How do you keep your fingers in shape, especially during those times you may not play that much? Playing daily is the best thing you can do to keep your fingers (and mind) in good shape, but there may be times you will not have much time to play or the things you play are very different from what you used to play.
For this article a handful of tips of things you can do to keep yourself on top of your game.
Let us start off with the most obvious, your fretting hand, here some simple ideas of what you can do to keep all those fingers working independantly.
Fretting Hand Ideas:
The aim is to be able to use the fingers of your fretting hand in any way you want. They will be ready for whatever you want them to play. You can work on any set of fingers, the most obvious one is four fingers in a row. You can play any note anywhere on the fretboard and just go up four notes in a row. Once you have completed your four notes, move along with the next set of four notes and carry on until you have covered the whole fretboard. You can play this idea on one string or play it on several strings. This excercise is not only good for your fingers, it gives your wrist a good work out as well: higher postions will ask for a different wrist position.
Do this excercise for a short time, also good one for warming up.
Next, play single string skipping ideas, good for coordination fingers and hand and wrist. You can design your own ideas, just think that you need to skip strings regularly. String skipping is the one thing which asks a lot of concentration and coordination. Most beginners will find it hard in the beginning as they will stumble over the notes as they move up to the next set of strings.
Instead of making your own stringskipping excercises you can also look at some riffs or solos which use string skipping. The intro of Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” is a great example of some fine string skipping. You will find the tap for it somewhere on this blog.
Because your fretting hand does not only play single strings you can also try some chordshapes: You can go for chordshapes you do not know, get one chordshape and move this shape along up the fretboard. It is a good idea to hear the tonality of the chord change: You move same chordshape along fretboard but the tone of the chord will change according to the fretposition where you play the chord.
Instead of working with one chord why not take a handful of chords, create a sequence of chords which sound good together. You could create your own chordsequence or take part of a chordsequence from a song you like. Play the chords with various strums and also try to pick the chords, either using fingers or a plectrum. Try to vary the tempo, remember you are not really playing a song just do some work-out for your fingers, so push yourself, try strumming as fast as you can until you have reached your limit and the chords will no longer sound good. This idea is also good feedback to find out where your are with your technique at the moment.
Let us now have a look at some ideas which will improve the technique of your strumming or picking hand
What I mentioned before about independance of your fingers of fretting hand applies also to your picking hand, especially if you use fingerstyle: Make sure you can use all your main picking fingers. Not many guitar players use their pink during fingerpicking, I will leave it up to you if you want to devote extra time to that one.
An easy, straightforward picking pattern is to pick the strings one by one in a row, do this with a set of chords, just play your strings from low to high, and play it then backwards. If you are playing this idea using fingers why not try it now with a plectrum. Use same pattern but now using a plectrum.
What I mentioned before about stringskipping applies also to your picking hand: String skipping is a great workout for both fretting-and picking hand, check out some more ideas to get you going.
Most of the fretting hand ideas I mentioned before can be played straightforward with down and up picking, but why not use any hammer-ons and pull-offs, again they may need some extra practise to get them smooth in your system.
Bends: Because you do not want to be one of those guitarplayers who will say “Aouch” after each bend, especially those ones in the lower regions of the fretboard, make sure you stay on top of your bends: Bend all over the fretboard, use double and single bends and make sure you can do them on any of your high E, B and G string. Bending on the D string? Depending on your taste, the wound strings do not ring as long as the plain strings and bends sound different, but it will all depend on what you need, bend on the D as well as the tension is higher and will help strenthen your fingers.
If you have never used any string bending do not go over the top as string bending will rip the skin of your fingers if your fingers are not use to it! To keep you fingers used to stringbending, play bends regularly to keep the hard skin of your fingers in tact.
Most of the above ideas will give you good feedback on the shape of your fingers, make sure you use the right guitar technique, it will make you think about guitar heroes in a different way. There is not magic about playing guitar well: You need to play and play and play and love what you are doing.
Playing at amazing speed? Again no mystery, it is all about coordination of your hands and fingers and musical ideas and some ideas will lend themselve to be played at blazing speed, use it a variety instead of geting hooked up on becoming a speed monster.
Hope to see you soon again,