Guitar Exercises for Independent Fingers

Developing finger independence on the guitar improves your technical and musical facility. The ability to quickly play anything and not have to worry about your lack of coordination getting in the way opens up new doors and avenues for musical development. Guitar players must be able to move their fingers quickly while maintaining a high level of finger independence. Often, the pinky is the worst offender when it comes to finger independence. Finger exercises will greatly improve your control.

Finger Raise

Place your playing hand on the guitar neck with your fingers lying flat against the strings. Increase your finger independence by keeping all of your fingers straight and moving one finger at a time without moving your other fingers. Start with your index finger and then use the middle, ring, and finally pinky. Complete each exercise a total of five times with five finger raises per finger. When done regularly, this exercise takes five minutes.

Major Scales

While not the most enjoyable way to improve finger independence, practicing your major and minor scales will increase your independence. When playing the scales, start slowly and concentrate on moving only the finger required to play each note. Set the metronome to 60 beats per minute, playing one note per click. Continue to play this exercise with all major and minor scales. If you do not know your major or minor scales, use a guitar fingering chart to determine the notes.

Bottle Caps

Use an old bottle cap from a glass bottle. Clean it off with soap and water to make it sterile. Place the bottle cap sideways between your index finger and middle finger on the hand that you use to play the frets on the guitar. Most guitarists will want to use this technique with the left hand, but you should use the right hand as well to develop finger independence in both hands. Rotate the bottle cap between your fingers, rolling it over your middle finger, then lifting your middle finger up to allow it to roll over your ring finger. When you have completed a full set, reverse the motion.

Finger Stretching

The final exercise is based on John Petrucci’s video “Rock Discipline.” To complete the exercise, you can start on any pitch and any position. Place all four fingers on the fretboard a fifth apart from each other. Using 16th notes, play the pitches as quickly as you can. Start at the top of the fretboard where the positions are closer together and move down to increase the distance between pitches as you gain competence. This will stretch your fingers and teach your fingers to develop independence.


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