Improve Your Speed for Beginners and Intermediate Students

Before I go into why you should want to work on your speed let us first have a listen to some guitarplayers who can dance all over the fretboard:

First here is Charlie Christian: Clean Sound, most of his notes are picked, he plays in position, does have lines where he plays over one string, does have an amazing feel for that swing.

Okay now here a more modern version of some fast playing: Edward van Halen from a recent 2013 show. Very good video to get an insight in some of his techniques: Watch his stiff wrist when he plays the very fast picking with pick at the beginning. Watch how he keeps first finger in place. When he taps with his left hand he uses his right hand to mute the strings, in this way he can keep the sound clean without any rumble from resonant, open strings. Lots of false harmonics to get that bell-sound, also a lot of pinched harmonics. Knowing where you go on the fretboards is a must, especially when you are improvising. Listen to the studio recording of Eruption and to this version with all the little ideas in between. Observe the violin-like sounds from the volume swells. He does have amazing control over his sound.

Here a video of Joe Satriani, which give a great insight into his playing as well: Lots of melodic ideas and impros over one string which he shifts to positions or move up into a different registre, observe his Wah pedal technique he uses to get his notes to come out in the mix a bit better. Great to see those harmonics he gets when he depresses the Whammy bar, sometimes he uses the pick-up as extra fret, and uses the tremo bar to get those notes to come up better. Again observe the position of the first finger, it never leaves the fretboard! Once you start practising your excersices your fingers will get used to some of these habits, but you may need to sit down and spent some serious time with the guitar.

Okay now for something different, this is just about some fun, not really about guitarplaying. Had not seen this one before, you may have…At the end of the day your guitarplaying should just be about fun and something like this may inspire…………….

Another one in the same category: Playing very fast is alright, but can you dance is the question?

Okay maybe enough videos to illustrate the idea what fast playing is all about. You may think : “Fast playing is not for me, I will never be able to achieve what some of those guys do” Well you will be surprised at what you can achieve when you start working on this issue serously. It is also one of the reasons why I want to highlight some of this: To play guitar well you need to work on your playing, the faster you can play the better you will be at playing at a slower pace. A little bit like driving a powerful car: You do not need to race all the time, but having all that power in your car makes driving very comfortable ( Yes I know, let us not talk about your fuelbill but really, that is another matter)

Why would you want to be able to play fast? To create variety in your playing. The danger is wanting to do it all the time, which will reduce its effect. Variety in your sound can be achieved through use of effects and being able to play fast is just another techniqual tool you may want to use to add variety and drama in your playing.

Fast guitarplayers may not be in fashion at the moment, but you do not just play guitar to be in the latest magazines. Trends do change all the time and having some fast chops can never harm you, it may cost you some time to achieve them but see it as part of your journey with the guitar through the land of music.

                  Work approach:

There are many ways you can go about in achieving speed in your playing, but most guitar players will try something like:

                    @ Play slow at first
                    @ Hear and think about every note, serious business I know, but it will help you
                    @ Be patient, your playing ability will grow over time, but this is for life, just do not give up after two weeks of work, see this as a long term goal, or better, as something which can be worked on in all stages of your guitarplaying development, depending on what you go for at the time.
                    @ Use warm-ups and slowly build up your playing from there, try avoiding to rush things too soon.
                    @ Use a metronome to keep a mental check of where you are within the bar. Once you start using them you will get used to them and start to feel the beats.

                  What Material to Use for Building Up Your Speed?:

Anything really, from scales to set patterns, your own riffs you may make up, short phrases. Anything you can concentrate on to get your actions and timing in good shape.

I mentioned the use of metronome before somewhere on this blog.

When you are relatively new to the guitar you may have wondered what it is when your playing is not always the same every day: Your muscles do feel different at different times of the day, warm ups do help when you have not played before, use them!. There is also the fact: “Some days are better than others”  Even when your technique is good you have to accept there will be moments you can play faster and better than at other moments. It is quite a common thing for players to tense up when they go for fast solos, the better your are a keeping yourself relaxed the better your notes will come through.
Constant work on your technique will make your fingers work more consistently.

Whenever you listen to some music ask yourself: “Where is this particular idea played on the guitar?” “Are the phrases played in position or is it mostly over one string?” This approach does not only help your with analysing someone else’s playing, it will also give you a better understanding of the different ways of playing the guitar. Hopefully when you play yourself, you will have a choice of how you want to sound like, or what you want to do musically with the guitar.

Let me leave you with another guitarplayer who gives us an insight in some of his guitartechnique. Some very useful tips for beginners about playing patterns over one string: You do not really need to know the notes (yes it helps but………….) just remember the shape and repeat it over other strings.  Some sweep picking ideas ( which I will highlight in another article)  Watch his right hand wrist: Very small, neat movements when he picks through some of those fast scales, great insight for any beginner!! Also a bit of a rolling movement with his thumb (Close ups towards 4.50 minutes in video)

Hope to catch you soon again,