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5 Most Useful Guitar Technique Exercises

5 Most Useful Guitar Technique Exercises

Mak Grgic


What is an arpeggio, you may be asking yourself? Well, have you ever heard Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen as played by James Buckley? Remember how the notes in the chords are plucked one after the other and not strummed together? This is called an arpeggio. It’s a guitar technique where you hold a chord in the left hand and then play strings in different sequences in the right hand. The suggested common patterns are thumb (p) – index (i) – middle (m) and ring (a), then p-a-m-i, and not to forget p-i-m-a-m-i.

Suggestion: when practicing repeat each one 10 times to get a good flow going.

Bar Chords

Bar chords are perhaps the biggest pain for any guitar player. There’s a way to learn how to delegate strength. Take your index finger and do a bar over all 6 strings on the 7th fret. Now, start plucking the strings from 6-1 and backwards. The important thing to do is that you only truly press with the left hand finger on the string that you are actually plucking. The index finger should relax on all other strings when not engaging with them.

Suggestion: repeat 10 times plucking from string 6 – 1 and back, then relax.

Chromatic Scale

A full chromatic scale is a succession of notes that covers and tackles all of the notes on the guitar fret board. Starting with open 6 string, the frets are as follows:

string 6 frets 0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4
string 5 frets 0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4
string 4 frets 0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4
string 3 frets 0 – 1 – 2 – 3
string 2 frets 0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4
string 1 frets 0 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4

Suggestion: Practice 10 times going up and down the scale, but be careful that you keep your left hand fingers close to the frets and not having them dangle around like loose banana leaves. In the right hand you can use a pick or simple index-middle right hand finger exchange.

Speed Bursts

Speed bursts are a common exercise to deal with building up speed for any musician. On guitar we can resort to a simple exercise with a metronome. Set the metronome to a click of 60 and pretend that click is a quarter note. Playing just the open string 1 try to match the click, by playing quarter notes. Now, after playing 4 quarter notes, execute 8 fast eighth notes, then back to quarter notes.

Suggestion: repeat 15 times, and then move the metronome up by 2 notches. If you feel ambitious, go for 5 notch increments! Play with a pick or index-middle fingers in the right hand.


Remember Eddie Van Halen or Jimmy Hendrix with their crazy finger tapping skills? Have you ever wondered how they did it? It’s with a combination of hammer-ons and pull-offs. An example of a hammer-on is when you play an open string 1 and then ‘slam dunk’ the string 1 fret 1 without helping yourself with plucking that note with the right hand. Try it! Pluck open string 1, then slam dunk fret 1 with your index finger, then pluck open 1 again and then slam dunk fret 2 with your middle finger, then open 1 and fret 3 with ring finger and lastly fret 4 with your pinky.

Suggestion: repeat 10 times for each fret and remember: a good hammer-on is fast and precise, not slow and strong.

Happy practicing!
Mak Grgic

5 Most Useful Guitar Technique Exercises

Mak Grgic

Mak Grgic is a classical guitarist and one of the founders of Eurostrings, the European Guitar Festival Collaborative. The expansiveness of Mak’s repertoire winds its way through a dizzying array of approaches, from music of the baroque and renaissance (for which he received praise from Washington Post) to music of a cinematic nature, ethnic music of his native Balkan Peninsula, and extreme avant-garde and microtonal music. His first solo release on Marquis Records entitled Cinema Verismo explores adept guitar arrangements of music from the movies. His latest recordings, Balkanisms for Naxos Music and MAKrotonal for MicroFest Records, an album produced by the Grammy Award winning producer John Schneider, explore a vast repertoire spanning ethnic music, microtonal newly-composed music and early music on re-fretted instruments.

In the recent past Mak has showcased an innate affection for entrepreneurial work. This has resulted in directorship roles at EuroStrings; Zagreb Guitar Festival and Roots & Notes Interactive Music Festival in Croatia; Music@RushHour in Los Angeles; and Acoustic Caffeine Concert Series in cooperation with Arts Brookfield.

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