It seems to be the one secret that nearly every guitarist is trying to unlock: How to play guitar fast. I have no idea where this fascination comes from but being able to shred some speedy licks is just freaking cool! Maybe it’s the fascination with extremes? Like who can lift the heaviest weight or who can run the fastest lap. Playing guitar at mind-blowing speed is just super fun and it sounds pretty ace. Two good reasons why we should take a closer look at how to increase our guitar speed.
Since we are no fools and we know there is no magical shortcut, this is the key to the Lamborghini:
The only way to build speed is to get our technique sorted right from the start and practice at a slow, manageable tempo that we slowly increase.
Pretty boring right? We can search through the internet and check out the vast amount of methods promising us to unlock the secret of shred guitar but there is only one tried and true way to reach the top. Yes, it can be boring and it can be hard. Why do you think there are so many failed attempts to get around it?! Let’s take a closer look at my six components of speed.
The first thing we need to ask ourselves: What do we want to play fast? Maybe it is a guitar solo or just a fast lick on its own? When we are on target, we can sort out which technique we need to master to play the lick.
This is obvious, right? Let’s say we need some mean alternate picking to play a three-note-per-string run. Then you need to learn how to alternate pick! The same goes for sweep picking and anything else.
Speed is a byproduct if we think about it. It is the result of something that we can do with ease, right? If we can play a certain lick very well, we will have less trouble getting it up to speed than a lick that is completely new to us.
Why? Because of muscle memory. The more we (correctly!) repeat something the better we will get. The same applies to playing guitar. All the little movements will be memorized by the muscles in our hands. That means if our hands
memorized a lick in a way we do not need to think about it when we play, the more we can focus on the technique (what we are doing) and the speed (playing the lick faster over time).
That’s why building up speed is strongly connected with repetition. Bad habits are another factor that is strongly connected with repetition. That’s why I wrote “correct repetition”.
Repetition serves also as a tool to find kinks and problem areas we may have and correct them. If bad technique/habits are already developed, corrections will be harder and repetition is therefore even more important.
The next thing that all of us heard a million times…. yeah, I know, but it’s true. Repetition on its own won’t get you that far if you do not increase the tempo which will set the stimulus for your muscles. For improving guitar speed you need to push your playing a bit further every time.
I know I’m kinda ruining all the magic and romantic picture of the shred gods that seemingly stepped out of their bedroom one day and just blew everyone away. But behind the flashy licks lies a ton of practice and consistency.
Ok, so we have the lick down and we repeated it over and over until we are comfortable and make no more mistakes. The next step is to increase the tempo. 10 bpm, 8 bpm, 4 bpm, or even 2 bpm faster are cool. The best way to do this is by practicing guitar with a metronome.
What works great are speed bursts. It’s like doing little sprints on the guitar. Playing faster gradually will sometimes not cut it. Bummer, I know. Instead of tiring your hand out in a marathon (playing at a certain tempo very long) you do sprints! This means you just go double speed for a few bars. Go back to the “normal” tempo, relax and repeat.
The most important factor when playing fast and building up speed on guitar: Efficiency!
Well, what the heck does that mean? When we watch guitarists that mastered the shred game and play uber fast, it seems that they put no effort into it at all, right? Like they do not even care it’s 240 bpm. It does not only seem effortless, most of the time it is.
That’s what we need to understand when we talk about playing efficiently. It means minimizing finger movement and using only as much force as needed. That way we can play faster because our fingers move more efficiently. At the same time, we minimize force which means that our hands are unlikely to tense up. A cramping and stiff muscle is the opposite of what we want when trying to achieve guitar speed.
Posture can also determine our quest for playing guitar faster. If we sit or hold our guitar in a manner that feels weird, we need to stop that. A little experimentation of what works best for us as an individual can save a lot of time and pain. When we practice slowly and repeat the pattern we are trying to learn, we need to focus on exactly that: Staying relaxed and minimizing unnecessary finger movement.
We all heard the saying: “You try too hard!” This would be exactly the case here.
This goes hand in hand with avoiding bad habits as mentioned earlier. Bad habits are in a lot of cases tensed up muscles because we are trying too hard or “flying” fingers.
When we practice guitar to improve our speed or just learn a new piece in general, it is very important to pay close attention to our playing. We need to figure out what passage gives us a hard time. Do our fingers move differently as they normally do or do we cramp up using a certain guitar technique?
If there is something like that, we need to spend some extra time working out the kinks that may hold back our overall development. Our weak spot determines how fast we can play guitar.
No Sh*t Sherlock! This may be the most crucial factor when trying to play guitar fast or better in general. It is so obvious yet we may not do it: practice regularly.
Setting realistic goals is key! Once more: Setting realistic goals is key! Having a plan and something to work towards is the best method if we don’t have time to waste, measure our progress, and want to have faster results practicing guitar. Especially when we are working, having parental obligations, or anything else that needs our special attention and time.
Using the practice time efficiently means also not being distracted. Shut off your phone, close your Facebook tab and focus merely on the metronome and your guitar. It is hard! Our minds may think about everything but practicing guitar. We need to be in the present and forget about anything else when practicing guitar.
And why not? We want to practice guitar and increase speed, right? Why should we think about our evening plans or social media? It’s stupid, we need to avoid those distractions.
There are no shortcuts when we want to improve our guitar playing speed. Only thoughtful and yes, fun practice in combination with patience and consistency to build up speed on guitar. It may seem boring and yes it can get very boring but that is all part of the journey. When we keep the key facts in mind, we are good to go for our quest to play guitar fast!
No more broken hyperdrive motivators.
Thank You for Your time and as always....
Play The Rad Way!
Share If You Care