Digits of Steel: How to Strengthen Your Fingers
If you have trouble playing barre chords then this is the place to start. If you learn and practice this exercise you will be able to strengthen your fingers to an unimaginable strength.
It might be painful initially but if you do this enough, every time you practice you will be playing any chord you want in no time. This is the type of exercise that can easily be done well you are sitting in front of the TV or talking on the phone.
It should be done very slowly, stopping to hold each position for a count of 4. Starting from the thinnest string you are going to barre each string, count to 4, then add another one and repeat. Here is an example (read the diagrams from left to right):
Digits of Steel Explained
- Step 1: Barre the thinnest string with the index finger, hold for a count of 4.
- Step 2: Barre the thinnest string plus the second thinnest string with the index finger and hold for 4.
- Step 3: Barre 3 strings with the index finger and hold for a count of 4.
- Step 4: Barre 4 strings with the index finger and hold for a count of 4.
- Step 5: Barre 5 strings with the index finger and hold for a count of 4.
- Step 6: Barre 6 strings with the index finger and hold for a count of 4.
- Step 7: Reverse through steps 6 – 1.
- Step 8: Get the idea now? Use the diagrams above for more direction. One you do one fret you can move up to another fret and repeat steps 1 through 7.
Once you are done with the index finger, you can move to the middle finger, then the ring finger and then the pinky. That one will be tough!
If your fingers are really weak, you might want to start on a fret further up the neck. Starting on the 5th Fret for example, can be much easier then starting on the 1st Fret.
I would try different places and see where you are most comfortable, then over time move closer to the first fret. This is how I learned to play barre chords, so I can assure you it totally works — it just takes some hard work and dedication, and don’t worry about your fingers always hurting, that will go away eventually once you build up enough strength in them.
The important thing is to stick with it. If your fingers get sore or tired, then take a break and come back later. Eventually over time you will build the required strength to play almost any barre chord.