Guitar Finger Exercises – 4 Essential Exercises To Power-Up Your Playing

Guitar finger exercises are key to helping our fingers grow and adapt to new challenges.

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • 4 powerful finger exercises
  • 4 challenging chord shapes
  • Tips for better articulation
  • Tips for practice

Guitar Finger Exercises Are Vital To Great Guitar Playing

In order to develop amazing technique and confidence in playing the guitar, good practice routines are necessary.

  • Creating a routine that helps us push our fingers and hands to their limits will help us stay focused on improvement.
  • This type of focus ensures that we are always testing our limits and moving forward with our guitar playing.
  • Our fingers may have limitations, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t push those boundaries as far as possible.

In all things, progress and improvement is important – This is even moreso the case when it comes to playing music. That’s why we put together this list of guitar finger exercises for you.


This list of guitar finger exercises is going to challenge your hands.

For the most part we won’t be focusing on anything melodic (except a few chords), so you won’t need any music theory knowledge to take part in this lesson.

  • The point of this series of exercises is to help you stretch out your fingers and help them become more limber.
  • This allows for a more free sense of playing, as well as more control over what we are playing and how.

You can keep a metronome nearby if you like, but it won’t be immediately necessary to complete the drills in this lesson. These guitar finger exercises do all pair very well with a metronome, however.

Before we dive in, let’s discuss proper practice.


How To Properly Practice Guitar Finger Exercises

As in many of our guitar exercise lessons, speed is not the goal here.

The point of these drills is to help your fingers become more comfortable with larger stretches, holding notes for longer, and holding their positions without shifting.

These guitar finger exercises are meant to help you play with clarity and more control.

Taking your time to master these shapes will help ease your fingers in to the concept of playing faster and with more articulation, so don’t be afraid to take your time.


Pro Tip: In the picking-based exercises outlined further down, take the time to practice alternate picking for additional clarity and smoothness in your playing.

  • Alternate picking is like a gloss over our playing – it helps make it shine.
  • Though there are other styles of picking available to us, we want to stick with this one as much as possible (especially if you’re a beginner guitarist).
  • These guitar finger exercises should be read through slowly, and any technical direction given throughout the lesson should be used to benefit your playing.

Always remember to read before you play – You’ll end up playing with more confidence!


The Benefit To Consistent Exercise & Practice

Consistency breeds good habits.

It takes approximately 66 days for something to become habitual, so it’s important to create a practice routine that you can stick to.

  • It doesn’t have to be too intensive, but it does have to be effective enough to help you progress.
  • If you are only managing three hours a week for practice, make sure that time is dedicated to things that will push your skill forward (like these guitar finger exercises).

Pick a song to focus on for each session, and warm up with a routine that you enjoy.

We hope you’ll find a few effective exercises for your warm-up in this lesson.


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Think of your practice routine like weight-lifting.

You should only ever set goals that are reasonable for yourself when weight lifting, and the exact same can be said of guitar playing.

Pro Tip: As you progress through these guitar finger exercises, you will find where your fingers’ limits lie.

  • This is a great teaching point, as it can show us what we need to work on in order to improve.
  • Have you hit a wall in your practice routine? Got a line of music you can’t play or a tempo you can’t keep time with?
  • Hash it out through consistent and repeated practice, and you’ll have it down before you know it.


These Exercises Get Harder As You Speed Them Up

We’ve already established that speed is not the goal, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t improve upon how quickly we play something.

So long as we focus on how we articulate the notes that we are playing, speed can be a practice point that will enhance our playing.

If you want to practice these guitar finger exercises to a metronome, start out with a slow tempo and work your way up in small increments rather than huge jumps in speed.

Remember that jumping up in tempo too quickly can result in strains on the hands and wrists. Nobody wants that!


Pro Tip: A good rule-of-thumb for guitar finger exercises in general is to increase by 10bpm and test for comfort level.

  • If this proves to be too fast for you, reduce the speed by 5bpm and work your way up from there!
  • Never play past your comfort level – it won’t feel good to play, and you won’t get any effective progress from it.
  • On top of that, you risk injury.

Always aim to master your immediate comfort level first, then push the limits of that comfort level next.

  • This ensures that our hands, fingers, wrists and forearms all have time to grow, adapt and adjust to new challenges.
  • Now that we’ve got our housekeeping out of the way, let’s look at some effective guitar finger exercises!


Guitar Finger Exercises I – 1 – 3 – 2 – 4

This drill is a bit of a tongue-twister when we first start playing it, but it really helps us focus on building finger independence – a crucial skill for guitarists at any level.

Start out by aligning your fingers four-in-a-row from the first fret to the fourth on the low E string.

They should look like this:

1st fret: Index

2nd fret: Middle

3rd fret: Ring

4th fret: Pinky

These types of guitar finger exercises may remind you of the chromatic scale, and you wouldn’t be wrong.

This is a variation on that scale that helps each finger learn to think and operate for itself.

Start with your index finger and follow the tab accordingly.

Check out the tab below:


We’re going to play a descending version of this same shape.

After all, what goes up must come down.

This time, we’re going to begin with our pinky finger and play backwards.

  • This is more challenging than it looks, so make sure to take your time.
  • If you’re feeling some strain in the fingers, take some time to stretch.
  • Don’t strain your hands!

Pro Tip: Alternate picking works in both of these examples, both beginning on a downstroke. Be mindful of the direction your pick moves in and try to start on a downstroke whenever possible in these guitar finger exercises. Momentum helps move things along smoothly!


Guitar Finger Exercises II – Awkward Finger Stretches

This next drill is weird, and we have to give a shout-out to the one and only John Petrucci (Dream Theater) for it.

Check out his infamous and world-renowned ‘Rock Discipline’ DVD here, and purchase the transcriptions here.

The first of these guitar finger exercises is a variation on the exercises in that DVD, and if you can make it to the end of the DVD well, we salute you.

  • John Petrucci pulls no punches when it comes to technique, so pay attention to this one.
  • We are going to begin with one finger per-string-per-fret from the low E string (1st fret) to the G string (4th fret).
  • Pay attention to the chords that we are playing in this example, and how your fingers move.


Pro Tip: You will notice that a pattern emerges of switching the positions of your outside two fingers first, followed by the inside two.

  • This helps our fingers become more independent of one another by forcing them to overcome awkward movements.
  • These guitar finger exercises can be performed all over the fretboard, and do a wonderful world of good for finger independence.
  • Finger independence is a vital skill to develop, as it helps us get more creative with our guitar playing.

Try playing this drill all over the fretboard and in different four-string groupings. You will notice that in every position and in every string grouping, these guitar finger exercises will feel slightly different.


Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

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Guitar Finger Exercises III – Five-Fret Stretch With The Index & Pinky

Okay so forewarning – This one might ruin your day a little bit to start with.

However, with a little bit of practice you’ll be able to reach new distances on the fretboard with your index and pinky fingers.

Being able to lengthen our reach on the fretboard is important, but it should be done slowly.

  • When we first begin playing guitar, stretching even three frets may seem difficult.
  • This drill focuses on your outside two fingers and the amount of ground they can cover from one point to the other.
  • The further we are able to reach, the more new possibilities that lie at our fingertips.

Try this out:


Pro Tip: Over-stretching is something we should avoid. Don’t try to stretch across seven frets.

Even if it sounds cool, just don’t do it.

Hyper-extending our fingers can be painful, and it’s always a good rule of thumb to remember that you can find the same notes in different positions.

Check out this article for some common guitar-related injuries you could see if you’re not careful.


These guitar finger exercises are intended to be only finger exercises – not actual techniques or melodic passages.

  • Work your way up to playing this stretch, and don’t force your way into it right away.
  • Patience is a virtue, and practice makes perfect.
  • Take your time and let your fingers adjust as you progress.

Here’s the same drill from above, reversed:

Guitar Finger Exercises IV – Tackling Complex Chord Shapes

The last drill we’re going to run through contains a series of chords that will challenge your fingers to hold position.

These are fantastic chords to keep in your toolkit for songwriting purposes once you’ve mastered them.

Each one of the chords in these guitar finger exercises is a challenge to play, but the payout of these lush and beautiful chords is well worth the effort.

Our chords for this lesson are:

Minor 9


Sus4 Barre Chord

Minor add9

Pro Tips For These Chords:

Minor 9: You can root this chord with your middle finger to leave your index free for the D string. Use your ring and pinky fingers to take care of the G & B strings.

Major 9: This chord is a stretch, but it’s worth it. You can lead with your pinky finger, using your index finger to barre the other ascending strings.

Barring can be difficult at first, but it’s worth the struggle for the types of chords you’re going to be able to play.

We’ve illustrated the chord above for these guitar finger exercises in the key of G, but you can play them in whichever key you prefer! Take a look at the fretboard below for reference:

Sus4 Barre Chord: This one requires you to barre with your index finger (as the name implies) and use your ring and pinky fingers to play the extra two notes. It’s a pretty straightforward shape, but it’s the barre that will challenge your hand strength.

Minor add9: This chord takes a lot of getting used to, much like the Major7add9 chord.

  • The stretch comes in the pinky finger on the G string combined with the positioning of the middle finger on the B string.
  • This one is tough to wrap your hand around initially, so make sure you take your time and pace yourself.
  • These last four guitar finger exercises are not for the faint of heart!

Check out the tabs for these chords below:

Where Do I Go From Here?

Did you love these guitar finger exercises? Got you feeling limber and ready to shred?
Good! We recommend these next steps:

  • Practice these exercises to a metronome to turn them into timing exercises
  • Practice at varying speeds to stretch your fingers to their limit
  • Try and experiment with these guitar finger exercises to make new routines out of them
  • Take it slow!
  • Review these exercises with your guitar teacher

Recommended Resources

If you loved this free guide to guitar finger exercises, you’re going to love the goldmine of free guitar content that we’ve got available for you below:

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