Playing guitar fast at lightning speed is really not that difficult if you understand this one single concept. Think…Turtle.
In this article I will tell you the surefire way to take your speed up to levels you never thought of. You must do what this article and what every teacher in history tells his or her students. Basically it boils down to one thing.
Practicing slowly, until you learn it well.
Then, and only then can you speed up.
“This Sucks… I Cant Play Fast.”
I heard this today. “This sucks! I can’t play fast!” This was total frustration on this persons part. Total mindset annihilation.
Why must a piece of music suck if its slow? “A piece of music has to be fast I used to say.”
So fast that I wanna drive as fast as its going.
Why are we all entranced by speed? I don’t know… but it sure as hell is cool. Thats for sure.
To rip across the guitar neck like players such as George Bellas, Michael Angelo and countless other players…shoots off an intense feeling that feels like youre being thrust through outer space.
Not only that, but to pull off some pulsating vibrato at the end of your run, on a chord tone…has always been something otherworldy for me.
That leads me to this next point…
I remember back at my 8th grade prom thing whenever the slow songs would come on I would just cringe. How could someone play something so slow when its so exciting to play really fast and upbeat.
For me it sounds like a hundred chariots closing in on the enemy when I hear bone crushing guitar tone played prestissimo.
Or a thousand horses plodding across the fields of some open country.
That being said, there are tons of slow pieces that are really well written and we can learn a lot from these.
From slow melodic lines and phrases to long soulful bends and vibrato, these songs say something. But the lesson here is to tap into that part of yourself and do the work at slow speeds.
I know. Not fun. But it will be well worth it if you can leave trails of smoke after your licks while your friends jaws drop. And they will. If you listen to the suggestions in this article.
Speed doesn’t have to be a factor in your guitar playing but if youre anything like me and you’ve been playing awhile you probably want some shredding speed.
Below are some tactics to get you practicing more efficiently to gain speed.
Heres the first one:
THink Dynamics: Piano and Forte
Piano in this case means to play softly and quietly.
Forte on the other hand is to play loudly and with some force.
When you want to increase your speed. You have to be specific and go into the practice session with an intent to become faster. You have to go in there with a positive mindset. Once you have your mindset, do this…
Practice a lick, scale or arpeggio and play it as softly as you can and as slowly as you can. Also known as Piano or Pianissimo. Doing this does two things. It forces you to relax and it forces you to think about your tone.
When you play something very slow and soft, your tone has to be on point. Focus on the angle of your fingers pressed upon the frets. Are they looking straight up? Are they angled?
Practice very softly and very slowly UNTIL you have the entire lick, scale or arpeggio (or even a song section) down packed. Meaning no other strings are ringing. Meaning your tone is clean with no buzz. You have to have whatever you’re learning down to a tee. It must be memorized so that you can focus deeply on it.
If you don’ have it learned well, I can guarantee you that you will NOT increase in speed. You will only learn a bad habit.
Speed is cool but not when you’re practicing. It totally isn’t. When you are starting out it totally isn’t.When you are learning something new it totally isn’t.
When you are learning a brand new technique you’ve never done before. It totally, 100% is not cool and you shouldn’t be playing fast.
Your brain will not learn at a fast speed.
You have to think of yourself like a newborn child thats learning to walk. It takes the baby years before he can even get on his or her feet.
Or like an airplane. You can’t take off from the ground in an instant. You have to go down the runway (where all the real speed starts to happen).
The good news about this for a musician is that it won’t take nearly as long as you think provided you put in the time and the effort. Your speed will increase if you stay on top of it, log it and attack it on a consistent basis.
A daily, or weekly basis that is. If you haven’t picked up your guitar in over a week. Stop whining. Stop crying. Just pick it up.
Practice slowly and consistently.
Start practicing slowly…and you’ll see results.
It surprises me every time that after so many years of playing I too go through these same thoughts and make the same speed increasing mistakes.
Going WAY TOO FAST for something I just learned is something Im good at. Thankfully Ive learned to slow down over the years.
Heres some advice from something I tried recently after banging my head against the wall and trying to get fast but getting nowhere for years. My trick lately is to play it piano. Not on a piano but piano. (The Italian term for playing very softly.)
This not only gives new meaning to my practice, but also gives me a sense of peace Ive never felt before. Whereas before I was always practicing in a state of anxiety.
Peace, or anxiety. You choose.
You know that kind of peace that comes to you only in the still of the night when everyone is sleeping. Well, you can get that kind of feeling by simply playing very softly. And very slowly.
This is the only way to know that you truly have learned something.
Once you start to do this, you will be making progress. More so than the guy who practices fast but plays sloppily. You want good technique.
Everyone wants good technique.
Good technique takes time. Put in the time.
the second step to acquiring some real speed.
There is no need to dig into the strings and play something up to tempo when you’re learning something new. Absolutely no need at all. Its counterintuitive. At first.
There is no other way to play something fast and clean than to first play it slow. Teaching your brain to teach your fingers what to do and in a slow fashion is the only way to make sure you are playing it accurately.
Do it for however long it takes. If you play something sloppy your brain learns it this way and your fingers will follow suit. Playing it piano and even pianissimo (very, very soft) works wonders.
You’ll find that you can speed up after a short amount of time and still play clean and accurate and your confidence level will rise.
When you play something clean and crisp the feeling inside you is phenomenal. When you feel ready ….play it forte (very loud) making sure both hands are completely in sync.
Meaning both hands are simultaneously hitting the note at the same exact millisecond. Your left hand finger comes down on the note at the same exact time that your pick strikes the string.
Notice that I said to play it FORTE (loud) or FORTISSIMO (even louder). It does not say to play fast. Only play loudly. Do not play fast. Play loudly this time around. Speed will come soon enough. I promise you.
Practicing for speed like this is the most efficient way of getting your speed up to par. Speed is a big topic and cannot be explained all in one blog post. Having said that, practicing a piece of music piano, and then forte gets your fingers ready and allows your mind to focus intently on what you are doing.
If you go too fast it will take you longer to go fast. Read that again.
So remember, piano then forte. Soft then loud. Always SLOW. Like I said earlier. Think…turtle.
Attack is how hard or soft you strike the strings with your pick or your fingers if you play finger style.
After you have gone through the above mentioned way of practicing. (piano then forte and back and forth) you can now start to play with a normal attack.
Meaning not too soft and not exaggeratedly loud. Just the right amount of tone and volume to where something sounds its best. You should have done whatever you are practicing enough times to where you are totally relaxed when you play. If you haven’t your body will cringe up or tense up because you are trying to think and learn at the same time.
You want to eliminate the thinking to zero. You should practice to learn something so well that you do not have to think about it.
You should have whatever you are practicing completely memorized and learned to a point that you can play it with your eyes closed.
You can play any piece of music piano, pianissimo, or forte or fortissimo, its up to you but to get anything to sound good at a fast speed you should start with piano and work your way up to fortissimo and back and forth until you feel really comfortable.
Playing piano (softly) will allow you to relax more, while forte is more for articulation and dexterity. This is a huge part of making something sound good at a high speed. Using both of these tactics will ensure you are on the right path.
The goal is to be able to play with normal attack. (not too loud or soft) So that you can then add DYNAMICS as you wish. If you want to play it piano then do so when you are performing it. If you want it to stand out you can play it forte or fortissimo.
Keep in mind that in real music you can have a few measures to a whole section using any one of these dynamics. Dynamics makes music sound way more interesting.
Dynamics gives the piece color, a character, a feel to it rather than a monotonous volume all the way through. Practicing with these dynamics will also give your playing all of these qualities.
Its a win-win.
Finally speeding up
Once and only once you have done the above, you can start taking your tempo up a notch or two.
If you maintain relaxed and have learned the lick, scale or arpeggios, or any other part of a song well, (really well), then take the metronome and speed it up.
Try logging your speed on a piece of paper or check out my speed log. Its 43 pages long. So if you’re really into speeding up this is the log for you.
Use this method of speeding up for everything you want to get faster on. Piano to forte and back and forth. I promise you will see results this way and in this way only. What I mean by this way only is starting off slowly and softly, then loudly but not faster.
Piano to Forte to Piano to Forte. Until it sounds incredible.
No matter how long it takes. In fact it will take an absurd amount of repetition to get faster. It will also take years in some cases so get started now.
Check out this other article for other ways to play your music.