Guitar exercises presented on this page are included in my manual «Andrey Nosov’s Guitar School» and aimed at developing and improving guitar skills, including playing techniques, mobility, strength, and endurance of the fingers of both hands. All exercises, except those focused on standard scales, are results of my (Andrey Nosov’s) years-long teaching experience and have no equivalents. Learning all these exercises will allow you to best prepare for the performance of compositions of any level of difficulty. All materials are free and available not only for viewing on the website but for downloading, as well.
Exercises are designed for a wide range of performers, from beginners to students of secondary and higher musical institutions. All necessary information on the exercises can be found on the title page of the documents.
The majority of the exercises extend beyond amateur guitar practice, which is why I’ve decided to exclude tablature from them (I’ve done this, for example, in the arpeggio exercises on the page «Accompaniment»), presuming that professional guitarists don’t need any tips of this kind. If you still consider yourself a beginner and don’t know notation, now is a good time to fill the gap and undergo the training in Andrey Nosov’s Guitar School. The 1st lesson is available for viewing or downloading for free (see Section «Guitar Lessons»).
Next, we will discuss some information regarding the offered topics…
Position Change. Guitar position is a fixed position of the fingers of the left hand (which is by default responsible for changing the pitch) on the neck. Therefore, position change is an action related to the shift of left-hand fingers from one part of the neck to another («Positions» are taught in Lesson 15 of Andrey Nosov’s Guitar School).
In guitar practice, there are four position-changing techniques (Substitution, Finger Slide, Leaps, Anticipation) that have common features. Knowing these features and, above all, skillfully applying them in practice will help you to shift your fingers from one part of the neck to another not only with the technical skill (quickly and quietly) but also on a high-quality level (without interrupting the sound and extracting secondary unwanted sounds). These skills will surely be valuable in any guitar practice, irrespective of whether you are accompanying or playing solo. Thus, if you have never heard of position-changing techniques, I advise you to read Lesson 51 of Andrey Nosov’s Guitar School before starting the exercises. This lesson contains detailed information on rules for changing positions (see Section «Guitar Lessons»).
Scales, Passages and Exercises for Developing Virtuosic Playing. Scales – a great means for developing fine performance techniques (fine technique, in turn, is when every other sound is played on the adjacent fret, or every other fret). Where is a fine performing technique used when playing the guitar? When performing melody lines (including with the support of accompanying guitar sound flows) and passages. Passages – a sequence of sounds in fast motion – are not so frequently encountered in guitar literature. Why? Because there are not many virtuosos of the guitar, authors, including me, are forced to focus on the average level of performance, only occasionally allowing themselves to incorporate in the sheet music a flight of fancy that is expressed as a virtuosic cascade of sounds. However, talent multiplied by hard work is capable of performing miracles. And I hope you become a performer that is able to deal with all types of works of the highest level of difficulty.
Do you know the secret to the magical charm in the music of Niccolo Paganini, the unrivaled Italian violinist, and composer? The secret lies in the beautiful melodies and… incredibly difficult passages that are similar in spirit to the style of improvisation (referring to his works for the violin, not a guitar, of which he also had many). And improvisation is what is interesting to listen to, play, and watch live. Improvisation is the constant flow of creative performing imagination, translated by muscular efforts, which are based on… fine technique. However, memorized improvisation also produces a stunning effect, which is proven by the immortality of N. Paganini’s creations for several centuries in succession. In conclusion, if you want to be interesting for your audience and to enjoy playing itself, pay more attention to the scales – the magic stairway to passages and virtuosity, and I will help you in this with my advice (see section «Guitar Lessons»).
Arpeggio on the guitar, simply put, is string picking. The success of this technique, by and large, depends on the movement of the performer’s right-hand fingers interacting with the strings to extract the sound. The left hand, the fingers of which form the chords (not always standard…), is also involved in playing arpeggios.
Any guitar player who plays at a basic level considers himself an outstanding performer if he or she knows a few string picking techniques. And I offer… 60 types, each of which is considered not only a separate exercise but also has a purely practical value, serving as a template for song accompaniment. Moreover, these types can be combined (within the same meter signature) to get an even greater number of string picking techniques. Please see details in the «Arpeggio» section and, of course, in my lessons (see section «Guitar Lessons»).
Barre is a technique involving the simultaneous stopping of multiple strings using one finger. This is, of course, a powerful technique that simplifies the playing process and makes it possible to effortlessly play in different keys (in the event that the string is stopped by the index finger). If… the guitarist knows how to do it correctly. «Correctly» means when the finger involved in the barre stops the strings with a force not exceeding what is required, and the rest of the fingers are absolutely free and ready to produce additional sounds (barre can be performed by different fingers, so their names are not specified in this section). There is no other approach to play barre, neither for fans of accompaniment nor, especially, for classical guitar players.
And here the question arises: how does one learn to play barre (or alternatively, teach it)? In short, we need at least a normal distance between the strings and the neck (the topic of Lesson 1 of Andrey Nosov’s Guitar School) and string tension that does not impede the development of this technique. Just like that. For many, the loosening of the standard tension of the strings is the only way to master the technique correctly and safely without much pain. Everything else can be taught: the strength required for simultaneously stopping several strings, endurance, and the ability to freely move the other fingers while holding the «Barre». Please see details in the «Barre» section and, of course, in my lessons (see section «Guitar Lessons»).
Legato is a playing technique involving the left hand, which by default is responsible for stopping the strings on the neck, and with slight involvement of the right hand or even without it. Conventionally, legato is divided into hammer-on, pull-off, and hammer-on/pull-off, and varies according to the performance method. I won’t go too much into detail; I do it in my lessons with examples and exercises. Just let me bring to your attention that the most difficult is the pull-off technique, and I recommend that you install synthetic strings for practicing it if you haven’t done so already. Otherwise, you will have a hard time… I write here for those who are interested in understanding all types of guitar techniques, including grace notes – appoggiaturas, mordents, gruppettos, trills, occurring in advanced compositions. However, the Legato technique is undoubtedly useful to all guitar players, regardless of the goals and objectives that they set for themselves. It is useful due to the fact that it facilitates performance and diversifies the flow of sounds, softening them.
Grace Notes. Learning grace notes – musical ornaments (special musical vignettes, if you will) – starts in Lesson 68. We’ll start our training from appoggiaturas and then move on to mordents, gruppettos, and trills. What can we say about grace notes in this article? First of all, they really embellish a melody and are common to almost any composition of the romantic style. So, if you are a fan of Spanish music or dream of playing Hungarian, gypsy, and Russian songs, grace notes are just the thing for you. But the presence of grace notes in sheet music does not necessarily mean that the composition was written by an author of a particular nationality. Secondly, they are designated by smaller notes (or, more precisely, notes in a smaller font) or by special symbols. I’m sure you’ve seen grace notes if you’ve ever looked through sheet music for «advanced» guitarists. And I’m sure you have asked yourself, «How am I supposed to determine the value of the smaller notes?», and «How should I play them with the notes of other guitar sound flows?» In order to successfully read grace notes, you should know that each guitar sound flow (melody, bass, middle note, and rarely used fourth note) has individual parts in the sheet music, and the value of smaller notes shall be read together with the main notes following them. I’ve only given you a brief description. To get more detailed information, please refer to the lessons.
Harmonics – simulate the sound of a flute. But this is not their only usage when playing the guitar. Harmonics are used to produce ultrahigh sounds that are not attainable via regular extraction. Does this mean that the harmonics are performed in a special way? – Yes, it does. If you have never heard of this technique, I advise you to learn the key lessons concerning harmonics (Lesson 141 – natural harmonics; Lesson 146 – artificial harmonics; Lesson 150 – combined harmonics) before starting the exercises. The lessons contain the detailed information necessary for learning the given technique. The lessons contain the detailed information necessary for learning the given technique. I advise you to read them because it’s impossible to understand harmonics and their designations on your own. For example, if you don’t know that harmonics are not stopped between metal strips (as might be assumed according to the Roman numeral designating the fret number), but directly above the metal strip, you will not get the right sound. The same effect might occur if you do not apply the right amount of force to the string or do not produce the sound for the right duration of time. And this is just natural harmonics – the easiest type of harmonics to play. There are also artificial and combined harmonics, which are much more difficult to perform. Basically, if you are still not familiar with this topic, start reading my lessons.
Arpeggiato and such techniques as glide, staccato, vibrato, string bending, pizzicato, tambourine, tremolo, tremolando are very often used when playing the guitar, regardless of the type of guitar (acoustic, electric), style of music piece performed (classical, jazz, flamenco, chanson), or method of sound production (fingers, pick). Of course, we use different techniques to different extents. But this doesn’t mean that an electric guitar player doesn’t need to know, for example, the «tambourine» playing technique or that a classical guitar player doesn’t need to know «bending» or «false vibrato» techniques. They should know! If only to extend the performance capabilities of their instrument. You never know what kind of instrument you will be playing in the future.
I hope that I have been helpful.
the author of the manual «Andrey Nosov’s Guitar School»
and several hundreds of arrangements for guitar solo,
guitar ensembles and voice accompanied by guitar.