Guitar skills: Learn 5 essential fret-hand techniques with our lesson

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Guitar skills: Give your fretting digits more strength and independence with our guide to essential fret-hand techniques.

Staccato and string muting

This Chili Peppers-style riff is based on a Bm chord played with a first finger barre on the top three strings.

Hit the strings with a strong attack and cut off the chord by quickly lifting your fretting finger after each strum. Play the single-note line with a similar staccato sound. For the muted ‘x’ notes relax your fretting finger so that the string is not touching the frets.

Chord changes

These jazzy George Benson-style chords are all variations on a C major sound; although they all look similar, the fingerings are quite different.

Play the Cmaj7 with your first, third, fourth and second fingers from low to high, then play the Cmaj9 with your second, fourth, first and third fingers. For the C6 chord use your second, first, fourth and third fingers. Try to move between all four chords as smoothly as possible.

Barre chords

This lush chord progression is inspired by Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour. Start with a first finger barre across the 7th fret and check that each note is clear and clean. Next add your third and fourth fingers to create the Bm, then move those two fingers up a string to make a Bsus4. Finally, replace your fourth finger with the second finger for the Badd11.

Spider powerchords

This thrashy riff demonstrates how Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine often changes between powerchords.

Play all of the powerchords on the fourth and fifth strings with your second and fourth fingers and all the powerchords on the fifth and sixth strings with your first and third fingers. Switching between these two pairs of fingers is a great finger independence exercise.

Stretching and strength

This chord part is reminiscent of the late great fusion legend Allan Holdsworth. Play all three chords with the same fingering: ‘first, second and fourth’.

Start with your first finger at the 12th fret, then move down to 8th fret and finally 4th fret. As you descend the neck, you will feel the stretch become more intense. If it is too uncomfortable, try moving down one fret at a time until your hand loosens up.

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