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dexterity exercises for the fretting hand

These left hand finger exercises can be used in your practice routine to develop your left hand and keep your fingers nimble.

What are the best exercises for developing left hand finger dexterity

The best exercises to develop left hand dexterity in fingerstyle guitar are hammer-ons, pull-offs and scales.

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are also called slurs or legato playing. You can use scales to practice coordinating your left hand technique with your right hand alternating fingers.

Why Do Finger Dexterity Exercises?

If you are playing Fingerstyle guitar, you will be tasked with playing melodies, bass lines and chords in the same song.

Both the right hand and the left hand are of equal importance from a technical point of view. Dexterity exercises strengthen the muscles in your left hand which will help you to be able to play faster and more accurately.

Hammer Ons

Hammer-on is a technique where you play two notes in succession by striking the second note with the same finger as the first note. This should produce a smooth transition from one note to another.

Success with the hammer on depends on two things: speed and finger placement.

Your finger movement must be swift. If your finger arrives too slowly on the fretboard, you will stop the string vibrating before the next note sounds.

The placement of the finger on the fretboard is also important. To get a better understanding of where your finger needs to be on the fretboard to produce the best sound, see the picture below.

Notice how each finger is close to the fret. Also notice how each finger is at the same height on the fretboard.

To really improve your left hand technique, I recommend practicing hammer-ons with each finger of the left hand.

Pull Offs

The pull-off helps develop the correct finger pressure needed in the left hand.  The pull off on the guitar essentially involves the same finger placement as for the hammer-on.

To successfully pull off, your finger pressure must be stronger on the lower note. You will need less pressure on the upper finger, which is the one you pull down on the string with.

Pull – offs and chords are often combined by electric guitar players when doing sweep picking. This involves holding down multiple fingers and only performing a pull off with one of them.

I don’t recommend practicing this for developing left hand dexterity, however. Start with doing one finger at a time, and then combining the technique with chords.


The last way to practice developing left hand dexterity is with scales. Only practice these scales after you have thoroughly warmed up the left hand, however.

To improve your dexterity practicing scales, be hyper focused on the exact position of your fingers, as in the examples above. 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.

To practice left hand dexterity with scales, I recommend scales such as the major scale or the whole tone scale that have large finger stretches and involve shifting.