Fret-Hand Fitness: Four Wicked Workouts to Develop Your Digits

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Are you one of countless guitar players obsessed with developing strong fingers? Looking for a few exercises to help put some snap in your hammer-ons and pull-offs? May you just want to clean up your fret-hand’s overall execution

In this lesson, we’ll work toward all of the above with four fun-filled exercises, three of which features notes articulated using only your fret-hand fingers.

Though it’s tempting to strive for speed, strive instead for clarity. The slower you play these, the longer your fingers will be engaged in pressing down on the strings, resulting in a greater workout. Also, be sure to try these exercises in all areas of the neck, as your hand muscles work a bit differently depending on the amount of stretch needed between the fingers.

FIGURE 1
The first exercise drills the dreaded ring-pinkie finger combination in a repeating hammer-on/pull-off pattern.

Notice that the first note on each string is hammered on “from nowhere.” With your fret hand anchored in 5th position, slam the tip of your pinkie down on the neck (like a hammer) at the 8th fret, with the momentum coming from your pinkie’s first knuckle. This action will help set up the flurry of pull-offs and hammer-ons that follow.

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FIGURE 2
This passage focuses purely on the physical. Feel free to let your fingers do the walking while you’re watching TV or talking on the phone.

In this exercise, after the pinkie hammers the first note on the 6th string, an A note pedal is used in conjunction with hammer-ons and pull-offs. By the time you’re done, all four fingers will have taken part in the legato action.

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FIGURE 3
This exercise is based on a common 1-2-3-4 fingering pattern, only this four-note motif is dispersed evenly between two strings and played using hammer-ons exclusively. Try this one on an acoustic guitar to develop strength and on distorted electric guitar to work on clean articulation.

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FIGURE 4
This final figure addresses finger rolling and muting, two often-overlooked aspects of fretting technique.

In this exercise, you’ll use a single finger to fret four different notes across adjacent strings. The rolling action first occurs when your index finger, while fretting the A note (5th fret, 6th string), “rolls” onto the higher adjacent string to fret the D note (5th fret, 5th string). The muting occurs by simply releasing the pressure on the A note, thus ceasing its ring the instant the D note is picked.

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