Irrespective of differences in technique there is a basic foundation that one must build from if one is to gain the facility needed with fret board fingerings.

In this lesson I will focus on fret hand fingerings. Yes, I recognize that Django had only two good fingers to utilize in his fret board gymnastics. This is the exception and serves to show that necessity is the mother of invention. I assume most of us want to use all available fingers we have.

Let's look at combinations which will force us to stretch each finger for full dexterity. In this way we can optimize our fret hand co-ordination, thus facilitating a total approach.

There are a total of 24 fingering combinations or practice patterns that the left-hand can play (6 strings X 4 fingers = 24 patterns). I have laid them out so that you can practice one ascending and descending set each day for six consecutive days. This applies to triplets as well as straight eighth note patterns. Begin each practice period with the exercise for that particular day. It is not necessary to dwell upon your mistakes; it is the fact that you are practicing them on a daily basis over a long period of time that will improve your technique.

NOTE: When playing these patterns, keep your fingers low to the fretboard; avoid unnecessary and wasted motion. Also, do not use wide picking strokes; strive to utilize only enough of the pick as to make contact. This is known as an "economy of picking" approach.

A. Play only eighth notes at first, continuous and uninterrupted, up and down the fretboard. No rests. No phrasing. No hammer-on's. No pull-offs. No other ornamentation. Assign one finger per fret. Move one fret higher each time you've played from the low E (6th string) to the high E (1st string) and back down again.

B. Use Alternate Picking only. No two strokes in the same direction; strive to make both up and down strokes sound evenly. Accent only the first beat of every set of eighth notes (= 1 + 2 + 3 + 4, etc. on straight eighth's or 1 - 2 - 3, 2 - 2 - 3, etc. on triplets).

C. Always use a metronome. However, do not set your metronome any faster than you can play cleanly and comfortably. Use the metronome to track your progress; keep a daily record of your tempo gain. NOTE: Your tempo will vary from day to day. This is to be expected. The goal is to increase the coordination between left and right hands. Your speed will increase as your ability to articulate each note cleanly and evenly increases.

D. Do each warm-up exercise for six consecutive days, with one day off. Do them before you practice or play anything else. Some fingering combinations and/or triplet patterns will be more difficult to play than others. Avoid skipping over them, for whatever reason. The effect is very detrimental to overall progress. Slow them down to whatever tempo is necessary in order to play them. Regularity is essential to overall coordination and dexterity when it comes to performance goals.

A. Straight Eighth Notes
Day One
Asc. 1-2-3-4
Desc. 4-3-2-1
Day Two
Asc. 1-2-4-3
Desc. 3-4-2-1
Day Three
Asc. 1-3-2-4
Desc. 4-2-3-1
Day Four
Asc. 1-3-4-2
Desc. 2-4-3-1
Day Five
Asc. 1-4-2-3
Desc. 3-2-4-1
Day Six
Asc. 1-4-3-2
Desc. 2-3-4-1
B. Eighth Note Triplets
Day One
Asc. 1-2-3 *
Desc. 3-2-1*
Day Two
Asc. 1-2-4
Desc. 4-2-1
Day Three
Asc. 1-3-2**
Desc. 2-3-1**
Day Four
Asc. 1-3-4
Desc. 4-3-1
Day Five
Asc. 1-4-2
Desc. 2-4-1
Day Six
Asc. 1-4-3
Desc. 3-4-1
  *Alt fingering = Asc. 2-3-4/Desc. 4-3-2
**Alt fingering = Asc. 2-4-3/Desc. 3-4-2