Left Hand Reach Development Exercise

(Also known as The Spider Exercise)

This is a great exercise that is VERY effective in left hand training.

The movements of the fingers in this exercise are encountered in many styles of guitar playing. They are so basic and occur so often that early mastery of them paves the way for rapid progress in left hand facility. Remember also that the right hand, arm and wrist remain still, only the fingers should move. Try not to move your left arm and shoulder, let your fingers do the work. This is a very important principle in guitar playing: it is called, “Economy of Motion”.

In guitar music, the number with the circle around it represents the string of the guitar. The other numbers in this exercise represent the left hand finger and fret. To play the first chord, find the second string, first finger, first fret. Then find the fifth string, third finger, third fret. With the right hand, play these two strings at the same time, using the thumb and middle finger free stroke. Remember that the left hand, arm and wrist remain still, only the fingers should move.

Practice the spider exercise at a slow tempo until all the chord changes are smoothly connected. Then gradually speed up the exercise, being careful not to move the left hand or arm, only the fingers.

image of spider with numbers
spider exercise chart

Economy of motion is also important to right hand technique. If the right hand moves unnecessarily while plucking the strings, the fingers will inevitably sound the wrong string. Keep the right hand still, allowing only the fingers to move. Don’t bounce the RH above the strings while playing this exercise.

Now move to the next chord. Find the second string, forth finger, fourth fret and the fifth string, second finger, second fret. Play these two strings simultaneously, using the same right hand fingering.

Left-Hand Spider Exercise Video

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Continue through the exercise, being careful to use the correct left hand fingering. Practice the exercise until the chord changes are memorized.

As you can see from this movie file, once you have committed these finger movements to memory, slide the exercise up one fret and play the same pattern. Remember when you slide up one fret, the original chart you studied will not work anymore – finger and fret will no longer be the same. That’s why you need to memorize the pattern before you try moving it up the fingerboard.

Continue along the fingerboard until the first finger of the left hand reaches the ninth fret. Then slide down, fret by fret, repeating the pattern until you have reached the beginning of the exercise in first position (the first fret).

Play this exercise slowly and smoothly. Don’t worry too much about the sound. Concentrate instead on getting your fingers to arch over the strings and stretch to the next position. You can feel the muscles and tendons stretching in your left hand as you go through this. Do not exceed 10 minutes of practice on this, until you have played this for several weeks. Do not practice to the point of physical pain. Use common sense. If your LH hand begins to feel achy, stop. Take a break.

Next exercise: Chromatic Scales