3 Guitar Exercises That Are Way More Effective Than 1-2-3-4
Most guitar players search the internet endlessly for finger exercises that will help them develop speed and dexterity. Inevitably they stumble upon the chromatic scale exercise of picking 4 frets, and using each finger to play a fret. For example, 1st finger, 1st fret, 2nd finger, 2nd fret, etc. Then they continue that same exact drill on the next string up and down the entire fretboard.
In theory this could be an effective exercise because you are using all 4 fingers. However, you are training your fretting hand to get really good at a melodic pattern that you will likely NEVER use in your guitar playing. Guitar players rarely use the chromatic scale on a regular basis in their improvising because they run the risk of sounding boring, stale, and predictable. Mastering the chromatic scale is a life long endeavor, and using it in creative ways takes a lot of practice so that it does not sound predictable. There are other variations that guitar players can use to improve their finger coordination, 2 hand sync, and picking speed.
1. Focus on training your hand to do scale fragments from modes and pentatonic scales. The following variations are the most commonly used fretting hand arrangements that you will use 90 percent of the time. Please note that if you see this symbol (*), it implies to add an additional 1 fret stretch in between the fingers. You can reference the tablature to get a better idea of what frets you will be using
Ex. 1 1-2-4
Ex. 2 1-*2-4
Ex. 3 1-3-4
Ex. 4 1-*3-4
Ex. 5 1-3
Ex. 6 1-4
Ex. 7 1-2-*4
Ex. 8 1-*2
Ex. 9 1-*3-*4
2. Practice with different sub-divisions. Take example 4 from the list above. Here are some variations that you can with just this one permutation.
3. Pick 2-4 left hand variations and switch them in a random order so that your left hand is constantly re-wiring itself for new patterns without predictability. Here are is one example that combines Ex. 1 and Ex. 9 from the first point above.
Many guitarists train their hands to do USELESS tricks and so they do not see results in their playing. Finger exercises are important for technique training, but why would you focus on exercises that have very little transferability to actual lead guitar, Improvising, and songwriting. That is, unless you want to use the chromatic scale in everything you do. If you focus on implementing different left hand permutations into your technique practice, you will start to feel your finger independence improve very shortly, and you will be able to immediately use it in your playing.
Josh Beetler is the owner and head instructor of