The Only Guitar Picking Exercise You'll Ever Need

Practice "The Crooked Spider" 10 Minutes A Day And Surprise Yourself

To improve our musical skills, there are a lot of different exercises to practice. We have tons of options, and sometimes, when we sit down to start our practice session, we ask ourselves: what I'm going to practice now?

Today I want to make things as simple as possible and show you one exercise that you can do every time you have 5 minutes to spare or you feel not sure about what material to focus on.

I admit that if I would have to choose one only exercise I'm allowed to use to keep my technique good, this will be the one.

Introducing The Crooked Spider Guitar Exercise

These are the guitar tabs and audio for the exercise, that I called "The Crooked spider" (il ragno storto, in the Italian language).

As you can see, the time signature is strange: 11/8. That's the reason the Spider is crooked.

Here are the main benefits of practicing this sequence every day (even if only 10 minutes per day):

  • All four fingers of your left hand are put at work in the same way
  • There's a lot of string crossing, this is a great challenge for alternate picking (as you probably already know, on the guitar is way easier to play a sequence of notes on the same string than crossing strings)
  • As this is an odd sequence (11/8) you have to invert the picking direction at the beginning of each bar (down picking vs up picking). This allows you to practice all the possible picking motions.

Tips To Practice This Exercise

For the maximum benefit, it's important that you execute the Crooked Spider exercise in the right way. Here are some suggestions you should follow:

  • Try to strictly use alternate picking. This exercise is conceived to invert picking direction at any bar, so it's crucial you follow the down-up-down-up-down-up-down route. You can begin the exercise with an up stroke or a down stroke, it does not matter, because at the beginning of each bar, the direction will be inverted (due to the odd number of notes per bar)
  • Use one finger per fret. So index for the notes on the 5th fret, medium for the 6th fret, ring for the 7th, and pinkie on the 8th fret.
  • Play with clean and distorted sound. With the clean sound, you can spot dynamics inconsistency and semi-dead notes. With a distorted sound, you can check if you are muting strings correctly, an issue that can emerge when you cross strings, and here you're going to cross strings a lot.
  • Always use a metronome, starting from low bpm and increasing a little bit every time you feel confident. It might be helpful to use an eighth beat, to stay in sync with the odd time signature.
  • Occasionally, forget the metronome and play little fragments as fast as you can: the first 2 notes of the pattern, then 3, then 4, and so forth. This helps unblock the hands.
  • If possible, record yourself and then listen to the tracks to spot imperfections in timing and sound.

If you have difficulties in memorizing this exercise, try to break it down into 3 main sections: the first section, ascending strings and frets 1-2-3-4, the second descending strings 1-2-3-4, and the last section with 3 chromatic notes 1-2-3

You might also find useful my detailed guide on how to increase speed on guitar.

That's all for today. Try this exercise for some days, and see if and how your skills will improve! To stay updated, jump to this link.

I'll leave you with this quote which I found of great inspiration:

You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
Charlie Parker

Update: I realized that Crooked Spider is also a brewing company from The Netherlands, congratulations to them for the naming :-)