You don’t have to be an expert guitarist to understand the importance of fine-tuning your fretting. It helps you find the right notes, produce a cleaner sound, and overall lends an air of liveliness to the rhythm of any song. Of course, this is all dependent on whether you are able to fret properly.
Even talented and experienced guitarists may have to contend with several issues when it comes to fretting. Now, some of them are anticipated, like hand and muscle fatigue – these are relatively common when choosing to play the guitar. Others, however, can dampen your music quality since you aren’t able to get the clarity that you would like.
Well, the key to improving and strengthening your fretting hand is to carry out fret hand exercises and workouts that will make it easier for you to play. This article goes through some of the various exercises that you can try out.
An Actual Warm-up
When musicians think of warm-ups, they think of playing guitar scales and warming up their hands and fingers to play particular sections of music. While this is certainly important, you shouldn’t underestimate the benefits of warming up your hands in the more traditional sense of the word as well.
See, what you need to keep in mind is that musicians have a high rate of developing several musculoskeletal disorders. One way of lowering this risk is to do some exercises that will increase the blood flow to the muscles in your hands.
This includes performing both large and small movements in your fretting hand. So work the muscles from your shoulder to your elbow. Then, move on to the smaller joints that can be found in your wrist and your fingers. This will make the muscles and joints more pliable when you start to play for longer.
Practice Reducing Tension in Fretting Hand
Do you find yourself becoming fatigued when you play for long periods of time? This fatigue may be especially noticeable in your fretting hand. While it may seem that a lack of strength in your hand is to blame, it actually isn’t always the case.
Rather, it can be because you are placing too much tension on your hands and fingers as you are playing. This is what causes your hand to tire out.
There is a solution but it will take time as it is a practice that you have to become familiar with. Thus, when playing, instead of simply adding strength to your fingers so that you can press down harder, try to be more efficient. Press down in a way that produces enough sound but doesn’t require to use too much brute force.
Fret Hand Exercises
It is time to move on to the fret hand exercises. Let’s get started:
1. Speed Drills – Trilling Exercise
The reason that speed drills are so effective is that they have a number of advantages for guitarists. In addition to improving your dexterity and coordination, speed drills are also excellent for building up your strength.
To get started, you can give this one a try:
- Place your fretting hand in the 5th position and pick the high E. You will need to do this only one time. You should note that after this stage, each step should be continued for a whole minute. So, the entire exercise should take about six minutes.
- With your hand still at the 5th position, you should continually hammer-on and pull-off with your middle finger as you trill between the 5th and 6th frets.
- It is now time to switch it up to trilling between fingers 1 and 3 at the 5th and 7th frets.
- You will then move to trilling between 1st and 4th fingers at the 5th and 8th frets.
- Now the trilling takes place between the 2nd and 3rd fingers at the 6th and 7th frets.
- Then the trilling will be between the 2nd and 4th fingers at the 6th and 8th frets.
- Finally, you will need to trill between the 3rd and 4th fingers at the 7th and 8th frets.
Shake out your hands and then try it with the other five strings, making sure to take a break between each string.
2. Improve Finger Independence – The Spider Exercise
Both novice and intermediate guitarists will often complain of difficulty in maintaining finger independence. Now, this is hardly surprising considering that you are biologically programmed for your fingers to move in a certain way. Of course, if you are trying to play a particularly fast solo for example, this tends to hinder your playing ability.
See, the ulnar nerve is a nerve that is responsible for the movement of your fingers. However, this nerve branches off in two different directions at the wrist. One of them, the deep ulnar nerve, is responsible for the action of the index and middle fingers. The superficial ulnar nerve, on the other hand, works the ring and pinky fingers.
Since you tend to use your index and middle fingers most often, you are more likely to encounter issues with your third and fourth fingers (the ring and pinkie). So, why is all of this information important? Well, it is this biological design that causes your fingers to follow one another when you are trying to fret.
One of the ways you can correct the situation is by playing pieces as slowly as possible. This will help you to detect your lack of independence as you are playing, allowing you to address it right away. At the same time, there are fret hand exercises that can help you develop finger independence faster. Undoubtedly, the most popular one is known as ‘The Spider’. Here is what you need to know:
- Put your index finger on the first fret of the low E string. Play this note.
- Without removing your index finger, place your middle finger on the second fret of the low E string. Play this note.
- Keeping both fingers in place, add your ring finger to the third fret of the low E string. Play this note.
- With all three fingers in the same position, place your pinky finger on the fourth fret of the low E string. Place this note.
- Move down to the string below and continue the steps above.
- You should do this until you reach the high E string.
It should be noted that this is the most basic of all of The Spider exercises. Once you have mastered this, there are more advanced workouts that you can follow to truly up your game.
Stretching Exercises for Your Hands
Much like how you warm up your hands before playing, you should take a moment to stretch out your hands while playing, perhaps every 20 minutes. It can also be helpful to stretch your fingers once you are finished with your set. This will keep all the muscles and joints loose and prevent them from cramping up.
These workouts are actually fairly simple. First, stretch out each finger as though you are counting to ten. Then, stretch them back as long as it is still comfortable for each finger. You should hold this position for a couple of seconds each time. Last but not least, spread out your fingers wide, like a star, and then come back to your original position.
Don’t forget to stretch out your wrists as well as this is important for maintaining proper fretting positions. Simply roll your wrists in a clockwise and then counterclockwise motion a few times.
Fret hand exercises like the ones mentioned in this article are an effective way to strengthen and improve speed on the guitar.
That being said, you don’t need to specifically do the exercises mentioned in this article to build strength and speed. Simply practicing a solo, running through scales, or fretting barre chords will all contribute to building your hand strength.
Although fret hand exercises are beneficial, they should not be used as a replacement for regular practice. With dedication and practice, you’ll be able to play faster and more accurately than ever before.