The Importance of Finger Exercises

In the beginnning when you start with the guitar you’ll find that your fingers will not work yet in the way you would like them to work: When you play some open chords, certain strings will not ring out because you mute the strings with your fingers, the barring of some chords (small F in particular) will be awkward, because your fingers may not let you do what you would like them to do. All logical matters as playing the guitar requires certain muscles, in your fingers and wirst, to work you may not use that often on a dialy basis.
Most people will feel you just need to get on with things and you will get better along the way. True, but there are also certain fingerexcersises you can use to help those fingers and wrists to loosen up.
Fingerexcersises are there to give you a better start in the beginning, there are those who will use fingerexercises for the rest of their lives. The next couple of articles will be devoted to certain excersises and why these excecises are useful in the first place.

Steve Vai used to play finger excercises as part of his daily practise routine: He would use linear (up the fretboard) and angular (across the fretboard) excersises in all kind of manners. He would play those with single, double and triple picking using stringskipping and  two-handed-tapping.
The point is: Those excersises are not just there to loosen up your fingers, they form the inspiration of solos and composistional ideas. You can make them as wild and free as you want. Once you realise this you will enjoy what those excersises will give you as it will become part of your natural music making process.
I think guitarplayers who are into metal and shredding will realise this very soon, but if you are not into any of those guitarstyles you can still learn (and enjoy) a lot of ideas you can generate out of playing fingerexecersis.

There is the danger that you will just play excersises and scales, particularly in the beginning, when you can not yet see how you can use some of those ideas in a musical context. Steve Vai used to say about this topic: ” It is important not to sound like a machine” He would overcome this problem by looking at the guitar as an instrument which can play notes dynamically with the texture of light and shade: The guitar carries a lot of different colours and they can all be brought out by how you play those strings. Yes, guitareffects can help you along the way, but your hands are still the best tool for this. Patience and discipline is what is needed to let your hands do what you would like them to do.

When you start playing some excersises I try to make students aware of what lies underneath the excesise: often there is a particual pattern which is repeated at some point. Once you understand this pattern you can change it to turn it into a riff or melodic idea. You can play certain ideas at lightning speed, and then break up the pattern by putting another phrase in the between the repeated ideas. Try to break down each pattern, it will learn you to see the rythm of the pattern which is useful for phrasing.

In the next few blogs I will give you some simple ideas, just as taster, things for you to experiment with to set you on the path to achieve better technique.

Hope to see you soon  next time