5. Finger Dexterity Exercise – ‘The Spider’ (BC-104)

Topic Progress:

So far, we’ve focused on chords and strumming techniques – now we’re going to try playing individual notes on each string to start improving our finger dexterity.

This exercise uses all four fingers across the six strings of the guitar, and is often known as ‘the spider’, as we will be creeping our fingers up and down the fretboard like a creepy crawly. The main focus of this exercise is to build finger strength, to develop coordination between our picking hand and our fretting fingers, and to develop the finger independence we will need when we start learning how to play lead guitar.

Exercises like these can get a little boring after a while, but it’s worth putting at least 5 minutes a day into practicing this sort of thing to help develop the skills we need to play real music!

Exercise: ‘The Spider’. Variation 1 – Staying in the Same Position

It’s best to start off slowly with this exercise, so we’ll start at a tempo of 60 bpm. Using a metronome (remember you can use the one on the website), set the tempo to 60 bpm and place your index finger on the 5th fret of the low E string (the A note). We’re be playing in quarter notes (counting “1…2…3…4”), so each note we play will land on the beat using a downstroke. If you are struggling to play this at 60 bpm, you can choose a more comfortable speed and gradually work up until you are able to play faster.

Use your index finger (1) to play the 5th fret, your middle finger (2) to play the 6th fret, your ring finger (3) to play the 7th fret, and your pinkie (4) to play the 8th fret, as shown in the fretboard diagram:

fretboard option width=825 option height=240 show fret=5 string=6 text=1 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=6 string=6 text=2 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=7 string=6 text=3 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=8 string=6 text=4 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=5 string=5 text=1 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=6 string=5 text=2 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=7 string=5 text=3 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=8 string=5 text=4 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=5 string=4 text=1 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=6 string=4 text=2 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=7 string=4 text=3 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=8 string=4 text=4 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=5 string=3 text=1 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=6 string=3 text=2 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=7 string=3 text=3 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=8 string=3 text=4 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=5 string=2 text=1 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=6 string=2 text=2 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=7 string=2 text=3 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=8 string=2 text=4 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=5 string=1 text=1 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=6 string=1 text=2 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=7 string=1 text=3 fill-color=#dd9933 show fret=8 string=1 text=4 fill-color=#dd9933

When you play the first note with your index finger, keep your index finger on the fretboard, then move your middle finger to play the second note. Hold your index finger and middle finger on the fretboard, then use your ring finger to play the third note. Finally, holding these three fingers on the fretboard, use your pinky finger to play the fourth note. Change to the next string, then repeat the process until you reach the top E string. At this point, repeat the motion back down the strings until you get back to the low E string.

Tempo: 60 bpm

options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 5d/6 6d/6 7d/6 8d/6 | 5d/5 6d/5 7d/5 8d/5 | 5d/4 6d/4 7d/4 8d/4
options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 5d/3 6d/3 7d/3 8d/3 | 5d/2 6d/2 7d/2 8d/2 | 5d/1 6d/1 7d/1 8d/1
options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 5d/1 6d/1 7d/1 8d/1 | 5d/2 6d/2 7d/2 8d/2 | 5d/3 6d/3 7d/3 8d/3
options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 5d/4 6d/4 7d/4 8d/4 | 5d/5 6d/5 7d/5 8d/5 | 5d/6 6d/6 7d/6 8d/6
Tip 1: Try starting on different frets. The example above shows the technique starting on the 5th fret, however we want to get to the stage where we can play this on different areas of the fretboard. If you start on the first fret, for example, the frets are further apart, so you will find you have to stretch your fingers more to be able to fret the notes. Likewise, if you start this exercise on the 12th fret, the frets are much closer together, so you will feel a difference when you play in this position too! Try mixing it up and practicing this exercise on lower and higher frets to get the full benefit.
Tip 2: Keep it slow to start with. We want to develop finger strength, dexterity and accuracy with this exercise, so make sure you can play this exercise slowly to imprint the fine motor movements into your muscle memory. It can often be difficult to play things at slower speeds – this is great for improving our timing.
Tip 3: Increasing the tempo. Once you have mastered the exercise at a slower speed, you can start increasing the tempo. Start off by increasing it by about 4 bpm. If you can still play cleanly and accurately at this speed, increase it again. Repeat the process until you are no longer able to play accurately, then work on mastering the exercise at this new tempo.

Exercise: ‘The Spider’. Variation 2 – Moving Up and Down the Fretboard

This is a variation of the spider exercise where we move up the fretboard. We play the regular pattern as above until we get to the 8th fret of the top E string, then we shift everything up one fret, starting with our index finger on the 6th fret of the top E string. Play the spider pattern back down to the low E string, playing frets 6, 7 , 8, and 9, then when we play the 9th fret on the low E string, move everything up one fret again, so that we are starting the next sequence with our index finger on the 7th fret. Repeat the process each time, continually moving up the fretboard until you are starting with your index finger on the 12th fret.

Tempo: 60 bpm

options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 5d/6 6d/6 7d/6 8d/6 | 5d/5 6d/5 7d/5 8d/5 | 5d/4 6d/4 7d/4 8d/4
options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 5d/3 6d/3 7d/3 8d/3 | 5d/2 6d/2 7d/2 8d/2 | 5d/1 6d/1 7d/1 8d/1
options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 6d/1 7d/1 8d/1 9d/1 | 6d/2 7d/2 8d/2 9d/2 | 6d/3 7d/3 8d/3 9d/3
options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 6d/4 7d/4 8d/4 9d/4 | 6d/5 7d/5 8d/5 9d/5 | 6d/6 7d/6 8d/6 9d/6
options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 7d/6 8d/6 9d/6 10d/6 | 7d/5 8d/5 9d/5 10d/5 | 7d/4 8d/4 9d/4 10d/4
etc…

Once you have played the sequence from the 12th fret, you can start moving back down the fretboard, by shifting down one fret instead of up. As before, play the sequence starting on the low E string with your index finger on the 12th fret. When your reach the 15th fret of the high E string with your pinky, move everything down one fret so that your index finger is now starting at the 11th fret. Play the sequence on the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th frets, moving from the high E string to the low E string. When you reach the 14th fret of the low E string, move everything down one fret so that your index finger is starting at the 10th fret and continue the sequence. Repeat this process, moving down the fretboard back to the 5th fret (you can also go further down the fretboard if you like!)

Tempo: 60 bpm

options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 12d/6 13d/6 14d/6 15d/6 | 12d/5 13d/5 14d/5 15d/5 | 12d/4 13d/4 14d/4 15d/4
options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 12d/3 13d/3 14d/3 15d/3 | 12d/2 13d/2 14d/2 15d/2 | 12d/1 13d/1 14d/1 15d/1
options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 11d/1 12d/1 13d/1 14d/1 | 11d/2 12d/2 13d/2 14d/2 | 11d/3 12d/3 13d/3 14d/3
options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 11d/4 12d/4 13d/4 14d/4 | 11d/5 12d/5 13d/5 14d/5 | 11d/6 12d/6 13d/6 14d/6
options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 10d/6 11d/6 12d/6 13d/6 | 10d/5 11d/5 12d/5 13d/5 | 10d/4 11d/4 12d/4 13d/4
etc…

Example – “Hey Joe”, by Jimi Hendrix

If you’re looking for further inspiration to practice this exercise, there is a passage in “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix which uses a similar sequence to the one we’ve just learned. Skip forward to 2:19 in the video below to hear the example.

We’ll be learning this song at a later stage in the course, so if you want to get ahead and start working on this now, you can find the tab below:

Tempo: 80 bpm

options width=800 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 3d/5 | 0d/6 1d/6 2d/6 3d/6 | 2d/5 3d/5 4d/5 5d/5 | 2d/6 3d/6 4d/6 5d/6 | 4d/5 5d/5 6d/5 7d/5
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