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Here are some awesome left hand finger exercises for fingerstyle guitar to develop your hand and finger strength.

So, you're looking for ways to to develop your fretting hand strength!

You may have come across some guides telling you to use a funny hand gimmick with springs in order to get more fretting hand strength.

But I'm here to tell you that you need none of those things. 

The best exercises to build up your fretting hand strength for fingerstyle guitar are hammer-ons and pull-offs. These are also called slurs or legato playing.

I will show you how you can combine all of these techniques while playing scales to create the ultimate fretting hand strengthening exercise.

If you are just starting out playing fingerstyle guitar, you should learn these techniques straight away and incorporate them into your practice routine.

Let's first go through a quick explanation of the techniques that we will be using in our hand strengthening exercises.

Hammer-ons involve plucking the first note and tapping the next note quickly with the finger, while pull-offs entail plucking the first note and pulling the string with the finger to sound the next note.

1. Hammer Ons

Hammer-on is a technique where you play two notes in succession. Begin by plucking the first note as you normally would, and striking the second note with a different finger but on the same string as the first note.

This should produce a smooth transition from one note to another, hence the name "legato playing". The word legato is simply Italian for "tied together".

When you perform the tapping or hammering motion, your finger movement must be swift, with a focus on speed and finger accuracy. If your finger arrives too slowly on the fretboard, you will stop the string vibrating before the next note sounds.

Factors that can affect your hammer-on finger being too slow are: hesitation, starting too far away from the fretboard, and bad hand placement.

The online course Play Fingerstyle Guitar Now! contains video examples to show you the proper hand placement for chords, barres, hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Make sure that your hand is in a low position to get the most force for the hammer-on. Each finger of the left hand must be close to the fret. The reason for tapping close to the fret is to get the string to vibrate with minimal effort.

When your second finger taps the fretboard, make sure it taps right next to the fret and not too far away.

Also notice how each finger is at the same height on the fretboard. You accomplish this by lowering the wrist and aligning all the fingers of the left hand with the strings. This also prevents excess left hand stretching when doing legato playing.

Later in this article, I will show you a method that gets you practicing hammer-ons with each finger of the left hand.

2. Pull-Offs

To perform a pull-off on a guitar, place two left-hand fingers on the same string. Pluck the string to sound the note and quickly pull the higher finger downwards, sounding the lower note. The pull off on the guitar essentially involves the same finger placement as for the hammer-on.

To play faster pull-offs, develop the correct finger pressure needed in the left hand. You will need less pressure on the upper finger, which is the one you pull down on the string with.

You can practice correct finger pressure by holding the lower finger steady with the right hand and practicing the pulling motion with one of the other fingers. Try to get the volume as loud as you can with the pulling action.

Also note that the pull-off involves a downward motion with the finger, towards the floor. If you just pull the finger away from the fretboard you will get hardly any sound at all!

How To Do Pull-Offs Without Hitting Other Strings

To successfully perform a pull-off without hitting other strings, your finger pressure must be stronger on the lower note, in order to avoid displacing the whole hand.

The finger that completes the pull-off can rest against the lower string. The contact of the finger with the lower string will prevent this string from sounding.

3. Slur Scales

A slur scale is a technique that involves playing a scale, usually the major or minor scale, and connecting each note of the scale with either a hammer-on or a pull-off. Usually, this involves repeating each note of the scale.

In this slur scale, you perform hammer-ons for the ascending scale and pull-offs for the descending scale. By paying attention to your sound and making sure that your sound is even and of equal volume, you will develop finger strength in your fretting hand.

Slur scales are excellent as a warm-up, but you can also use them to develop your finger strength, dexterity and hand coordination

To improve your dexterity practicing scales, be hyper focused on the exact position of your fingers. Be sure to land the finger exactly in the spot on the fretboard that produces the best sound.

Also, keep the finger placement proper by using the fingertip.

Easy Cees

Let's start with an easy slur scale to get our fingers nimbled up. This is an easy C Major slur scale that covers one octave.

You can play this scale in second position. This means that your index finger stays in the second fret, your middle finger stays in the third fret, your ring finger stays in the fourth fret and your pinky finger stays in the fifth fret.

C Major Slur Scale tablature

Fantastic Fiesta

Almost no slur scales are playable in first position without some hand shifting. This F Major Slur scale will get you playing in first and second position. Also notice the repeat signs - play this one over, and over again!

F Major Slur Scale tablature

Dazzling Digits

Now let's move on to the D Major scale. Here we will cover two octaves and we will go into a really high position on your acoustic guitar.

If you're not used to playing in a higher position, make sure to focus on accuracy and keep it slow when you're starting out.

D Major slur scale tablature

A Major Adventure

As we expand into the sharp keys, we now need to bring some shifts into the mix. Here's the A major slur scale that will require you to adjust your hand position from first position into second position.

Tablature for the A Major slur scale

Frivolous F Sharpie Delight

There isn't a one-size-fits-all scale pattern for the slur scale, so I've created a slur scale pattern for the F sharp major scale in first position. This scale uses almost no open strings, for an extra finger workout.

The F sharp major slur scale

How To Strengthen Your Hand With Slur Scales

The idea is to use not just one combination of fingers, but many different combinations.

For example, when pulling off from the 6th to the 4th fret, consider using the weaker pinky and middle fingers of the left hand to work on developing the strength of the less-used fingers.

Similarly, you can practice doing hammer-ons between the ring and pinky fingers of the left hand, to develop accuracy with the weaker fingers.

If you are tired of playing exercises like this and want to learn some real songs instead, check out my course Play Fingerstyle Guitar Now!