Category Archives: Guitar

Start here to learn how to play guitar with beginning guitar lessons, guitar exercises and music theory for guitar playing.

Climb Down G Minor Pentatonic

This exercise is going to use the G minor pentatonic scale with a downward climbing picking pattern.  This picking pattern has quite a few string changes that helps to build the speed of switching strings as well as quickens the finger placement.  This is an all around great exercise for building multiple facets of your technique.  Play this often and all over on the neck!

Exercise A:  Play the G minor pentatonic scale high to low starting on the 8th fret of the high E string.  Below, you can see the notes involved in this scale.  Use alternate picking through the whole scale.  Since there are two notes on each string, each string will be a down stroke and then an up stroke.

Exercise B:  Play the same notes, but now we are going to mix up the pattern we play.  See the numbers next to the notes in the diagram below?  That is the order you will pick the notes.  You will start on fret 8 of the high E string then eventually make it to fret 3 of the low E string.  Altogether, you will pick 30 times.  Listen to the example and play with the order of the fingering showin in the graphic.  Make sure to use alternate picking through the whole exercise!  Also, start slow and build up your speed as you are able to do it without mistakes.


How to Bend Strings

Bending strings is a very important part of guitar playing.  The sound created by this action allows for a whole new dimension of sounds and notes.  With a fretted instrument, typically there are only distinct note sounds available to the player, but with bending, a whole new set of sounds is created.

Bending a string is simply this: when you place your finger on a fret and play that note, you move the string sideways along the fret board.  This is, in theory, stretching out the string.  When you bend a string, it raises the pitch of the note, often by either a half or a whole step.

To explain a little further how the bend is accomplished, place your index finger on the 5th fret of the low E string.  Now, without picking your finger up, pull the towards you so the low E string and your finger are touching the A string.  Hold it there for a second and pluck the low E string.  Now, let your finger back to the original position.  Do you hear how the sound is different if you pluck the note normal and then with bending it?

Typically, when bending strings, the lower three strings are pulled upward towards your face while the top three strings are pushed downward away from your face.  This is to prevent bending the string off of the fret board!

Exercise A:  Here is what we will do to practice this.  Below you will see an image with the notes you are going to bend and which direction to bend the string.  Here are the notes you are playing:

Low E String – Fret 2
A String – Fret 3
D String – Fret 4
G String – Fret 5
B String – Fret 6
High E String – Fret 7

Play this through each time with a different finger for the notes. First, with your index finger and then middle, ring and pinky. Bending is very difficult with the pinky because of lack of strength, but if you continue trying you will build that up in no time.


Climbing E Major Pentatonic

This exercise will introduce you to a major pentatonic scale as well as guide you in playing a scale to get you moving around on the neck a bit.  You will need to play this slowly at first, but the goal is to increase your speed while still playing it correctly.  We are only going to play this scale upwards right now.

Exercise A:  Play the E Major Pentatonic Scale up until fret 6 on the D string.  Play these notes alternating your picking, up and down stroke.  The fingering to use is listed below.  When you go from the F# to the G# as the final step, slide your ring finger up from fret 4 to 6.

E string – Fret 0
E string – Fret 2 – Index finger
E string – Fret 4 – Ring finger
A string – Fret 2 – Index finger
A string – Fret 4 – Ring finger
D string – Fret 2 – Index finger
D string – Fret 4 – Ring finger
D string – Fret 6 – Slide from fret 4 with your ring finger up to fret 6


Sliding Up

This exercise is going to help you practice another technique used in guitar playing, that of sliding notes. This is simply when you are playing a note, sliding your finger up to a higher note.  It is similar to a hammer on, but your finger keeps pressure on the string as you go from the lower note to the higher.   Also, the notes in between the starting note and the ending note will sound as you pass over them.

Exercise A: Refer to the graphic to see the notes we are going to play. For this exercise we are just going to slide our index finger from fret 3 up to fret 5 on each string. Start with the low E string, pluck the string and then slide your finger up until it ends on fret 5.

Make sure to keep enough speed and pressure to maintain the sound throughout the slide!


Pull Off Practice

If you don’t remember going through our previous lesson on hammer ons, you may want to review that prior to this lesson.  This time we are going to practice pull offs which are essentially the opposite of the hammer ons.

A pull off is when you play a note on the guitar neck and pull off the fret finger exposing another note lower down.  The momentum of the string continues to create the sound whether you are pulling off to an open string or to another fret you have already covered with a different finger.

This is a slight difference between the hammer ons and pull offs though.  When pulling your finger off the string, you do need to pull the string a bit as if to semi-pluck it with the finger you are pulling off.  Notice how we don’t call this a “lift off”?  That’s because it’s not just simply lifting off a finger as quickly as possible, but there is a skill to develop of pulling off with just the right amount of pull on the string.

We will begin this with some examples.  Each string will only be picked once and you can choose how to pick.

Exercise A:  Start at the high E string.  Place your index finger on fret 2.  Play the string and as it is ringing, pull off your index finger in a manner that gently pulls the string, providing it a bit more vibration for the next note, in this case the open E string.  If you don’t hear the open E string then keep trying until you can distinctly hear both the F# (fret 2 note) and the E.  Once you can, continue the same on each string down to the low E string.


Exercise B:  We are going to do the same as A, but instead of pulling off of fret 2 to an open string, we are going to pull off fret 3 to fret 1 to practice this technique with two finger placements on the neck.  When you are going to pull off of the fret 3 note on each string, make sure the fret 1 finger is firmly planted.  Again, start with the high E string, playing fret 3 pull off to fret 1 and then continue down each string until you reach the low E.


If you are still having trouble getting both notes to sound, then here is an alternate practice.  Instead of worrying picking the string with your picking hand, use your index finger to pick the string by pushing it down at fret 2, the flicking your finger off to make it ring.  When this becomes comfortable, attempt to do the exercise above with the picking hand.

Hand Full of Notes

This exercise doesn’t really do much to build theory at all, but is simply a technical exercise to get your fingers and picking moving quicly. We are just going to play each string using all 4 playing fingers in succession upwards on the neck, than downwards. This order of notes doesn’t belong to any scale that you would probably use, but does provide a quick way to get your hand moving faster and stretching a little more. Here are the exercises:

Exercise A:  Play fret 1, 2, 3 and 4 on each string starting with the low E and working up to the high E string.  Always play fret 1 with your index finger, fret 2 with your middle finger, fret 3 with your ring finger and fret 4 with your pinky.  Play this with all down strokes, all up strokes and alternating.  Make sure to start out slow enough that you can play all the way through without any mistakes, then work up the speed.


Exercise B:  Play the same as above, but start at the top of the run.  Play fret 4, 3, 2 and then 1 on each string starting with the high E and working down to the low E.  Keep the same fingering for each fret as well as the same picking patterns.


That’s it!  Not too hard.  We will revisit this in the future, playing this pattern to become more familiar with fret spacing at different points on the neck, but for this time, first position is fine.

If you get comfortable with this, then try it with this extra focus:  As you play each string, when you move up a fret, keep the previous fingers remaining on the frets they were placed on.  By the time you are done with each string, all 4 fingers will still be in place on the string.  On the way down, place all 4 fingers on the string before playing and remove one finger for each note.  Then, focus on the opposite of this.  Make sure to pick up the last finger used as you place the next finger down so there is always only one finger down on the fret board at a time.