Guitar Aerobics: A 52-Week

From the former editor of Guitar One magazine, here is a daily dose of vitamins to keep your chops fine tuned for a full 52 weeks. The guitar exercises cover several musical styles including rock, blues, jazz, metal, country, and funk. Techniques taught include alternate picking, arpeggios, sweep picking, string skipping, legato, string bending, and rhythm guitar. These exercises will increase your speed and improve your dexterity and pick- and fret-hand accuracy the more you practice them.

About the Author

Born in the small town of Viroqua, Wisconsin (population 4,000), Nelson picked up the guitar at the age 14, after months of begging his parents for an axe. He tapped into his savings account for a Harmony electric, a Fender Strat knockoff from the JC Penney catalogue.

From that moment forward, Nelson would spend hours each day, much to his buddies’ dismay, woodshedding in his bedroom, playing everything from Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B. King to Dokken and Metallica.

“My friends would come to our front door on the weekends to ask me to hang out, and I’d say ‘no thanks’ and go back to my room to play guitar until dinner. Then, after dinner, I’d return to my room and play until my sister would bang on the wall to make me stop,” remembers Nelson.

When he wasn’t playing guitar, Nelson was the star quarterback of his high school football team. Though he received letters to play football from several of the state universities, Nelson chose music instead, attending Milwaukee Area Technical College, where he earned an Associate’s Degree in Occupational Music.

Following graduation, Nelson spent several years as a freelance editor for Hal Leonard Corporation, the world’s largest music print publisher, where he transcribed and edited many of the top guitar songs of the day. In 1995, jumped at the chance to work on a new magazine Hal Leonard was launching, Guitar One.

In 1999, Nelson moved with the magazine to New York City. For a decade, he worked tirelessly at the magazine, holding the titles of Music Editor, Senior Editor, and, finally, Editor-in-Chief. “I’m quite proud of what we accomplished at Guitar One. What began as a start-up, evolved into the No. 2 guitar title in the world when I left in 2005,” remembers Nelson fondly.

After a decade of success in the music business, Nelson decided to pursue a career in his other love–football. After a stint in the media department of the New York Jets, Nelson headed south, to the University of Georgia, where received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Management in 2009, graduating with top honors (summa cum laude). While attending UGA, Nelson somehow found time to write his first book, Guitar Aerobics, which has become a #1 bestseller, with nearly 100,000 copies sold to date.

“As a guitarist, I wanted to write a technique book that would appeal to me; that is, a book that had a practical structure and music examples that didn’t sound like warm-up exercises. I wanted to compose music examples that guitarists could incorporate into their own music while, at the same time, improving their chops,” says Nelson.

After UGA, Nelson went on to work for several football entities, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the All-American Football League, Gardner Webb University, and BLESTO, a football scouting coop owned by seven NFL teams. It was during his time at BLESTO that Nelson had another book idea. The result was Fretboard Freedom, a book Nelson authored after work and on the weekends. Fretboard Freedom is a novel approach to visualizing and navigating the neck of the guitar–a concept that initially struck Nelson while he wrote Guitar Aerobics back in 2007.

Although life as a football scout was difficult to put on hold, music eventually pulled Nelson back into its clutches. He took a breather from other career pursuits and spent the better portion of 2012 authoring Rhythm Guitar 365 (Hal Leonard), the follow-up to Guitar Aerobics and Fretboard Freedom.

“Like my other books, Rhythm Guitar 365 contains daily music exercises–one for every day of the year–with this book focusing on rhythm-guitar playing, which doesn’t get nearly the attention that lead playing does,” says Nelson of his latest title.

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