TEACHING THE ARM TO MOVE THE HAND
One of the most common problems guitar players have is getting around the six strings with the right hand, whether playing fingerstyle or pick-style.
This exercise is very simple, and very effective. It trains the hand to move properly across the span of the strings, and to stay relaxed in position as it does so. It also trains the larger muscles of the upper arm and shoulder to act correctly, and not produce extra tension as the lower arm moves.
In short, it will help you avoid one of the most common barriers to using the right hand efficiently, whether you play with the pick or with the fingers.
In the following video I demonstrate the fundamental picking exercise every guitar player needs: the ability to alternate pick up and down all strings with power and clarity at every speed.
FOUNDATION EXERCISE #3: RIGHT HAND STRING SHIFTING, STEPS 1 & 2
The purpose of this exercise is to train the right hand to move properly when changing its playing position from one string to another, whether you are using a pick or fingers.
The muscles involved in this movement are the neck, shoulder, and upper arm muscles. Some of these muscles are merely holding the upper arm in place, and some are actually moving the forearm. Many players hold these muscles tight when they play, greatly restricting the mobility of the right hand.
STEP 1: Swinging the Width of the Strings
1) Place the arm and right hand in the basic position for pick-style. Lay the pick on top of the first string, with the tip of the pick going into the string slightly, and at a right angle to the string. Make sure your arm, especially the upper arm, is relaxed in position.
2) VERY SLOWLY, bring the pick to the sixth string, making sure you swing from the elbow, and your hand, wrist, and arm stay in a straight line as you move. TAKE AT LEAST TEN SECONDS TO MAKE THIS MOVE! End up with the pick lying on the sixth string, straight into the string.
3) Bring the pick back to the first string. Again, keep the arm, wrist, and hand in a straight line. TAKE AT LEAST TEN SECONDS TO MAKE THIS MOVE!
STEP 2: Moving String To String
Lay the pick on each string, one at a time. Do it slowly, and with a relaxed shoulder and arm.
This exercise works on smaller movements as you go string to string, and builds more refined control of the pick or fingers as you move. Focus on the feeling in your muscles from the neck to the fingertips as you move. Release all tension.
If done correctly, and developed over time, a “Floating” feeling will replace the feeling of tightness. Imagine that your arm is “Floating” as you do the exercise, especially when your arm moves downward, toward the floor.
STEP 3: Down & Up On Each String
Play a down, then an up stroke on each string. Make sure you are holding the pick correctly and moving the arm from the elbow.
DIRECTIONS: THE RIGHT HAND STRING SHIFTING EXERCISE
1. Hold the guitar correctly, with good posture and relaxed shoulders.
2. Hold the pick correctly.
3. Move the arm from the elbow, don't pick from the wrist.
4. Relax the shoulders after each pick stroke.
5. Work the speed up using the Basic Practice Approach.