You may have heard of ‘speed building’ weights, or ‘grip strengthening’ devices before. The question is: do they work? Is there any benefit to using these things?
Well, my first question would be: which muscles are you strengthening with these devices, and are they the same muscles that you use to play guitar? Obviously we want to build up the right muscles for guitar playing- otherwise there would be no point!
Guitar Economy of Motion
Well, when you’re using grip strengtheners, you’re actually strengthening the muscles that help you make a fist, rather than the ones that help your fingers move independently. Again, this comes down to the idea of “economy of motion”, or “economy of effort”. You should only be using the muscles you need for moving your fingers, not the ones that live in your arm and move your whole hand.
The muscles of your arm are great big, powerful muscles- and you don’t need all that strength to fret a string on guitar! The motion of holding down a guitar string is almost the same that you would use to tap the top of a table when you’re bored- not the ones you would use to punch someone! So therefore, I would be careful about using grip strengtheners for guitar playing.
Guitar Finger Weights
These are little weights that you strap on your fingers when actually playing the guitar. If you choose to use these, you must remember that correct guitar technique is more important than guitar speed, or force! Finger weights won’t improve your guitar technique, only the strength you have in your hand/fingers.
Again, it comes down to whether or not you’re using the correct muscles in the first place. Obviously, if you’re using the muscles of your arm to move your fingers, then finger weights will just make bad technique much worse! Whereas, if you’re already using the muscles of your hand, then you will obviously strengthen them- but neither of these things will improve your actual technique.
Correct Guitar Technique
How do you know which muscles you’re using? Well, when you play something -legato (hammer ons) is best-, is your hand having to move along with your fingers? I mean, when you actually fret a note where does the power come from? Look closely. If you’re using a hand movement to fret the note then the action is coming from your arm, but if your hand stays still and only your finger moves, the motion is coming from where it should.
For playing the guitar, you need finger strength- not arm strength. Of course, there is no substitute for good technique either!
Anyway, over the last few week’s I’ve been trying out Finger-Weights– basically little weights that you put on each finger when you play. These are much more useful at strengthening your “guitar playing muscles”!
Other benefits include:
- Because more effort is required to lift it, they can help keep your little finger down and under control
- They strengthen the muscles of the hand and so increase your finger independence
- Note definition is increased (another byproduct of having stronger fingers)
The thing is, though, that you have to use them properly (by which I mean: sensibly). The one warning I would give with these is that it’s not really a speed thing. Using these finger weights over time might (and probably will) increase your speed…but I think you’ll see much more results by concentrating on finger independence and note definition when wearing them!
The weights are just basically increasing the amount of effort it takes you to play, right? That means two things:
- your fingers become stronger and more independent over time
- …but also if you try to push yourself to play too fast with them on you’re going to increase the amount of tension you produce in order to compensate!
…so forget trying to set the land speed record with the weights on, and instead work on finger independence and other areas of playing (which you should be concentrating on anyway…). Then, when you take the weights off you can feel the benefits (which will include an increase in speed and accuracy).
In conclusion, these weights will actually really help you with your playing…but there is never going to be any substitute for good technique and practice routine! Check them out at Finger-Weights.com.