8 Guitar Exercises for Speed and Dexterity (w/ TABS)
Learning song after song is a great way to get better at the guitar. However, if you are struggling or just want to improve quicker, it is also a really good idea to add in some other forms of practicing. A great way to do this is by learning some exercises that challenge your fingers. Now, there are literally thousands of different exercises out there, so this list is more of just a starting point. You will have to find the exercises that work best for you and yield the most progress. Hopefully, you will take a few of these off this list and employ them in your daily practice.
This first exercise is really nice for improving the dexterity of all your fingers at an even rate. Start by playing fret 1 on the low E with your pointer. Next, play 2, 3, and 4, following each fret with the next finger (so middle, ring and fret 4 is with the pinky). Continue with the same frets and fingerings up each string until the high E. Once you have played the 4th fret high E with your pinky, slide it up to the fifth fret and do everything backward. Repeat this process, moving up a fret at the end of each E string. This will get each of your fingers used to playing up and down the fretboard.
In this exercise, we have a triplet run that takes place right in the G minor pentatonic scale. This is great for getting both your speed and picking to improve. The main thing here is to make sure (like with most of these exercises) that you are alternate picking everything. Also, it may be a little to hit some of the backtracking notes that are written. But if you struggle with this you’ll really want to work on it because this type of phrasing in rock and blues music is quite common.
Here we have another triplet phrase, but this time the focus is on getting used to skipping strings. This is something some players struggle with immensely because they are so used to playing all the notes in a scale. But skipping notes especially in different octaves can really start to make you stand out as a guitar player. With this exercise, for the first, second, and third triplets play pointer, middle, pinky. For the third triplet play pointer, ring, pinky to accommodate for the semitone at the end.
This one is arpeggiating a series of nine chords and sliding to the ninth of the next one before transitioning. Sound confusing? Well, it’s really not, you just have to do it a couple of times and you will see. The real problem for most people with this is going to be getting the stretch down. This one should be played pointer finger, ring finger, pinky, and then for the last note slide up with the pinky. If you repeat this fingering every four notes you will continue to set yourself up for the next chord.
If you are struggling to make jumps of more than 3 frets, this one's for you. This triplet mess is perfect for getting used to traveling 4 frets and adding some notes in between. I recommend playing pinky, pointer, ring for the triplets that end with a whole step, and for the others try using your pinky on the last note as well. It may take you a while to get this one down just picking, but once you do, try making this into a hammer on pull off riff.
For those in need of a little work on the picking side of things, this exercise should challenge you. You will see that all you are doing is picking up and down a C Major barre chord. The task at hand is easy enough, but the hard part is when you do as the tab does and alternate pick every other string. As far as fingering goes, it does not matter as much for this one. You can practice some muting by simply barring the whole chord and muting each note shortly after it’s played. Or if you want to keep things simple, play this more like a traditional scale (this will be a requirement for higher tempos). The point of this one is to better your picking hand.
Here we have a workout that gets every finger involved. This one is somewhat similar to exercise 1 but it incorporates more frequent string changes. Start this one by using the pointer, middle, ring then pinky, and then you want to do ring, middle, and pointer twice for the second set of four notes. The little nuance that you’ll have to deal with here is the slide of the pointer in the first measure and the same with the pinky in the second measure. If this all sounds a little puzzling, just give it a try, this tab makes more sense in practice.
This final exercise is basically going up and down some major 7 chord voicings across the neck. This is great for getting your fingers and brain used to going up and down strings, fret to fret. This kind of arpeggiation is common in jazz music and you can actually find it all over in general. This will also get you used to playing the same chord shapes in different directions. There are a lot of ways this exercise can be expanded upon by doing things like doubling every note (16ths), playing it backward, or even practicing skipping every other note. But before trying any of these, make sure you have the initial tab down.