10 Guitar Exercises That You Should Try

A man doing guitar exercises on his guitar

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There is a word imprinted onto the brain of every great musician you have ever heard, and that word is "Practice." Learning the guitar takes dedication, and your ability to push yourself to continue learning is what will propel you to where you want to go. The world of music offers great rewards to those who put in the time. In this article, we will show you ten different guitar exercises that will help you establish your routine. With patience and perseverance, you will be exactly where you want to be before you know it.

Discipline is what guitar exercises are all about as they aim to improve your skills by using repetition as the main teacher. Developing proper muscle memory will make your playing second nature, which will help you improve your overall technique, allow you to experiment, and eventually create your very own style. You are well on your way toward becoming a better guitarist by seeking knowledge, and the guitar exercises you will find here will test your current technique and can prevent bad habits down the road. Tune your instrument and let's go!

Why Practice Makes Perfect

guitarist playing a guitar

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Everyone has heard it: practice makes perfect. The reason for the old saying is that it is as true as can be. The more time you devote to your craft the more you will learn, the more you will overcome, and the more you will gain. There is perhaps no greater feeling than achieving a goal over time. As guitar players ourselves we can tell you that the feeling of doing things right is great.

Practice, practice, and then practice more. Through proper practice, you will continuously be challenged to make new discoveries about your instrument and how you play it. You will be faced with obstacles you must overcome—so be ready.

Discoveries and Obstacles

A shock guitarist holding a guitar

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Practicing forces upon you a need to learn properly if you are to make progress and demands you pay attention to each new discovery that will take you to the next level. Guitar playing is like a puzzle you are putting together and each time you practice you find a new piece. So long as you are being honest with yourself, doing things correctly, and appreciating what you are achieving you are on the right track. Remember that everyone moves at their own pace and learns differently. Take your time and get it right. When you face obstacles, study them, seek advice, and eventually, you will find the piece of the puzzle.

What Is Muscle Memory?

Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? We can bet you can hop on one, ride it, and not think anything of it. Well, that's muscle memory. Muscle memory is anything we do long enough that it becomes second nature to us. For guitar players, muscle memory is the foundation of a great musical experience, it's the first building block. To build muscle memory the right way you will need more than repetition. You will also need proper technique.

 

Bad Habits

One pitfall of not paying attention to proper technique early on is that you will develop muscle memory doing things improperly and thus develop serious bad habits. Bad habits are dangerous as they can develop without you even knowing it, by the time you realize it they are embedded into your muscle memory and are difficult to break. We encourage you to take your time learning—with no shortcuts and no need to rush through anything. When you reach an exercise, study it from different angles and look up different opinions on how to do it best. Believe us that this will save you time and effort.

10 Guitar Exercises You Should Try

Crop hand doing guitar exercises

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The ten guitar exercises that we have chosen are aimed at helping you develop in several aspects of your guitar playing. Each forms a piece of the puzzle and emphasizes the basics while preparing you for what is ahead. Start by memorizing these exercises and applying them to your routine. Remember that it is all up to you.

​1. Warm Up

Guitar exercises are still exercises and that means you got to warm up. Run some warm water over your hands, massage your hands, crack your fingers if you must, and drink plenty of water. Cramps are real when you are playing and if you did not warm up properly, they can appear unwantedly at an important gig. Your hands are your working tools here so take care of them.

​2. Use a Metronome

Practicing with a metronome from the get-go can be beneficial as it will get you accustomed to playing on time always. Start out slow and move up in speed as you feel comfortable. You will be surprised to find that many guitarists will make it all the way to a recording studio and then reveal that they have never played with a metronome before. You do not want to be one of them.

3. Practice Chord Shapes

Practicing chord shapes will get you accustomed to where your fingers must be each time your transition. Besides familiarizing yourself with the shape of the chord you will also become familiar with its sound. You can make each transition one finger at a time until you are comfortable with the entire chord. The more you do this the easier it will become and eventually, it will be nothing more than muscle memory.

 4. Practice Staying a Step Ahead

For guitar playing, you have got to think ahead. For instance, when you are playing a chord progression try to visualize the chord before you play it and make the change as snappy as possible. When you think ahead you are training yourself to follow the music, understand the sequences, and prepare for the changes. Use the metronome to your advantage here even if the tempo is slow. If you are playing between two chords you know well, for instance, count out loud the beats before the change like say four beats and then make the change snappy. Once you feel good, change it to three beats and so on.

5. Practice Your Scales

Nothing will add dexterity to your fingers like practicing your scales. Start with scales such as C major and A minor which are widely used. The metronome will be of great use here and you can also start slow and build up. Scales will not only increase the dexterity in your fingers but will also help you better understand music theory.

6. Arch Your Fingers Every Time

Your fingers should always be arched when playing so that your fingertips are the only things touching the fretboard. A tip that will help you achieve this with each exercise is to put your thumb arched behind the neck and then use it as a center point along with your middle finger. Notice that your fingers naturally arch when you do this, and that is how you want your hand every time you play to avoid undesired muting of strings or playing of notes.

7. Practice Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is essential to any guitarist who wants to have full control of his or her picking hand. Alternate picking means you are plucking once up and once down every time you play. Try alternate picking with scales at a slow tempo on the metronome so you can count along with each pluck. Before you know it, you will speed things up and the alternate picking will be part of your muscle memory.

8. Train Your Ears

This exercise is important because you want to recognize notes as you play them. Being able to recognize the key of a song is a skill much desired, but that takes time to master. Each scale you play, pay close attention to the way it sounds note per note and soon you will identify them. The art of playing guitar incorporates many senses.

9. Skip Strings

As you master scales, you get into more advanced guitar exercises such as the one of skipping strings. Skipping strings is playing a scale but purposely bypassing a few notes to skip a string. For instance, if you are playing a C major scale you may start on the A string and play the notes C and D, and then bypass the notes on the D string which are E, F, and G to play the A, B, and octave C on the G string. Skipping strings can help add dexterity to your playing and creativity too.

 10. Have Fun

Ultimately you want to enjoy yourself while you play guitar and we urge you to make it part of any exercise. You find that by having a fun and positive attitude there is so much that you can achieve and so much faster. Each activity is a new challenge you are ready to conquer and we know that you will.

Conclusion

A guy playing a guitar towards his lover under the tree

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We hope that you find the guitar exercises and tips above helpful as we know that they have helped many guitarists along the way. From Hendrix to Richards remember they all had to start somewhere. Enjoy every second of what you do and before you know it this beautiful craft will be second nature to you. Rock on!

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