The process of developing fingerstyle guitar independence involves basic fingerpicking patterns with a slight twist. That little twist is the key to making the exercises do what they are supposed to do, which is to improve finger independence.
The little trick we will use involves lightly placing any finger not used in the picking pattern on it's assigned string in playing position for the entire duration of the exercise. This will feel very awkward at first but will force your hand and fingers to become relaxed and build independence from the other fingers.
Keep in mind that these are just exercises. In a real world playing environment you would not want to keep your unused fingers planted on strings like that. But for our purposes here it will definitely help you feel what it means to have relaxed and independent picking hand fingers.
Be sure not to neglect the training of the picking hand little finger. Many fingerstyle guitar players (including almost all classical guitar players) never train the little finger in any way. It is basically just wasted when it could be put into good use with a little bit of training. In fact, I feel that training the little finger is one of the most important things you can do for the picking hand. Let me explain.
If you take a quick look at your hand, you will notice that almost one entire side of your palm is made up of the muscles that support the little finger. It is that muscle group that allows us to grab things. When you don't use the little finger you are in fact leaving out the strongest finger of your entire hand. Most choose instead to rely mostly on the ring finger to play any notes that would be better suited for the ring finger. They do this even though every hand specialist you will ever meet will tell you that the ring finger is actually the weakest finger on your hand!
Also, even if you have no desire to use your little finger, developing it will help balance out your hand and make every other finger more independent.
The big issue is usually with the little finger's size or length. But, with proper hand positioning, every finger can be used in a solid fingerstyle guitar technique and don't let anyone tell you different! 100 years from now people will laugh at anyone who doesn't use all the fingers of the picking hand. Trust me! Before the 1800's no one used the ring finger either. And a couple hundred years before that is was just thumb and index that were used. 🙂
Be sure to "Grab the TAB" for this lesson below to more easily follow along.
I hope you guys enjoy this new lesson series dedicated to getting your fingerstyle guitar chops in shape. These exercises have done wonders for my own technique and I hope with lots of patient practice they will do the same for yours. 🙂
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