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  1. #1

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    By the title I mean practicing efficient and economic finger movements and strengthening certain fingers. I don't have a huge problem with this, but I still feel like some fingers, especially the pinky will slow me down when trying to play fast picking licks, this is why I almost always resort legato and a lot of hammering and pulling off, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but for intensity's and dynamic's sake I would like to be able to pick fast as well. I've been able to pinpoint the problem to my pinky and ring finger of the fretting hand, they're weak and I lift them a bit too high from the fretboard. So to get to the point, I'm asking you for specific excercizes for strengthening the fingers, are special gadgets for hand strength any good? How can I tackle the problem of lifting my fingers a bit too high?

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    There's a great book by Denis Sandole, Martino's and Coltrane's teacher, called Guitar Lore that is full of these excercises.

    Also check out a book called Pumping Nylon by Scott Tennant, a classical player, it is full of great excercises that will help strengthen your fingers and get them to stick closer to the board.

    MW

  4. #3

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    Thanks Matt, I'll surely check those out then

  5. #4

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    I ran into this problem with my pinky years ago, because my pinky acted a little spastic, but I have incorporated it enough through the years into my playing that it acts just like all the other fingers now. In fact, when I play a run with a high note on the high E string I start off with my pinky. It's good to involve the pinky into everything you play. It's all about building strength in the muscles of the finger.

  6. #5

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    Try some excercises, BUT don't go crazy spending too much time on them. use them as a warmup. The rule is to keep your fingers in place where possible.

    start with 1234 which is one finger per fret. play 1, then 2, then 3 and then 4 on the first string. Leave your fingers in place until it's time to switch strings. Then do the same on the 2nd, 3rd ,4th ,5th and 6th strings Then move up one fret and go from the 6th string to the 1st.

    There's a bunch more of these in the book that Matt mentions. The idea is to keep your fingers close to the fretboard and keep them in place until you switch strings.

    One that I did specifically for the pinky was 4-3,4-2,4-1 or notewise A-Ab, A-G, A-Gb. Do this across and up the fretboard but again, don't spend too much time on these

  7. #6

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    Thanks for your posts and tips. I'll look into this and try those excercizes out.

  8. #7

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    I practiced finger exercises in college daily and after years of playing have pretty bad carpal tunnel syndrome. Now I can only play for about 30 minutes, (a few times a day).

    There are some masterful books about guitar playing and efficiency by Aaron Shearer whose classical career was cut short by RSI.

    In retrospect I would just play some scales and arps and then practice songs and STOP when you feel hand/wrist fatigue. When I went to school they told us to "play through it"!!!

    Sailor

  9. #8

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    Sailor, that'sa nasty thing the carpal tunnel syndrome, I'm sorry to hear that you've been suffering from it =(. I've been able to avoid injuries so far, I've always been told to stop when I start feeling that fatigue. I also do some simple stretches, sometimes even hand massages and also loosen the wrist by shaking it every now and then to avoid injuries

  10. #9

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    One thing that will help with the pinky is to adopt classical style and keep that thumb under the middle of the neck where it belongs.

    I'm kidding a bit, but it does help I think. I have never been able to use my thumb for making chords, so I've always just used a more-or-less classical fretting hand style with the thumb on the underside of the neck most of the time. I do think that aligns your hand in the most efficient position for fingering.

  11. #10

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    I agree with Goofsus but that was manditory for me since I started out as an electric bassist. To work that bigger scale, you have to keep that classical position. I've got relatively small hand and really had to stretchover that Fender neck. Maybe that's why I look like I'm still playing bass when I solo. Old habits die hard

  12. #11

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    A few exercises I like... first off, to improve your left hand you don't even need a guitar in front of you.

    It was my Birthday recently (I got all kinds of sweaters and "love" from my "family" :P) and despite the crappy turnout I got the best gift I've ever gotten: a green foam stress ball. I took it with me on the bus one day and just squeezed it (focusing on specific muscles, mind you) and during my gig tonight I noticed that my legato technique had improved in leaps and bounds. I had experimented with tennis balls for similar reasons, but I found that for the effort inested you didn't actually get that much exercise. Something with a little less resistance is far more, well, squeezeable.

    However, if what you say is true, it sounds more like flexibility and economy of motion is your main difficulty. In that case, there's another "guitar free" exercise that might be of some benefit. First thing to recognize is that it's probably not your pinky that's your problem, but your ring finger. Sure, the pinky is less mobile, but if you look at the musculature of your hand in an anatomical textbook you'll notice that there's an enormous tendon connecting your ring finger to both your middle and pinky fingers. You don't want to overstretch that (that's the main reason Robert Schumann had to quit playing piano and have his wife do his concerts, hahahaha), but some well measured exercise will do your left hand a world of good.

    What I like to do is place my right hand perpendicular to a flat surface (like a table). For the sake of this practice, your right hand fingers are now height goals- like the pull up bars in gym class. Place your left hand on the tabletop as if it was a fretboard. Anchord every finger. You'll probably find that you can touch the index finger of your right hand with the index, middle, and pinky fingers with little to no difficulty, but the ring finger is just damn hard to lift. To make that difficulty go away, imagine that there is a metronome on a very slow setting, and try to touch the highest point on your right hand every quarter note, then every eighth note, then triplet, sixteenth, etc. If you can't reach the highest point on your right hand at first, try for the individual fingers.

    Disclaimer! I can't overstate enough: don't do this exercise too fast! Or too much! Your body will tell you if it doesn't like what you're doing, and if you get that message it's not in your best interest to continue.

    NOW you can use your guitar. When I talk to my students about finger economy, there are three principal exercises which I find very useful.

    First I have them walk through a Major scale fingering, ascending and descending. Once they've got the hang of it, we do it again with every finger anchored (ie, if you're playing a G Major scale rooted at the third fret of the low E string and start with your middle finger, you can't remove it until you place it on the C at the third fret of the A string. Apply the same idea to every finger at once throughout the scale).

    The next exercise isn't exactly a chops builder, but it does train the fingers to jump to attention when required. Instead of assigning a strumming pattern over a pop progression, I'll have the student strum until a specific beat in the bar, and then prepare for the next chord. Start with a quarter note on the downbeat of each bar, then work up to strumming a quarter note on every note until the 4th beat of the bar... That way they only have until one beat's elapsed for their fingers to be in a ready position. Then try strumming until the and of 4, then a of 4 (four e and a), etc... I know some of that seems pretty basic but try switching between chords with only a sixteenth note worth of time and you'll sweat.

    The last one is my personal favourite. It's a counterpoint exercise I transcribed from the piano teacher next door to me, and I only give it to more advanced students because they tend to have the strength of will to actually practice it... From day one piano students have to practice bass and treble independence, but even though the guitar also reads from both clefs we don't seem to be accountable for it. So I heard my piano teaching neighbour's beginners playing this exercise and thought "enough is enough, we're going to get our counterpoint on." So here it is:
    Code:
    (W/ bass notes always anchored)
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    ---------5---------------6---------------7----------------8--------
    ---4-6-7---7-6-4---5-6-8---8-6-5---6-7-9---9-7-6---7-8-10---10-8-7-
    -7---------------8---------------9---------------10----------------
    ---------7---------------8---------------9----------------10-------
    -5---------------6---------------7---------------8-----------------
    (etc.)
    Then move the idea around... I have some handouts I print out, but after this I have them descend the same figures, add one fret distance between each octave (so the bass notes would go A F B G instead of A E Bb F) and sequence the major scale hopscotching between shapes. This is particularly effective for students interested in chord melody or fingerstyle guitar, because it demands quite a lot of independence to execute the exercises smoothely.

  13. #12

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    My teacher noticed that I also didn't always use the very tip of my pinky when fretting and showed me this wonderful exercise:
    The idea is to play this Fmaj7 inversion with A in the bass, the numbers represent the fingers:
    [CHORD]

    ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-3-|---|---|---|
    ||---|---|---|---|---|-1-|---|---|---|---|---|
    ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-4-|---|---|
    ||---|---|---|---|---|---|-2-|---|---|---|---|
    ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
    ||---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|


    [/CHORD]
    The chord is supposed to be arpeggiated like this (Alternate picking!!):


    --------------8-----------
    --------6-----------6-----
    -----9-----9-----9-----9--
    --7-----------------------
    --------------------------
    --------------------------


    Now arpeggiate the chord first by keeping all your fingers down and letting the notes ring and then try lifting one or more of your fingers off the fretboard and only put it/them back down to play the note. The point is that this voicing requires your pinky's tip to touch the fingerboard correctly and it strengthens your fingers when you lift them off, it's not as easy as it may seem (at least for me that is ). Dunno if any if you are having pinky trouble, but I found this useful for me so I thought I'd just post it

  14. #13

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    The thing to do is to start refingering scales and getting all the fingers involved. I have found that by including the pinky finger you can start getting those wider intervals much easier. It's all a matter of really wanting to think differently.

    Stop thinking about exercises and start actually putting it to use in your improvisations. That's where the true test will be. Anyone can run excercises all day, but incorporating the concepts into what you improvise is a different story.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by frisellfan19
    The thing to do is to start refingering scales and getting all the fingers involved. I have found that by including the pinky finger you can start getting those wider intervals much easier. It's all a matter of really wanting to think differently.

    Stop thinking about exercises and start actually putting it to use in your improvisations. That's where the true test will be. Anyone can run excercises all day, but incorporating the concepts into what you improvise is a different story.
    The thing is that I use my pinky all the time playing scales and improvising, and I mean all the time, the problem is that I'm not paying attention to it all the time. That's just a little excercise that's purely technical and efficient to help me pay attention and to strengthen the fingers efficiently. Ofc I should try to pay attention to my fingers all the time when I play , but I can't fit all that in my head at the same time when I'm improvising or playing a difficult passage. I don't do much exercises at all

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by a22
    The thing is that I use my pinky all the time playing scales and improvising, and I mean all the time, the problem is that I'm not paying attention to it all the time. That's just a little excercise that's purely technical and efficient to help me pay attention and to strengthen the fingers efficiently. Ofc I should try to pay attention to my fingers all the time when I play , but I can't fit all that in my head at the same time when I'm improvising or playing a difficult passage. I don't do much exercises at all

    If you use your pinky enough it will become second nature to use it. This doesn't go for just single-note lines, it goes for chord voicings too. Like this C add9 voicing:

    [chord]

    |E|---|
    |B|--3|
    |G|--5|
    |D|--2|
    |A|---|
    |E|--3|

    [/chord]

    Build the pinky finger's strength by playing voicings like these.
    Last edited by frisellfan19; 11-25-2008 at 03:20 AM.

  17. #16

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    Thanks for the tips, but is there a course that can renew your enthusiasm for music again?

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by kenb6870
    Thanks for the tips, but is there a course that can renew your enthusiasm for music again?
    Wow that's quite a request. My advice is to just drop the guitar and spend a few days in the countryside or somewhere without listening to music and just enjoying silence if you have the opportunity to do this. Can't think of a course, but just listening to people that are new to you and new genres and mixtures is always interesting, there's always music out there that you haven't heard, keep an open mind. Good luck, hope you can regain your enthusiasm

  19. #18

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    Here are some great exercises with PDF:



    (not me in the video)

  20. #19

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    24 permutations of your 4 fingers...start at the first fret...fifth fret the 1st finger again...9th fret the first finger again...thats up the neck...then across the strings from 1 - 6 or 6 - 1...first fret then the second...etc...here are the fingering patterns...

    1234 4123 1243
    4321 3214 3421
    2341 1324 3124
    1432 4231 4213
    3412 2413 1342
    2143 3142 2431
    1423 2134 2314
    3241 4312 4132

    play all quater notes first...then eigths...then sixteenth...then alter them rhythmically...play on note starting on the first string first fret...second string second fret...third string third fret...etc...

    time on the instrument....pierre...

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by kenb6870
    Thanks for the tips, but is there a course that can renew your enthusiasm for music again?
    I normally retire to the golf course for the day. That'll do it for me.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by pierre richard
    24 permutations of your 4 fingers...start at the first fret...fifth fret the 1st finger again...9th fret the first finger again...thats up the neck...then across the strings from 1 - 6 or 6 - 1...first fret then the second...etc...here are the fingering patterns...

    1234 4123 1243
    4321 3214 3421
    2341 1324 3124
    1432 4231 4213
    3412 2413 1342
    2143 3142 2431
    1423 2134 2314
    3241 4312 4132

    play all quater notes first...then eigths...then sixteenth...then alter them rhythmically...play on note starting on the first string first fret...second string second fret...third string third fret...etc...

    time on the instrument....pierre...
    Ah, so I'm not the only person who does those...

  23. #22

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    Play piano. Although the movements are not a like, the hannon excersizes make your 4th and 5th fingers powerful. Extremely powerful. And virtually independant from each other. When you have control of these stupid fingers, they can be useful.

  24. #23

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    violin studies are also great technique builders...

    Violin Online - Music and Instruction for all Ages ...has some good ones..

    take time out the day to play your beloved instrument...pierre

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by sc06yl
    Play piano. Although the movements are not a like, the hannon excersizes make your 4th and 5th fingers powerful. Extremely powerful. And virtually independant from each other. When you have control of these stupid fingers, they can be useful.
    I've been thinking of learning some piano and been trying out some chords and melodies on the piano for a long time. Piano was actually the first instrument I fiddled around with learning simple melodies by ear as a child, the notes on the piano laid out nicely and logically, it's really good for your harmonic knowledge and understanding forms etc. but I never thought about it as improving my guitar technique as well. So I come to the point: thanks for the great tip, I'm gonna play more piano from now on :P

  26. #25

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    After you learn the basics of the piano, buy a book called Hannon: The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 exercises. The first 20 are excellent for creating finger control and endurance.

  27. #26

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    NO


  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    NO

    I seem to remember the nuns in catholic grammer school wore those...

  29. #28

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    There is a player I have been following on YouTube lately (Hristo Vitchev) that has tons of amazing material on his channel and one of the exercises that helped me a lot was something he shows and explains in this video:


    It is fun and really works on coordination and strength.

    Peter.

  30. #29

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    The best exercises are sometimes just playing what you play but with increasing intensity. Minimizing finger movement is more a classical discipline. If you look at great technicians like Pat Martino, his fingers are flying all over the place. On the other hand Frank Gambale's fingers hardly move at all, but a lot of his technique is in his right hand picking. Some jazzers hardly use their pinky, preferring to shift position. Hammering and pull-offs can be very expressive, so while it is a good discipline to be able to pick every note, it isn't necessary and doesn't detract from the sound.

  31. #30
    Someone showed me something they called the Spider for an exercise can someone show us that?