Fretting hand flexibility: 'spider legs' exercise

Guitar Tricks Forum > Guitar Basics > Fretting hand flexibility: 'spider legs' exercise

Kelly64

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Joined: 12/07/17

Posts: 7

I'm a complete guitar novice, and I'm struggling with making my fretting (left) hand work properly. Specifically, I'm failing at the 'Spider legs' exercise (Link=> https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=22141&s_id=1777)

The basic intent of the exercise is to get one finger per fret for the first four frets for each string, keeping each finger 'down' on the fret as you continue adding frets. I've been struggling with even the first three fingers/frets, and failing completely on the lowest strings (E and A). With three fingers down (assuming I manage it) I'm pretty much guaranteed to be touching 'the next string over' as well as the one I'm playing.

I spend five minutes with this dang Spider legs warmup a day before my hour or so of lessons and practice, and my progress is minimal. I'm in my 50s, so I'm sure my flexibility is shot, but is it 'normal' to struggle this much? Should I persevere?

#1

I'm a complete guitar novice, and I'm struggling with making my fretting (left) hand work properly. Specifically, I'm failing at the 'Spider legs' exercise (Link=> https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=22141&s_id=1777)

The basic intent of the exercise is to get one finger per fret for the first four frets for each string, keeping each finger 'down' on the fret as you continue adding frets. I've been struggling with even the first three fingers/frets, and failing completely on the lowest strings (E and A). With three fingers down (assuming I manage it) I'm pretty much guaranteed to be touching 'the next string over' as well as the one I'm playing.

I spend five minutes with this dang Spider legs warmup a day before my hour or so of lessons and practice, and my progress is minimal. I'm in my 50s, so I'm sure my flexibility is shot, but is it 'normal' to struggle this much? Should I persevere?

Clarky75

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Joined: 08/19/12

Posts: 7

Hi Kelly,

Yes perservere. I am kinda new to playing, I played many years ago for maybe 6 months, now I have started playing I am now 42. I joined guitar tricks and even though I know most of the basics in Lisa's course at least the 1st fundamentals, I have picked up many tips I did not know and Lisa has been great.

With the spider exercise, I still have the same issue as well, I find the finger stretching exercises that Lisa mentions work, but what I have found is don't go too fast, slow it right down and look at the fingerboard and try as hard as you can to hit each note deliberately, if you speed up too quick you miss the notes, go slow and keep at it :)

#2

Hi Kelly,

Yes perservere. I am kinda new to playing, I played many years ago for maybe 6 months, now I have started playing I am now 42. I joined guitar tricks and even though I know most of the basics in Lisa's course at least the 1st fundamentals, I have picked up many tips I did not know and Lisa has been great.

With the spider exercise, I still have the same issue as well, I find the finger stretching exercises that Lisa mentions work, but what I have found is don't go too fast, slow it right down and look at the fingerboard and try as hard as you can to hit each note deliberately, if you speed up too quick you miss the notes, go slow and keep at it :)

john of MT

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Joined: 10/08/09

Posts: 955

Yup. Go slow. Painfully slow. Concentrate on form and placement.

All of us learn and progress at a different rate; some faster than others, some slower (raising my hand here). But it will come.

Good luck. Have fun!

"It takes a lot of devotion and work, or maybe I should say play, because if you love it, that's what it amounts to. I haven't found any shortcuts, and I've been looking for a long time."
-- Chet Atkins

#3

Yup. Go slow. Painfully slow. Concentrate on form and placement.

All of us learn and progress at a different rate; some faster than others, some slower (raising my hand here). But it will come.

Good luck. Have fun!

"It takes a lot of devotion and work, or maybe I should say play, because if you love it, that's what it amounts to. I haven't found any shortcuts, and I've been looking for a long time."
-- Chet Atkins

Kelly64

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Joined: 12/07/17

Posts: 7

Clarky and John:

Thank you for the response and the encouragement!

Flexibility is definitely a struggle, but now I know to just keep at it, slowly and surely. What I need is probably two sets of eyes; one to watch my picking hand so I hit the right string, and one to watch my fretting hand so I get those darn fingers where they need to go.

Aw, heck: if I'm asking for extra eyes, maybe I should be asking for natural ability ;) But I'll try not to beat myself up too much.

One thing I've found that seems to help: taking a break and going to play a bit with Yousician. I find that when my lessons here on Guitar Tricks get a bit 'stuck' that keeps me plinking at the strings rather than throwing my hands up in disgust at my own lack of progress :)

#4

Clarky and John:

Thank you for the response and the encouragement!

Flexibility is definitely a struggle, but now I know to just keep at it, slowly and surely. What I need is probably two sets of eyes; one to watch my picking hand so I hit the right string, and one to watch my fretting hand so I get those darn fingers where they need to go.

Aw, heck: if I'm asking for extra eyes, maybe I should be asking for natural ability ;) But I'll try not to beat myself up too much.

One thing I've found that seems to help: taking a break and going to play a bit with Yousician. I find that when my lessons here on Guitar Tricks get a bit 'stuck' that keeps me plinking at the strings rather than throwing my hands up in disgust at my own lack of progress :)

akolodin2

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Joined: 12/15/17

Posts: 1

Do we need to master the spider exercise before moving on to the next lesson? I'm worried I'm just going through the lessons and not sure how proficient I should be before moving on. Any suggestions?

#5

Do we need to master the spider exercise before moving on to the next lesson? I'm worried I'm just going through the lessons and not sure how proficient I should be before moving on. Any suggestions?

vlazlow

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Joined: 10/03/17

Posts: 7

Hi Kelly,

I am in kind of the same boat.

I am 53 and started GF 1 in October. I have giant monkey hands but was having problems with the spider drills. I would do them each practice session until we got into chords and i started focusing on functional flexablity and reach for the chords.

Yesterday, for grin and giggles, I did the 'ole spider drill and flew through it, frontward and backward without any issue. I was shocked that this gave me a hard time.

What is the take away? Stick with it! Let it happen and and have fun!

PS a couple of ibuprofin before practice helps too! :) :)

#6

Hi Kelly,

I am in kind of the same boat.

I am 53 and started GF 1 in October. I have giant monkey hands but was having problems with the spider drills. I would do them each practice session until we got into chords and i started focusing on functional flexablity and reach for the chords.

Yesterday, for grin and giggles, I did the 'ole spider drill and flew through it, frontward and backward without any issue. I was shocked that this gave me a hard time.

What is the take away? Stick with it! Let it happen and and have fun!

PS a couple of ibuprofin before practice helps too! :) :)

Kelly64

Full Access

Joined: 12/07/17

Posts: 7

Originally Posted by: akolodin2

Do we need to master the spider exercise before moving on to the next lesson?

Akolodin, I'm the exact opposite of expert, but my understanding of the spider legs exercise is that it is like a 'warm up': something to spend five minutes or so doing at the the start of your hour long lesson.

I.e.: you don't need to 'master' it before moving on- it should be part of your daily workout. My problem is that I don't seem to be getting better- but from what other folks have said on this thread, that is a pretty normal feeling.

#7

Originally Posted by: akolodin2

Do we need to master the spider exercise before moving on to the next lesson?

Akolodin, I'm the exact opposite of expert, but my understanding of the spider legs exercise is that it is like a 'warm up': something to spend five minutes or so doing at the the start of your hour long lesson.

I.e.: you don't need to 'master' it before moving on- it should be part of your daily workout. My problem is that I don't seem to be getting better- but from what other folks have said on this thread, that is a pretty normal feeling.

JeffS65

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Joined: 10/07/08

Posts: 1113

Mastering something is what you'll do throughout your life as a guitarist. As good as you get, there's always something you can't or haven't done. It's like juggling; first it's two balls, then three, then four...then chainsaws! Hehe...you get the idea. Always one more thing you can add to your bag of tricks.

With that said, don't hope to master something before you continue to play or learn.This is a Guitar World video posted today from Steve Vai on starting out. It's instructive but the key thing he says is that it is important to listen to what you're playing but also, just to play something you enjoy, even if badly to start. Don't let the idea that you haven't mastered it stop you from trying and enjoying.

The point being is to not worry as much about mastering something as to getting better at it. For instance, the issue with touching the 'next' string when fretting the third (index) finger. Yes, you are doing that now. Honestly, if you're not used to a pattern of something, that kind of always happens. Eventually you'll learn how not to do that. Not from a magic trick but by repeating things you practice. Your hand mechanics are different than mine. Our issues wouldn't be exactly the same. But practice teaches you how your hands work.

Oh, and this: "I'm in my 50s, so I'm sure my flexibility is shot". Unless you have arthritis, this is probably not true.

I sometimes give an example from my experiences...and for today's installment!

See this post from a few weeks ago. New guitars (a new Taylor too!) and yet....I hurt my wrist. It's been a longer recovery than I would have liked but I started with playing a little guitar and steadily improving.

For my church's Christmas program, my wife and I wanted to perform the First Noel. Easy enough with four chords cycling around (G, D, C and E). But a pain to practice when your outer wrist/pinky are stiff and ouchy. I've played guitar for a long time and those chords are a walk in the park..unless you can't seem to position your hand just so without yelping 'ouch!'. I trudged on and lo-and-behold, we did it. But it took some doing and given that it would have been otherwise pretty easy, darned frustrating to not be able to do it at first.

Now? I've decided I'm going to arrange 'Christmas Eve in Sarajevo' (TSO) for two acoustic guitars for next year. Guitar playing seems to be something of a rehab anyway so I'm rolling with practicing as part of rehab. It's hard to play some parts where I need a little more pinky extension and speed but, to my point above; I know my pinky ain't quite there yet so I continue to work on it and steadily improve. I'm still just learning and breaking down parts of the song so it's not like I'm in full performance mode. Just getting my hands back to speed.

That's the point. I can say that I am learning a harder piece of music and that's neato and all but the real point is your struggles and my struggles are still the same. The only real advantage I have is time playing but moreso, knowing that by stickin' with it, it does eventually come (back) to you and me.

#8

Mastering something is what you'll do throughout your life as a guitarist. As good as you get, there's always something you can't or haven't done. It's like juggling; first it's two balls, then three, then four...then chainsaws! Hehe...you get the idea. Always one more thing you can add to your bag of tricks.

With that said, don't hope to master something before you continue to play or learn.This is a Guitar World video posted today from Steve Vai on starting out. It's instructive but the key thing he says is that it is important to listen to what you're playing but also, just to play something you enjoy, even if badly to start. Don't let the idea that you haven't mastered it stop you from trying and enjoying.

The point being is to not worry as much about mastering something as to getting better at it. For instance, the issue with touching the 'next' string when fretting the third (index) finger. Yes, you are doing that now. Honestly, if you're not used to a pattern of something, that kind of always happens. Eventually you'll learn how not to do that. Not from a magic trick but by repeating things you practice. Your hand mechanics are different than mine. Our issues wouldn't be exactly the same. But practice teaches you how your hands work.

Oh, and this: "I'm in my 50s, so I'm sure my flexibility is shot". Unless you have arthritis, this is probably not true.

I sometimes give an example from my experiences...and for today's installment!

See this post from a few weeks ago. New guitars (a new Taylor too!) and yet....I hurt my wrist. It's been a longer recovery than I would have liked but I started with playing a little guitar and steadily improving.

For my church's Christmas program, my wife and I wanted to perform the First Noel. Easy enough with four chords cycling around (G, D, C and E). But a pain to practice when your outer wrist/pinky are stiff and ouchy. I've played guitar for a long time and those chords are a walk in the park..unless you can't seem to position your hand just so without yelping 'ouch!'. I trudged on and lo-and-behold, we did it. But it took some doing and given that it would have been otherwise pretty easy, darned frustrating to not be able to do it at first.

Now? I've decided I'm going to arrange 'Christmas Eve in Sarajevo' (TSO) for two acoustic guitars for next year. Guitar playing seems to be something of a rehab anyway so I'm rolling with practicing as part of rehab. It's hard to play some parts where I need a little more pinky extension and speed but, to my point above; I know my pinky ain't quite there yet so I continue to work on it and steadily improve. I'm still just learning and breaking down parts of the song so it's not like I'm in full performance mode. Just getting my hands back to speed.

That's the point. I can say that I am learning a harder piece of music and that's neato and all but the real point is your struggles and my struggles are still the same. The only real advantage I have is time playing but moreso, knowing that by stickin' with it, it does eventually come (back) to you and me.

glenmuir41

Full Access

Joined: 12/29/17

Posts: 4

hi there, my advice dont worry, I didnt start learning until 69yrs young and spent six frustrating months in music college one hour a week. I eded up packing up and have just become a member at gt, and already feel energised bythere methods. But getting back to spider legs it will come with practice. I found that doing finger stretches half an hour before practice then starting my warm up with spider legs helped a lot. regards Lou

Lou

#9

hi there, my advice dont worry, I didnt start learning until 69yrs young and spent six frustrating months in music college one hour a week. I eded up packing up and have just become a member at gt, and already feel energised bythere methods. But getting back to spider legs it will come with practice. I found that doing finger stretches half an hour before practice then starting my warm up with spider legs helped a lot. regards Lou

Lou

Kelly64

Full Access

Joined: 12/07/17

Posts: 7

Some awesome and encouraging comments here since I last checked- thank you folks!

I particularly like JeffS65's note, especially the words about not focusing on mastery before trying something different. That's a good piece of advice which is sometimes easy to forget. And I've found, even with my limited time practicing, that the 'break' of trying something different sometimes has a magical side effect. I.e.: a few days later, I come back to whatever had me stuck and it is suddenly a lot easier.

I've been at this learning guitar thing for about six weeks now. Its slow, I get angry some times at my stupid fingers, but... I think I'm almost detecting progress ;)

#10

Some awesome and encouraging comments here since I last checked- thank you folks!

I particularly like JeffS65's note, especially the words about not focusing on mastery before trying something different. That's a good piece of advice which is sometimes easy to forget. And I've found, even with my limited time practicing, that the 'break' of trying something different sometimes has a magical side effect. I.e.: a few days later, I come back to whatever had me stuck and it is suddenly a lot easier.

I've been at this learning guitar thing for about six weeks now. Its slow, I get angry some times at my stupid fingers, but... I think I'm almost detecting progress ;)