The following is a very basic exercise to develop security, independence, and most importantly, efficiency of muscle movement in your fretting hand on the guitar.
In the case of this exercise, you should focus on relaxing all of the fingers, as well as the arm and shoulder.
- Get into a proper seating position and posture.
- Keeping your shoulder relaxed, the elbow in and near your body, the wrist straight and the fingers curved, place the index finger on the third string. You may choose any fret that is in front of your shoulder. I recommend that you start somewhere around the 6th or 7th fret – on the 3rd string. (See proper left hand position on the guitar.)
- Press the finger onto the string with the tip, not the flat-part, immediately behind the fret. Don’t press the middle or back of the fret space because it takes more pressure.
- Be sure not to squeeze the thumb and index finger together. Instead, let gravity act upon the weight of the arm. The weight of the arm will then be enough to depress the string. It actually takes very little pressure when done properly and you should feel very relaxed.
- Sound the note many times with your right (picking or plucking) hand. The object is to use the minimal amount of pressure on your index finger, while having no tension at all in the other fingers, or anywhere else in the body.
- Once you have achieved relaxation of all the fingers while pressing the first, repeat this exercise with the 2nd finger. Then do the 3rd, and 4th finger.
The underlying movements of this exercise consist of putting finger after finger on the same string, starting with the first and ending with the fourth and then reversing the direction. The result is a 4-note chromatic scale going up and down.
While doing this exercise, you should actively relax any and all muscles that are not needed to produce the desired note. The idea is similar to the relaxation technique known as autogenic training. The fretting finger itself should be thought of more as a relaxed curve than as a clamp that, in conjunction with the thumb, “presses” down on the string, or squeezes the neck of the guitar. Thinking of your fingers as relaxed curves also encourages the weight of the relaxed arm to assume the responsibility of depressing the string. The rate at which you move from note to note is determined solely by the onset of relaxation. As you get more used to this exercise, your muscles will learn to relax at ever increasing speeds, until relaxation is practically instantaneous.