Fun Way To Develop Fretting Hand Dexterity and Muscle Memory for Beginner Guitarists

Dhanesh Sarangadharan 

Doing anything on the Guitar is heavily dependent on the Fretting hand, as it most cases it does at least 50% of the work. 

It becomes even more important for beginner guitarists to develop good fretting hand technique which can help them learn various things on guitar faster. 

However, most beginner guitarists do not dedicatedly focus on building dexterity, speed, flexibility and muscle memory in the Fretting hand and fingers due to a lot of reasons like:

  1. Fretting exercises feel boring and unyielding
  2. Lack of correct guidance on how to get better quickly at fretting without getting bored
  3. Not being able to find the right frets when required
  4. All these leading to frustration and lack of confidence

Imagine how easy Guitar playing would become if you were able to play any Fret on the Guitar without having to look at the Fretboard. Even better if this would not require years of experience and boring practice with mindless exercises. 

What if there was a game instead, that could always tell you what level you are at, so that you can see how far you have progressed in this area. 

  1. Why is Fretting hand dexterity and Muscle memory important for beginner guitar players? 

Beginner guitarists struggle a lot when it comes to finding the right frets, while trying to play some basic music. Adding to this is the challenge of picking the right string and doing all this while looking at a 3rd place, which is the piece of music that they are trying to play. 

Building a good level of dexterity in the fretting hand during initial days, takes away a lot of struggle with learning new music for beginner guitar players. Guitarists can simply focus on the music, instead of juggling with their eyes between the fretting and picking hand. 

  1. Do I have to do mindless hours of exercises or drills to obtain this? 

Absolutely not. It’s true that your Fretting hand technique keeps improving with your experience on the guitar. However the below game would help you get there faster. 

Although this can be done at any stage of your guitar playing, especially if you are struggling to find frets without looking at the fretboard, this is particularly useful for beginner guitar players who more often than not have to deal with this challenge.

  1. How do I build Fretting hand dexterity and muscle memory?

This game that I use with all my beginner guitar students has helped me a lot to fix their challenges with fretting right when they are getting started. 

The best part about this is that it’s progressive and provides objective feedback. This enables you to track your progress and see the results for yourself. 

    1. What’s the game?

You are going to see a list of 1 note, 2 note, 3 note and 4 note patterns, that involve playing different frets on different strings.

Your goal is to look at the patterns and try to play them as accurately as you can. Make a note of all the mistakes that happen along the process. 

As you go along, you’ll realize that it keeps getting easier, and you may not have to do it for a very elongated period. 

Even 1 week of doing this for a few minutes a day will set you on your way to building better dexterity and muscle memory in your Fretting hand. 

Your scoring will be based on the least mistakes you make, so get a friend, family member of you guitar teacher to note down the mistakes and do the scoring for you in the beginning. After a few attempts, you’ll start realizing whether you are playing the correct fret or not. 

    1. Rules 
      1. While performing this fun game, you are not allowed to look at your fretting hand at all. 
      2. Ever finger is assigned one fret, 1st Finger (Index) Plays everything on the First Fret, 2nd Finger (Middle) takes care of 2nd fret notes, 3rd Finger (Ring) Plays everything on 3rd Fret and 4th Finger (Pinky) is responsible for 4th and 5th Fret notes.
      3. You score points for every right attempt, which you’ll track everytime you perform this. E.g. If there are 20 Notes to be played, and you get 18 of them right, then your score for that level for the day is 18/20 
      4. Scoring more than 95% at any level is good enough to clear that level, however you don’t have to wait till you clear the previous level to attempt another one. 
      5. You’ll compare your scores for each day of the week and observe which level needs more work. 
      6. Once you clear a level, it’s not required to be played again during your next practice session. 
      7. You should try to improve your speed as you go along, till you feel comfortable about doing it without worrying about getting it wrong. 
      8. viii.In case you feel you are making mistakes, then you need to slow down.
      9. You’ll not play this for long periods, it’s best to play at the start of your practice or playing schedule as a warm up for your fretting hand and brain. 
      10. When you accomplish one hundred percent results at all levels, you’ll try attempting the Bonus Level. 
      11. You can have your first finger positioned near the first fret for reference. This would help you reach the other frets more accurately.
  • Level 1 – One Note Play (Quarter Notes)
    • Round 1


    • Round 2


    • Round 3
    • Round 4


    • Round 5


    • Round 6


  • Level 2 – 2 Note Play (Eight Notes)
    • Round 1
    • Round 2


    • Round 3


  • Level 3 – 3 Note Play (Eighth Note Triplets)



  • Level 4 – 4 Note Play (Sixteenth Note)



  • Bonus Level – Time the game 

This is an optional level, which you should attempt at leisure. 

The reason being that you would have already got pretty good at finding the Frets in the 1st position if you have reached this far in the game. 

Attempting this level will take your Fretting hand dexterity and muscle memory to a whole new level much faster.

There are two things you can attempt at this level:

  1. Do the previous 4 levels with a Metronome at whatever speed you are comfortable with. 
  2. Increase the speeds on the Metronome as you keep getting better at this. 
  1. Additional Tips 
  1. Start playing the game immediately at whatever level you can and do it consistently before every practice session, till you reach the highest level.  
  2. Track your scores every single time. This will give you instant feedback on your progress and also empower you with immense confidence in your abilities. 
  3. Stay patient with it, as you go along you’ll start finding it easier and before you know your scores would be right up there. 
  4. Ask a friend or your teacher to call out such sequences randomly and test your abilities to instantly make your fingers find the right frets without looking.  
  5. Create additional exercises to challenge yourself playing on higher frets. E.g. 5th to 10th Fret, 10th to 15th Fret etc. 
  6. There are multiple other hidden elements of learning in this game, so don’t underestimate the use of this in improving your Guitar playing faster. 

About The Author: 

Dhanesh Sarangadharan is a certified guitar teacher in Pune, Maharashtra India, who is passionate about helping students progress faster towards their guitar playing and musical ambitions.