tempo. In his own words, it was like he was:

“…only playing at 80% of my ability.”

Now here’s the thing:

What if you can make your target tempo (in this case 150bpm), 80% of your ability?

You can.

You just need to train your ears to hear a tempo much faster than 150bpm, which is what you’re going to do next.

 

Step 7: Ramp Up The Tempo Beyond Your Wildest Dreams (12:46)

“190 bpm? Are you mad??”

Trust me, it’s going to work.

Attempt to either play the full lick or some 5 note sprints at 190 bpm or at a similar, incredibly unrealistic, fast tempo.

Go to 150% of your ability at least.

As you can see in the video, Stuart failed miserably at 190bpm, but that’s not the point.

What you’re really doing here is tricking your mind into thinking that 150 bpm is actually a pretty reasonable tempo.

Spend some time with this. Put your ego aside and be prepared to bomb out at this insane speed. Ignore your lack of accuracy or not being able to play the whole lick.

Just keep focusing on those metronome clicks and see if you can generally approximate that stupidly fast tempo.

On to the final step…

 

Step 8: Now Go Back To Your Target Tempo (14:06)

Once you’ve suffered for a while at 190bpm, it’s time to chill out.

Wind the metronome back down to an easygoing 150bpm.

Ah…luxury!

See how much more comfortable 150bpm feels then the crazy tempo we attempted in the last step.

You might surprise yourself at this point how easy it will feel to play at a tempo which was, just minutes before, a real struggle.

I couldn’t believe it when I tried Stuart’s approach this week, as prior to this 140bpm was pretty much my 100% tempo…on a good day.

To have 150bpm feel relatively comfortable was unbelievable.

guitar-speed-exercises-picking-jazz-pic

Ok, So How The Heck Did That Work?

The point of these guitar speed exercises was not to develop finger dexterity, fast twitch muscles, picking techniques or anything like that.

They were simple exercises in training the mind to perceive an incredibly fast tempo (in this case 190bpm), even if you can’t play it cleanly yet.

By doing this, you are speeding up your mental awareness, which seems to be the crux of the whole speed development issue on guitar.

Interestingly, when you then go back to your ‘slower’ target tempo (e.g going back down from 190bpm to 150bpm), it feels much slower than it actually is.

You’ve tricked your mind into thinking that the target tempo is only 80% of your ability.

Rhythm awareness and rhythmic accuracy, not technical accuracy, is the key to unlocking the ability to play fast on the guitar. Regardless of your lack of accuracy with your speed picking, through following this approach you now have that ‘raw’ speed under your fingers to work with.

Be patient: the technical accuracy will come over time, as your fingers get used to playing at these faster tempos.

 

A Groundbreaking Approach

What I found most interesting about trying out Stuart’s approach is how quickly it worked to build speed.

This indicates to me that the ability to play fast isn’t really to do with building muscles in your fingers. If you’ve been playing guitar for a while, this should have already been developed long ago. Speed building is more of a mental training issue.

Here’s another fascinating outcome:

Through practicing this approach, it hasn’t just been the lick I’ve been using that has had a speed boost.

Everything else has felt much easier to play as a result of these guitar speed exercises.

It seems as though learning how to play just one lick fast gives you the ability to play other licks fast too.

Plus, I’ve found my picking accuracy has increased at slower tempos and my hands are more relaxed.

Stuart mentioned to me that he cottoned on to this approach by watching instructional videos by rock guitarists John Petrucci and Shawn Lane, but hasn’t seen it ever clarified into a clear practice method like what is presented in this post.

It appears that Stuart may have indeed slain the speed demon, a ferocious beast that has tormented guitarists for generations.

Further Resources

  • If you need a metronome, I use TempoPerfect, a free software metronome. Pretty basic but does the job.
  • On Stuart’s recommendation check out guitarist Troy Grady’s website at troygrady.com. Although geared more towards rock players, Troy has excellent tips for improving your speed picking accuracy, regardless of what style of guitar you play. Troy has an excellent online course you might like to check out called Pickslanting Primer, which is a detailed guide to guitar picking technique that I highly recommend. Click this link for more info…
Enjoyed this post on speed picking? Get your Handy PDF Download: Click this link to get a print friendly version of all the exercises in this post for your practice.

*Stop Press* Stuart’s Debut Album,
Qualia – Out Now!

qualiaFinally, I wanted to let you know about Stuart’s album Qualia – the first release under the FretDojo Studios label.

Qualia is Stuart’s debut jazz guitar album and features all original jazz compostions by him.

I’ve helped co-produce the album, and I also play on a few of the tracks too.

As I was sitting in the studio during the mixing sessions, I was taken aback by how enjoyable and innovative Stuart’s jazz compostions are on this recording, which got me motivated to want to share it with you guys.

Find out more about Qualia here >>

In his own words, here’s what Stuart himself has to say about Qualia:

“The entire recording of Qualia was made during a 3-hour recording session at ArtSound Recording Studios in Canberra. For the session, I had a great local bass player, James Luke. I also was accompanied on nylon string by my long time friend Greg O’Rourke on a few tunes.

What I wanted was to really capture on this album the raw energy of our playing – the tunes aren’t overly rehearsed or produced and the performances are very much in the moment.

Greg and I felt that this gave the recording a very honest and live feeling, which is close to what you might get if you were to see us play live.

This organic, living type approach I believe breathes some life into the tunes, and is more in the spirit of jazz. We felt that this allowed us to capture a special kind of raw energy on that Saturday afternoon, in that small studio.

We’ve put many hours crafting this into a good sounding product, something we can all be proud to put our names on, and something that gives you, the listener, the best experience possible.”

As you’ve seen in thispost about speed picking, Suart is an incredible jazz guitarist and a top class musician.

Stuart’s hard work has resuted in a really groundbreaking album, that I know you’re going to enjoy.

Get your copy of Qualia now by clicking here >>

Thank You!

A special thanks to Stuart King for taking the time out of his busy schedule to record this great video lesson for you.

Give this technique a try for a few weeks, and let us know what you think! Did you find this approach worked for you? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

If you enjoyed this speed picking lesson, please share it with your friends; it would mean the world to us.

May the force be with you,

Greg O’Rourke & Stuart King

 

About Stuart King:

Stuart KingStuart is a guitarist with over 20 years experience as a performer in many varied contexts, ranging from classical through to contemporary styles, musical theater, and jazz.

In 2005 Stuart graduated from the Canberra School of Music, Australian National University with a Bachelor of Music as a jazz performance major.

These days Stuart performs regularly around Canberra as a band leader, sideman, session guitarist and solo jazz and acoustic guitarist.

Stuart has performed with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra on various occasions and has performed with many notable Australian jazz musicians including Mike Price, Ben Hauptmann, Carl Dewhurst, Lucinda Peters, and Luke Sweeting.

Find out more about Stuart at www.stuartkingmusic.com

Left Hand Guitar Technique: 5 Core Principles

Left Hand Guitar Technique: 5 Core Principles

Left Hand Guitar Technique: 5 Core Principles

No matter what level you are at in your guitar playing, it is always really helpful to go back to the core fundamentals of playing when you want to advance. Huge improvements in speed, ease of playing, and musical expression can be gained simply by making some tweaks to fundamental techniques.

Left hand guitar position and technique is something I’m always coming back to in my own playing. The concepts I’m going to share with you today are crucial for being able to progress in your playing and play the more difficult repertoire on the instrument.

Improving your left hand technique is straightforward to do with the correct know-how, but the payoffs are enormous. A good left hand technique can not only protect your hand from injury, but will also make you a much faster and accurate guitarist.

What this episode covers:

  • How to keep the left hand relaxed and free as you play
  • The correct left hand position on the guitar neck
  • Correct thumb placement
  • The versatile nature of left hand placement

There is a lot of incorrect information out there on this topic that I’ve seen in various books on technique so I want to take this opportunity to clear this up so that you have a good idea of what you need to do to improve this aspect of your guitar playing.

Ok let’s get into it! Here are the 5 core principles you need to keep in mind:

Principle #1: Keep your Hand Very Relaxed

I know this sounds obvious but it is so often overlooked. People wonder why they keep bombing out at the most difficult part of a piece of music they are working on. Probably the anticipation of this difficult section is actually making them tense their hands up right before it comes up – setting themselves up for a big fail on stage.

Relaxing your hands will enable your music to flow easily, will improve your coordination and will help to easily increase your speed on the guitar.

Principle #2: Correct Thumb Placement

You don’t know how many times I’ve seen the instruction in classical guitar books to ‘put the thumb in the middle of the neck’.

This is bad advice.

Sure, there are times where you will need to put the thumb square on the back of the neck , eg bar chords or playing lower strings combinations, however generally the standard position of the left hand thumb should look like this, resting on the mid-side of the guitar that is closest to the lower strings:

left hand guitar technique -thumb placement

The thumb position is also flexible – it never stays in one position for long. Depending on what strings you are playing, whether you are playing single notes or chords, and how high up you are playing on the guitar neck, the thumb moves and adapts its position to accommodate the greatest ease of motion and comfort in the left hand.

Principle #3: Appropriate Left Hand Finger Pressure

Pressing too hard or too lightly on the strings can also cause a lot of technique problems. If you press too lightly you will buzz the strings and sound a bit like an AM radio that hasn’t quite been tuned in properly. If you press too hard you will cause a lot of tension in your hand and body, which could injure your hand, make your playing sound tense and rigid, and will impair your speed.

A good remedy for finger pressure problems is (ironically) the ‘buzzing’ exercise that is covered in the lesson video above. This exercise teaches your hand ‘Goldilocks’ style – not too much pressure, not too little, but just enough.

Principle #4 Fingers Close to the Frets & Flexibility of Left Hand Angle

Keeping the fingers as close as possible to the frets is generally a good principle to keep in mind, especially if you are a beginner. However be aware that this isn’t always the case, and is a very general instruction – there are situations which are exceptions to this rule.

Depending on what the fingers are doing at whatever point in time, the left hand needs to slightly shift the angle to accommodate the left hand fingers to get close enough to the frets.

However, there will be times when your 3rd and 4th fingers simply can’t be placed directly behind the frets. That is ok though- usually if they are slightly back from the frets the guitar won’t buzz if the guitar action is set properly. People with smaller hands will need to compensate the left hand angle much more frequently to facilitate good find finger placement.

The correct angle and placement of the left hand is highly related to the final and most important point to consider in regard to left hand technique, which is…

Principle #5: Does Your Hand Actually Feel Good?

The ‘feel’ in your hands is so important when it comes to left hand technique (and right hand technique as well for that matter). This is some of the best advice I’ve ever received on guitar playing (big shout-out to Tim Kain of Guitar Trek fame for this one!) and I find myself often coming back to this idea as I practice.

Here’s how to do this one. During your practice session, ask yourself the following question:

‘Regardless of whether or not my technique or fingering is ‘textbook correct’, does it actually feel good? Does it feel good in my hands? What about my body, how does that feel?’

Whether or not a particular fingering pattern or solution makes logical sense, if it simply doesn’t feel good in the hands after you play with it for a while, reject it and find an alternative fingering, arrangement, or tweak in your hand position/finger placement.

This simple tip has been my most effective strategy for getting music to flow and expressing myself easily on the instrument. This principle will guide you to develop the more subtle aspects of a relaxed, coordinated and agile left hand. Becoming more aware and in tune with what your body is telling you about your technique is the single most important feedback you can get in order to improve your technique.

Left Hand Coordination Exercises

Now that we have the position and manner in which the way the hand moves, let’s now look at some basic coordination exercises. I’ve prepared a downloadable pdf of some of the best coordination development exercises I’ve come across, as well as a bonus video that will walk you through them. Enjoy!

 

In Closing…

When I was writing this post it almost feels like it is stating the obvious when it comes to a solid basis for left hand technique, however it is so common for guitarists to have severe roadblocks in their playing due to a slightly wrong approach or hand position, so it is always useful to review your left hand guitar technique and position from time to time and notice if you are keeping the above points in mind. I hope that this has provided some insights to opening the door to effortless mastery of the guitar.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think about this post, it would be great to hear from you. You can find me on Twitter, my handle is at @gregoguitar – drop me a line and say hello. I’ll see you in the next episode of Fret Dojo TV!

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