Guitar Exercises

by Michael Black
Guitar exercises help you become a better musician.

Guitar exercises help you become a better musician.

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No matter how good of a guitarist you are, knowing and regularly practicing a few basic guitar exercises can help you take your playing to the next level. Although guitar exercises may not be the most exciting thing to play, they are definitely worth the time you put into them.

Chromatic Scale

Several of the most common and useful guitar exercises are built on the chromatic scale. Start by playing the first four frets of the low E string, using your pointer finger for the first fret, your middle finger for the second, your ring finger for the third and your little finger for the fourth fret. Proceed to use this same pattern across the other five guitar strings. Once you play the fourth fret of the high E string, slide your little finger up one fret and then reverse the order of your fingers, moving from the fifth fret to the second fret. Repeat this pattern until you get the low E string and then start the first pattern again at the third fret. Continue to play these patterns all the way up the guitar neck. This exercise will help build fret-hand finger strength and muscle memory.

Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is a technique in which you always alternate downstrokes and upstrokes. The ability to alternate pick well is extremely important when it comes to playing fast. Once you are comfortable playing the chromatic scale exercise with your fret hand, try focusing on your picking attack, making sure to use only alternate picking. Start slowly and increase speed as you become better. Practice alternate picking major and minor scales once you become confident picking the chromatic scale.


Legato is an Italian word that means notes should be articulated smoothly. Hammer-ons and pull-offs are all examples of legato phrasing techniques. A useful legato exercise can be played using the chromatic scale exercise. Instead of picking every single note, try picking the first note of the pattern and then sounding the proceeding notes by forcefully hitting them with your fret-hand fingers (hammer-ons) and pulling your fret-hand fingers off of the frets (pull-offs). These techniques are very common throughout many different types of music.


When you bend a string on a guitar, you increase the tension on the string thus raising the pitch that it produces. It is very important to be able to consistently bend notes with the same amount of force, thus allowing you to hit the proper notes when using this technique. Start by sounding the note on the 13th fret of the B string. Listen carefully to this note and then play the 12th fret of the B string and bend that note up to the note that was sounded at the 13th fret. Practice this until you can hit this bend with consistency. Then try to bend the 12th fret up to the note produced at the 14th fret. Use this exercise on all of the strings and at multiple places on the guitar neck to increase your string-bending prowess.

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