Finger Mechanics

Divide and Conquer With Simple Isolation Exercises

  1. Finger Independence
  2. Stretch
  3. Lateral Movement
  4. Longitudinal Movement
  5. Sliding
  6. Bending

The internet is full of sites promising to reveal to you the "secrets" of playing like the pros... or scaring you about making "terrible mistakes". Many tempt you to master the guitar in a matter of days or even hours! If you're even slightly serious about studying the instrument, then you already know that most of these promises and "secrets" are aimed at people who just don't know any better. Understand this and don't ever forget it: No great guitarist ever reached their level of excellence because of a 'secret'.

There is only one guitar "secret"

Well, it's more of a truth; Mere common sense that slick marketing people do not want you to see. Here you go: THERE ARE NO SECRETS. You become a great guitar player through practice and repetition. Period. You need to develop your fingers' ability to do what your mind wants your them to do. That is 90% of guitar playing, in a nutshell. It's a physical activity that can be trained and developed to incredible heights... no matter who you are... or how much experience you have.

Here is something that's not a secret: All the lessons, tricks, scales and chords in the world are worthless to you - until you have developed the coordination and motor skills necessary put them into use. Does that sound overly simple? That's because it really is that simple.

This whole web site is devoted to that precise goal... that 90% - the physical training of your fingers. By following the Finger Workout™ program a little bit every day, you will begin to notice improvement in your playing almost immediately, guaranteed. This is about isolation exercises and over-compensation drills... A systematic and precise program to train and strengthen your fingers to play the guitar, instead of letting the guitar play you. It will empower you to "play outside the box (pattern)" so to speak.

Please note: This program focuses mostly on fret hand technique, control & stamina exclusively, because I believe this type of training gives you the most bang for your buck. Maximum results in minimal time. This program is NOT intended to be a complete guide to guitar playing. It is intended to be a part of your practice routine - but a very valuable part!

In order to organize this program, and help you track and identify your strengths and weaknesses, Fret hand techniques are broken down to six primary mechanics that you will strive to develop, that will gradually set your fret hand free - to OWN that fretboard and be in total control all over the neck. There are over 200 exercises in this program from beginner to advanced. Every single one of them is designed to isolate one (or a combination of) these 6 mechanics...

1) Finger Independence

This is the primary goal that we aspire to in Finger Workout™ - finger independence. There are other mechanics listed below, which focus on more specific movements and skills, but in the end they all still more or less contribute back to finger independence, or "dexterity" if you will. That is why the highest percentage of exercises in Finger Workout™ focus on finger independence, for that is what paves the way for all the rest of our playing, and makes all the other base skills become easier to us as we progress.

2) Stretch

People tend to think of stretching in simple terms of how many frets they span up the neck from a fixed position. That is an over-simplified viewpoint. In reality, stretching (where guitar playing and improvisation is concerned) is a lot more involved than that. Think of it more as "reach"... but not just up. We reach in all directions... up, down and across the neck, with all fingers. You might want to reach down the neck to phrase a difficult chord while retaining hand position. You may want to play a figure that requires you to stretch across the neck and back with any of your four fingers, at any give time. You will develop and improve in all forms of stretching within the Finger Workout™ program.

3) Lateral Movement

These are drills that specifically help you to get across the neck with greater ease, from low to high strings and vice-versa. It's my experience that this is often times the most neglected mechanic for developing players (especially string skipping). Why I don't know, but it just seems to be the case.

In general, the more advanced you are in your stage of development, the more exaggerated and challenging the lateral exercises will become. But don't worry about what stage of development you are at right now... there are great lateral exercises for all skill levels in the database. And working your way up the ladder of difficulty is fun and very rewarding! In fact lateral exercise could lead to the fastest, most obvious, improvements that you feel in your overall soloing. (It did for me at least).

4) Longitudinal Movement

We obviously need to move up and down the neck when we play guitar, especially when it comes to soloing and improvisation. I have dubbed this mechanic "longitudinal movement." (creative, I know) There are actually two goals in the longitudinal movement category. One is simply changing neck position on the fly - moving your hand from the 5th fret to the 14th fret for example, quickly and seamlessly in the middle of a figure. The other side of longitudinal movement is a little more adventurous (and fun!), and that is changing neck position while we play as an integral part of the melody. You could think of it as "walking" the fretboard. You play a figure and the figure leads you to different neck positions as you play it. Both aspects of longitudinal movement are covered in the Finger Workout™ exercise library.

5) Sliding

Sliding is another type of longitudinal movement, It could probably have been lumped into the longitudinal movement category... however developing good accurate fluid sliding techniques is important enough to merit its own category. At least that's how I feel, so here we are. I once read that Steve Vai used to practice just sliding up and down the neck every day with each finger. If you've ever watch him play, note how effortless and integral sliding position changes are to his style.

6) Bending

What can you say about bending? This alone - probably more than any other technique - is what gives the guitar its unique expressive sound. It might be the most emotionally powerful aspect of the instrument. There's not much mystery to it. You push the string and it stretches to raise the pitch. You release and it comes back to normal pitch. It comes naturally to many players. So why work on it here? The focus of bending in this site is not to teach you how to play with "soul" (sorry, nobody can teach you that! That comes from within).

The bending exercises serve 3 purposes.

  1. Ensure that your bends are producing accurate pitches. This is often overlooked. Inaccurate bends can make you sound terrible.
  2. Push you beyond a typical whole step (2 fret) bend... some of the more advanced bend exercises challenge you to bend up 4 or even 5 frets.
  3. Train all the fingers to bend strongly and accurately, not just the usual 3rd and 4th fingers, that typically do most of your bending.

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