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I have some exercises for finger independence (for left hand); however, I cannot even start to do some of them correctly.

The most difficult exercise is:

Start with a hand and all fingers in a straight line; then, flex the fingers repeatedly, each time only one finger, so that the others don't move.

After flexing each finger, straighten it back before flexing the next one.

I cannot flex the 2nd and 4th finger correctly - other fingers move significantly when I try to do it.

So, my question is: should I try to do this exercise anyway, or should I leave it for now, and try it in future, when I master other (presumably easier) ones?

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

My answer is coming from a pianist, not a guitarist. Take my advice with a grain of salt, as our needs regarding our hand strength and flexibility are vastly different.

My recollection of hand physiology is kind of hazy, but there are tendons linking your fingers together; this is why it's necessary to practice independent finger motion. For piano, a number of teachers would suggest stretching fingers backwards one at a time to loosen up that bond, especially between the ring and middle fingers. Other students have described other exercises to me, but I've never heard of the one you describe. In any case, I was advised by my piano teacher to not worry about those exercises, and I've found that my independence of motion is fine for my purposes.

So my advice to you is that unless you're having a specific issue with hand flexibility, don't stress over the stretches. I suspect that you'll develop your flexibility by simply playing the instrument.

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Starting with the low E string play first fret first finger, then second fret second finger, third fret third finger, fourth fret fourth finger then proceed to the next string. You will be ascending in notes. Then try descending starting with the pinky. You may try combinations like first, third, second, fourth finger in that order on the string. Steve Vai used this technique and it work well for me too.

Your fingers will eventually become independent. It is a process that will take time and practice. But don't get discouraged.

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I agree this is a very good exercise, but I was talking about the "dry" ones that you can do without a guitar –  anatolyg Sep 25 '13 at 20:40
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I'm not really a fan of "lifting" fingers independently. Its not really a natural motion nor is it really useful when playing guitar. You're better off doing chromatic 4 note per string scales on the guitar, playing in position and moving vertically up/down strings. Doing this slowly and accurately to a metronome, and slowly increasing in tempo.

Steve Vai has published a similar type "workout" which involves changing the starting finger for each string. I personally found that quite useful. Also watch to ensure that your fretting pressure doesnt come from a "pinch" motion in your hand, but instead pull backwards against the neck using your forearm, your thumb acting only as a pivot and not applying pressure. This will help the tendons in your arm to carry less tension, making it easier to get separation of motion.

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