March 29, 2021 by Klaus Crow
Working on increasing your picking speed is not just for the hell fire speed wannabe’s.
Once your speed increases your whole style of playing loosens up. Your fingers will feel light and flexible and you’ll gain much more freedom in your playing.
Your fingers will float easily across the strings without trying so hard. It’s an important skill to work on and to maintain.
Increasing your picking speed comes with obstacles, victories, ups and downs, lots of patience and hard work. It’s all about practicing and equally important “the right way of practicing”. Just practicing a lot of hours doesn’t necessarily increase your picking speed if you don’t do it the right way.
Every individual has it’s own specific hurdles to overcome, but if you focus on these tips you are already off to a great start.
You can do it too!
1 – Practice slow
Most people know this already but don’t have the patience to go slow. Everyone wants to go fast now not later. But in order to go fast we got to slow down first!
Do not ignore this rule or you will become a sloppy guitar player.
Start out slow and gradually build up your speed. Make sure you play with proper hand position and good posture. Don’t go any faster until you can play each note Clear, Correctly and Comfortably.
2 – Use alternate picking
The most used picking technique to increase speed is the alternate picking technique.
There are other picking techniques as well like economy/sweep picking but alternate picking is the most common one and it creates a certain sound that is different from other techniques.
Alternate picking means you hold the pick between your thumb and index finger with the pointed end facing toward the strings. You strictly use alternating down and up strokes. The first note you play is downstroke, the second an upstroke, the third one a downstroke, the fourth one an upstroke and so on.
3 – Use a metronome
To learn to play accurate and get your speed up to a high level you need to learn to play with a metronome. You can get a metronome at your local guitar store, download a metronome app for your Iphone/Ipad or you can find one online.
Here are some neat and functional metronomes on the web:
4 – Avoid tension
When you try to play faster your fingers probably get more tense. Tension reduces speed so try to loosen up while your playing. Relax those muscles a bit. Be constantly aware of this while you build up your speed. Also avoid any tension in other parts of the body like your wrists, arms, hands, shoulders and back. They all have an effect on your playing.
5 – Practice fast
Once you’re able play slow clear, correctly and comfortably you can try to play faster. Sometimes even a little faster than you think you can handle.
You can compare it to weight lifting. Sometimes you want to try to lift some heavier weights, a bit heavier than you’re used to just to try to exceed your limits. Then you’ll take a short rest and turn to some lighter weights. You’ll notice the lighter weights have becomes easier to handle than before.
The same thing works for practicing speed. Sometimes you need to turn up the BPM (beats per minute) on your metronome and go a little faster than you’re used to in order to exceed your limits.
Note: You still need to practice slow, because practicing slow makes you learn to play clear and accurate. Practicing fast is to build speed.
6 – Analyze your playing
Analyze your playing every single workout. Take notes from your observations. Study your left and right hand. Where do you come short? What and why doesn’t work the way you want it? Be creative, think and come up with exercises or solutions to make it work.
For example: If your ring finger and pinky are to weak to speed up, then create an exercise for just those two fingers to get them in shape.
7 – Video yourself
Another great way to see what you are actually doing (analyze) and how you’re doing (progress) is to video yourself each workout or once a week (if you’re busy). You can really take a close look at your hand position and posture. You’ll see things you probably won’t notice otherwise.
It’s also a neat way to see how far you’ve come and see the difference in your technique and speed over time.
8 – Practice regularly
Increasing speed is not an overnight thing. To play really fast can take months even years of practicing, but if you work on increasing speed you will get results quite fast and within a couple of weeks or months you’ll become much faster and flexible than you’ve every played before which is also great benefit because it will have a huge effect on your overall playing.
Practice regularly better yet practice daily for a half an hour to an hour to get virtuoso results.
If you don’t have this much time then 15 minutes of daily speed practice will get you great results as well.
Again it’s not just how much you practice but also how you practice. Keep that in mind. But anyway regular practice is a must.
9 – Exercises
Here are some great exercises to build up your speed:
21 Cool 3 Notes-Per-String Exercises to Rock On!
12 Cool 3 Notes-Per-String Exercises to Rock On! Part II
22 2-String Alternate Speed Picking Exercises
Why Guitar Players Need to Be Fit (See the below section of this post)
Now practice and amaze yourself!
Do you know more ways to increase your speed?
Please share it in the comments.
I appreciate it.
Thanks, Klaus Crow