Sunday, 8 January 2012

A twist on chromatic warm ups

Last post Dec 2010??? Oops! I knew it had been a while but not that long.

Anyway, as it's January and many people are still in their "must exercise more" phase after Christmas I thought I'd share a little warm up exercise I've been fiddling with.

Many players use the one finger per fret method to play chromatic exercises, either playing a full chromatic scale or repeating the same pattern on each string eg Frets 5,6,7,8 on each string. These are great for getting your hands moving but, because they use an even number of notes per string, they only use one way of crossing strings. By that I mean if you're a 2 finger fingerstyle player you'll be starting on the E string going 1212 (or 2121) and then playing the same pattern on every string. The same applies with up and down strokes if you're using a pick.

This is fine but means that you have to repeat it all again starting on the other finger/stroke. OK, you don't have to, but I discovered a long time ago that the reason I found some passages more difficult than others was because I was trying to cross strings with my "weak" finger. As a result, I aim to practice leading and crossing strings with either finger/stroke.

So, to cover both possibilities, we need an odd number of notes per string. We could use 3, but then we lose warming up all 4 digits as much so this exercise uses 5 notes per string

Now,unless you're fortunate enough to have a spare digit lying about, one finger per fret won't be enough, we need to make little shift. Now this is where this exercise has another benefit - which finger do we shift with?

Most of us will have a preference, whether it's to slide the first finger from the 5th to the 6th fret and then play one finger per fret or play all four fingers and shift up with the 4th finger.

Your challenge for this lesson is to repeat it 4 times and each time shift with a different finger.

So, first time you play the 5th fret with your first finger, move it up to the 6th and play one finger per fret. On the way back down, play the 9,8,7,6th frets with one finger per fret and then shift the first finger down to the 5th fret.

I find first and fourth finger shifts fairly natural but shifting with the middle and ring fingers feels really weird.

At all times, ensure you are alternating with your picking hand so you take full advantage of the odd numbers of notes per string (eg E string might be 12121, the A string is 21212 and so on).

Have fun and I'll try not to leave it a year before the next post!!

PS If the four fret stretch from 5th to 8th fret is too uncomfortable, feel free to move it higher up the neck. And as always, if it starts hurting take a break.