Getting Shifty With It - Guitar Shifting Essentials

There comes a time in every guitarist’s life when they’ve got a handle on open chords and riffs and now it’s time to make their way out onto the wider fretboard. 

While the underlying technique for open chords is basically the same as playing higher up the neck, getting there and back is another story. 

Moving from one position to another smoothly and seamlessly can be a tough nut to crack for many guitarists.

Little spaces form, sometimes larger ones too, between notes when shifting

Many players also grab notes when shifting as they hurry and guess when moving from one part of the fretboard to the other. 

Shifting is an essential skill for all guitarists to learn, but it doesn’t have to be a nuisance to work on in the practice room and get down smoothly. 

In this lesson, you study three exercises that clean up your shifts, open up the fretboard, and develop your two-hand chops all at the same time. 

Whether you’re cleaning up bad habits or moving out of open position for the first time, enjoy these shifting exercises in your practice routine.

Guitar Shifting Exercise 1

To begin your study of shifting in this lesson, you use two shifts to move from the 1st fret to the 12th

Right before you make any shift, remember to visualize your landing fret and use an extra beat of silence or two in order to plan that shift. 

Over time you will visualize that shift instantly in the moment and won’t need those extra beats to plan. 

But, in the beginning, those extra beats can make all the difference when it comes to accurately and smoothly shifting on the fretboard. 

Go slow, use a metronome, and focus on smooth shifting as you work your way up the fretboard with this exercise. 

Guitar Shifting Exercise 2

In this second guitar shifting exercise, you play one shift on each string of the guitar, 1234-5678, 2345-6789, etc.

You also shift between strings to form a “shiftception,” a shift within a shift, in this workout. 

Because there are two shifts, one on each string and one between each string, you get a full shifting workout with this exercise. 

Focus on both shifts, making them smooth and seamless over time, as you develop both shifts in your playing.

Though more difficult than the first exercise in this lesson, this shifting exercise prepares you for real lift playing, where you often have multiple shifts in a line. 

Go slow, use a metronome, and focus on smooth shifting as you work your way up the fretboard with this exercise. 

Guitar Shifting Exercise 3

The final exercise in this lesson is one I call the “inchworm.”

Here, you play 1234, then inchworm up to play 23345, 3456, etc. on each string. 

I’ve written the 6th string version here to get you started, then you can drag this exercise to all other strings over time. 

Use a metronome and focus on making each shift smooth and seamless as you work this exercise in your studies

This will take time to do, seamless shifting, so focus on doing better today than you did yesterday and progress will add up over time

Any physical technique takes time to develop muscle memory and an autopilot approach to playing with solid chops

Going slow, using a metronome, and focusing on progress not perfection will get you to that point in your playing sooner or later. 

Have fun as you work this exercise, first on the 6th string then on others, in this shifting workout.