Guitar Exercises Beginner … Finger Strengthening and picking development

In Guitar Exercises Beginner we are going to get your fret hand fingers strengthened, exercise your picking hand (for individual strings). We will not be working on chords in this lesson, however, if you are looking for Chord Exercises click here.

After you are done with this lesson, you should be able to do these exercises along with a metronome (If you don’t have a metronome, I suggest you buy one as it will help in your development in timing. There are free online metronomes, even smart phones now days have free metronome apps so there is no excuse for not having and practicing with one as this will only benefit you).

NOTE : This first section is going to be lengthy as I describe in detail my method. Once we get past this initial phase, you should understand how my system and approach goes, where I will be able to be less descriptive so you can get to working on your development with my exercises faster.

Set your metronome at a slow speed (between 50-60 bpm) and using quarter notes (one note per click count 1 2 3 4, one number per click (this is one bar in 4/4 time) at the same time you strike the string. Count 1 2 3 4 again, over and over to the click of the metronome as you strike the string. Once you can do an exercise accurately with no mistakes at a slow speed, increase the tempo (5-10 bpm). If it’s so fast that your notes are sloppy and you can’t keep up set it lower.

Single individual finger exercise 1

EX. 1 all notes to be played by same finger

For our first exercise we are going to be strengthening each finger individually… Place your fingers as close to the strings as possible without touching them so you are not muting/muffling them. Position your hand so that each finger is over a fret starting with fret 1-4. Even though we are only going to be using one finger up and down the neck, still have your hand positioned one fret per finger as that is how your hand will pretty much always be when you solo.

Strike the top string open with a down stroke and then press down on the 1st fret with your first (index) finger and strike the string with an upstroke (upward motion). Now shift your hand up to the next position, spanning your fingers over frets 2-5. Strike the open string with a down stroke and then push down on the 2nd fret with your first finger and hit it with an upstroke. Keep shifting your hand up one position and continue just using your first finger to press each fret all the way up to the very last fret of your top string of your guitar.

Now with your hand up in the highest fret position jump down to the 5 string and work your way back down to the first position, alternating between open strings and frets using just your index finger while alternating your pick stroke down and up with your pick hand. Now jump down a string and do the same thing up the neck to the highest fret, jump down a string and work your way back down again.

After you get down to the bottom string stay at the bottom string and work your way back up to the highest string using same index finger for all the frets. Once you get to the highest fret, jump up to the 2nd string and work your way back down, repeat this process for the rest of the strings and the rest of the frets.

Now do the same thing using your 2nd (middle finger) to play up and down the neck and strings hitting all the frets with it as we did with our index finger. After that do the same thing using your 3rd finger and again using your pinkie.

Individual finger exercise 2

Played as described in EX 2

Starting with your fingers hovering over the first four frets, one finger per fret we are going to strike the 6th string open with a down stroke of the pick and then press down on the first fret with our first finger(index finger).and strike the string with an upstroke of the pick at the same time you press down on the first fret. Then lift up your finger and hit the string open again and then press your 2nd finger(middle finger) down on fret 2 while you upstroke the string.

NOTE : As you do these exercises, make sure the notes are ringing out clearly and only press down with enough pressure for the note to ring out. For accuracy, aim for pressing down right before the fret bar (if you hear a buzzing than your finger is touching the fret and you want to back it up a little. Try to make the note you press ring out the same volume as the open string and make sure your upstroke is in sync with your fretting hand. Also, keep your fingers as close to the string as possible so there isn’t much distance to press it down.

Now we are going to hit the open string again with a down stroke and play the 3rd fret with your 3rd finger(ring finger) as you use an upstroke to sound the note. Now hit the open string with a down stroke again and finish with hitting the 4 fret with your 4th (pinkie) finger using an upstroke.

Repeat the process on the 5th string 4th. string 3rd string 2nd string and 1st (bottom) string. Once you get to the bottom string reverse the fingering pattern by this time starting with a down stroke on open string and play 4th fret with upstroke, open string with down stroke 3rd fret upstroke, open string, 2nd fret, open string, 1st fret and work your way back up each string until you’ve played the top string.

Individual Finger Exercise 3

Exercise 3 forward / backward

For exercise 3 we are going to do something similar to exercise two. The only difference is after you hit the top string open with a down stroke and the 1st fret with an upstroke, reverse what you just did and keep your finger on 1st fret and strike it again using a down stroke and then hit the string open with an up stroke. Now down stroke open string, upstroke 2nd fret, keeping your finger pressed down, down stroke 2nd fret, upstroke open string.

Down stroke open string, upstroke 3rd fret, down stroke 3rd fret, open string upstroke. Down stroke open string, upstroke 4th fret, down stroke 4th fret, upstroke open string…. Repeat this same exercise on each string as we did in exercise 1 and then reverse it.

To reverse it strike 1st string open with a down stroke 4th fret with and upstroke and then while your 4th finger is still pressing down 4th fret strike the string again, this time with a down stroke and then open string with an up stroke and repeat this pattern with each fret and each string as you work your way back up to the top string.


Congrats on completing this finger strengthening exercise…. Click Here to go to the next lesson of finger exercises to help gain finger independence.

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26 thoughts on “Guitar Exercises Beginner … Finger Strengthening and picking development

  1. Sherry S.

    Great article! My dad played guitar and I always loved the music it emitted. I love music in general and I’d love to be able to play an instrument! I tried violin one time and was not impressed lol. I gave up and stuck with singing haha. If I ever decided to pick an instrument back up and try again, I’d try guitar and would definitely use your lessons! It was easy to understand (minus some terminology I am unfamiliar with as I do not play guitar). If anything – I might get a guitar just to exercise my fingers and build dexterity! :)~

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment Sherry, not sure why or how I missed the notification as I see you commented a couple of days ago. If you do get a guitar there are a few beginner lessons on my site and more to come.

  2. Jen

    Hi there, I want to thank you for your post. I like that you explain the finger exercises so well. I was looking for ways to help my niece on guitar and I think your site could be beneficial for her. Thanks for sharing, ill be back for more tips.

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for your comment, I try to be as thorough as possible in all my explanations/lessons which sometimes results in a lot more reading than playing but I like to make sure people understand the concepts at hand.

  3. Steve

    Hi Mike
    Thanks for the tips on finger strengthening exercises. I played guitar for about 5 years and just when I was starting to play ok I stopped. I can’t remember why I stopped, I think life a responsibilities just got in the way. I still have my guitars and I’ve always promised myself I’ll start playing again. When I do I’m sure I’ll need all the finger strengthening exercises I can get.

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Yes sometimes life and responsibilities can tend to get in the way of things. That’s what caused my 10 year hiatus as I started doing the ” family ” thing when my son was born.

  4. Sammynathaniels

    I had always loved the guitar and I have always sort for a chance to learn how to play it. This is a very comprehensive step by step guide that is very detailed. I love this. 

    I’ll go through the steps again and take it slowly. Gradually I believe I’ll master it before going to the next level. 

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment and yes I would start at the beginning of the exercises and go slowly until you can do each one properly before moving on to the next.  

      You may also find the chord exercises useful depending on what level you are at with chords and you may also probably find the lesson on intervals helpful.

      Only 15 minutes a day on these exercises will help get your hands and fingers prepared for playing songs and music.

  5. Anthony Hu

    Thanks for the post of Guitar Exercises Beginner. I always want to learn Guitar,  but never take time to do it. Today is the first time I practiced finger strengthening and picking hand. I downloaded a metronome app. The speed of 50 – 60 bpm is too fast for me. I started with 40 – 50 bpm and feel comfortable. I will practice in this speed now and wish soon I could increase my speed. It is very kind of you to provide this free service. I bookmarked your site and practice regularly. Usually how long practice does it take to play a short song? I look forward to playing song using Guitar soon!

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment. I am glad this page is helpful for you.

      To answer your question on how long of practice to play a short song, it depends on the song.

      If you know basic chords and practice my lesson on chord progressions, the I IV V progression lesson, atleast 15 minutes a day should have you playing a short song of your own quickly. If you don’t know your basic major and minor chords, I have a lesson on that with exercises on my site.

      Right now you will have to scroll page 2 I believe to find these 2 lessons as I am in the process of making navigation easier where you won’t have to look as hard for the lessons.

  6. Rachael Christensen

    Well done on such a well written, thoroughly detailed walkthrough.  I found myself actually doing these exercises as I was reading, despite the fact that I had no guitar so it was very engaging.  I have always loved the guitar as an instrument because it can produce such wonderful music and sounds. I am a fan of the Archtop Electric guitar, in particular, but sometimes it’s nice to listen to the simplicity of acoustic too.  Which guitar type do you recommend to someone like myself who is a complete novice but would be interested in learning how to play?

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment.

      For a complete novice it really depends on what type of music you want to learn or play. If for country, rock and or classical music, I would suggest the acoustic guitar which is mainly used for that style.

      If you wanted to play jazz , blues or rockabilly I would recommend the arch top. Even though some jazz guitarists like joe pass or Earl Klugh use accousitc.since I am more of a rocker I enjoy the arch top sound like Lee Ritenour or Norman Brown uses.

      I would suggest you try out a few of each and see which best fits with and in your hands before you actually buy one because if the neck is too thick it may be harder to play chords on.

  7. Alblue

    Thank you for the information. I can imagine doing finger exercise won’t be easy for a beginner. My niece just started playing guitar but she just doing it randomly for now. I think kids and adults have similar learning process (or am I wrong?), so I will give her parents this article. She has talent and I’m sure she can learn this process fast. 

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment.

      I believe it varies depending on each individual as to kids and adults having similar learning processes. If a child is very interested in music/guitar and has good concentration they can learn as well as an adult. At the same time, I have seen adults struggle at certain things
      I think most adults have more dexterity. I have taught my son when he was 8, basic music notes values and counting them and he had a good grasp on it within the 45 minute lesson and was one of the more advanced students in his music class there after.

  8. Tolu

    Playing the finger exercises can be a nightmare when the fingers feel sluggish moving up and down the fretboard. Strength and agility in the fingers and forearm are very important with playing the guitar. For the notes to sound clear, a guitarist must have the strength which can only come through exercises in the hands, wrists, and digit.  Playing for long periods requires strong fingers and endurance. The exercises you have listed can help beginners build needed strength in their fingers and wrist.

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment.

      Yes which is why one should warm up with slow easy exercises to get their fingers limber and prepared for the more difficult ones. If an exercise seems to long for your fingers, one way to make it less of a ” nightmare ” is break it down in to groups on the neck. Like first time work from 1st fret to 6th fret , then next time from 7th to 12th fret etc.

      Or divide up the exercises where you are doing one string on day and the next string the next day. The whole Idea of using every fret on exercises is so your fingers are used to the different size frets since they get smaller the further up the neck you go, and also to get fingers used to the different string thicknesses,

      You should also never exceed to the point of pain, once you start feeling discomfort, rest your hands, wrists, fingers forearms before continuing exercises

  9. Adamuts

    I absolutely love this insightful article because it is full of great information. This is an interesting guitar fingering exercise for the beginners.playing of guitar is an interesting instrument to me, I will bookmark this page because am getting my personal guitar very soon.hope to see more of your training. 

    What’s the best guitar a guitar learning beginner can get? Thanks for the informative article  

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment. Keep coming back there will be more great and helpful lessons coming.

      The best guitar for a beginner to get, would depend on what style of music one is wanting to play. Acoustic necks are wider than electrics but electrics wouldn’t be used for some styles such as classical, unless of course it’s neo classical.

      The best guitar anyone can get is one that feels right in their hands so I would suggest playing a few until you find one that feels right to you

  10. Sebastian McCall

    This is very cool and interesting – I am not a guitar playing I play the trombone for almost 12 years of my life. I tried picking up the piano however I was not really good at moving my fingertips as fast to hit the notes. I have a question, is it similar to playing the piano in some variables? 

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for the comment and yes in some variables it is the same even though there are many differences.The theory aspect is the same and the trilling would be the same on piano as guitar. I however think it takes less pressure to make piano notes ring out (unless you have an old piano with sticking keys) than it does to make guitar notes ring out and piano keys are softer on the fingers than guitar strings.

      I imagine you could use these same sorts of finger patterns on piano as on guitar from one end of the piano to the other end, only difference is you would need to do these exercises with both hands individually and then together plus add the thumb into the mix

  11. Dapoach

    Guitar has been my favorite instrument right from time. I bought a box guitar for myself lately, its just kind of frustrating how it has been quite tedious for me to catch up easily from the learning process am currently undergoing. The three individual finger exercises you dropped has really been helpful and educative. I will bookmark this page for further references

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for your comment. After you get these down, I have an intermediate exercise lesson that will get all of your fingers working in different combinations, there are also chord exercises if you need to or want to work on chords and chord changing

  12. phranell86

    Hi Mike,

    I had a roommate back when I was in the university that used to play the guitar with so much dexterity that it made me buy my own guitar. We practiced for some time, but I had to stop after my fingers started feeling sore.

    Stroking the string became a painful exercise for me, causing me to lose interest. Did you have this experience as a beginner too? or was it that playing guitar wasn’t my thing?

    After reading your article, I am again considering going back to playing my guitar. The tips you shared should help strenthen my fingers. But now, I have no guide. Please can you consider creating some Youtube videos based on beginner’s lessons?

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for your comment. Yes in the beginning since our fingers are not used to it, it can be painful. You want to stop before the pain starts, just when it starts to feel uncomfortable take a break to rest your fingers and come back to it after they feel better.

      I was actually just getting ready to start making some you tube lesson videos, so hopefully I should have some up soon for you

  13. Neil Brown

    Thanks for the very informative post on finger exercises. My dad was always into playing the guitar, he used to be in a three member country band about 40-45 years ago, I guess that’s where I had received my interest in playing the guitar from.

    Back in 1990 I started taking guitar lessons from a very knowledgeable man who had a band of his own. I have always loved the old time country music like Merle Haggard but when I picked up the guitar it became a focus of rock-n-roll.

    Now I have always loved practicing on the guitar and doing a lot of finger exercises, after all that’s how you get good at it, I have really admired the guys that would keep practicing and never set the guitar down, I always wish that’s the way I could have been, now I haven’t had a guitar in a long time and I wish I had one again.

    I apologize for all my rambling on but after I read your blog I found myself moving my fingers around as though I was doing the finger exercises again and now you have got me inspired to get a new guitar and start playing again. My old guitar teacher has long departed, but now I know where to go to brush up on all the finger exercises. Thank you immensely for this awesome post and training.

    1. Mike Lanning Post author

      Thank you for your comment and I am glad that my page / I was able to inspire you. I have chord exercises and other helpful lessons on my site and soon will have some instructional tutorials on youtube so hopefully we can get you to a level you would like to achieve

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