Want to play the guitar faster? Incorporate these guitar exercises, as shared by Greeley, CO teacher Andy W., into your practice sessions throughout the week…
A crucial step to successfully melt faces with your guitar solos is to play fast! So, how can you achieve this feat? Here are some suggestions.
Alternate picking is one of the most efficient ways to pick fast. This is simply a downstroke followed by an upstroke. Everything suggested here utilizes alternate picking.
There are many ways to alternate pick. Some people focus the movement between the right index finger and thumb. Others rotate from the forearm. From experience and from what most trustworthy musicians find, rotating from the wrist is the most comfortable and efficient method. You want to turn the wrist left and right as if turning a door knob.
Now, let’s address tension real quick. Playing with tension in your fingers and wrist doesn’t mean that you’ll play faster and more comfortably. It actually strains your hand and wrist and keeps you from increasing speed. Instead, make sure you relax your fingers and wrist.
Also, when you alternate pick, it can be easy for the downstrokes to be louder than the upstrokes, making the notes sound uneven. A way to counteract this is to play melodies, scales, or licks using only upstrokes. This is a challenge, but well worth spending time on!
Play Quarter Notes
“Play quarter notes to play fast?“ you reply. Yes, before you spend all your time playing blazing eighth and sixteenth notes, practice guitar exercises to make sure that your quarter notes can be played in time. You should be able to play quarter notes that comfortably sit in the pocket of slow to fast tempos. Once your quarter notes are in time, then you can play eighth and sixteenth notes and increase your speed from there.
Using one note, play three quarter notes followed by four sixteenth notes. The quarter notes allow you to lock into the metronome, while the sixteenth notes challenge you to play faster. Start out slow around 80 bpm and keep raising the tempo in increments of 5 bpm.
Play a chromatic scale that takes you up and down across all the strings. Starting from the low E string, play four notes per string, until you get to the high E string where you’ll play five notes. Then work your way back down to your original starting note on the low E string. Do this exercise by playing sixteenth notes. Start out slow around 80 bpm and keep raising the tempo in increments of 5 bpm.
(If you’re unfamiliar with the chromatic scale, it’s all of the available half steps. Going up from C it would be: C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C. And going down from C: C, B, Bb, A, Ab, G, Gb, F, E, Eb, D, Db, C.)
Finally, Just Go For It!
Now I know I’ve said to slowly work your way up to faster speeds. That approach works great, but now let’s add to that another method. And that is: just go for it! If you’re trying to play a fast lick, then just try playing it fast. This forces you to feel the lick at the faster speed. Granted you probably won’t be playing very cleanly or evenly, but that’s OK right now. It’s important for you to get accustomed to new uncomfortable tempos and this method sure does that.
Now, it’s up to you to make these guitar exercises a habit. And if you do, then you’ll be playing lightning-fast solos in no time!
Andy W. teaches guitar, singing, piano, and more in Greeley, CO. He specializes in jazz, and has played guitar for 12 years. Learn more about Andy here!
Photo by Matt Clark