Guitar lessons can show you what to do, and even how to do it, but ultimately you’ve got to train your mind and body to actually do it. Unfortunately, there’s not much that we do with our hands in a normal day that provides the same dexterity training that’s required to play a stringed instrument. So we are forced to spend time practicing the finger gymnastics needed to freely express ourselves on the guitar. Time spent in guitar lessons and especially the time spent practicing everything learned in guitar lessons can go a long way to helping achieve that dream of playing whatever music in whatever style that you are hungry to express. What I want to do in this post is look at some holistic approaches to using your body that can help accelerate your develop on your instrument and get you where you want to go a lot quicker, kind of like a musical fast lane.
Guitar Lessons and Tips
One of the most important things to accomplish in the process of playing is to develop a lack of separation between your own physiology and the physical aspect of the guitar. It must feel as though the guitar and specifically the strings are extensions of your fingers. The mindset is feeling as though you and the guitar are one entity and what you think and feel somehow comes out the soundhole or through the amplifier. But most of the day the guitar sits in its case while you’re in school or at work, or out with friends, etc. So is there anything you can do while the guitar is out of your hands to further the training discipline the fingers will need to be a great player?
It is absolutely mandatory to develop complete finger independence in order to effectively play the guitar with any speed. The muscles that individually lift the fingers up and down are critical to accomplish this with any control.
Guitar Lessons and Exercises
If you lay your hands on the table in front of you with your palm down there are some exercises you can do to develop independence even without the guitar in your hands. For these exercises we are going to number the four fingers of the left hand from 1 to 4, beginning with the index finger and finishing with the pinky. We are mostly concerned with the fingers of the hand that will be fretting the guitar, which will be your left hand if you are going to play right-handed or your right hand if you’re planning on playing left-handed. While it can be important to gain independence in the picking fingers if you’ll be playing classical style, finger picking, or playing fingerstyle, it is critical to train the fretting hand.
What I want you to do is arch your fingers like you’re holding a ball, with your palm down, so that your fingertips are touching the table. Then practice raising and lowering pairs of fingers in the following pairs: 1 and 2, 1 and 3, 1 and 4, 2 and 3, 2 and 4, 3 and 4. You will be alternating your fingers, for example, raising finger 1, then lowering finger 1 while you raise finger 2, then lowering finger 2 back to the start. You should be able to do this for thirty seconds to a minute for each finger pair and you can do this multiple times throughout the day. Try to completely minimize the movement of the two fingers that aren’t involved in the moving pair. Begin slowly to master moving the two fingers at the same rate of speed, and once you’ve equalized the movement, you may go as fast as you can.
Start with this exercise, and you will begin training your fingers even when you can’t have a guitar in your hands. Stay tuned in to the blog and follow all the guitar lessons posts and I will add exercises that involve three fingers and eventually all four fingers. Remember, the more you train the fingers, you are training the muscles, nervous system and the mind.
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