Starter Exercises

Core Location: Scales

Training with specific exercises is a smart way to not train mistakes and a good way to gain technical control faster, so we can get to the music making.

We start with "laps". I often use the term "laps" with kids. They seem to relate to it well and it typically sticks with them when talking about practice.

Start with just playing the laps exercise however you would first try something new. Then watch the videos and play the exercise (or any) using both of the concepts (exchanging vs. stay/set) as this builds intelligence and a deeper level of control into your playing.

When someone asks you to play guitar for them, don't play any of these types of exercises. Rather, jam a tune.


First, here's the single string tablature. Get the pattern → 1234 up, position by position, 4321 down...

chromatic laps guitar exercise

Once you are comfortable with playing this on the first string, move it to string 2, then 3, etc.

Try a different string for every day of the week. And, once a week, do all six strings in one practice session.

Try open string picking to gain picking control...on any and all strings...

open string guitar picking exercise
Another good exercise is to pick each string 4 or 8 times.

Linear Chromatic

linear chromatic guitar exercise

Consider your shifting in the above exercise. Often, with shifting (changing positions), our elbow can slightly precede the movement of the hand. Therefore, it can act like slack in a rope. If we move our elbow slightly, the hand will follow. How much we 'throw' our elbow, can determine where our hand will end up.

The goal of any exercise like these is to study how our hands work. Start slow, then bump up the tempo. These can help us develop speed.

We aren't doing exercises just to do exercises. To get the most out of every moment of practice, we focus our energies on finding out what it takes to play with less effort, fatter tone, & get into the pocket with our technique.

All Strings in a Position

chromatic guitar exercise in positions

Repeat the above cycle, position by position all the up the board [stop wherever feels right], then all the way back down.

Wrap It

All three of these exercises are moving in half steps (one fret) and can therefore called chromatic exercises. Yet, we can work endless fret spacing and string/finger configurations to address specific weaknesses that students demonstrate. In fact, learning to design exercises and think about strategies for improvement is what makes us good teachers. They are truly endless.

Do these with full focus; you are figuring things out. These can be a default for "what to practice" moments, especially when there might be challenges happening in other pieces. And, they are perfect additions to when you are studying strumming and switching chords, as with Shape Connect [do some changes, then do one of these exercises, then go back to switching - smart practice].

And again, when someone asks you to play guitar for them, don't play these!