Updated: Nov 10, 2021
One fret at a time, times two!
Although we can use just about any fretting hand sequence as a test of finger independence, different patterns highlight the same problems in different ways. Certain patterns become well known among guitarists for their benefits, not least the basic spider exercise covered in the first article of this series.
In this post, we'll take a look at practising "Chromatic Octaves" for guitar. In a much higher league of difficulty than the basic spider we looked at last time, this one will force you to slow right down and think hard and deep about how to solve its intrinsic problems.
Too hard? Break it down!
As always, chopping the full pattern into smaller bite-sized and therefore more digestible pieces is an essential part of making this feel achievable as quickly as possible. I present a few examples of how to do this here, but there are many many more ways to chop it down. Take a look in the video below!
The "Six Ps" (or is it seven?) Principle
From 3 minutes into the video I discuss something this pattern will encourage you to focus on. When playing each pair of notes, we prepare the next pair above the fretboard, ready to take over when the baton is passed. Key to just about anything on guitar, gaining awareness of when fingers need to be correctly prepared and working to develop the corresponding ability to do so offers real understanding and a path to fast improvement.
Let your fingers do the walking
Also possibly of particular interest in the video is the section from 5:30. This is a concept equally vital to single string lead playing, and one that's generally poorly covered if at all. Here I discuss the method of ensuring a perfect change from one pair of notes to the next. If you've ever had problems getting smoothly between notes on a guitar, this breakdown provides the solution, namely how to ensure that each note in a sequence is kept ringing until the next is played. Here we have all four fingers on the fretboard at the point of changing between the pairs of notes. In single line playing you'll have a split second between notes when two fingers are on the fretboard, the idea is the same but on a smaller scale. It's a bit like walking, when each foot must hit the floor before the other lifts off.
All roads lead to Rome
Don't get the idea that there's anything magical about the chromatic octave pattern itself. It's just another set of notes that it's entirely possible to repeat forever without gaining anything. However if approached as intended, as a technical challenge with the aim of improving your top speed, and using measurements to monitor progress, then because of the high difficulty level, it's hard not to find any benefit in this one.
Subscribe at the bottom of the page to get your free download "BPM!".. It contains a progress sheet for the Chromatic Octave patterns discussed here, along with similar for all other investigations in this blog, covering investigations from seemingly simple chord changes to the toughest technical challenges.
Get better at one thing, get better at everything!
It's expected that as see yourself improve at the chromatic octave pattern, you'll start finding other things you can already do getting easier too! With some careful measuring, you can prove this to yourself or otherwise. It's you against yourself so don't miss out on some fast improvement. Grab your copy of "BPM" below!
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How to approach "spider exercises".
A minute to learn ... a lifetime to master!
What they never told you about chord changes on guitar