A simple exercise to improve your guitar chords
Finger dexterity is essential for playing chords and especially learning new ones. This exercise will strengthen your fingers and make them more flexible. This will make it easier to learn both open and moveable chords.
It's all in the fingers
This exercise can be of use to beginners and experienced guitarists alike. The main difficulties with chord playing are stretching and getting our weaker fingers to do what we want them to. Our first and second fingers get used all the time. They are strong and nimble. They also benefit from being used more in everyday life than the third and little fingers.
This exercise forces us to use our weaker fingers more and therefore strengthens them and improves their ability to hit the right notes. The exercise is so simple I can describe it in a single sentence: play normal open chords without using your first finger. That’s it. Play three finger open chords but use your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers to fret them. By working these fingers more they’ll get stronger and more flexible.
Start with just two chords. Lets try C and D. Place your fingers for C slowly and strum it once. Then do the same for D. Repeat this with a slow steady rhythm. Build the speed up slowly but always make sure you keep the rhythm and you are producing a clean chord without any muting or buzzing.
You should aim to practise this with all of your three fingered chords and even try to play tunes that you already know. This will make even the simplest tune a challenge. By overcoming that challenge your fingers have become stronger and your have become better. Try and keep your touch light. It may be tempting to press hard because you are using weaker fingers but you’ll be surprised how little pressure you need.
So where does this get us?
Open chords are easy enough but when we want to advance to more complicated barre and other moveable chords often it is the little finger that lets us down. This exercise is a simple preparation to that. All of our three fingered open chords can be made into moveable chords using these fingerings. Also I find this a handy little warm up to do before performing.