The classical guitar repertoire covers more scales and arpeggios than any other technical skill. Therefore, I consider it important for you, as a classical guitar player or student, to focus on these following exercises.
They’re based on scales and arpeggios for the purpose of developing an agile and solid technique for the left-hand. It’s best to tackle these after you’ve established the basics for both hands.
Here are the five exercises for classical guitar that I consider most important for your left-hand technique.
1) Chromatic scales on all strings (descending & ascending)
Chromatic scales are very common on the guitar. Take a look at this example of one:
You should play the chromatic scale starting on the open sixth string, then finger 1 on the first fret, finger 2 on the second fret, and so on. Repeat this pattern horizontally, descending and ascending, on all of the strings.
Take care not to repeat the “B” on the third string (fourth fret) when you make the move from the third to the second string, or skip the “B” on the third string (finger 4, fourth fret) and play the “B” as an open second string.
2) Variation on the chromatic scales (descending & ascending)
This variation has the following repetitive pattern using fingers:
1, 2, 3, 4 – 1, 4, 3, 4 – 2, 4, 3, 4 (on all the strings)
3) Diminished arpeggios using fingers 1 and 4 (chromatic/descending & ascending)
In this exercise you just use finger 1 and 4 on each string, starting from string 6 moving down to the next string, and every time taking the following fret of the next string but make sure to jump a fret when moving from string 3 to 2.
Play this exercise also descending and ascending:
4) Variation on the diminished arpeggios using fingers 1, 2, and 4 (chromatic/descending & ascending)
In this exercise, you start on string 4 with finger 1 on the first fret, and then move finger 4 to the fourth fret on the fourth string, then move down to the next string (string 3) on the second fret with the second finger.
Repeat this same continuous pattern starting from string 2 (first fret & fourth fret) to string 1 (second fret). Then make a descending chromatic move with finger 2 to the third fret.
Fret string 1 and resume with the same pattern but in reverse, until you reach string 4 again (now finger 1 should be on the second fret of string 4).
You always repeat this same finger pattern 1, 4, 2 – 1, 4, 2 – 2, 4, 1 – 2, 4, 1 in a chromatic/descending & ascending order.
5) Exercise using string 2 and 5 (chromatic/descending & ascending)
This exercise does not imply any specific harmonic characteristics but nevertheless is interesting to the ear and valuable to finger-motor coordination.
Start the exercise using finger 3 on string 5, third fret, and finger 1 on string 2, first fret.
Play them simultaneously, then place finger 2 on string 5, second fret, and finger 4 on string 2, fourth fret – play them simultaneously.
Now play simultaneously finger 1 on string 5, first fret, and finger 3 on third fret, then play simultaneously finger 4 on string 5, fourth fret, and finger 2 on string 2, 2nd fret.
Finally, go to when you started the exercise using finger 3 on string 5, third fret, and finger 1 on string 2, first fret, playing them simultaneously again.
Repeat this pattern chromatically descending and ascending.
Although I kept the examples short, you could repeat the sequence of each exercise until you reach the 12th fret or any uncomfortable position on the fret-board.
Obviously, there are other valuable left-hand exercises, as the “horizontal” chromatic scale from fret 1 to 12 descending and ascending on each string, the diatonic scale, the pentatonic scale, just to mention a few. These exercises are not discussed in this article, but you can still rely on the five we have shared, which will definitely do the difference.
Photo by Jason Bachman