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The Finger Gym on Technique

A massive workout for your fretting hand, quite incredible the difference this exercise can make once it's in your practice routine!

In my humble opinion, this is probably the best exercise for technical development on the guitar. It works every possible finger combination and if you do this exercise regularly you will notice that your hand strength will increase at an amazing rate, making everything and anything easier to play. Some of the finger combinations are very difficult to execute at first, but persevere because by practicing these ones your finger independence will increase.

This exercise is just the guitar equivalent of going to the gym - it will improve every aspect of your playing if you do it regularly - just don't go too mad with it at first and hurt yourself!

I recommend doing just 5 minutes a day, maybe 10 if you are really working hard - but really you will be better off doing other exercises as well and not doing too much on this one.

Remember to practice what you can't do, not practice what you can - so work the most on the combinations that you find the hardest!

Video Lesson

The TAB PDF and GuitarPro file

You should start by downloading the pdf file TAB for this so you can see what is going on... here. I've almost finished the GP6 File and will get that up here next week, just some formatting issues I need to iron out.

The Lesson

Lets start with Hammer-on's because they are a little easier. Get to grips with these properly first and then move onto the flick-off's (pull-offs). When you understand the exercise,  and can do both hammer and flicks, you should usually start your routine with flick-offs because they are harder. Note that I call them “flick-off's rather than the more common term “pull-off” because the action that you do is a lot more like a flick than as a pull!

The first combination is 1-2, which means the first and then the second finger. Always work with the one finger in each consecutive fret. Starting on the 1st string, what you do is pick the first note (in this case 1st fret) and hammer down the second finger of the combination (in this case the 2nd finger in the 2nd fret), making sure the note is clear.

Aim to make it as loud as the first note. Hit the finger down hard - like a hammer, hence the name, right :) I sometimes imagine that I am trying to hit my finger into the wood of the neck.

Also make sure that you are using the tip of your finger - not the pad. It will help you develop a positive finger placement and get a clear sound to the note, and a good tone.

After you have done the 1st string do the same combination on the 2nd string, then the 3rd - all the way down to the 6th string and then back to the 1st string. The finger number and the fret number will be the same. Check out the tab - Ex.1 -for an example of this and check out the video.

Once finished go back to the 1st fret and do the next combination, in this case the “2-3” combination (using the 2nd and 3rd fingers). Pick the first note (your 2nd finger in 2nd fret) and hammer down your 3rd finger in the 3rd fret. Continue the exercise as you just did for the first combination, onto the second string, then all the way down and all the back.

Once you have done all the combinations do them all backwards, as flick-offs. Complete beginners should stick to just doing hammer-on's for a few weeks to let their hand adjust well to the new work out.

You will find the Flick-off's harder work but they are not to be neglected, they are just as important as the Hammer-on's, if not more important. It can be very hard to get your finger to flick off hard enough to make the note under it ring out. This will come with practice and with checking that your technique is good. Doing the 4th finger to the third finger is one that everyone struggles with!

Take special care when you go on to the three and four note patterns, it is very important that you keep the notes even (played as triplets).


Important Points To Remember

1. Keep the timing even, this is very important because if you don't you will just be practicing a reflex action and not controlling the muscles. If you have a metronome use it with this exercise - set it no faster than 80bpm.

2. Trying to get the second note as clear as the first is one of the aims of the exercise. To perform very fast passages like those by Joe Satriani or John Scofield require all the notes to have an equal volume, that is part of what makes their playing sound so smooth and clear. That kind of fluid playing is only achieved by practicing this technique to the extreme, putting the hammer-on's down very hard, and really flicking the flick-off's.

3. Try to do this exercise regularly, I got really into it and did and hour a day for a when I was a teenager, I think that was a bit too much these days and wish I had spent more time on other things but I really saw my technique improve during this period. It is partly the regularity that will help your technique improve, like going to the gym is better for your body if you go regularly, and not just try and hit it for hours once a week! Regularity is the key to maintaining your technique.

4. Please be very careful and if you get any pain while doing this exercise (or any other for that matter) then stop and if pain persists then see your doctor. Over practicing can lead to permanent problems like tendonitis that can be a real pain and stop you playing at all for long periods, so please be careful.


The Main Combinations

It is very important that you work on these basic combinations before attempting the more advanced exercises. These are the most important combinations for developing strength and independence, the more advanced combinations increase co-ordination as well, but please work on these a while first for best results.

Obviously number going up MUST be hammer-on's and those going down MUST be flick off's - right ;) ???



The Advanced Combinations

These more advanced combinations help increase your co-ordination and develop skills that you may later use in your legato playing.


Lesson ID: TE-110