building speed


bbzswa777
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bbzswa777
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09/25/2014 7:15 am
Hi everyone.

This post really only applies to any of you who are attempting to build your alternate picking speed (or any speed I guess, whether economy, alternate, or sweep picking).

Anyway, for the last couple months I felt like I've been stuck at the same alternate picking speed, maybe increasing a couple bpm's every couple weeks or so. I was stuck at "kind of fast," but I want to eventually become "very fast."

So what I did was picked one part of a song I've been working on that was very difficult for me to play up to speed. Particularly this one part that has you playing triplets at 198 bpm across multiple strings. And it has a couple awkward positionings. I was only able to play these triplets at like 158 bpm. But what I did was just played this one part over and over like a couple hundred times every day. I would break it up into sections, play it all at once, play it at slow speeds, play it at speeds that were a little too fast, Basically I attacked it from all angles. After a couple months, this became pretty tedious and boring! But I forced myself to stick with it, slowly increasing the metronome when I felt comfortable.

And I'm happy to report, this approach works! I'm now at 190 bpm, only 8 more to go!

So my main message is this: doing this may seem very boring or even depressing at times. It may even seem pointless or like it's not working. And some days you may even be slower than you were the day before! (this is normal and it happened to me. I think because your hand gets fatigued some days) But sticking with it WILL pay off. Just keep telling yourself that it's IMPOSSIBLE not to get faster if you keep practicing the same things every day.

Also make sure to slow down enough so you can really make sure you're moving your fingers in the most efficient manner possible. Form is actually important here. Going really slow may seem like a waste of time, but for me I think that was one of the things that paid off the most.

Good luck!
# 1
maggior
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maggior
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09/25/2014 1:10 pm
Thanks for this!! I'm actually working on something just like this at the moment - the solos from La Grange. Fast (for me) triplets with some awkward (for me) fingering in one place. I've done as you said - focused on getting the most efficient fingering down at a slow speed.

I need to take a more disciplined approach like you suggest instead of just hitting it here and there.

Thanks very much for sharing this!
# 2
bbzswa777
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bbzswa777
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09/25/2014 9:43 pm
That's a song that's on my list to learn some day!

I know what you mean, when you actually sit down to play, it's so easy to get distracted and start playing other stuff. What helped me is to actually write down the speed or bpm and write down how many times I played it at that speed next to it.

Maybe that will help you too.
# 3
joe400hp
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joe400hp
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10/16/2014 4:38 am
Originally Posted by: bbzswa777
Also make sure to slow down enough so you can really make sure you're moving your fingers in the most efficient manner possible. Form is actually important here. Going really slow may seem like a waste of time, but for me I think that was one of the things that paid off the most.

Good luck!


This the most important thing to keep in mind when practicing. This is what practicing is all about!
# 4
bbzswa777
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bbzswa777
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10/16/2014 10:46 pm
You're right! It took me a little while to figure that out, but now I apply this principle to everything I learn. Going slow is the only way to allow that precise muscle memory to develop.
# 5
jay.katana
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jay.katana
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11/13/2014 5:20 am
I use the same approach, by playing a problem section in a comfortable tempo, hundreds of times, till i fill comfortable. then increase 5bpm a day, so in 4 days I can jump up to 20bpm from my start point, and usually - it's enough))
# 6
bbzswa777
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bbzswa777
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11/13/2014 8:16 am
Yeah that's what I do for most things I learn nowadays. But sometimes you can only move up so far. Depending on how complex it is what you're playing of course. I've been trying to increase this one lick, and I moved up like 30 bpm in the first couple weeks, but I've been trying to increase it the last 10 bpm for months now lol. But that's because it's faster than anything I've played before.
# 7
Jure G
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Jure G
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12/23/2014 8:31 am
thanks for this post. There are a lot of things you can try to implement to get your speed up. I use to practice like this for many years, but recently i've started to implement a lot of different approaches, like playing really really slowly whole notes at 60bmp and building up the speed from there. this is the speed that can help you be totally aware of your whole body and the tensions. usually what happens with faster speeds is that you start to build up tension in your arm and it's therefor impossible to progress fast. once u're able to relax your speed usually goes up. but in order to stay relaxed you have to start slowly. i've never practiced so slow in my life but now that i do this, my playing is actually transforming in front of my eyes.
i can write some more on different strategies for building speed if anyone is interested.
# 8
Kasperow
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Kasperow
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12/23/2014 11:31 am
Originally Posted by: jure.golobici can write some more on different strategies for building speed if anyone is interested.

Please do. I want my speed to increase, as well as my timing and general playing, so if you have any more advice or exercises for increasing that speed and improving my timing, I would love to read those :)
"Commit yourself to what you love, and things will happen."
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---
Gear:
Chateau PS-10 Cherry Power-Strat
Epiphone G-400 LTD 1966 Faded Worn Cherry
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# 9
john of MT
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john of MT
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12/23/2014 6:55 pm
Me too! My experience shows that your above post about slow practice works. Much interested in hearing more.

Thanks in advance.
"It takes a lot of devotion and work, or maybe I should say play, because if you love it, that's what it amounts to. I haven't found any shortcuts, and I've been looking for a long time."
-- Chet Atkins
# 10
bbzswa777
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bbzswa777
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12/24/2014 4:32 am
It's interesting, I started this thread a long time ago, but I just saw your recent posts. And over the last couple days I've been thinking of recording a video of me going over 100 of my favorite exercises (most of them geared towards lead guitar in general, and speed of course).

I know 100 exercises seems like a lot, but that's only after I've narrowed it down and picked my favorite ones! I have hundreds of 'em. I was even going to break it down into four categories (25 exercises for each): Alternate picking, Economy/Sweep Picking, Legato, and Dexterity. Some of them I've come up with on my own, some are variations on ones I've learned from others, and a lot of them have come out of videos and books like "Speed Mechanics" or "John Petrucci's Wild Stringdom."

I know this video will be a lot of work, but if enough people want to see it, I'll be more than happy to record it.

Let me know!
# 11
Jure G
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Jure G
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12/24/2014 11:36 am
ok, this stuff really changed my playing for the better.
the biggest problem of not being able to play fast is excess muscle tension that builds up in your body while you play. Next time you start to play focus and try to connect with your body. Be aware of what's going on in both of your hands, arms, shoulders, neck, muscles between your shoulder blades, your lower back. it really good to have a mirror so you can see how you're sitting. are your borth shoulders aligned, is one shoulder higher than other? this is really crucial if you want to improve. How tens is your belly? Are you able to breath normally while you play? Write down on a paper all this parts of your body and rotate your attention. Then start to play a lick, scale, riff, that you struggle with, but do it like this:

1. set metronome to 60 bpm and play WHOLE notes (1 note per 4 clicks). don't bother your self if one note is longer than the other in the real lick, just play whole notes for now. the key here is that you learn to relax after playing each note. you have to be completely relaxed after you play the note. after you play each note rotate your awareness to all the parts of your body on your list and how you breathe.
2. set metronome to 80 bmp and so the same whole note thing.
3. set m to 100 bmp, do the same
4. set m back to 60 do the half notes (one not per 2 clicks)
5. set m to 80 and 100 with half notes
6. set m back to 60 do the quarter notes... then 80 and 100
7. then 60 80 100 with 8th notes
8. when it comes to 16th notes its better to raise your metronome for let say 5 clicks at the time. then find your max speed with 16th notes.

as soon as you realize that you have any tension in your body stop, relax, if you need to take a break for a minute, stretch what ever. and come back.

practicing is really a mental activity. you have to be focused and present all the time. i've read interviews with virtuoso violinist David Garrett. he practice in 20min time slots. after that he takes few minutes of. and then again. he's 100% focused on every detail. and this is really the only way to a high level of playing.
this way of practicing will reprogram your body and you'll get rid of any tension form your muscle memory. do this kind of practicing for 2 months and see what happens.

Playing with 'no tension' is really not what you suppose to do. controlling your tension is really the key to playing
one of the biggest changes i did in my playing is i became aware of what's going on in my body while i play. these are the main area
# 12
icebreaker1588
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icebreaker1588
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03/26/2015 8:44 am
this has definitely been my experience as well. I'll add in that sometimes i abandon (for a brief period) the lick I really want to learn and learn other things. When I come back to that lick a lot of the time other things I have picked up along my guitar journey have helped me to then master the skill/lick that i wanted.
# 13
linda p
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linda p
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06/04/2015 5:45 am
OK so your talking speeds that I'm not even thinking of at this point. What all of you are saying...live ,breath an eat practice? That's what I'm hearing,on average how long do ya'll practice. A ball park length of time. An when you put the guitar down are you still picking it up here an there working on ya'll speed. Thanks guys...lindaP
# 14
michael.rendon
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michael.rendon
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08/05/2015 1:19 pm
Originally Posted by: linda pOK so your talking speeds that I'm not even thinking of at this point. What all of you are saying...live ,breath an eat practice? That's what I'm hearing,on average how long do ya'll practice. A ball park length of time. An when you put the guitar down are you still picking it up here an there working on ya'll speed. Thanks guys...lindaP


It's not the quantity of practice, it's the quality of your practice. I spent years mindlessly drilling scales and arpeggios into my brain, trying to play faster and faster. Only once I discovered the proper way to practice, did I have tremendous breakthroughs in speed. I doubled my speed in about 2-3 months once I discovered the secrets. Like Jure said, practice slow and really pay attention to the micro movements of your picking hand and your fretting hand. Find out what is holding you back and eliminate one block at a time.

Wasted motion is a bad habit. I spent a lot of time just getting my picking hand to make small controlled movements. Then I would figure out where my left hand was getting caught up. I'd notice that my index finger wasn't reaching the note on the next string in time and so I was tripping over that note with my pick, so to speak, - I spent some time focusing on getting to that one note faster and suddenly had a breakthrough. Same thing with sweep picking and arpeggios- better to practice them slowly and really figure out what is holding you back and work on that. Forget about everything else. EDIT- I mean forget about everything else going on for that precious time when you are practicing. 20 minutes a day will do wonders for you even if it's every other day, provided you are completely focused on practicing. If you get distracted, or bored, or just start noodling around then you're really not practicing anymore.
# 15

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