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I am a beginner for guitar. And I am having a hard time playing the F barre chord. It is said that only through practice can one make a difference. But I have limited time playing guitar. Are there other choice to build my finger strength for this purpose?

  • possible duplicate of How can I best learn to play barre chords? – Doktor Mayhem Oct 30 '11 at 19:15
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    There are some pretty good finger and wrist exercises in Jackie Chan's Drunken Master. – luser droog Nov 23 '11 at 10:24
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    I'm not so sure that finger strength is really that important for playing barre chords, it's more about technique. It comes with time but try to angle you index finger so that it is the bonier side rather than the more fleshy part pressing the strings down. – Dave Halsall Jan 5 '16 at 17:20

14 Answers 14

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There are exercise devices for finger strength, but I wouldn't recommend them. I once knew a (brilliant) guitar player who exercised his fingers so much he got Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and now can't play at all.

The best thing to do really is to practice. Malcolm Gladwell says you need to put 10,000 hours into something to become an expert. Try not to think of how many weeks or months it is since you started playing guitar, think about how many hours you've been playing altogether.

Hope this helps.

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Most things that will strengthen your fingers will also slow them down (I climb, and while my fingers are strong, I have to practice speed techniques on the guitar in order to keep my fluidity at a decent level.)

I would suggest reading the answers on this question on playing barre chords as it is probably what you are looking for.

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I myself have found nothing useful in physical exercise away from the guitar. You have to understand that positioning your fingers correctly and applying the correct amount of tension to the strings on a fretboard is a very fine tuned process, and that control is more important than pure strength. Hell, I have three guitars with different setups and there's always an adjustment period when I switch.

That means :

  1. Don't focus too much on strength. If you keep at practicing correctly, it will come in time. That time varies from person to person, but regularity is the key. Another answer talked about one hour a day, but if you can't do that 15mn every other day and longer sessions when you can will still help.
  2. Practice correctly, with relaxation and attention to detail. Practice does not make perfect, practice makes permanent (Guthrie Govan's words)
  3. There IS one exercise I would recommend while away from the guitar, though, and that is visualization. Imagine playing something really well, and pay attention to detail, focus, and hear the notes as you imagine yourself playing it. I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but give it a try.

Anyway, just my experience, if you find an exercise that helps you, go for it. Anything that works, works.

  • "I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but give it a try." Not ridiculous at all, in my opinion. If nothing else it will help you memorize chord shapes and fingering and other details, so that you're freed to concentrate on the other problems next time you get back to the guitar. – Bruce Fields Oct 27 '17 at 14:50
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Gunbuster, the first thing you have to do to get better is make the time.

There isn't a shortcut to your limited time to play the guitar. If you really want it, you will change your habits to get the time.

Guitar practice, I recommend would be 1 HOUR A DAY MINIMUM. If you can get 2 HOUR slots that would be alot better. The 1st Hour should be devoted to strengthening your hands. There are countless "exercises" that are freely available on the internet and YouTube. But the point is, that you must concentrate and focus for ONE HOUR and concentrate on one or two exercises only. The second hour can focus on more general playing and songs.

Eg. If you are learning some right hand strumming/muting/alternate picking/sweeps... then you do that for ONE HOUR and nothing else. This has recently been mentioned by Mr Steve Vai. If you can focus for one hour on something specific, you let the 2nd hour be more relaxed and creative.

Now. How long must you spend One Hour for? if you can do this for 30 days, your strength will improve alot more than if you played 30 minutes every 2-3 day over the same span of 30 days. That's it. There's no shortcut. You get what you put in.

So you're having problems with the F Chord. This takes about 2-3 weeks to master. Start with the B minor chord for your first barre chord (look up the other threads on this site). Make it happen! If you're a beginner practice is the only thing that will increase overall hand strength. So get plenty of contact hours with the guitar: 30 minutes before you go to sleep. 1 hour straight after you wake up. 30 min when you get home. Heck, I've even take it into the can when I was starting out.

Find a way.

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buy a racquet ball and squeeze between thumb and each finger on any down time. Its harmless and just enough resistance. My first guitar lesson with my instructor, he gave me one. now its been a few years and getting back into playing and I need to remember to get another one! it really helped

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If you can find an old wooden clothes pin, just enough pressure not to cause a strain but after enough reps. on each finger and I promise you will notice the effort does increase. Spank you veddy, and play on!!!!

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There's an exercise my old guitar teacher taught me wherein he had me, finger by finger, stretch each finger (excluding my thumbs( as close as I could to the bottom of my palm, back and forth on both hands.

There is also a workout tool called a hand clamp that you can use to build hand/finger strength. Here's a link to see what they are/look like:

http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/ironmind/captains-of-crush-grippers.html?MCID=CG-PLA-US&CAWELAID=120147270000092976&CAGPSPN=pla&catargetid=120147270000104952&cadevice=c&gclid=Cj0KEQjwmqyqBRC7zKnO_f6iodcBEiQA9T996LIMen46jXcFowIMEabRj9gYjogu3K9BqT28cxr1V5MaAqM48P8HAQ

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I take issue with the answer about harming yourself with hand exercises away from the guitar - if you don't use any resistance, and pay attention to the sensations in your hands. My understanding is that isometric exercises (no weights or elastics) are rarely harmful, no matter how they are done. In any case, I've done isometric hand stretching and strengthening exercises for forty five years with no harm. Computer keyboard and mouse use, however, was a completely different story - disturbing pain that didn't go away until I switched to mousing with my left hand - and I can code all day long in that configuration without problems now. So pay attention, and be creative.

But one of the things that really helps guitarists is building strength in the big knuckle of the left hand - this is essential for bar chords, for example. Check out this exercise to see if it is helpful - I've found it enormously helpful over forty five years of playing at a very high level:

https://music.stackexchange.com/a/4747/951

Good luck!

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Playing for about a couple minutes to an hour everyday or whenever you have time is good for building finger strength. Another quick way my guitar teacher practices building finger strength with out playing is simply gripping a tennis ball with the finger tips. The tension in the ball gives enough friction and resistance to build finger strength. Once your finger tips are strong enough, you'll be able to push your fingers into the tennis ball with ease when squeezing. Then you should be able to get a decent F bar chord. Also, most bar chords are hard to learn but it'll come with practice. Time and patience is key.

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It took me years to realize that it is not so much finger muscle as much as dexterity.

In fact, using too tight of grip between your thumb and fretting finger will cause undue strain and fatigue.

So my trick was to utilize driving time by placing my thumb on the front of the steering wheel and my fingers behind it, and just taking turns tapping them begging the wheel in various patterns.

(Obviously if this is distracting or unsafe for you, don't do it. Then again, Steve Morse shouldn't have been playing an actual guitar while driving:)

Tapping patterns on a table top never worked well for me as the hand position is too drastically different. Standing next to a thin topped table and tapping the underside is close, but if you are lucky enough to have some kind of open frame underneath to get your fingers behind, like on many folding tables, that is just as good.

The best option of course is to properly utilize playing time, but that wasn't the question.

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I simply squeezed a tennis ball on and off throughout the day. Use the tips of your fingers and keep your thumb in the center of the ball to emulate proper thumb position.(Honestly, I have no idea how much it helped. Finding time to play would be better!)

The other thing I did to help with barres chords was to choose a song that contained one and just keep practicing. For me, I chose Gerry Rafferty "Right down the line" because it contained a D minor (which needed I needed to work on and an F and a B minor)

I also played Shine On You Crazy Diamond because it is almost all barre chords.

I simply learned the songs and kept coming back to them and over and over again. In time they started to sound better and better.

Be patient.

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If I get a challenging arrangement to learn. I revert to using my electric guitar with lighter strings. Exercise with that until my fingers are a bit more used to the new challenging shapes, then go back to my acoustic with heavier strings. Works for me to mix it up like this.

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Here is a couple of methods I made up for myself when I was thinking about this same concept of finger strength and coordination. These methods only really work for beginner guitarists. Feel free to change them up to suit yourself.

First find a hard surface like a desk or even your leg Number your fingers from 1-5 on your left hand (don't write on them but just give them numbers and remember them). (1 thumb, 2 index, 3 middle, 4 angular, 5 pinky) Letter the fingers of your right hand a-e. (a thumb, b index, c middle, d angular, e pinky)

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Now rest your hands flat on the hard surface. In the following patterns, tap your finger on the desk and press into it (or press in onto the desk if not wanting to make a sound) when the number or letter for each finger occurs.

Left hand: 2 1 3 1 , 4 1 5 1 , 2 3 2 4 , 2 5 3 4 , 3 5 4 5

Right hand: b a c a , d a e a , b c b d , b e c d , c e d e

Both hands together (do letter/number above and below at the same time)

2 1 3 1 , 4 1 5 1 , 2 3 2 4 , 2 5 3 4 , 3 5 4 5

b a c a , d a e a , b c b d , b e c d , c e d e

These exercises are an introduction to this practice technique. Here is some of my favourite patterns for this technique.

Both hands

1 2 3 4 5 4 3 2

b c d e d c b a

This is one pattern I did over and over to improve multiple hand coordination on piano.

Both hands

1 2 3 4 5 4 3 2 1

c b a b c d e d c

This is another pattern I used for the same purpose.

Feel free to vary these patterns, here is some suggestions for variations, 1. Simply change the patterns to suit yourself. 2. Change the patterns to the same fingers used in a song or scales. 3. Use multiple fingers for one time pressing down eg. Press finger 1, 3, a, and d down at the same time. (This can be helpful to practice Fingerstyle patterns). 4. Instead of using the desk or leg as the hard surface, use your thumb (this is useful while walking, it is the main way I would practice this technique) 5. Change the timing between taps of your finger 6. Make different types of taps that could mimic slides, hammer ons, pull offs, finger rolls. 7. Use some sort of stress ball, piece of foam, or grip trainer to do these patterns on. 8. Do this without looking at your hands. 9. Use a rubber band to restrict your fingers and therefore build more strength.

Here is a second technique that isn't for the purpose of finger strength but more the coordination for chords. Most guitarists who have practiced for a while wont need this technique.

Place hand flat on the desk or hard surface with palm facing upwards. Imagine that there is a guitar fretboard where your fingers are and curl your fingers upwards as if you are fretting a chord. Choose two to infinite chord shapes and change the shape of the imaginary chord you are fretting. Try doing this without looking at your hands and then check if the chord shape is right.

Good luck in your practice!

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It's not only a question of strengthening your fingers but your whole body. If one hasn't played guitar for more than over 20 years and didn't use his finger strength, except only to open a glass of marmalade his fingers and hands are becoming weak.

You push your hands together, push your fingers together, you can lift up stones, hang on cliffs or stairs, climb up lamp posts, stem your body from the ground (push ups) and make the handstand or practice tug war with others, row the boat ... until your guitar teacher tells you that you shouldn't play as a wood chopper.

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