Guitar Finger Exercises

Venice Beach Guitarist

It is important to diversify your practice routine. It might be more fun to improve your skills by learning different songs, but songs usually don’t allow you to really examine a specific technique. It is not a bad idea to spend just as much time working thru tedious exercises on the guitar as you would spend working on songs that are enjoyable to play.

Chromatic Exercises can improve the control you have of your left and right hand. They are basically simple repetitive actions, so you don’t usually have to think much about what comes next. Therefore you can concentrate on your technique.

Click the Link Below to View PDF of Chromatic Exercises:
Chromatic Exercises Outline

Chromatic Exercises have almost no musical value, so you shouldn’t be tempted to play them fast. They are not any more entertaining; no matter how fast you play them. Practice them slowly and on cue with a metronome. Focus on placing your right hand in the correct location (open or closed fist/planted on the bridge-pickguard or free floating).  Hold your pick with the proper method. Keep your fingers on your left hand arched and place them accurately against (not on top of) the actual metal fret closest to the soundhole or pickups on the guitar. Press with your fingertips, not the flat part of your finger. If you carefully practice these exercises on a regular basis your skills will improve and you will have an easier time learning things that are more fun such as songs or soloing.

Technique Merged

Songs that Use Chords on the Guitar

Dog Playing Guitar

When you play more than one string at the same time on your guitar you are playing what is called a “chord”. Simple songs that use riffs are much easier than simple songs that use chords, so a dilemma I often encounter has to do with diagnosing when a student is ready to play chords. Young students often lack the hand strength and coordination to quickly grasp the technique and skills required for playing songs that use chords. Even the easiest songs that use chords are difficult for adults, let alone children. Depending on the student, it can be years before I even begin covering chords with them.It took me lots of trial and error to “discover” the easiest popular songs that use chords. To make these arrangements more fun to play, I encourage my students to obtain and play along with a recording of the material that we are covering. Many songs that use chords are not recognizable, unless a singer accompanies the guitar; so playing along with a recording of the song makes it easier for the student to identify what is being played. I change recordings of songs that are tuned down a half step to normal tuning with the use of software such as Guitar and Drum Trainer 2 – Beta Version. I also have my students buy a capo, considering that many of the artists who have written easy songs that use chords take advantage of the tone that capos provide.

Click the Link Below to get Examples of Easy Chord Songs for the Guitar:
Easy Songs that Use Chords on the Guitar

Most of the Songs Below Are Available at this Link:
Virtual Drive – Popular Songs

Easy Songs that Use Open Chords
America – A Horse with No Name
Bob Dylan – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Bob Seeger – Turn the Page
Colbie Caillat – Magic
Four Non-Blondes – What’s Up
Howie Day – Collide
Johhny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues
Lynrd Skynryd – Simple Man
Marshall Tucker Band – Can’t You See
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Tom Petty – Breakdown
Tom Petty – Free Falling

Moderate Songs that Use Open Chords
Adam Sandler – Hanukka Song
Avril Lavigne – Nobody’s Home
Blind Melon – No Rain
Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth
Colbie Callait – Bubbly
Eddie Vedder – Hard Sun
Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
Green Day – Time of Your Life
Guns n’ Roses – Patience
Guns n’ Roses – Used to Love Her
Gary Jules – Mad World
Jimmy Buffet – Margaritaville
Jimmy Cliff – Over Rivers of Babylon
Neil Young – Heart of Gold
Oasis – Wonderwall
Pearl Jam – Black
Poison – Every Rose has its Thorn
Sugar Ray – Fly
Steve Miller – Joker
Van Morrison – And it Stoned Me
Wallflowers – Three Marlenas
Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London

Difficult Songs that Use Open Chords
Beatles – Back in the USSR
Beatles – Rocky Raccoon
Beatles – Twist and Shout
Bob Marley – Redemtion Song
Carly Simon – Anticipation
Cat Stevens – Father and Son
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon
Everlast – What It’s Like
Grateful Dead – Ripple
Green Day – Warning
Led Zeppelin – Tangerine
Lynyrd Skynryd – Sweet Home Alabama
Outkast – Hey Ya
Tim McGraw – Live Like You Were Dying
Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee
Tom Petty – Running Down a Dream
Tom Petty – Yer So Bad
Woody Guthrie – This Land is Your Land

1st Guitar Lesson Easy Songs

Contortionist on Guitar

A typical dilemma that guitar instructors immediately encounter upon entering the teaching profession has to do with the material that should be taught to beginner students during their first few lessons. The initial subject matter that each teacher covers should excite and motivate his or her students. Most people are familiar with popular rock songs and traditional American music so I usually teach them a few of these standards during our first lessons, but before covering songs, I quickly review proper posture and technique with my students.

Basic Concepts, Posture, and Technique:

  • Posture and Placement of the Guitar on the Right or Left Leg
  • Holding the Guitar Pick
  • Placement of the Right Hand Against the Guitar
  • Placement of the Left Fingers on the Fretboard
  • Pressing Hard with the Left Hand
  • Gently Striking the String with the Right Hand
  • Using a Guitar Tuner
  • Reading Guitar Tablature
  • Labeling Each Student’s Guitar with Fret Number Stickers

Keep in mind….. I do not force my students to use the “correct” method when playing their instruments during the first few lessons. I often allow young or disabled students to use their thumb to play notes on the low ‘E’ string. In other words, I remind my students of the proper technique, but I don’t force it on them.

I have computer software in my studio that slows music down and changes it’s pitch. I use the Amazing Slow Downer, but there are many products available that serve this function. With this software, students can play along with recordings that would otherwise be too fast for them to keep up with. They can also play along with songs that are not tuned to standard tuning.

It took me years of trial and error to discover what arrangements students enjoyed and which songs are easy enough for them to learn in only a few lessons. Here is a list of some songs that my students have an easy time understanding.

For the absolutely uncoordinated student (or very young student):

  • The Theme Song from the Movie Jaws
  • Green Day – Brain Stew
    • Using only the low ‘E’ string.
    • Change the pitch up a half step with software.
  • Chicago – 25 or 6 to 4
    • Using only the low ‘E’ string.
    • The same as Brain Stew, but slightly more difficult.
  • Metallica – Nothing Else Matters (Intro)
    • Uses only open strings.
  • Led Zeppelin – Dazed and Confused
  • Taps
    • Using all open strings except for a ‘D’ note on the 2nd string.

For the student who appears to be more coordinated:

  • Black Sabbath – Electric Funeral
    • Played only on the open ‘E’ string.
  • Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water (Intro)
    • Played only on the open ‘E’ string.
    • Change the pitch down three half steps with software.
  • The Stray Cats – The Stray Cat Strut
  • The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army (Verses and Choruses)
  • Hot Cross Buns
    • Played only on the high ‘E’ string
Click The Image Below – PDF Transcription of Easy Songs

A typical first guitar lesson with a beginner student will have me review proper posture and technique for the first five minutes. We then review “Jaws” and “Nothing Else Matters” or “Taps” for about ten minutes. In the last ten minutes of our lesson, we cover “Brain Stew” or “25 or 6 to 4” until the student can play along with a slowed down version of the recording. Most students really get into the fact that in one lesson they can play a few popular rock songs. It takes us five minutes to pack up the guitar at the end of our lesson while I explain my payment policy.

There are many things that I do not teach during the first guitar lesson with a beginner student. My students usually take lessons with me for months or years, and I realize that we will have plenty of time to get into more advanced challenges as time goes on. Our first lesson should be fun. Keeping things simple gives my students a chance to see how it really feels to play the guitar.

Guitar Lessons in NH

Fretlight Guitar Review

Guitarists are frequently bombarded with glorified advertisements promising them instant virtuosity for a minimal fee. Exactly how this enhanced level of ability will be attained is never revealed, but the purchaser is assured that they will immediately notice their improved skills. In all truth, the main path to talent is countless hours of practice. It is good to enhance learning thru a curriculum of method books, videos, and private or group instruction. The most effective form of instruction, private guitar lessons, typically cost at least $20 for one half-hour lesson each week. This brings the annual cost of lessons to $1000. If there were a way that we could just plug in Rock Band or Guitar Hero and learn to play an actual real guitar then we would save a large amount of money and time. Well there is….. Sort of.

Over a decade ago, Fretlight started selling a guitar that had LED lights built into the neck of the instrument. You could buy compatible software that allowed you to learn chords, scales, and songs. When you plugged your instrument into a computer, the LED’s lit up and told you where to place your fingers on the guitar neck. The instrument was expensive and problems with it were not uncommon. The software was expensive. The manufacturers did not manage to get any major vendors to carry the product, and the Fretlight Company virtually went out of business.

Fast forward to 2009, and the Fretlight guitar is back with a vengeance. The price of the instrument has been drastically reduced. I purchased a “Scatch and Dent” version of their acoustic guitar on Ebay’s Fretlight Backlot for $199. Fretlight provides the purchaser with a reasonable amount of instructional software at no extra cost. The Lesson Player software allows you to view most of your basic scales and chords on the instrument. The Improviser plays a low resolution audio sample (basically a MIDI track) while the guitar neck lights up the LED’s to show you where to play scale and chord tones of which harmonize with the backing track. You can also pay for song transcriptions (about $2-$4 each) and video lessons. I use the instrument to help all levels of students learn various things from basic chords to advanced jazz scales.

The instrument that I purchased has a good quality set up and the contour of the neck is straight and smooth. The electronics make the guitar heavier than you might expect for an inexpensive slim-line acoustic guitar. The LED’s are completely unnoticeable until they light up. A few of the LED’s light up at slightly different brightness levels, but it’s not a distraction. I would like to see future Fretlight models with a small amount of onboard memory so you can view a few scales and chords without plugging the instrument into a computer.

Here’s the big question….. Why can’t I find these instruments at Guitar Center? For instance, the store that my teaching studio is located in charges $199 for comparable slim-line acoustic guitars that don’t light up, so what gives? The wholesaler might not be willing to provide stores with prices that give them a big enough profit margin. The stores also could be concerned with the fact that the person purchasing the instruments might not need guitar lessons, because the instrument is serving the purpose of a guitar teacher. Remember….. A years worth of guitar lessons costs $1000. The store usually collects 30% of the gross earnings (the teacher gets 70%), so for each half-hour of annual lessons that are booked, the store stands to make or lose over $300. In any case, I recommend Fretlight guitars to my students, and I don’t worry about losing their business. A light up guitar is never going to replace a good guitar instructor, but it can give a person a better understanding of the instrument, which is the whole point.

Nils Crusberg has been teaching guitar, bass, and saxophone lessons in Exeter, NH for about ten years.