Practicing scales and scale-based exercises are a great way to build the speed you need to shred like a pro! Guitar teacher Noel S. shares his favorite tips to get you started…
How do you get the speed and energy in your guitar playing that you need to truly shred? There are four simple skills you’ll need to master, and I’ve put together exercises here so you can practice them all. Let’s dive in and get started!
1.Right Hand Alternate Picking Speed
You have two goals in this exercise. One is to develop perfect timing as you pick alternately up and down on a single string. It is best to start at slower speeds, to monitor and improve your mechanical movement. I know you metal guitar players want to shred ASAP, and for this part, the fastest way to get there is to take your time. Minimize your movement away from the string as you pluck and listen for perfect timing to align with your metronome clicks. Make sure you’re hearing pure sound connect to pure sound, no pick noise or silence in between.
Here’s the scale pattern to practice alternate picking, using an A minor riff from one of my solos. Practice it on every string in steady 16th notes. To add extra connectivity and speed, pull-off the first note of every beat onto the second one, using the left hand.
12-0-0-0-10-0-0-0-8-0-0-0-7-0-0-0 / 5-0-0-0-5-0-0-0-3-0-0-0-1-0-0-0 / 4-0-0-0-1-0-0-0-4-0-0-0-1-0-0-0 / 4-0-0-0-7-0-0-0-10-0-0-0-12-0-0-0 / 5
Time for goal two, teaching your muscles to eliminate wasted movement by playing at fast tempos (144 BPM and higher). Play the same exercise, starting at that metronome setting, remembering a lot of clear, fast, connected notes sound great and a lot of fast noise is nothing. If you have to use bursts to get started, play one beat as 8th note and the next as 16th notes, working to eventually extend those fast note sections into more beats.
2. Right and Left Hand Synchronization
The next step is to make sure you can shred with BOTH hands on a single string. Now that we have great right-hand mechanics, watch the left hand for the smallest movements possible. I’ve written this riff based on the G harmonic minor scale. Again, play it on each string using all 16th-note alternate picking. Left hand indicators are i (index), m (middle), r (ring) and p (pinky)
3-6-5-6-3-6-5-6-2-5-3-5-2-5-3-5 / 5-8-6-8-5-8-6-8-3-6-5-6-3-6-5-6 /
i p r p i p m p i p m p i p r p
8-11-10-11-8-11-10-11-6-10-8-10-6-10-8-10 / 5-8-6-8-5-8-6-8 / 3
i p r p i p m p
Again, the burst is a fantastic tool for breaking through your speed threshold!
3. Outside Uppick String Crossing
There are other variables for string crossing and this one will be the most useful for us to shred in step 4! Outside picking means your pick crosses from one string to another on the outside of that string pair, not from in-between (inside picking)
Practice this movement using a B minor pentatonic scale in position 7 , again using all 16th notes.
4. Three Note Per String Scales
These scales use consistent patterns across the strings, allowing for a streamlined raceway where you can speed! We maximize that here with an even MORE consistent string-crossing pattern (as practiced above in scale number 3). In 16th note groups, we add everything we’ve learned so far to this ascending A harmonic minor scale, an explosive opening or great climax for a solo. Get it up to 160 bpm, then 176, then all the way up to 200!
Practice these exercises every day when you pick up your guitar and you’ll be up to speed and playing your favorite metal songs in no time!
Keep building your guitar skills and learn even more metal guitar scales with help from a private music teacher. Find your guitar teacher today!
Noel S. teaches guitar, piano, and music theory lessons in Beachwood, OH. He holds a Masters degree in music from Dusquesne University and he has been teaching since 2001. Learn more about Noel.
Photo by Feliciano Guimaraes