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The Secret to Guitar Speed


By Chad Crawford

PMI Blues Guitar Instructor



If you have been playing guitar for any length of time then you have probably also spent some time observing your guitar heroes, and you have probably noticed that they often play at speeds that seem beyond what is possible with human hands. You may also have tried to emulate their speed and run into a great deal of frustration. How do they get their hands to move so fast and yet still maintain precise control?

As with most things pertaining to playing guitar, the overarching answer is practice, practice, practice! However, this is one area in particular where improper practice will actually take you in the opposite direction of where you want to go. Common sense might suggest that to play at speed, you must practice playing scales and arpeggios as fast as you can possibly play them. If you take that route, you will attain a high level of speed at playing slop! (just like I did for years before I discovered the facts about developing speed)

First of all, let’s acknowledge the “tricks” of guitar speed … hammer-ons, pull-offs, and tapping. These techniques allow us to make multiple notes with only one application of the picking and fretting fingers. They certainly help with increasing speed. However, they are also subject to the phenomenon of sloppy application. Like all other guitar techniques, we must practice these well if we want to play them well.

So … here is the primary secret of guitar speed: if you want to play fast, practice slow. I mean VERY slow. The fact is, the higher possible guitar playing speeds are beyond the ability of our brain and nervous system to process. What we have to do is train our hands to play with great efficiency and precision so that they can automatically perform the motions we need at speeds that are beyond our conscious management capability. Cementing proper technique with correct metronome practice at very slow speeds, and then gradually increasing the speed, is the key to precise playing at high speeds.

You may have caught the fact that I said practicing slowly is the PRIMARY secret of guitar speed. If you thought that rather implies there are some secondary secrets, you are correct! Economy of motion and two hand synchronization are the twin brothers of fast technique. Economy of motion simply means minimizing the amount of hand/finger motion we use to get the result we are looking for, i.e. sounding out a note. Two hand synchronization is the optimization of the application of your pick to the string at the precise instant that you are fretting the note. Continual development of these two aspects of your technique is essential for achieving your maximum possible speed. There is room for some slop in both of these techniques at slower speeds, but at higher speeds any deficiencies will translate into missed notes, missed cues, and overall sonic disarray!

If you need help with developing efficient and precise technique in order to increase the effectiveness of your practicing for speed, click HERE to schedule a no cost, no obligation interview with the author!

Copyright 2008 J. Chad Crawford

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