There are literally thousands of exercises and studies for the guitar. There are some that are great for beginners who are just getting used to having their fingers on the guitar, and some that are designed to challenge and grow the technique of seasoned players.
But who has time to learn thousands of guitar exercises, even over many years? Wouldn’t you rather learn a few simple routines now that will continue to push your technique as long as you choose to play the guitar?
Here are a few guitar exercises that will benefit guitarists at any level.
This is one of the simplest guitar exercises that I use every day. It begins with your first, or index, finger on the first fret of the lowest string.
You’ll then ‘hop’ the same finger to the fifth string, also on the first fret.
Continue moving up one string at a time until you reach the first, or highest string and then return, one string at a time, to the lowest. Repeat this on the first four frets each time with a different finger.
This is a great technical exercise for beginners that may seem too simple for more experienced guitarists at first. If you think it’s too easy, make sure to pay attention to the articulation and connection of each note. Play it slowly and try to make one note fully connect to the next, with no gap in the sound caused by lifting the finger too early.
This is another one of my favorite guitar exercises that I still practice every day. Not only do I currently use it, but I’ve been playing chromatic scales since my first guitar lesson when I was a kid. It can be played in a variety of ways, but let’s start with the simplest.
It can be played on any string, but here I’ll use the second string as an example. We begin on the open note followed by the notes of frets 1, 2, 3, and 4 played with the index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers, respectively. After reaching the highest note, follow the same pattern back down.
It’s simple, uses all the left hand fingers, and it’s easy to memorize: sounds like a useful warm-up to me!
Once you’re comfortable playing this on every string, you can combine the patterns and move from the low E all the way to the G# on the fourth fret of the first string. One hiccup in the pattern happens between the third and second strings.
If you play both the fourth fret, third string, and the open second string (marked with parentheses below), you’ll have two B naturals. The solution is simply to play one or the other. I like to change it up to keep on my toes.
You haven’t had enough chromatic scales, you say? There are plenty more permutations of this same basic pattern.
The next step is to continue beyond the high G# all the way to the 12th fret E on the first string. You can do this in a couple of ways, but my recommendation is to shift up a single string from the first to the 12th fret (three groupings of finger 1, 2, 3 and 4). I like to do six complete scales (low open E to high 12th fret E) each time shifting on a different string.
As with all shifts, pay close attention to your left forearm.
Once you’ve mastered all of these, try playing them in parallel octaves.
If you’ve been trying out the exercises thus far, your left hand could probably use a rest. This exercise is designed to give you better control of the accenting of notes regardless of how they’re struck and what the notes before and after them are doing. The concept is quite simple. You’re going to play a group of 2 to 10 notes with certain ones accented, or played more loudly, and the rest more quietly.
Let’s begin with an easy one. Play a group of two notes, accenting the first and playing the second more softy. Continue repeating this pattern until it is comfortable and can be done without focusing on it.
Next let’s reverse our pattern, accenting the second note of the pair. This may seem like a small change, but remember you’ll be using different muscles to accent this second note. For players using a pick, this will change the accent from happening on a down stroke (the natural accent), to happening on the up stroke.
If playing without a pick, keep your pattern of right hand fingers the same (imim or mimi) so that a different finger is accented.
Additionally, use unusual right hand patterns such as all the same finger, or all down strokes.
These simple ideas can produce a variety of helpful patterns that, if practiced regularly, will give you the flexibility to accent the notes you want regardless of the finger or direction of the stroke forced by the context.
Here are a few more suggested patterns to get you started.
Remember to always make sure that your notes are an even length and that playing the patterns comfortably and accurately is more important than playing them fast and impressively.
What guitar exercises do you play every day? Tell us your practice routine in the comments below!