For many people, seeing the pros play lightning fast guitar solos is what got a lot of us interested in learning how to play the guitar. It is evident by looking at the professionals that one of the leading guitar tips for playing faster is to practice frequently. Duh!
However, this doesn’t mean to just sit around and noodle on the guitar for hours on end. Perfect practice makes perfect; not just any kind of practice. Most of your favorite guitarists spent countless hours trying to hone in on certain aspects which helped them develop their speed. This article will outline guitar tips to improve your speed and what you should pay attention to in your practice sessions.
Table of Contents
1. Work With A Metronome
A metronome is the most essential tool you should use, and for that reason, it will be the first of the guitar tips for playing faster. With a metronome, you can adjust the BPM (Beats Per Minute) from a wide range of tempos. Most often they will go as low as 40 BPM all the way up into the 200s.
This handy device will help you become more accurate with your pick strokes and will help you become cleaner. More importantly, it will help you develop the muscle memory that your hands need to remember in order to get faster. Most of the guitar heroes out there actually do not need to put much thought into their speed because it’s all muscle memory. This allows them to think about other things like their note choices, vibrato, and overall performance.
Metronomes are relatively inexpensive (and sometimes even free), so there’s no real excuse to not have or use one. You can find one that is convenient enough to have with you at all times. Old-school mechanical metronomes are cool and all, but you just can’t beat the features of a digital one. You can adjust the volume and sometimes even the click sound on digital ones and Korg makes some of the best. For guitar tips for beginners, learning how to use the metronome is king.
2. Practice Slowly
To many beginners, this may sound counter-intuitive as one of the guitar tips for shredding. Many inexperienced guitarists believe that the only way to get faster is just to try to pick more swiftly. While progressive increases in speed are essential (and will be discussed next), playing slow is arguably more important.
Some instructors might say if you can’t play something slowly, you shouldn’t be playing it fast at all. While this notion might have some merit, it’s not always true 100% of the time. You don’t need to practice excessively slow to get something down. In fact, having something in the depths of tempo-hell such as 40 BPM might be a hindrance. However, when learning new material, it should be slower than what its intended speed is.
The point of playing slowly and why it is one of the biggest guitar tips to get better is because it is intended to improve accuracy and for you to work on muscle memory. Even professional players slow down parts when trying to nail certain sections. Jumping into high-gear right away will most likely lead to sloppy playing, and this is something that you definitely do not want.
3. Gradually Increase The Tempo
While practicing at a slow tempo is one of the most crucial guitar tips for playing faster, increasing the pace is also necessary to build speed. Luckily, most players look forward to this part because they can see improvement before their own eyes!
When learning how to practice for speed, one of the guitar tips to improve this is that you must gradually, in small increments, increase the tempo of whatever you are working on with the metronome. Over time, you will be able to play sections, solos, and entire songs with increased speed. This works with general picking technique too; it doesn’t necessarily need to always have a musical context.
If done correctly, you should be able to maintain cleanliness and precision with your newly developed speed. If you’ve increased the rate and you’ve hit a point where you are not as clean, dial the metronome back a little, and rinse and repeat the process.
4. Pay Attention To Your Picking Style
One of the guitar speed tips that is sometimes overlooked is what kind of picking technique you are using. Sometimes one method may be more optimal than others for playing fast.
While you can play fast passages just by down-picking (look at Metallica or any other thrash metal band), in order to shred or play even speedier rhythm guitar sections you’re probably going to want to learn how to alternate pick properly.
Using your metronome, you can break this down pretty easy. You can practice your alternate picking without looking too. Just pick away at an open string, and you will still build up the muscle memory that is required for playing fast. However, you should still pay attention to your picking to make sure it’s tight and in the pocket. Don’t get too comfortable!
There are other even more advanced picking styles out there for you to learn that you can add to your guitar toolkit. Sweep picking is often more efficient for playing arpeggios rather than alternate picking them. However, alternate picking arpeggios can sound cool at times because you can really articulate the notes.
Economy picking is an interesting technique because it’s like a combination of alternate picking and sweep picking. It is designed to make passages sound more fluid, and more effortless to play. This one will take some time to get used to, but people find it intuitive and attest to its ability to improve guitar speed.
Because it has a steeper learning curve than strict alternate picking, some instructors might consider one of the guitar tips for advanced players. Personally, I love economy picking for 3-note-per string triplet patterns. I feel it works excellently for that.
Focus and think about your picking technique. There is a chance that there may be something out there that might be more efficient. Efficiency is critical when trying to pick up guitar speed. Take the path of least resistance, so to speak.
5. Reduce The Tension in Your Muscles
We’re saving the best for last here in this list of guitar tips for playing faster. A typical behavior that is seen in so many guitarists that are from the beginner to intermediate skill level is that they tend to tense up the muscles in both the picking hand and the fretting hand.
These are both important to talk about because when developing guitar speed, your picking hand and your fretting hand need to be synchronized with each other. This is a different topic and can be worked on with a metronome; however, this section is dedicated to tension and why you need to reduce it.
This doesn’t mean that you need to play with no tension whatsoever though. You need some tension to articulate notes and play aggressively after all. But when it comes to shredding, you’ll want to keep the muscle tension to a bare minimum.
Ever notice how the top shredders, especially in neo-classical metal, seem to play with little-to-no effort? That is because they are.
They have refined their technique over a period of many years but have also learned how to control the tension in their hands. You will need to monitor this tension while you are playing along with figure out how much hand-pressure is necessary to perform the part.
Addressing tension as a problem will be one of the most significant guitar playing improvement tips because excess tension is what is slowing many of you down.
Summary & Conclusion
That wraps up our 5 main guitar tips for playing faster. I certainly hope it gives you some insight and helps you unlock your real potential. I believe that everyone has the ability to become a shredder if they really want to.
There are a few themes to take away from this article that you need to apply in order to get faster on the guitar. These are:
- Metronome Work
- Technique Development
- Muscle Tension
With metronome work, you will need to have focused practice at both slow tempos as well as fast tempos. Slow tempo will help you develop the motor patterns and allow you to play more precisely whereas gradually building up the speed will help you apply these patterns and develop skill and dexterity over time.
To maximize your guitar speed, you will have to put in the effort. This effort will actually lead to effortless playing over time. The top guitarists hardly have to think about their speed, and this is because of their dedicated practice. Because they can relax and can play fast at-will, this allows them to focus their attention on other musical and performance aspects, such as their stage presence.
These are guitar tips for beginners and intermediates for the most part; however, some more advanced players might need a quick refresher. If you’re a teacher, you might even use these tips as a guide for your students.
With these guitar speed tips, you’ll be shredding in no time. Happy playing!