Minimum Movement Exercise

The Minimum Movement Exercise is simple, but don't think it won't make a huge difference in your playing. Well, I can assure you that it will. It transformed my playing, and it'll transform yours too.

What are flying fingers?

The 'flying fingers syndrome' is a common guitar player problem. It makes things harder for many people. It means that the fretting hand is doing many unnecessary movements, which can make things sloppy and more challenging than they need to be!

If you've got uncontrollable fretting fingers, here is some good news! I've got a powerful exercise for you.

Before You Begin

Before learning the Minimum Movement Exercise, make sure you know the G Major Scale Pattern 1 from memory. You can use any other scale, but I recommend starting with this one. It's the scale I use to take you through the lesson’s exercise. And it also uses all four fingers!

This exercise is not about speed at all. The picking doesn’t matter - do what feels most comfortable for you. Keep in mind that it's essential that you play without looking at your pick hand.  If you need help with speed, take a look at some other fretting hand exercises.

Take Control of Your Movements!

Learning to control your fingers will make you a better guitar player. Here's a step-by-step guide to this fretting hand exercise:

1. Play the scale up and down very slowly. So slowly that you only play one note every few seconds.

2. Observe your left hand carefully. Ensure that it makes minimal movements. Your fingers should move no more than a few millimeters from the fingerboard at any time. If not, there will be no point in the exercise.

3. Also, be aware of your finger position within the frets. Make sure it is right up next to the wire but not on top of it!

4. Daily practice will help you develop muscle memory. It'll make small movements the ‘default.’

Practice Sessions

Just a little work on this exercise, and you'll see a massive difference in your playing. It needs discipline and concentration, but you'll improve pretty quickly.

For this lesson, we only play the G Major Scale Pattern 1. But, what we're actually learning is how to control your fingers! Expect to see improvements no matter what you're playing. :) As you progress, I recommend that you try this same exercise with other scales. First, stick with the G Major Scale Pattern 1 for the first month or two.

You should do this exercise for 5-10 minutes a day for a month or two. Then, using for maintenance as needed. Usually, once your fingers get used to making smaller movements, they will stay doing it that.

Do You Have an Uncontrollable Pinky?

Well, the uncontrollable pinky is the most common problem on this exercise! For nearly everyone, the answer is:

Keep practicing. Keep practicing. Keep practicing.

I do have to say: I've met some students that have a ‘flicky’ little finger that is completely uncontrollable! If that’s you - keep trying and do the best you can. It will still help, and you'll see loads of improvement.

Is Economic Movement Always Better?

Two of the most incredible classical guitars of all time are Julian Bream and John Williams. I'd suggest that you watch some of their duets. They were fantastic together!

You'll notice how John Williams uses minimal and flowing movements. In contrast, Julian's movements are bigger and bolder. One is not better than the other - just different! They were incredible guitar players in every way.

Also, there are times where the energy of expression will be more important. Music is not just about minimal movement and finesse. Sometimes, all we need is energy and excitement!

If I went to see a punk band and the guitarist was hardly moving, I’m not sure I would "feel it" as much. Remember that the audience gets out what you put in. ;)

Listen, I often move my fingers a LOT. But it’s by choice, not by having a bad habit. Set this as your goal. ;)

I’m confident that this exercise will be beneficial for almost all guitar players. But you should always remember: it’s ok to be different and do things your own way.

Technique: Fretting Hand