Put on your lab coat & play some guitar…

… and you might want to put on some safety goggles, too.

Let’s get into some straight-up warm-up exercises for guitar.

Now, I feel that warming-up has tremendous value to the player in regards to getting their  technique up to their own personal optimal level. However, warming up takes time away from playing actual music. Unless, of course, the warm-up is actual music. We addressed this before in my blog on Multi-Tasking.

But if you do indeed choose to spend the first chunk of your practice time getting your fingers nice & limber & ready to play, exercises like what is to follow are an extremely effective way to do so.

Here, I want to show you fundamental finger combinations that a guitarist uses every time the play melodic material (i.e. melodies, whether composed or improvised… and, you know… scales!)

These numerical lists represents finger numbers.

These finger combinations are every possible permutation of all the fingers, from all four fingers to three fingers to two fingers to just one finger.


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For now, let’s say that they are intended to be used in sequence on any of the 6 strings, in any position. And we’re talking four fingers on four consecutive frets. There are many other possibilities, but for now, but let’s keep it somewhat simple. Also, the individual fingers 1,  2,  3, & 4, are there for sake of completion, although you could certainly play just one finger per string as a simple way to warm-up.

As with all exercises of this ilk, there exists thousands of variations in how you can work them. The most basic application of the finger sequences would be to play each one on all six strings in a particular position.
You could do them every position on the guitar, but that takes quite a bit of time.
I would suggest a sampling of the fretboard… do them in these positions:

I   V   IX   XII   XVII

And I would suggest you do each combination 4 times on each of the six strings.

I want to point out that although it is cool to work your fingers in any possible combination like this, the reality is that we spend most of our playing time only using these particular combos:

the pairs 1 & 2,  1 & 3, and 1 & 4 and all the permutations of 1 2 4 & 1 3 4

Most scales like the major & minor pentatonics and the modes use only these fingerings.

But if you want to truly be prepared for anything, then working on all the combinations would be the way to go. Lately I, personally, have been focusing only on these select combinations.

Just remember- time is a commodity & you want to spend it wisely. It’s entirely up to you what you choose to work on.
Think of it this way- if you are using a particular technique on a daily basis in your playing of music, then it stands to reason that you would want to develop that particular technique the most.


1 Comment

  • Davis Bader

    Reply Reply March 16, 2015

    Another awesome article! I used to think that I could just pick up my guitar for the first time of the day and go straight to shredding. However, lately I have started using exercises such as the one described above to warm up for just 5 minutes or so, and I find my hand/fingers are much more limber and last through more intense practice sessions without cramping up. I have also found it necessary to warm up before performances to be the best player I can be on stage. Going to use this exercise (combined w a metronome) to warm up when I practice again tonight! Thanks Matthew!

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