Fingerpicking Exercises to Improve your Technique

fingerpicking exercises
Fingerpicking is the use of one’s fingers to pluck the strings instead of using a pick. This technique has a very distinctive sound and it is used in several music genres. Learn how to position your fingers and practice some patterns with these fingerpicking exercises!

What is Fingerpicking?

Before we move on to the fingerpicking exercises, let’s start by explaining what this is. Fingerpicking is the use of one’s fingers to strike or pluck the strings instead of using a pick. This technique is widely used in classical, flamenco, Spanish, and folk music; however, it has also been used in nearly every genre of music – including pop and rock.

Fingerpicking also has its own distinctive sound. It also allows the player to be more selective regarding what strings should sound when playing the guitar polyphonically (multiple simultaneous notes). For example, if I want to play an E minor chord, but don’t want the fourth and fifth strings to sound, I would either need to mute them or just not play them at all, which is not easy when strumming. However, with the use of fingerpicking, I can just pick strings 1, 2, 3, and 6 easily.


How to Place your Fingers

When reading music that uses fingerpicking, you may see the term P.I.M.A. This is an acrostic for the thumb and the first three fingers of the right hand. Because of its length, the pinky is oftentimes not used. PIMA is often used to indicate which fingers to use in picking:

fingerpicking fingers

Until you get more comfortable with the fingerpicking, start this process by playing an open E minor chord. Now with your fingerpicking hand, place your thumb (P) on the sixth string, your ring finger (A) on the first string, your middle finger (M) on the second string, and your first finger (I) on the third string. Now take a mental picture of how your fingers are sitting on the strings right now, as this is how they should always be like. Remember this one concept and fingerpicking will almost never be an issue for you!


Benefits of These Fingerpicking Exercises

To get you started, I have included 28 exercise patterns in this article. Granted, some of these patterns you will never use, but many of them you will. As an exceptional guitarist, however, we want to be versatile! Practicing all the patterns will not only develop your dexterity in regards to fingerpicking, but it will also get you to start “thinking outside of the box” and coming up with your own patterns.


Fingerpicking Exercises

Fingerpicking can be done in any time signature. However, 4/4 and 6/8 are by far the most common. In fact, they will make up the majority of the songs that you encounter. I’ve included some exercises here for songs in 4 and songs in 6.

Songs in 4

The first example says PIMA. That means if the song count is one, two, three, four, you would pick P, I, M, A, or thumb, index, middle, ring. Once you get this basic feel down, work your way down the list. So the next exercise would be P, I, A, M, and so on. Practice each exercise for a few minutes.

fingerpicking exercises

When you see two finger letters underneath a beat, that means that both of those notes should be sounded simultaneously (at the same time):

fingerpicking exercises

Here you have more of the same, only this time the thumb shares in the combination pick:

Songs in 6

These are songs in 6, which means the song count is one, two, three, four, five, six:

Here you will find more finger combinations or pinch-picks. It is called a pinch-pick because the motion looks much like a pinch if executed properly:


Fingerpicking requires practice, attention, and a lot of patience. This is a technique that feels awkward at first and too, with time and discipline, miraculously gets easier!

PS: If you want the plucking to sound sharper and you have no nails, you can buy these rings online.

Check other posts about guitar in the Guitar section of my blog

Chord Noodling: Creating Cool Melodies from Chords

chord noodling
Chord noodling is a cool way to embellish guitar chords with melodies. For every key, there is a certain set of notes that complement each other. Learn to choose notes that make you sound fierce and make a standard chord progression sound cool!

What is Chord Noodling?

Chord Noodling is a technique where you add notes around the chord shape in order to spice things up. You might already know about adding notes around chords, but chord noodling is a slightly different concept, as you can only add notes around the chord shape you are playing and not up and down the neck.

How to decide which notes to add to the chords?

There are a lot of different possibilities, as you will see below, and it is all about making a choice. There isn’t a magic rule to follow. Just keep trying until you find the notes that you like and stick to it!


Number System Chart

As I mentioned before, for every key, there is a certain set of notes that complement each other. Below is a table with all the notes that ‘go well’ with each key:

chord noodling

Chord Noodling Maps in Open Major Keys

It might be easier for you to visualize it with these maps. In order to do this, you basically have to change some notes within the chord. Just choose a couple of notes from a string from the maps below to complement your chord progression, and see how cool it can sound!

chord noodling
chord noodling

So, in summary, Chord Noodling is playing embellishments around chords, using the scale from which that chord was derived and adding notes in melodic ways. For example, playing an open D then adding/ removing the 4th and 2nd notes from D major on the high E string. Chord embellishments can be found around any chord, and make chords more interesting!


If this technique is still a bit confusing for you, check out this video from YourGuitarSage, who explains everything in detail.

Check other posts about guitar in the Guitar section of my blog

How To Properly Tune a Guitar

tune a guitar
Now that you are on your way to playing, it’s important to learn how to tune a guitar. Your guitar can easily fall out of tune due to changes in the temperature, environment, and regular playing. You can use a tuner or tune the guitar to itself, if you’re not playing with anyone else!

Which Tuner Should I Buy?

In order to tune your guitar, I recommend using a tuner that you can clip at the head of the guitar, like this one. If you don’t have a tuner, you can also use a mobile app – I like one called GuitarTuna.

Here’s a tip: if the string’s pitch is higher than it should be, I recommend you bring it down, and it tune up to the right note, not the other way around.


How to Tune your Guitar to Itself

Alternatively, you can tune your guitar to itself, if you’re not going to be playing with anyone else.

The thinnest string is called the top string because it is the highest sounding string, even though it is physically on the bottom. Conversely, the thickest string is the low string because it has the lowest sound. For example, when your “Top E” string breaks, it means your thinnest string (the 1st string) has broken.

You must learn the names of your guitar strings. From the thickest to the thinnest it is E (6th string), A (5th), D (4th), G (3rd), B (2nd), E (1st). You’ll need to know this to properly use a guitar tuner.

You’ll also need to know this when playing with other musicians and you are tuning with each other. Also, when you go to the music store to purchase a replacement for a broken string. When your guitar is flat (b) it means that the string sounds lower than the in-tune sound, so the string must be tightened. When the string is sharp (#) it means that the string is sounding higher than the correct pitch of the note and it must be loosened.

By placing your fingers on the 5th fret, it is also possible to tune your guitar to itself. This works because there is more than one way to play any note on a guitar.

So when you press your finger just behind the 5th fret on the 6th string, that note is “A”. With the 5th string open, the note is also “A”. Therefore, both “A’s” must sound identical.

Not all of the strings are pressed down at the same time as it appears in the diagram. Tune the strings in pairs. For example: to tune the “B” string, which is the only exception, press a finger just behind the 4th fret on the 3rd string and also play the 2nd string open.


Check other posts about guitar in the Guitar section of my blog

How to Master Guitar Strumming

how to strum a guitar
Strumming the guitar can be frustrating if you are not shown the proper way to master some basic guitar rhythm skills. Here are some exercises for you!

Improve your Guitar Strumming Technique

Strumming the guitar can be frustrating! Especially if you are not shown the proper way and if you don’t allow yourself some time to master some basic guitar rhythm skills. Here are some fundamental concepts that I want you to think about when practicing strumming!

First of all, mute the guitar strings with your fretting hand. This will allow you to focus all of your attention on your strum.

Keep in mind that each strum should be equal distance from the last. So when counting 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +, the count should be smooth and even like a watch or clock ticking.

Say the rhythm out loud, slowly. Once you get the idea, try to do it in a seamless “loop”, without stopping at the end of the 4+). Once you get the hang of this, it should stream together like 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4

The last tip, when the strum calls for a space or void, your hand should still move as if it were going to hit the strings. If you do this, your down strums will always be where your downbeats are. Identically, your up strums will be where your upbeats are. Get it?


Guitar Strumming Exercises

For the following exercises, keep the following in mind. The numbers will always represent “down strums” (strumming towards the floor), while the “+” symbol (the “and” of the beat) will always be “up strums”. This is the key to good strumming!






Remember to take it slow and don’t get the fretting hand involved until you feel consistent about the strumming hand. That is, with diligent time and practice, you will get really good at this! You can find some extra tips here.


Check other posts about guitar in the Guitar section of my blog

How to Read and Play Guitar Chord Charts

Learn how to read guitar chord charts for chord shapes, and practice all the open chords! Remember to play on your fingertips, respect the specified fingering, and you will see that discipline pays off!

How to Read Chord Charts

First of all, if you are a beginner, you need to understand how to read guitar chord charts in order to play the chords correctly. A guitar chord chart allows you to easily read chord shapes. Many guitar chord chart illustrations vary, but for our example, let’s go over the following:

how to read a guitar chord chart
Chord Chart

The red/green dot represents the root of the chord; the note that we build the chord upon. Essentially, it’s the note that the rest of the chord is based on (i.e. “D”, “D-“, “D7” chords would all have different “fingerings”, but would all have the same root, D.) Often times, the root is the lowest sounding note in the chord.

The number within the green circle represents the fretting hand finger that should be pressed down on that particular place on the neck. Whenever you see an “O”, this means open, or play that string without a finger on it. This number represents the finger you should play with: Index=1, Middle=2, Ring=3, Pinky=4.

The semi-circle arc located above the three 1’s on the chord represents a bar. A bar is when you lay your finger across several strings – like a bar. This can be tricky in the beginning, but don’t over-think the process!

The “X” means “don’t play that string”, or “mute that string”. It should not vibrate or make any sound when you play the chord. The “(X)” means that you can play the note, but you usually would not. In other words, this means that this particular note could be played in the chord without any “dissonance” (disagreeable notes/sound). If you do choose to play it, the chord will still sound “harmonic” (agreeable notes/sound).

9 Essential Guitar Chords for Beginners

Here are some chord diagrams for the most often used open chords:

guitar Open chord charts
guitar Open chord charts 2
Open chord charts 3

Open Chord Variations

Open chord variation 1
Open chord variation 2
Open chord variation 3
Open chord variation 4
Open chord variation 5
Open chord variation 6

PS: You can find all the guitar chord charts here

Remember, practice makes perfect! Science tells us that whatever we do in repetition, will build neural paths to further support or do that thing better, faster, and more efficiently.

My advice for you is to break things down in the beginning. The easiest way is to do that is to slow things down. Another way is to break something down into its individual assets. For example, if you have a song where you want to be singing and playing at the same time, maybe you should learn each of these parts individually before putting them all together:

• Check the guitar chord chart – what chords are being played, and can I play them?
• Learn the progression of chords as they appear in the song
• Practice the strum
• Play the strum with the progression at tempo
• Memorize the song lyrics
• Get used to the song melody
• Perform them with a track
• Sing the lyrics with the chord progression(slow it down if necessary)


Check other posts about guitar in the Guitar section of my blog

Guitar Dexterity Exercises for Beginners

guitar dexterity
Find here some useful exercises for guitar dexterity for beginners. Practice and learn how to get your fingers to do what you want them to do!

What is Guitar Dexterity?


Let’s talk about guitar dexterity! According to Webster’s dictionary, dexterity is, “the readiness and grace in physical activity; especially the skill and ease in using the hands”. Well, that obviously applies to us, guitar players; the more you do a particular exercise or movement, the better you become. In fact, our brains are designed in such a way that it’s impossible for you to not get better when you practice. That means that any amount of playing on the guitar whatsoever is beneficial!

Now when we practice specifically, deliberately and with repetition, we end up gaining a lot of control over our fingers – or anything else that we set our mind to, for that matter. Since our thumb is located so close to our first and second fingers, our third and fourth fingers don’t get called on for the same amount of tasks throughout the day. For this reason, EVERYONE’S third and fourth fingers tend to be lazy when playing guitar. You thought it was just you? Nope! Hendrix, Van Halen, Vai, and any other player that you can think of had to develop their third and fourth fingers with exercises just like this; many times, these exact same exercises.


Guitar Dexterity Exercise

The following exercise was specifically designed to strengthen your fingers and hands, increase your speed, and sharpen your technique. I have used these exercises and have found them to be extremely beneficial!

Get your fingers moving and use a metronome to try to increase your speed as you practice – I advise you to download this app called GuitarTuna to tune your guitar and to use the metronome:

Guitar dexterity exercise 1
Alternate Picking Exercise 1

Try to use the following variations on the above “1”, “2”, “3”, “4” picking exercise:

Guitar dexterity exercise 1 alternation

Make sure that you’re using the appropriate finger on the appropriate fret throughout the exercise. For instance, when you start playing frets two and three, make sure you are using fingers two and three. When you’re playing frets three and four, make sure you are playing with fingers three and four.


Tips to Gain Dexterity on the Guitar

Play on your fingertips

First of all, playing on your fingertips makes a guitar player faster and more efficient. That is, the more you play on your fingertips the lighter your touch will be and the less hand fatigue you will experience. Guitar players that play on their fingertips tend to play chords cleanly. Guitar players that play on the pads of their fingers tend to play chords sloppily.

Play the notes right behind the fret

Secondly, playing right behind the fret requires much less pressure than playing further back. Think about the leverage of a seesaw. The position of the fulcrum – that part under the center of the seesaw that balances it – determines how much leverage you have. So, if the fulcrum is in the correct place, a small child can easily lift a large man off the ground. Similarly, leveraging your finger closer to the fret will allow you to play more quickly and efficiently.

Play with all your fingers

Thirdly, playing with all your fingers is very important because, as you become a more accomplished guitar player, you will most likely be playing faster and/or more complex arrangements. Running out of fingers sucks! So be proactive and use that third and fourth finger!

Leave space between the palm and the guitar neck

Lastly, it’s helpful to leave some space between the palm of your fretting hand and the guitar neck because it allows you to more easily play on your fingertips and ultimately have more control of your hand. At first, this can be a little awkward. Most beginners grab the guitar neck like a shovel and their thumb comes right over the neck!


In conclusion, if you ask me “how long should I practice this exercise for?”, I would pose this question, “how good do you want to get?” Obviously, the more you practice, the better you’ll become. In fact, if you want to become fast, you should practice it a lot. Alright, enough talk. Off you go!

Check other posts about guitar in the Guitar section of my blog

How to Read a Guitar Tab for Beginners

how to read a guitar tab
A guitar tab shows you the strings and frets that are to be played, as well as some techniques that are to be applied, such as slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, vibrato, etc. Let’s learn how to read a guitar tab!

What is a guitar tab or tablature?

A guitar tab is a system of notation that graphically represents music by showing you the strings and frets that are to be played. It also can show some degree of “feel” or technique with slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slurs, vibrato, etc. I prefer to read tabs, since these are somewhat of a shortcut system and much easier to read than standard music notation!

How do I read a guitar tab?

In tabs, a note is represented by placing a number (which indicates the fret to play), on the appropriate string. One thing that tablature does not illustrate is the duration of notes. It does not tell you how long a note should be held out. That being said, most people don’t use tablature unless it’s a song that they already know and can hum, so that part becomes less of an issue, except with more intricate parts.

Each line represents a string on the guitar. The thickest string is the bottom line and the thinnest string is the top line. So basically, it’s the opposite of the way that you think it might be. One way to remember this is to think of the higher lines as the higher pitched strings and the lower lines as the lower pitched strings.

Guitar tab

The numbers placed on those lines represent the frets. Tablature does NOT tell you what fingers to use. That is where a good guitar instructor or proper technique comes in handy!

When numbers are placed vertically like below, you will play them like a chord, as in a strum. Below is a G major chord.

guitar tab notes

Guitar Tab Symbols

The following tablature symbols that you will find on a guitar tab represent various techniques:

h – hammer ontr – trill
p – pull-offT – tap
b – bend stringTP or 3 diagonal lines under note – tremelo picking
/ – slide upPM – palm muting
\ – slide down\n/ – tremelo bar dip; n=amount to dip
v – vibrato (sometimes written as ~)\n – tremelo bar down
t – pick hand tapn/ – tremelo bar up
Harm – natural harmonic/n\ – tremelo bar inverted dip
A.H. – artificial harmonic< > – volume swell (louder/softer)
A.T. – tapped harmonicx – on rhythm slash represents muted slash

Main Guitar Techniques

I’ll give you a short description of all the techniques mentioned in the table but, really and truly, you just need to focus on the first 5 or 6 techniques if you’re a beginner – I rarely use the other ones!

Hammer On

A “hammer-on” is a technique performed by sharply bringing a fretting-hand finger down on the fingerboard behind a fret causing a note to sound. For our example here, you would pick the fifth fret and hammer the seventh or eighth fret as indicated. As the name indicates, hammer your finger in a quick snapping motion so that the string does not have time to fade out.

hammer on guitar tab

Pull-Off

A “pull-off” is the opposite of a hammer-on. A pull-off is a technique performed by plucking a string by “pulling” the string off the fingerboard with one of the fingers being used to fret the note. For our example here, you would pick the seventh or eighth fret as indicated and pull-off to the fifth fret. As its name indicates, pulling your finger off the fingerboard in a snapping motion causes the string to vibrate as if picked.

pull off guitar tab

Bend

A bend is represented by the symbol ‘b’ or an arrow bending up or down. A bend occurs when the guitarist physically pushes the string across the fret board causing a change in pitch. Since bend vary in duration and style, often times each arrow is illustrated differently. Often times, the word “full”, or “1/2” will be written along with this, indicating that the note should be bent up either one whole-step or one half-step. Bends of larger intervals can occur. Typically the actual pitch change will be denoted.

bend technique

Slide-Up/ Slide-Down

A slide-up occurs when a note is picked and slid up to another note. The second note is not picked, but instead is still vibrating from the previous pick and the agitation of the string during the slide. Opposite of a slide-up, a slide- down occurs when a note is picked and slide down to another note.

Slide technique

Vibrato

Vibrato is a pulsating effect by bending the string in a rhythmic fashion. This technique is created by bending the string up and down rhythmically or shaking the string. This effect works best after a string is picked.

vibrato technique

Tapping

The tapping technique is similar to a hammer-on, except it is done with the picking hand. It is almost always followed by a pull-off. The technique is performed when the picking hand taps the string hard enough to push the string against the fret creating a note to sound at that specific fret.

Tapping technique

Other Guitar Techniques

Harmonic (Natural)

A harmonic is a “chimed” string. This technique is produced by plucking the string while lightly touching the string over the indicated fret. The fret is not actually played in the traditional sense. When done correctly, a chime-like sound will be produced.

Harmonic (Artificial)

Artificial harmonics are also known as a pseudo-harmonics, pinch-harmonics or “squealies.” This technique requires allowing the string to lightly graze the side of your thumb after picking it. Don’t try to over-think the process. When you pick a note, allow your thumb to keep traveling towards the string until it mutes it. Once you get the hang of that, try letting the thumb just barely touch the string. If done properly, you will hear a slight chime.

Trill

The term “trill” is typically used when referring to a continuous back-and-forth, hammer on and pull-off of two notes.

Tremolo Picking

Tremolo picking refers to fast, repetitive picking on one note. This technique is achieved by quickly picking a note up and down. Typically tremolo picking refers to single notes (not chords).

Palm Muting

Palm muting refers to the muting of strings with the picking hand in order to create a percussive or staccato (sharp attack) effect on notes or chords. This technique is achieved by placing the picking hand palm on the bridge of the guitar just where the strings meet the bridge. Backing the hand further towards the bridge creates a more standard, open sound. Moving the hand slightly closer to the strings will create a tighter, more closed-type sound.

Tremolo Tricks

Slash used this technique to move the note down or up, or both in some fashion. Often times the targeted note will be denoted by the fret number, meaning that the designated fret number should be the desired pitch.

Volume Swell

This notation is used in tablature, musical notation and charts. Changing the volume can obviously be done in numerous ways.


Here is where I look for the guitar tabs whenever I want to learn how to play a song. Check it out now!

Check other posts about guitar in the Guitar section of my blog