Guitar technique building exercises


There are many techniques on the guitar and there are thousands of exercises around to help you to better them. Below are some exercises related the essential techniques on the guitar that are found in many styles.


Alternate picking

No matter what your playing style alternate picking will help you to play faster, easier and more fluid. In this exercise you are using up and down picking on a single string using the open string and a single fretted note that descends the high E string. Follow the tab and make sure that each note is even and clear.


Hammer ons and pull offs

In the exercise below you can practise both hammer-ons and pull-offs with all sets of fingers. First use the first and second fingers to complete the exercise then use the second and third fingers. Finally use the third and fourth fingers, this will most likely be the most challenging as they are the weakest fingers. 


Here is a more advanced exercise that uses 3 notes per string. Here you are playing a G major scale in its first position. Make sure that each note is at the same volume level when you hammer or pull off the string and that each note is clear.



Legato is a smooth way of playing a combination of notes. In this exercise you are using a combination of hammer-ons and pull-offs to achieve a fast smooth repetitive legato phrase that can be used in improvisation. When practising this line be sure that each note is clear and that each note is at the same volume as the last. I would recommend using your first, third and pinkie to achieve the necessary fingering for the notes. You can also move this onto all the strings, as each string will feel different. 


Sweep picking

This technique is favoured more by rock and metal players however you will find it in many styles. Sweep picking is a hard technique and is divided into two main techniques; the sweeping picking motion and the individual finger motion. The hardest part of the technique is the co-ordination between the two hands. It is best to practise this technique slow to be sure that both hands are working together. The exercise below is a 5-string sweep in which you are arpeggiating a C major chord. This shape can also be moved around the fret board to achieve other major chord arpeggios. If you are struggling to coordinate both hands then take each string slowly one at a time. Be sure that you are using a sweeping motion rather than simply picking each string individually. Your picking hand should flow in one continuous down and up stroke, like a slow strum.



Mainly a rock and metal technique, however it is a great way to achieve some interesting sounds. Van Halen was a pioneer of tapping and used it to great effect that soon court on with many guitar players. This exercise below is a great way to start getting into the technique. To achieve this technique you much first perform a hammer on and or pull off sequence with your left hand, then use your right hand to tap a note on the fret board. Make sure that your tapped note is at equal volume with your fretted notes so that it sounds like you have played it all with your left hand. Your tapping finger can either be your first or second finger on your right hand. On the tab below the note indicated by the letter T is the note that needs to tapped.