Guitar Drills, for One String: The Wave (part 1)

This is another very simple finger pattern. It is simple, but should not be underestimated. It is a fundamental motion that it will support your soloing in obvious, as well as not-so-obvious, ways. As such, point of this exercise is to improve accuracy and stamina, which are both vital to speed. And it can even sound good on its own as part of your guitar solos.

Notation:

^ - emphasis
d - down pick
u - up pick

The Basic Pattern

Let's start with the basic pattern:

           ^
  |--7--8-10--8-| (repeat)
     d  u  d  u


This can be done on any string anywhere on the neck. This particular example exercises fingers 1, 2, and 4. Master this simple pattern. Start off as slow as needed for the notes to be clear, your timing to be accurate, and your fingers to be relaxed. As your muscles memory sinks in, and the motion becomes easier, the speed will come.

When it comes down to it, this pattern is easy, which is why it can improve speed and accuracy so quickly. It won't necessarily be mastered in one day, but improvement will be noticeable between practice sessions if time is spent on this. This simple pattern should be played repeatedly, over, and over, and over until you get tired and the whole thing starts to fall apart. Then you should just slow down a bit, and play it some more. The speed and timing you gain on your guitar with this exercise should help with many other finger patterns and exercises.

It's easiest to place the emphasis on the highest note at first. Higher notes are naturally emphasized by the higher pitch.

This pattern should be practiced using the 3rd finger as well. This is especially important, because the 3rd and 4th fingers do not move quite as independently as the 2nd and 4th do for most people.

           ^           ^           ^           ^  
  |--7--9-10--8--7--9-10--8--7--9-10--8--7--9-10--8-|
     d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u


And a slight stretch should be included, as well.

           ^           ^           ^           ^  
  |--5--7--9--7--5--7--9--7--5--7--9--7--5--7--9--7-|
     d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u


Picking Variation

Switching the direction of your picking will help round this drill out a bit, and prepare you for its next phase, transitions. Here's basically the same drill, but starting with an up-pick.

           ^           ^           ^           ^  
  |--7--8-10--8--7--8-10--8--7--8-10--8--7--8-10--8-|
     u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d



Transitions

There are 4 transitions that can be made to the neighboring string. This is because there are 4 notes in this drill: 4th finger, one of the middle fingers (2nd or 3rd), down to the 1st finger, up to one of the middle fingers. The basic idea of these transitions is that the sequence of the note-playing fingers remains the same: 4, 2/3, 1, 2/3. One of those notes just happens to be on the neighboring string.

Here are examples of all of the transition we want to cover. These all use the same notes and finger pattern; all of the finger patterns will eventually be exercised.

x4H

g |-------------------10--9--7--9-10-|
d |--7--9-10--9--7--9----------------|


 

x6H

g |-----------------------9--7--9-10-|
d |--7--9-10--9--7--9-10-------------|


x1H

g |--------------7--9-10--9--7--9-10-|
d |--7--9-10--9----------------------| 


x9H

g |-----------------9-10--9--7--9-10-|
d |--7--9-10--9--7-------------------| 


x4L

g |-10--9--7--9----------------|
d |-------------10--9--7--9-10-|


x6L

g |-10--9--7--9-10-------------|
d |-----------------9--7--9-10-| 


x1L

g |-10--9--7--9-10--9----------|
d |--------------------7--9-10-| 


x9L

g |-10--9--7--9-10--9--7-------------------|
d |-----------------------9-10--9--7--9-10-|



 

You probably noticed the weird names/codes for these transitions. If you're not interested, just remember them so you can follow what I'm talking about later. If you are interested, and it might help you remember them better, see if you can follow my convoluted logic:

  • Transition code: x#(H,L)
  • x - transition, x-ition; like "xfer" for "transfer"
  • # - the finger making the transition
  • H - transition to a higher string
  • L - transition to a lower string
  • 1 - first finger, or forefinger
  • 4 - fourth, or "pinky" finger
  • 5 - one of the middle fingers. These are fingers 2 and 3; 2 + 3 equals 5.
  • 6 - transition where the first note of the second string is played by one of the middle fingers (i.e. 5), then descends to the note played by the first finger (i.e. 1). 5 + 1 equals 6.
  • 9 - transition where the first note of the second string is played by one of the middle fingers (i.e. 5), then ascends to the higher note played by the fourth finger (i.e. 4). 5 + 4 equals 9.

That's eight different string transitions that go with this exercise. But what about picking? When we add picking direction to the mix, and its influence on sweep picking versus alternate picking, we end up with 16 patterns! And we need to practice all of them to get full coverage.


Ascending the scale

Full coverage in a single run of the drill isn't a problem when the whole guitar neck is used. The full exercise goes through 8 different scale positions on the neck, each using a different transition between strings. There are also changes in direction within each position to cover the different picking options (sweep versus alternate). This exercise should not always be played the same way; the starting transition should be changed up every couple of times, so the transitions can be practiced at different locations on the neck.

Here is the sequence of position-transition combinations, starting with x4H:

Position 1, x4H
Position 2, x6L
Position 3, x1H
Position 4, x9L
Position 5, x9H
Position 6, x4L
Position 7, x6H
Position 8, x1L

Like I said, these can be mixed up to keep it fresh.

Here's the tab for the above sequence of positions. I've only included the first scale position, with the hopes that you can extrapolate the specifics of the subsequent positions.

Position 1, x4H

     ^           ^           ^           ^
e |-------------------------------------------------|
b |-------------------------------------------------|
g |-------------------------------------------------|
d |-------------------------------------------------|
a |--------------------------5--3--2--3--5--3--2--3-|
e |--5--3--1--3--5--3--1--3-------------------------|
     d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u


     ^           ^           ^           ^
e |-------------------------------------------------|
b |-------------------------------------------------|
g |-------------------------------------------------|
d |--5--3--2--3--5--3--2--3-------------------------|
a |--------------------------5--3--2--3--5--3--2--3-|
e |-------------------------------------------------|
     d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u\ u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d/


     ^           ^           ^           ^
e |-------------------------------------------------|
b |-------------------------------------------------|
g |--------------------------5--4--2--4--5--4--2--4-|
d |--5--3--2--3--5--3--2--3-------------------------|
a |-------------------------------------------------|
e |-------------------------------------------------|
     d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u\


     ^           ^           ^           ^
e |-------------------------------------------------|
b |-------------------------------------------------|
g |--------------------------5--4--2--4--5--4--2--4-|
d |--5--3--2--3--5--3--2--3-------------------------|
a |-------------------------------------------------|
e |-------------------------------------------------|
     u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d/ d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u


     ^           ^           ^           ^
e |-------------------------------------------------|
b |--6--5--3--5--6--5--3--5-------------------------|
g |--------------------------5--4--2--4--5--4--2--4-|
d |-------------------------------------------------|
a |-------------------------------------------------|
e |-------------------------------------------------|
     d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u\ u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d/


     ^           ^           ^           ^
e |--------------------------7--5--3--5--7--5--3--5-|
b |--6--5--3--5--6--5--3--5-------------------------|
g |-------------------------------------------------|
d |-------------------------------------------------|
a |-------------------------------------------------|
e |-------------------------------------------------|
     d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u\



     ^           ^           ^           ^
e |--------------------------7--5--3--5--7--5--3--5-|
b |--6--5--3--5--6--5--3--5-------------------------|
g |-------------------------------------------------|
d |-------------------------------------------------|
a |-------------------------------------------------|
e |-------------------------------------------------|
     u  d  u  d  u  d  u  d/ d  u  d  u  d  u  d  u

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