Pin It

Check out these awesome finger independence exercises based on scales in contrary motion - essential for fingerstyle guitarists!

You may be thinking that your playing sounds too stiff and the guitar feels awkward. You may find that your playing is not as smooth as you like. 

In order to play the guitar fluently instrument, your fretting hand must be efficient and relaxed. It comes down to placing the fingers exactly where they will produce the best sound on the guitar.

The point with this exercise is to develop finger independence, as well as returning to a neutral position after plucking each note. Avoid playing this warm up exercise too fast, even if you are able to or you find it boring. 

Finger Independence Exercises for Guitar Playing

We are going to learn some scales in contrary motion to improve our finger independence.

In music, a scale is a series of notes arranged in a specific pattern of ascending or descending pitch. Scales are the foundation of melody and harmony in music, and are used to create musical phrases and chord progressions.

A scale in contrary motion, on the other hand, is a specific way of playing a scale where the two parts move in opposite directions. For example, if you were to play a C major scale in contrary motion, you would start with the highest note of the scale being played on the first string and the thumb playing the lowest note of the scale on the sixth string. Then, as you ascend the scale in the bass, the treble voice will descend the scale, playing each note in the opposite direction.

Playing scales in contrary motion is a great way to improve finger independence and coordination between the two hands. It also helps to develop a stronger finger independence, as you are forced to think about where to place each finger in the pattern of the scale in both ascending and descending directions simultaneously.

This exercise forces you to place the fingers exactly in the right spot on the fretboard. Pay attention to how your fingers must stretch differently, depending on where you are playing on the guitar fretboard.

You should avoid re-adjusting the fingers after placing them on the fretboard. If proper finger placement is new to you, be sure to practice these exercises very slowly and watch your finger movement carefully.

The idea is that you make the sound perfect right off the bat, and you don't re-adjust the fingers after placing them on the guitar neck.

Demonstrating correct fretting hand position
A slightly bent wrist helps with proper finger placement, especially on the lower strings

After you finish this exercise you can move on to another warm up, such as scales, or start playing a song.

If you are looking for more fingerpicking exercises and warm ups, check out Play Fingerstyle Guitar Now! This is an online course for learning fingerstyle guitar where we progress from the basics to advanced fingerstyle.


C Major Contrary Motion Scale

Here's an example of how you could play the C Major scale in contrary motion on the guitar. The bottom notes are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C and the top notes are C, B, A, G, F, E, D, and C.

If you can't play the unisson, which involves a stretch from the fifth to the tenth frets, then just play one of the notes. The point is to warm up, not pop your tendons.

Tablature for the C Major scale in contrary motion

B Flat Major Contrary Motion

This version of the B flat major scale involves starting the upper voice from the third degree of the scale or mediant. This is to make the finger pattern more interesting and also creates fewer stretches.

Tablature for the B flat major scale in contrary motion

G Minor Contrary Motion Scale

The relative minor of B flat major being G Minor, let's look at this contrary motion scale to develop our finger independence. You may notice the minor scale contains a mix of both the harmonic and melodic scales. I also included a secondary dominant (V of IV).

The G Minor scale tablature in contrary motion

E Flat Major Contrary Motion Scale

In this contrary motion scale, I've started the bass note on the third degree of the scale, or the mediant. This makes for an interesting inversion when the upper voice passes below the lower voice.

Tablature for the E flat major scale in contrary motion

C Minor Contrary Motion Scale

The relative minor of E flat major is C Minor, and here is the contrary motion scale for this key.

Tablature for the C Minor scale in contrary motion

The next step after learning these contrary motion exercises is to develop your ability to play songs, and that's what you'll learn in the course Play Fingerstyle Guitar Now!