Guitar Technique Tip of the Month

Your Personal Guitar Lesson

Douglas Niedt



The spider exercise is a valuable exercise for every guitarist in the late-beginner to early-intermediate stage of playing. It is one of the best exercises for developing both the independence and synchronization of movements of the left-hand fingers. For the late-intermediate to advanced guitarist, it is an excellent stretching and warm-up exercise.

Watch my comprehensive 28-minute video on how to master this great exercise.

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The PDF Version

This month, because of the length and file size of the video, the PDF version is split into Part 1 and Part 2. The videos are embedded in the documents so you can save the entire article to your computer, videos included! We use a service called Hightail for our downloads. They are dependable and downloads are usually fast.

IMPORTANT:

Both PDFs of this article contain embedded videos. The videos will not play well unless you save the PDFs to your computer first. After saving the files, open the files you just saved and the videos will play smoothly. These PDFs are large files so they may take a while to download.

Download The Spider Exercise Part 1

Download The Spider Exercise Part 2

Note: You must have Adobe Reader 10 or later installed on your computer to play the videos contained in the PDFs. Download Adobe Reader here.

THE SPIDER EXERCISE

By Douglas Niedt

Copyright Douglas Niedt. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.



The spider exercise is a valuable exercise for every guitarist in the late-beginner to early-intermediate stage of playing. It is one of the best exercises for developing both the independence and synchronization of movements of the left-hand fingers. For the late-intermediate to advanced guitarist, it is an excellent stretching and warm-up exercise.

The goal is to play the spider exercise so the chord changes are absolutely legato (connected). In other words, the changes should be seamless, with no dead space between.

In his excellent book, Pumping Nylon, Scott Tennant shows the exercise on the 2nd and 5th strings, beginning at the first fret and working up the neck.



Spider exercise Scott Tennant version


However, I think it is a little better for the newbie to first learn the spider exercise on the 2nd and 4th strings. The reaches/stretches are a little easier. Once the exercise is learned on the 2nd and 4th strings, the student can graduate to the 2nd and 5th strings.

Plus, I like to begin the exercise at the 7th fret instead of the 1st fret. The frets are closer together at the 7th position than 1st position. Again, that makes the stretches a little easier for the newbie. Plus, if you begin at the 7th fret and work your way down to the 1st fret, the frets gradually become more widely spaced which gradually stretches the fingers and hand. This adds to its value as a stretching exercise.

For the newbie, the spider exercise would be played like this:



Spider exercise newbie version


However, before attempting to play the spider exercise in its entirety, several preliminary steps should be practiced first. Watch this comprehensive video which will guide you through all the steps to master this very important exercise:

If you don't see a video, refresh your browser.

Be sure to watch the video on full screen. Click the symbol to the right of "HD" in the lower right-hand corner after the video begins playing. Hit escape "ESC" on your keyboard to return to normal viewing.

Practice Procedure

Again, the newbie will practice first on the 2nd and 4th strings at the 7th fret. Everything is practiced slowly.

The steps are:

  1. Left hand alone: hold chord #1. Place and lift chord #2.
  2. Left hand alone: hold chord #2. Place and lift chord #1.
  3. Optional: repeat step #1 but play the two chords with the right hand.
  4. Optional: repeat step #2 but play the two chords with the right hand.
  5. Left hand alone: change back and forth between chord #1 and chord #2.
  6. Both hands: play chord change back and forth from chord #1 to chord #2. Alternate pi and pm with the right hand.

Next, work on the chord change from chord #2 to chord #3. Repeat all the steps. Then learn chord # 3 to chord #4 etc. It may take one to two weeks to learn just one chord change.

Assemble the pattern

After each individual chord change is learned (which can take many weeks), play the entire pattern in 7th position. Once it is secure in 7th position, begin at the 7th fret and work your way down to the 1st fret.

Things to remember

The goal is to connect the chord changes as smoothly as possible. Prepare the fingers. Prepare each finger precisely above the string it is to play. Keep the fingers close to the strings at all times--never lift more than 1/4 inch above the string.

  1. The two left-hand fingers must land on the fretboard simultaneously. One finger should not land a fraction of a second before the other. Also, lift them precisely at the same moment.
  2. When changing chords, one pair of fingers must lift precisely at the same moment the other pair lands on the fretboard.
  3. Move the left-hand fingers precisely at the same moment the right hand plucks the strings. Do not place the left-hand fingers and then pluck the strings. The right hand must pluck, one pair of left hand fingers must land on the fretboard, and the other pair should lift off its strings all at the same instant.

pdf icon

The PDF Version

This month, because of the length and file size of the video, the PDF version is split into Part 1 and Part 2. The videos are embedded in the documents so you can save the entire article to your computer, videos included! We use a service called Hightail for our downloads. They are dependable and downloads are usually fast.

IMPORTANT:

Both PDFs of this article contain embedded videos. The videos will not play well unless you save the PDFs to your computer first. After saving the files, open the files you just saved and the videos will play smoothly. These PDFs are large files so they may take a while to download.

Download The Spider Exercise Part 1

Download The Spider Exercise Part 2

Note: You must have Adobe Reader 10 or later installed on your computer to play the videos contained in the PDFs. Download Adobe Reader here.