Guitar Fitness: The Spider

the spider exercise for improving your guitar speed and technique

This post is the first of a new series looking at guitar fitness. The idea is that each episode deals with a different aspect of guitar fitness- an exercise, a technique etc. These are the things that you should be practicing to improve your technique.

So, what series about guitar exercises would be complete without the spider? This is probably the first exercise that anyone should learn! I mean, it isn’t as important as some other aspects of guitar playing, but if you want to get into technique exercises…

…this is where to start.

How to Play the Exercise

This exercise is really easy to understand, but can get fairly complicated to do (especially when you consider all the variations!). I suggest starting it at a point on the neck where the frets are comfortable because you need to use one finger per fret.

I mean, somewhere where the distances between the frets are around the same as the distances between your fingers. That way you’re not trying to stretch out at the same time, and your fingers only have to worry about going up and down.

In the video, I play this at the 9th position, which means my first finger plays the 9th fret, second finger plays the 10th, third on the 11th, and pinky on the 12th. If you can play the first example without moving your hand, then you can start here too. If not, you’ll have to find somewhere more comfortable.

one finger per fret spider exercises on the guitar

Step 2

Once you can do the first example, and keep each finger down, it’s time to move across the neck. This is what is shown in example 2. When moving between strings, only move one finger at a time as I show in the video, the rest should remain down on the strings.

Yes, in real life you’re not going to be able to keep all your fingers down like this! The idea is that we’re practicing it much stricter than we need to. I’m thinking that if you can play to an impossible standard slowly, then you’ll have a better chance of speeding it up. It also ties in with what I’ve said before about speeding up with a metronome.

tab for the spider exercise ascending across the guitar neck

Step 3

What goes up, must come down, and since we’ve just played the exercise going up in pitch, we should now play it going back down to the starting note. To do this we’re doing the exact same thing in reverse…but this time your fingers should be on the string at the start, and you gradually lift them off.

the descending spider exercise in tab

Taking it Further

As always, I suggest starting this one pretty slow, before speeding it up. This is a good plan, if for no other reason than it allows you to get it perfect before getting it fast! Once you get really fast, however, you don’t need to worry so much about keeping each finger down, just as long as they’re not flying around wildly.

Actually, the whole idea of keeping them down at first is to prevent them flying around wildly when you speed up…

If you get bored of the regular ‘1 2 3 4’ finger pattern, there are plenty of variations. In fact, I recommend playing through as many of the variations as possible to keep your finger independence up!

Overall, there are 24 different finger combinations for this exercise, which I’ve compiled into this short workbook. Just in case you ever think you’ve truly mastered the spider!

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