Guitar Lessons Online
Secret To Playing Fast!
no single guitar
secret for playing fast or developing a good guitar technique, but
there are a few secrets, which if you add them all up, are the secret
to most professional guitar players’ success. Just a few basic guitar
lessons and technique basics will help you develop a good guitar
technique, improve your speed and help you develop faster.
trying to increase your guitar speed, the
most important thing to remember is that you must be able to use your
faster speed in songs (otherwise, what is the point of learning how to
increase your speed in the first place?). Few things about guitar
playing are more frustrating for people than having worked so hard to
acquire good technique and speed on the guitar but then not being able
to use it in real life playing situations, yet most players struggle
with this to some extent.
your practice sessions, even when
practicing strictly to increase your speed, think about ‘real life’
guitar speed challenges. Here are three very common ‘real life’ playing
situations that many players typically struggle with when applying
their speed to ‘real music’:
from playing rhythm guitar directly into
playing a fast / challenging lead guitar solo or lick.
- Immediately playing a high speed lead guitar
part after playing nothing before (from a dead start).
- Playing fast licks consecutively that require
you to use drastically different guitar techniques, positions on the
neck, or hand positions.
are both easy and more advanced (though also
more effective) solutions to the problems listed above. Here are seven
of the easy solutions that you can use right away to increase your
‘useable’ guitar speeds. Because of the fact that most causes of the
problems guitar players have are actually mental (not physical), some
of the solutions may seem to have nothing to do with ‘playing guitar’,
but in fact they are extremely effective in many cases.
1. One way to
overcome problems when a sudden burst of speed is needed (like when you
go directly from a rhythm part to a fast lead guitar lick) is to
‘breathe out’ (exhale) just before (and during) playing the first fast
or hard speed lick.
2. Guitar players who
eventually develop a lot of physical speed in their hands often find
their next challenge is to overcome slow ‘mental processing’. This
means that the hands actually outrun the mind’s ability to analyze what
is going on ‘in real time’. Two-hand synchronization problems, rhythmic
timing errors of the lead guitar solo against the rhythm of the song,
inconsistent articulation, excess string noise, the inability to
smoothly shift positions on the neck are just a few of the common
problems that occur when mental processing breaks down as the hands are
playing at high speeds.
When teaching my virtuoso level students, I often
spend a great deal of time helping them to avoid this problem before it
occurs. The place to start is to find exactly where your mental
awareness is at various speeds. This is much easier to do with an
experienced teacher, but you can try this on your own.
Play something at about half your top lead guitar
playing speed and notice how consciously ‘aware’ you are of all the
issues mentioned above as you play. Of course when you test yourself,
the results won’t be truly accurate because you are focusing on doing
this little test and not playing in the way you normally do, that is
why having a guitar teacher to test you and gauge your processing is
much better to get real results from the testing. If you notice any
issues with your mind’s ability to ‘analyze’ the details of your
playing, then write down what the issue was and the speed you played at
(use a metronome for this).
If you aren’t sure if this mental analysis is
accurate, record yourself and then listen back to your recording. When
you listen back to the recording, do you now hear things that you
didn’t hear before, when you were playing? If yes, you have identified
a mental processing issue that needs to be fixed. If no, then increase
the speed on the metronome gradually until you do find a mental
Once you discover a mental processing problem, you
need to slow down the speed on the metronome and spend some time
practicing at speeds where you can fully hear (and think about) what is
really going on in your guitar playing. The goal is to shorten the time
it takes for your brain to analyze what is going on and then make the
necessary adjustments in your physical guitar playing ‘in real time’
(at full speed). As you play, focus on the problem you have identified
and try to make the adjustments needed to fix it while playing (without
3. One simple
solution to solve the problem with shifting positions on the
fingerboard at high speeds is to simply fix your eyes on where the
first note of the new position will be. So for example, if you are
playing a phrase near the 5th fret and your next phrase will begin on
the 14th fret, once the first phrase has begun, you probably don’t need
to watch ‘every note’ of that phrase with your eyes (unless you are a
beginner), so fix your eyes on the 14th fret and stare at it until you
get there. Simple solution, but very effective for most issues dealing
with simple position shifts.
4. To overcome the
very common problem of switching from rhythm guitar playing to fast
lead guitar playing, we need to look at two possible causes for the
problem. In this case it could be a physical problem because all the
rhythm playing may not be enough for your hands to be warmed up (and to
keep them warm) for the coming solo. Make sure you are warmed up before
playing the song. If you are performing live keep your fingers warm by
doing warm up exercises in between songs (if there is time). You can
also use heat. I have sometimes used a personal heater that is set up
on the side of the stage, in between songs it is sometimes possible to
quickly warm up your fingers.
The second possible cause to the rhythm/lead
guitar switching problem is a mental one. There is not enough space in
an article to go into great detail about exactly why this happens in
guitar players’ minds, so let’s just get to one of the possible
solutions. Simply dedicate some daily practice time (maybe 10-15
minutes) to switching back and forth between lead and rhythm. In a
10-minute period you can make this change back and forth at least 500
5. Just like the problem players have with
switching back and forth between rhythm and lead guitar playing,
another challenge is playing a high speed guitar solo when you haven’t
played any notes just before that. This can be quite challenging for
all the reasons mentioned in the point above plus, because there is no
momentum in either hand just before the solo, it can be even harder to
go perfectly into a very fast lead guitar part.
To get started to solve this problem, spend some
practice time going back and forth between playing ‘nothing’ and
playing your first high speed guitar lick. It’s one thing to practice
the same lick over and over again, but that doesn’t help you to ‘use’
the speed you have developed if you need to play that same fast lick
when there is nothing played before it in an actual song.
6. If you’ve ever
practiced a technique or lick at high speeds over and over again with
good results, but struggle to play it within the context of the entire
solo, the problem is likely that you may not have been practicing a
wide variety of techniques in random order. Try practicing a bunch of
different techniques in a random order so you get used to combining
different types of guitar techniques at high speed.
7. Another cool
solution to many of the problems discussed above is to begin your first
fast lick with a little bit of legato. If you’re an Yngwie Malmsteen
fan, you hear this used all the time in these playing situations. Not
only does it help to solve these challenges, but it also sounds cool
(obviously Yngwie wouldn’t use this if he didn’t like the sound). When
you hear him play a really fast descending scale for example
(especially when he plays rhythm guitar just before the fast lick)
notice that he usually picks only the first note of the first string.
He uses pull-offs for the remaining notes of that string and then his 2
hands synchronize together to play the rest of scale as he picks all
the remaining notes (the final note being a common exception).