Finger and wrist flexibility are important for playing a guitar. Many of the chords, and especially the difficult changes between chords, depend on flexible fingers and the ability to bend at the wrist joint.
Your fingers should be able to easily stretch across the fretboard. In addition, it helps if the fingers on your fret hand are nimble. Here are 3 reasons why you need flexible fingers and a loose wrist, followed by 3 ways to develop that flexible nimbleness necessary for playing the guitar.
3 Reasons Why Flexibility in Your Wrist and Fingers is Important to Play the Guitar
- Fluidity - To shift between chords quickly, you need to develop a skill referred to as fluidity. Stiff fingers will make it hard to change between chords, making it difficult, to almost impossible to play many songs.
- Reach - Many of the more difficult guitar chords require you to reach across the full width of the neck. There are barre chords as well, chord layouts where one finger must be flexible enough to cover all the strings. You will be restricted to a handful of simple chords, unless you work to maximize your reach. This involves fingers that can stretch and a wrist that is flexible as well.
- Stretch - While the reach of your fingers spans the width of the frets, the ability to stretch the distance between your fingers is critical for many chords. The ability to stretch will allow you to play difficult chords, which stretch your finger placement up and down the fretboard. These chords also require you to shift your wrist, so stiffness will inhibit your guitar playing ability.
3 Ways to Improve Your Wrist and Finger Flexibility
Now that you appreciate why increasing the flexibility in your fingers will make you a better guitar player, here's how to accomplish it. When you notice any abnormal pain, stop immediately. If this pain persists, consult your physician.
- Stretch First - Flexibility exercises should always begin with a comfortable stretch. Expand your fingers as far apart as possible. You will feel a stretching sensation between each finger. Bend at the knuckles slowly at first, and then speed up gradually. After you have the blood flowing, gently bend each finger backwards. Be cautious not to over bend, and keep slight pressure back against the palm of your free hand.
Next, focus on stretching one finger at a time down as close to, or touching the palm of your hand. You can wrap your thumb across the top of each middle knuckle to help increase the stretch. Using your other hand for assistance doesn't really help, so it's not recommended. This simple step also helps promote a sense of finger movement, which will facilitate shifting your hand across the fretboard.
- Grab Air - Stronger fingers will help improve your flexibility. A simple exercise to strengthen your hands and fingers is referred to as grabbing air. To keep a sense of balance in both your hands, stretch both arms straight out from your shoulder, palms down.
Start slowly, and then speed up opening and closing your fingers. You'll eventually experience a burning sensation in your hands and forearms. Stop and gently stretch each finger backwards and to the side. Repeat this exercise up to three times every day.
- Stretch Last - Finishing up with a series of stretches is the key to gaining both finger and wrist flexibility. You're going to improve finger strength as you do these little finger and wrist workouts, but you don't want to forget to stretch after you're done. This means stretching your fingers and wrist after you've played.
Repeat many of the same stretches previously mentioned, except you can eliminate a warm up segment. Over emphasis the individual finger stretches. Bend each finger back slowly, striving to reach a maximum backward bend. Again, do not go past any point that begins to hurt uncomfortably. The stretch should feel good.
Follow the same concept with your wrist. Bend it backwards, using the palm of the opposite hand to apply gentle pressure. Keep your fingers straight to increase the degree of flex. Also remember to perform the exact opposite stretch. Bend the wrist forward, trying to touch your fingers to your inside forearm.
This particular stretch will gradually improve your ability to cover a more distance on the neck of your guitar. The more space you can cover, the higher the degree of chord difficulty you'll be able to play.
If you've been toying with the idea of learning to play guitar, start by getting your hands and fingers ready. Even if you were once an accomplished player, or have been playing consistently for years, it's wise to follow these steps to develop and enhance good finger technique. As you increase your finger flexibility, you'll be able to play difficult chords, plus play for longer periods.
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