Finger strength and stamina

I heard a statement earlier today… that to play well you best be relaxed. But a lot of beginners can’t relax as they don’t have the finger/hand strength to press with their fingers and maintain relaxed wrist or arms.

I’m finding on some of my exercises that I get fatigued hands when I try to do some fairly quick passages.

Is there Any exercises I should do to improve my strength or stamina so I can maintain that relaxed state even while playing a bit quicker?

Or is it simply best to let that develop with my play?


It’s better to use gravity rather than brute force to fret the strings. Imagine a weight hanging from your elbow (or actually hang one there) and feel it pull your hand towards the floor while at the same time holding your fingers against the fretboard.

A commercial package that goes through this in detail that I used with success is Guitar Principles from Jamie Andreas. Her ideas and exercises to get a relaxed approach radically changed my technique for the better. Her approach won’t turn you into a top notch professional guitar player but it will certainly remove any bad or unhelpful technique impediments that would stop you from getting there.

I use the metolius gripsaver plus to strengthen my fingers for playing cello, its designed for climbers but gets great reviews from guitarists as well as cellists and bass players… just as part of an overall routine of posture relaxation and correct technique etc…

@Neil_Burnett Thanks very much for mentioning that. I took a look & I really like her approach & what she has to say. In her general philosophical approach I’ve not see anything I wasn’t already aware of? I’ve picked up ideas such as deliberate practice, intention, attention, ultra slow, drill down to the detail, etc., from such sources as Gregg Goodhart and Tom Heany’s excellent little book ‘First, Learn To Practice’. However I know I don’t do those actually use those practices as often as I ought. Jaime also adds a specifically guitar perspective to those things & provides a guitar centred framework to hang them on. I’ve bought the book and am going to see if having a method of sorts to refer to helps add a little extra useful discipline & focus to my guitar practice?

Thank you all for your responses. I appreciate all suggestions. I do plan on checking out the Jamie Andreas stuff, but in the mean time I am aware I do have a lack of strength in my fingers so have purchased the grip saver and am really enjoying it.

I’ve not had it long, 10 days maybe, but I’ve been able to increase my metronome speed and length of time I’ve been able maintain my playing. Not a lot, but enough to notice the difference.

Appreciate the responses

If that’s your main aim, you might baulk at the Jamie Andreas approach?

If you follow Jamie’s ideas the first thing you’ll do is slow down massively (in return for later gain). Jamie is very keen on the idea of making a very firm foundation to technique & that starts with looking very carefully how you approach the guitar. How you sit, how you hold the guitar, where your right hand is, where its fingers are, you left hand is, how its fingers approach the strings, how each hand & finger moves, etc. This is involves lots of careful observation and consideration. It’s not a ‘fast fix’ process.

Rather like using the IFR SingThe Numbers materials & sticking with just 1.2.3 till you have it really solid before even thinking about adding the 4?

I’ve had Jamie’s book almost a week now. In that time I’ve played far less notes on my guitar than I’d normally do. In some of the exercises you don’t play anything at all! However, I can see the sense.

I imagine her answer to your strength & stamina issue would be slow, careful work on hand position. Getting it just right at a very slow pace. Getting your fingers to move precisely & economically (i.e. minimum effort), across the neck (at first you are working with the left hand at around the 9th fret to get a good hand position, then over time you work towards the 1st fret aiming to maintain that good precise control). Initially working ‘no tempo’, i.e. slow enough to get it spot on without out thought of a regular ‘pulse’ to the movement (that’s where I am now), then with a slow metronome, then gradually speeding up from there, maintaiing that economy. That’s likely to be a slow, but sure, process. Months not days?

Another analogy might be like when I started doing yoga stretches again a few years ago? It took me 3-4 months before my toes first touched the ground in the Plough. It was worth the wait. :slight_smile:


I do appreciate your response.

My main aim is much bigger picture than speed and stamina, im on a years long journey and just getting started so after your comments will have a deeper look into her stuff.

Thank you

Ah. I see. Glad to hear it. We are both on the same path. :slight_smile:

Lots of great comments here! The only additional idea I would like to add is to remember that you are all very young and you have an incredibly long and beautiful path ahead of you. So there’s literally only one thing that can prevent you from achieving your musical goals in the long run, and that’s a repetitive motion injury.

So I think your first priority should always be the safety and comfort of your hands. Playing the guitar should be therapeutic, not damaging. And with fine motor skills, the old gym adage of “No pain, no gain!” is absolutely wrong. That kind of tough motivation might be exactly what you need when you’re struggling to lift a heavy weight at the gym. But when you’re practicing your guitar, a better mantra would be “Any pain means inflammation and permanent tendon damage”.

I had to learn this the hard way, with elbow surgery and about 3 years of relearning to play the guitar along lines very similar to what @Neil_Burnett and @DavidW describe in the work of Jamie Andreas. And to this day, I still can’t play the guitar as much as I would like. It’s not a tragedy or anything. I’m very happy with the guitar, the piano and my relatively new trumpet practice. But if I had it all to do over again, I sure would have put “lifelong enjoyment” ahead of “speed and stamina” or any other technical goal. :slight_smile:


Very true! I came into this (i.e. learning guitar) with a history of finger joint issues stretching back almost 40 years (the extra mobile joints I was born with combined with the high grade rock climbing I did in my 20’s were what probably set them off), so I’ve tried to be ‘aware’ all along.

Even with the Jaimie Andreas exercises (in which, if done fully, you’re very aware) it’s easy to find yourself working an exercise right along the neck & find you’ve been doing very similar movements for a considerable time.

So, I try to make sure I don’t do any one type of practice activity for more than 5 (or at most 10) minutes at a time. That had the added benefit that it makes for more effective practice too. The brain is going to absorb much more from a series of different (or just alternating) 5 minute sessions, each of which provides it with a fresh dose of ‘Attention with Intention’, than from an hour of doing something so many times your mind goes into auto-pilot and you start to think of other things.

Your attitude and approach sound just right. I didn’t know you did rock climbing! I can see how that would have been tough on your hands. Hopefully guitar will be soothing by comparison. :slight_smile:

That was a longtime ago. I was quite the ‘crag rat’. Out on the rock most days (climbing walls were few & far between back then). Shortly after I met my future wife I found I no longer wished to do it, so I stopped. Good move. My climbing career would have been over (one way or another!) long ago. We’re still together and she’s still as wonderful. :smiley:

I’m please to report it’s more than just soothing. I believe that the finger strength I’ve carefully developed since starting guitar has been of positive benefit. :slight_smile:

That’s beautiful. I’m glad to hear it!