For starters I am not a writer. I am a guitar player and you probably are too. So if you moonlight as an English professor please don’t contact me with corrections. That being said let’s talk about finger exercises. For this article when I refer to finger exercises I am talking about the 2,3, or 4-finger chromatic type exercise.

It seems like there are two schools of thought when it comes to finger exercises. One is that they are totally necessary when learning. In 10 years of teaching guitar I find this to be about 95% true. The students who work hard on this area of their playing always do better than those who don’t.

The other school of thought is that they are totally useless. For some players who absolutely tear it up on guitar, this is true. They became amazing players without doing any finger exercises but for the most part, players need them. I have read interviews with Yngwie Malmsteen where he mentioned that he didn’t practice this kind of stuff. (Like his playing or not the guy can throw down with anybody.) There are always exceptions.

Steve Vai has reported to have practiced finger exercises as much as 3 hours a day. They were that important to him. Robin Trower is said to have practiced them “religiously” for a year. I have read articles with B.B.King, Zakk Wylde, Tom Morello and a boatload of other players who all worked on their technique using exercises. I personally know jazz players, classical players, country players and metal players all who completely tear it up and still work on exercises everyday.

Think about this. How much have you improved as a player over the last week, month or year? If it’s been a lot, great! Keep doing what you are doing. If you are not where you want to be as a player, grab a metronome, finger exercise book and your guitar and spend some time trying these out. You will see results. Go slow and keep track of your metronome settings. Only increase the metronome by one or two clicks each day. It may not sound like a lot but after few months you will have sped up quite a bit. Also by tracking your progress will keep yourself motivated because you will be able see your results. This in turn will make you want to work harder. One of the reasons some people give up on guitar is because they can’t see the results of their practicing. So make sure to do this.

It’s very important to remember that this is only one part of playing guitar. There are so many other areas to address but if you aren’t happy with your fingers better start here.