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Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,343
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,343
03/17/2019 3:35 pm

Hey & welcome to GT!

Originally Posted by: c.allington84I’ve played guitar for 15 years now and consider myself an intermediate/advanced player. However, when playing lead I can’t seem to go any faster than 16th note licks at about 120-130bpm.[/quote]

That's pretty fast! :) What exactly are you trying to play faster than that?

I can play certain musical or fretboard patterns faster than others. And I have to drill some thing faster than others if I want to play them in a certain musical setting.

I will provide links to a few tutorials that can help you develop your technique. But in the end you should consider a few things.

1. What is your goal? Is there a line in a solo that fast that you need to play? What is the practical application of your need for speed? :)

2. All technique building takes time. And it's time that could be devoted to some other purpose. So you might want to consider if your guitar playing time is better spent doing something more practical.

3. Diminishing returns. Everyone has a "speed limit". There is a natural limitation to how quickly any given individual can coordinate physical technique. It's always worth trying to improve. But you're going to find a wall somewhere & then have to decide is it worth spending time getting to the next level. How much time? A week, a month, a year? If you could improve 10 BPM in a week that might be worth it, right? But what about 5 BPM in a year?

Time is finite. Choose wisely!

With that in mind here are some speed & technique building tutorials. Ben has a few that are a great resource for working on getting to the next level of speed.

Speed Building

Essential Shred

His instructor directory has some others that you might find interesting & useful.

I have a whole series on building speed playing single note lines for solo lead material.

Speedy Ideas Series 1: Building Speed[br]

[br]Speedy Ideas Series 2: Major Scale Patterns

Speedy Ideas Series 3: Minor Scale Patterns

Speedy Ideas Series 4: Advanced Minor Shredding

Speedy Ideas Series 5: Advanced Major Shredding

And these that can help you build your visualizing of the fretboard.

Originally Posted by: c.allington84 I feel like the problem is more to do with not knowing how to count 16th note triplets or 32nd notes and obviously not having licks to rely on that are faster than 16s.

Counting 1/16th note triplets is easy: 6 counts per beat. 1-2-3-4-5-6, 2-2-3-4-5-6, repeat.

Being able to understand the rhythmic subdivisions is important in understanding how many notes you can fit into a certain amount of time, or musical "space". But I'm not sure this is necessarily related to your speed limits.

Consider that you know right now that can't play 1/16th notes at for example 150 BPM. How will being able to count 1/16th note triplets help you play that fast?

In any given piece of music the speed is relative to the tempo anyway. So 1/16th note triplets in a slow blues will be slower than straight 1/16ths in a fast rock song at 200 BPM. Make sense?

Further, no one counts that fast anyway. You can count a line that fast when you are learning it, breaking it down & working through it slowly. But there's no way to count that fast at high tempo. Playing & counting that fast has to be automated. You have to do it so much that it becomes second nature.

You have to be able to look at a series of 1/16th note triplets & understand how to see it all as a unit, not individual notes that have to be counted out at full speed. When you are playing very fast there's no time to call out each note, think about each finger motion. We do all that when we start to learn a lick at slow speed. But in order to get it up to speed we have to regard each beat, or each measure as a unit.


It also feels unnatural when I try to play faster and I can’t feel where the beat is.

That's a great observation. It an indication that you need to practice playing with smaller subdivisions. A great way to do this is to set the metronome or backing track to 80 BPM, then play a progressive series of smaller subdivisions.

Play 1/4 notes for 4 measures, then 1/8th note for the next 4, then 1/16th notes for 4 measures, then 1/16th note triplets. You can try 32nd notes, but you will rarely see those. It's more practical to count 1/16ths at faster tempos.

When you can get the above down, then try to play 1 measure each of 1/4, then 1/8, then 1/16th, then 1/16th triplets.

Finally, try to mix each beat of a measure with each subdivision.

For example: beat 1 - 1/4 note, beat 2 - 1/16th notes, beat 3 - 1/4, beat 4 - 1/16th notes.

Then try to mix & match all the other subdivisions with each other!

Finally look for solos that you want to learn. Look at the rhythmic subdivisions in the notation. Try to count them out slowly. Then up to tempo. At a cetain point you can only count so fast, so you have to switch to just counting 1, 2, 3, 4. Practice seeing those subdivisions but counting only the downbeats.

Give that a try & let me know how it goes! Best of success!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory