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Stronger Fingers For Playing The Guitar
Guitar playing is one of the
most popular ways to personally play and enjoy music.
The appeal of the guitar is mostly due to its presence
in practically all popular and rock music recordings.
Furthermore, it is an instrument that is very portable
and versatile enough for many kinds of songs and
occasions, and is practical as an accompaniment to
vocalists or other instruments.
Playing the guitar requires more than the requisite
musical ability, dedication and practice. A guitar
player's fingers must be dexterous and agile to allow
quick single string or chord changes in rhythm or solo
musical performances. Those fingers also need to be
tough and strong to be able to press the strings enough
during quick changes to produce clean tones.
All beginners will remember
the first time they played the guitar for an extended
period. Our fingertips are originally soft at the very
end, with thin skin protecting them.
First we feel pain after
pressing down on the strings too hard when playing the
fretboard, especially all of the fingers except for the
thumb. If the aspiring musician hasn't given up by then
and continues to practice playing the blisters will
eventually dry up and leave calluses on the fingertips.
These calluses will
protect the fingertips from the pain of playing for a
little while but eventually the pain builds up again as
the calluses keep building you end up with thick rough
fingertips on a guitarist's left (or fret) hand.
Graduating to full chords, the entire 1st and 2nd
fingers, which form bar chords across the strings, will
also go through the process of pain, blisters and
This process toughens up the
fingertips, and makes it easy to press on the strings to
produce the needed musical tone on the guitar.
The most effective way to
strengthen the fingers and improve dexterity is to
practice scales and chords on the guitar itself. Chords
and scales will help the beginner become familiar with
the different chord progressions and musical
configuration of the fretboard - it will help the
student master the instrument.
Knowing and playing
chords and scales will embed the musical secrets of the
guitar to the player and make it easier to read, learn
and perform music, and to create or write your own music
for the guitar. As an added bonus, all that practice
will greatly improve the strength and agility of the
fingers. With the dual advantage of musical training and
strength and endurance improvement, a guitarist can
develop the ability to perform several full pieces or
songs necessary for a long performance event.
However, there is a danger
of over-training. Tendonitis is a common affliction of
over-exercising and is prevalent in professional
athletes and musicians alike. Tendonitis is caused by a
repetitive action of a limited set of muscles, causing
inflammation and possible damage to tendons and joints.
Because certain athletes
and musicians tend to use a focused set of muscles in
their activities, they share a certain propensity to
this injury. But this can be easily avoided. Many
persons over-train when they choose to ignore pain
during practice and instead continue to perform the
activity which directly leads to tendonitis.
For guitarists, once you
feel pain in your wrist or the tender part of your
hands, stop. You should incorporate 5-15 minutes of rest
between sets of scales or chord practices. Put the
guitar down and shake your hand for a few seconds. If
you are not tired but still feel pain, change the
practice method: if you are doing scales, switch to slow
strumming with full chords.. Changing the set of muscles
you exert can help avoid injury and increase the
strength of your fingers.
Finally, like an athlete, a
guitarist should take care of his body with exercise.
Following are two stretching exercises that will improve
the flexibility and strength of your fingers:
1. Stand straight with your arms at your sides and hands
facing forward. Stretch your fingers down and outward as
far as you can and count to ten. Relax and rest for a
few seconds and do three repetitions.
2. With the same posture, hold the four fingers of your
left hand (except the thumb) with your right and push
them towards the back of the hand. Hold the stretch for
ten seconds then relax and continue by doing three
Remember, strength and agility is achieved by practice,
proper rest, and stretching exercises. Now play on!
For More Information on Guitar Techniques by Ian Williamson
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