How to Strengthen Your Fretting Hand

good technique allows effortless channeling of music through the instrument.

Developing a solid technique is often a perplexing issue for guitarists of all levels and experience. Jazz and acoustic guitarists typically do not have the same pedagogical resources as classical guitarists, and “good technique” can mean a variety of different things. Assuming that technique should always be at the service of the music, we’re going to adopt a broad definition: good technique allows effortless channeling of music through the instrument.

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FJGE_Synchro_fretting_ex1_2In fingerstyle guitar music, the fretting hand is responsible for more than just finding the right notes—it also plays a major role in creating a dynamic feel in the rhythm and articulation of a song. In this section, we’ll look at a series of exercises to help develop coordination and independence in the fingers of the fretting hand.

Example 1 shows a common chromatic exercise many guitarists use as a warm-up. In this case, pick only the first note on each string and then slur the other notes using a combination of hammer-ons and pull-offs. Work through this exercise very slowly and focus on making each note sound clear and even. Example 2 is a variation on this, but with a more challenging finger combination: 1–3–2–4 ascending and 4–2–3–1 descending. This one will get your fingers thinking independently!

Sean McGowan
Sean McGowan

Sean McGowan's work focuses on jazz, fingerstyle, composition, and injury prevention for musicians. He is a professor of music at the University of Colorado Denver and has authored several instructional books.

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