This is my pretty damn complete guide to how to develop ability in almost every area needed for modern electric guitar playing. It should cover a lot of ground and take you all the way from your first C chord to your last sweep-tapped 4 octave G#m9th arpeggio.

This sticky is still in many ways a work in progress, and I'm now re-instating the old "Collected Wisdom" section, so if you see a really good post, PM me a link and it might end up in here!

1 Introduction
1.1 Breaking down “Advanced Technique”
1.2 What is Technique?
1.3 A note for beginners

2 Practice and Attitude
2.1 Practicing to Improve Technique
2.2 How to play FAST!

3 Important General Technique
3.1 Posture
3.2 Muting Unwanted Noise

4. Left Hand Technique
4.1 Open Chords
4.2 Barre Chords
4.3 Lead guitar – hammer-ons and pull-offs
4.4 Bending notes
4.5 Vibrato

5 Right Hand Technique
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Strumming
5.3 Alternate Picking
5.4 Economy Picking
5.5 Sweep picking
5.6 Hybrid Picking
5.7 Tapping
5.8 Anchoring

6.1 Natural and Artificial Harmonics (includes Pinch Harmonics)

7.1 I have a problem not covered here…
7.2 I need sweep shapes!/Moar Lickz!!/Moar Exorcizes!!!
7.3 Give it time!
7.4 Thanks for reading
7.5 Guitar Pro files for FAQ tabs

8. Collected Wisdom
8.1 Steven Seagull and why setting "Speed Goals" is a bad idea.
1.1 Breaking down “Advanced Technique”

Why would an “super technique guide” go through the bare basics, like the C chord mentioned in the introduction?

Because almost every problem I have ever dealt with for someone online or with pupils in “real life” has been down to correcting the basics.

If you have a problem with stretch legato licks (seems advanced) – you actually probably have a problem with your left hand posture, or hammer ons and pull offs (basics).

If you have a problem with playing fast (seems advanced) – you actually probably have a problem with finger independence and economy of motion (basics).

If you have a problem with sweep picking (seems advanced) – you actually probably have a problem with muting unwanted strings (basics).

I could go on all day, but it would be more helpful to keep this in mind whenever you have a problem, and examine your basic technique now – and every time you think you have an advanced problem.

(and if you want to benefit from this FAQ, I recommend you stop reading at the end of this sentence, play for a little while, and pay close attention to how you do things you think are simple – fretting a single note, lifting a single finger, and strumming a chord.)

1.2 What is Technique?

Musical technique is composed of the physical actions required to produce sound from your instrument.

Someone with poor technique has a physical approach to an instrument that leads to great effort with little result, poor “tone” (as in the “tone” that comes from your fingers, not your amp), limited note choice, risk of injury, and so on.

Someone with great technique makes very little effort, and can produce a huge array of licks and riffs at will, each sounding great – they have control and ability, meaning that when they choose to create a sound, it comes out perfectly.

That’s a lot more than playing fast, or playing well – it’s also about having an easy time playing and staying safe, no matter what “level” you play at. And sounding much better!

1.3 A Note for Beginners

This stuff way can seem waaaaaaaaay over your head, and it may even spoil your fun to get so into the mechanics of guitar so soon. I’d recommend you read this, but remember to continue playing as well as practicing, and don’t worry if you can’t do half the stuff here. People forget how hard being a beginner is and will put you down at every opportunity. Have some fun!

When you want to improve your technique, come here. When you want to learn how to create lots of cool sounds with melodies or harmonies, check out the theory guides on this site and on my youtube profile. When you want to give your head a break, just play.
2.1 Practicing to Improve Technique

When people try to play difficult things, especially when they try to play them fast, they are making a lot of physical effort. Let me demonstrate why this is bad with what I’ll call a “Reverse Goodness Extrapolation Example”. Basically, I want you to do the following as an example of playing as badly as possible, and then imagine the opposite.

Play a chord you know (if you don’t know any, make up something difficult that uses all 4 fingers of the left hand).

Now, move your left arm somewhere more awkward, so you can’t hear all the notes cleanly.

Now, press down as hard as you can with your fingers. (within reason, please)

Now, tense up your right arm as much as you can and then try to strum this chord.

If you haven’t actually got your guitar here and are doing this, go and do it or bring the guitar here and do it.

Okay, now, that felt bad, didn’t it? Could you imagine trying to play guitar like this? How bad would it sound, and how quickly would you injure yourself? Can you imagine how easy it would be to play guitar if you could achieve the perfect opposite of what you just did?

So, to get an idea of what that is like, you need to first of all get as comfortable as you can,

then press your fingers down as lightly as you can on the fretboard (and still get a clean sound)

and then take a deep breath and make sure everything is relaxed and loose and feels good…

and then slowly, in a controlled and gentle movement, strum the strings with your right hand.

If you’ve done all this (as in, not just thought about it and considered I may have a point), you’ve probably got a good idea of what I’m getting at.

2.2 How to play FAST!

What you want to cultivate is the ability to stay this relaxed at all times (read section 2.1 those who skipped ahead ), and learn to make every movement as flawless as possible – bear in mind, these two combine to make one’s playing fast, so don’t ask –

“How do I play faster?”

Ask –

“How do I make these motions more relaxed and economical?”

In everything you practice you want to make your motions as small as possible and as relaxed as possible (providing it sounds good! There’s no point practicing incredibly small wimpy sounding picking motions – all you’ll end up with is wimpy sounding blur-fast picking).

Those concepts are universal – not only do they apply to all guitar technique, but all technique for all instruments (that I’m aware of!). (and to fencing, which I did for a bit)

Finally, your technique may be very good when practicing slowly, but still poor when playing fast. You must be consistent at all tempos or your body learns a different set of rules for each! Bring up the tempo slowly and see if you can find where/if you change your playing styles, and then correct it.
When you practice slow enough (and I’m talking about LESS THAN 25BPM), you’ll find you can keep track of good posture, clean playing and economy of motion… and then when you speed up, your play goes back to the same old crap methods you had. That’s because you need to bring up the tempo very very slowly – what tempo can you play perfectly at? Practice at that until you can play a little faster equally well, and then continue. This process can take weeks between stages, so don’t get frustrated when it does take a long time.

The good news is that what you’re practicing slow still improves your “playing” (you know, when you aren’t practicing!) technique and speed. It’s just that slow is the most effective way to practice!

The slow practice builds up “muscle memory”, which means that with enough repetitions they can reproduce the motions you’ve put them through – and if those motions are perfect, then you’re going to be playing extremely well. This muscle memory is what’s really doing the physical side of playing in anyone with any technical ability – their mind is coming up with the notes, and then their fingers can sort out how to play them and play them by themselves!

Check out this vid if your prefer learning from videos - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNhhyrnINIU
3 Important General Stuff

3.1 Posture

Posture is a huge part of how well we play, as it determines how effectively we bring our muscles to bear on our instrument. I’ve done a video on the basics of posture for UG already ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyvGD9edWcg&feature=PlayList&p=FA239CA8EF73CEC9&index=1 ), as some people were facing practice injuries, but there’s a few things I’d like to cover that aren’t as important as the basics in the video, but are still important –

You should be able to breath easily, so don’t crush your gut by slouching. That leads to holding your breath as you play, and won’t do much for your skin tone.

You should always be aware of how comfortable you really are. That means paying attention! If you have bad posture, you probably don’t realise it, so if you get wrist pains, or can’t get good volume from legato technique, or can’t fret a barre chord, then the most common reasons are bad posture and lack of practice. Obviously, you don’t want to practice through bad posture, so just check yourself, and if in doubt, take a break and let your muscles and joints heal up.

When practicing sitting down, your guitar should be roughly where it will be when you stand, so you don’t have problems moving between the two. That’s why I didn’t cover standing posture - having the guitar on your left leg brings it much closer to where it should be when you stand.

Finally, try this stuff out. Don’t ask any questions until you’ve done at least an hours solid work on posture, and are still stumped. While we can help on MetalSessions, we can’t solve the problem (and sometimes, can’t even identify it) – you can.

3.2 Muting Unwanted Notes

This applies almost all playing, so it goes here.


Excellent article here - http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/the_guide_to/the_ultimate_guide_to_guitar_chapter_ii_6_technique_-_muting.html
4.1 Left Hand Technique

Basically, what you want out of your left hand is flexibility, strength and speed. You want to be able to reach the notes or chords (flexibility), sound them or be able to fret them with a clean sound (strength) and the ability to change between them quickly, so that you can sound like Yngwie or something. That’s speed, for those of you who weren’t paying attention.

This is a basic (see 1.1 Breaking down “Advanced Technique&rdquo
technique thread, meant for beginners and up, so shred heads wait a second, because we’re going to start with some of the most overlooked and underrated left hand techniques of all –


What I’ll do is lead you on with this basic material (not that this won’t take a month to master as a complete beginner) , and then push on to megachords of death. When you can play that, lead guitar technique, and then advanced lead guitar technique. Okay?


There’s the 5 basic open chords. All “major” chords, they’re called D, C, G, E and A. The chord at the end is a alternate fingering for G that a lot of people like (and it comes into play later in the lesson, too!) The reasons for those names can be found out in the Musician Talk forum. Anyway, lets get onto the technique again, shred junkies.

You want to be able to move, cleanly, clearly and quickly between all the chords, in any order – not just D to A, but A to D, and all the combinations. If you really are a beginner, this is going to be hard. Especially D.

To move from one chord to another, we want to move in one fluid motion – the fingers all come off, in “mid air” (only a little off the fretboard, move as little as possible, remember?) they change to the right shape, which then lands in the RIGHT PLACE (some embarrassing or wonderful chords can happen if you don’t follow that advice). If you’re a beginner, you probably move from chord to chord like this –

Look at the chord for a while, put one finger down on the correct fret, shift your hand a bit, then stick down another finger, and then another, and another.

This teaches your body to do just that – hesitate, then put the fingers down one by one. Considering you’re planning to change between chord strums, that’s quite a feat. So, using what we learnt from the previous article/thread – we should first familiarize ourselves with the fingerings for the chords. You wouldn’t believe how much easier it is for you to practice chords when you know them. First port of call, memorize the chords.

You shouldn’t have to look up the tabs if you want to concentrate on technique, so make sure, once again that you DO this – a lot of pupils I’ve had in real life can’t be bothered to learn chords, and somehow expect to be able to play. Suits me, I can get a years wages from one lesson – but you’re getting this free, so I’d appreciate you follow my lead and make the effort, eh?

Also, it helps to fret each note just before the actual fret (the metal bit on the neck), and try to keep your fingers curved and not bent back on themselves.


One of your big problems will be the G chord, if you’re a beginner. If the stretch is too much (for the note on the high E string), try adjusting your posture – read the earlier section and check out my vid.

Alright, remember I said to lift all your fingers, make the right shape and plonk em down in the right place? Well, there’s a few exceptions to this as well. Changing from the alternate G chord to the D chord, for example –


There, it makes sense to keep your ring finger down on the 3rd fret, second string (highest pitch string is the 1st string, not the lowest, remember it well, kiddies!). But the principle is the same. You don’t want to move fingers one at a time, you want to take the fingers that move OFF the G chord at the same time, and have them land ON the D chord at the same time. The third finger doesn’t move, and that’s the only difference.

Okay, so have we got an idea about open chords? Great!

4.2 Barre Chords

Next – barre chords. These are the ultimate wall of death for guitarists. You either conquer these and some basic theory and can then play in every key, all across the neck with a huge variety of chords…or you can sit on E A D G C open chords. Your choice. (okay, there are more open chords than that, but the point stands)

A barre chord uses a technique called barring. This chord change for example –


Is an E to an F#. Pretty simply, its E, and then a chord exactly a whole tone up in pitch. To get that, we move all the notes in the chord up a whole tone – 2 frets. Trying to finger the second chord as you would a open chord (one finger for every fretted note) is pretty difficult if you don’t have 6 very flexible fingers. I don’t, so I learned to play barre chords.

What you do, is you lay your index finger along the second fret, pressing down enough (and in the right places) to get the notes on the 2nd fret of the E, B and low E strings to sound out. Then you put your 3rd finger on the 4th fret 5th string, your 4th finger 4th fret 4th string, and your 2nd finger 3rd fret 3rd string.

Play the chord one string at a time and see how it sounds. The trouble is getting the notes you’re barring to sound out, so a few tips to help –

Your thumb needs to be behind the neck, supporting your fingers.
Use a bit of the side of your index, not just the pad, as the finger is bonier there and applies pressure better.

Anyway, as you journey through chords, you will find that some require more barres than just one, such as this monster –


These essentially just use the same techniques for individual fingers. Good luck!
4.3 Lead guitar left hand technique

Your left hand needs to be in synch with your right, and to fret notes accurately. However, as those are part of EVERYTHING YOU PRACTICE (hint hint), this section focuses on Legato.

Legato means smoothly – no gaps between notes. Whenever you pick, that short click when your pick hits the strings is a gap, so you want to minimize picking for a “legato” guitar sound. We produce notes without picking using two techniques.

A) The hammer-on. This is where the finger comes down on a string with enough force to either start a note (this is called a “hammer on from nowhere&rdquo or to keep the string vibrating but at a new note. To put this into practice, fret the 5th fret of your high E string. Pick it, and bring your 3rd finger down on the 7th hard enough for a note to come out and sound clearly. Obviously, you don’t want to take a swipe at it from an inch away, so work on a small, powerful movement. Finger strength and good fretting (just a bit behind the actual metal fret) will reduce the effort you need to make with practice. To try a hammer on from nowhere, try fretting the 5th fret of the high E again and picking it, but this time bringing the 3rd finger down on the 7th fret of the B string, hard enough to sound out clearly. Obviously, this is a fair bit harder, so it’s a bit more advanced.

B) The pull off. Not a hammeron in reverse! Go back to our first hammeron example and play it again. Now pick the 7th fret, and then remove your finger while leaving the 5th fret fretted by your first finger. Not enough volume, right? So what you do is you slightly “pluck” the string with a slight “pull” as you come “off” the string (hence, a “pull off” ). This allows you to descend lines without picking and with consistent volume. Watch out that the motion you make isn’t too big, or you can actually pluck strings, which can be embarrassing if they’re the wrong ones!

For both of these it helps to have strong fingers with good calluses and to use the tip of the fingers (except the index finger, which remains fairly flat to mute unwanted strings).

Great! With a combination of these two techniques, (three counting the hammer-on from nowhere) should only have to pick the first note on every string.

Now, one of the most common devices in legato is the “roll”. That’s where you just get a row of notes on a string, go up them and then down them – or vice versa – and that’s a roll of notes. This works absolutely great with any kind of simple scale shape, like the 3 note per string ones.

Here’s a 3nps scale.


That’s A major, and you want to play it all legato for this lesson.

Now, here’s a way of “rolling” all the way through the scale.


As you can see, with very little imagination at all, we can get a fluid, impressive legato sound (one that I constantly overuse, if you listen to my improvs on youtube). Rolls also make for odd note groupings. If you play each string’s worth of notes to a single metronome click (evenly spaced, obviously!) you’ll get groupings of 5. This kind of thing is a very simple but effective exercise for basic legato technique and rolls in particular.

Here’s a lick in 11s that’s slightly more subtle about rolls – but they’re there! Once again, all legato, one picked note per string, and consistent volume. This one’s in G major.


For those who haven’t noticed, all it is is a very simple idea moved up twice. If you take the first 11 notes and move them up an octave, you’ve got a lick that’s twice as long without any brain power being used at all.

Anyway, the main technical problem with this is keeping consistent volume on the long string of notes on the 1st, 3rd and 5th strings. You need to slide - to fret a note, keep the pressure even, and just slide it up to the notated fret from the one before. An important single string legato weapon!

Here’s a descending lick that’s pretty similar, in 13s.


Okay, those’ll all be in a guitar pro file. For the licks in 11s and 13s, it’s pretty hard to turn down the tempo slow enough to practice, so don’t be embarrassed if you have to turn it down to 20bpm or similar.

Those are some pretty simple licks – they ARE fast, they ARE nifty and they cover a lot of the neck – but they’re simple ideas, played simply. Now we’re going to start adding hammerons from nowhere. This lick took me a good day to get up to quarter notes (one note per click) at 60bpm, and that was about 4 or 5 hours of practice. (NB, before practicing at a tempo, I made sure I had every individual bit of this lick sorted. Then I started playing one note per FOUR clicks at 40bpm. That’s what I mean by starting slow.)


Shawn Lane fans will recognize this. Anyway, follow the directions stringently. A “t” means to use a hammeron from nowhere – I can’t find a guitar pro symbol for it so you’ll have to realize that I mean a left hand tap and not a right hand one. Believe it or not, it’s possible to play this lick (quite easily) without picking a single note. And that includes the very first. This is a C major scale in a fingering designed for simple fingering (not an elegant sentence, but it’s true).

Here’s a cool little fact for you. All your fingers do there is hammeron in this order – 124 124 124 124 124 124 124. This super-complex death lick is nothing more than 3 fingers hammering on. It’s not much physically harder than hammering on across one string – it’s just a new co-ordination for you.

There we go. Not too hard, eh? Probably not, if you don’t pay attention to the tone of the notes. Force yourself to get clean, consistent notes.

Similarly, this can be played without picking any notes – although its easier to!



And finally, here’s a novelty lick – do you remember that simple rolled A major scale from earlier? Here’s a bastardized terror version.


Having looked at all these ridiculous licks, you want strength and stamina for obvious reasons, and probably speed. Lets work on a few general tips.

For most lead guitar, you want to have your fingers stay as close to the frets as possible – this means they have to travel less distance to get the notes you want. Makes sense if you want to play either quickly, easily, or both!

Mute unwanted noise as detailed above!
4.4 Bending Notes

A correctly bent note is glorious – smoothly changing in pitch and then settling on that perfect note that we all search for.

A badly bent note is agony and sounds like cats fighting.

There are two important parts to bending notes well – pitching the bent note, and bending it.

The first part is actually making sure you end your bend in tune! You need to be able to hear bends of different sizes, so for example, bending a note a semitone from any fret should end on the same pitch as the fret above, not sharp or flat. Bends can be any size, and indeed, many players perfect playing bends that are slightly out of tune (a common effect in blues – the “blue” note is often played slightly sharp) in certain places and for various reasons.

A good exercise for training the ear is “unison bends”. If you fret the 7th fret B string, and 9th fret G string, and then bend the G string note until it sounds the same as the B string note (being careful not to bend the B string note!), you have just preformed a unison bend and have got an important rock solo sound ready to roll! If it was good enough for Jimi, it’s probably good enough for you.

The physical portion of a bend is difficult as well – your fingers alone do not have the strength to bend a note well. You need to move your thumb above the neck and use it as a pivot for your hand. Then you bend by rotating your arm (like to open a doorknob) – those muscles are far stronger than your finger muscles. The other trick is to use a few fingers together for greater strength, for example, using fingers 1, 2 and 3 all together as a single big “bending pad” is totally okay! As time goes on you will feel more confident with less fingers and larger bends.

Just remember to practice both parts of bending and you should be fine.

4.5 Vibrato

This means to move a note up and down in pitch, generally used for expression. For something so simple, vibrato is probably the technique that will add the most to your lead playing. A good vibrato will always please the ears more than a hundred notes. A good vibrato brings a solo to life, imparting a voice to an instrument and conveying what that notes means – not just its pitch.

So why do 90% of guitarists completely ignore it? I would say that there is a misconception that a good vibrato comes naturally. That when you progress as a musician and when you genuinely feel the music, that your vibrato will match your feelings and convey that feel to the audience.

Unfortunately, like so many romantic notions about guitar playing, this simply isn’t true. The ability to express yourself musically, including the technique of vibrato, is down to practice and visualisation.

Imagine an amazing guitar solo. You probably picture the notes with a wide, confident vibrato. Do you play like that? Probably not, but you can start making progress today.

Get your guitar, play a lick, end it with a vibrato note. Do you vibrato slowly or quickly? Does you use only a small change in pitch - “narrow” vibrato? Or a large one – “wide” vibrato ?

Okay, you probably need to slow down and widen your vibrato, as well as take control of its timing.

Take a note, and bend it up a semitone (using the same technique as detailed in the section on bending), then down again, 3 times. Do this to a metronome at 60bm, bending up on the click, and down on the click, with the pitch changing smoothly in between. That sounds a lot more controlled, doesn’t it? Control is the beginning of confidence, and a confident vibrato is great.

Now widen it. See if you can perform a tone-wide vibrato. A tone and a half, perhaps?

A mid tempo vibrato of about a tone sounds great in rock.

If you want a more subtle vibrato, you can use the classical vibrato method – without “bending” the string up or down, gently push it towards the bridge and then the nut with your fingers. This creates a much more gentle vibrato, suitable for quiet passages or gentler genres.

There’s also extreme whammy vibrato – I think that’s self explanatory.

Finally, Greg Howe and a few others actually slide their fingers between the fret above and below the “original” note, creating a fast, wide, and interesting “vibrato” effect.

From these examples, and from your own experimentation and practice, you can develop your vibrato into a thing of beauty. Have fun!
5 Right Hand Technique

5.1 Introduction

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, someone invented an instrument that could play melody, chords and bass all at once, with great dynamic range and control of tone colour. Sadly, we’ve all been playing it with a pick.

D’oh! The bad news is, that guitar simply isn’t designed for being played with a pick. To boot, it’s not exactly simple to explain why X right hand technique is better than Y right hand technique – very often, they just look like some twat flapping his hand about in a slightly different way.

But I’ll do my best. Anyway, lets see what we want our right hand to do for us (stop laughing, you at the back).

First, we want it to keep time for us – very simply, most guitarists, very early on, get used to the idea that downstroke = downbeat.

Secondly, we want it to do wonderful things for us in terms of dynamics and tone colour. We can hold the same chord or fret the same sequence on the left hand, but magically transform the sound of every single note by treating it differently with the right hand.

Thirdly, we want flexibility. We should be able to pick any string (or strum any chord) fluently and with confidence – simply because it sounds good is reason enough.

If your picking technique has all of the above, feel free to ignore the rest of the lesson. I doubt it though.

I haven’t mentioned speed here. That’s because speed comes when you have good technique. Simple!

“Why can’t I pick this string crossing line as fast as this single string line?”
Well, if you were more flexible…

“Why does my picking turn to textureless mush at 160bpm?”
Well, probably because you haven’t concentrated on accents and attack…

“Why can’t I pick at 150bpm, but I can at 220?”
Because the speed covers your lack of solid timing and hand synchronisation…

You see?

5.2 Strumming

Anyway, because fools rush in – no insane picking licks yet. You want to be able to play great rhythm guitar as well, right? Well, lets look at a few simple things that you need to be able to do in most styles of rhythm guitar, and then we’ll work on the 3 points.

Choose a chord, a 6 string chord and make it an easy one at that.

Righty, now, getcher metronome – you HAVE one, right? Even if it’s just http://www.metronomeonline.com/ ? – and set it at a comfy tempo (no faster than 100bpm) . Now, against that beat, strum the whole chord, cleanly, in every note division from whole notes (one strum every 4 clicks) to 32nd notes – that’s 8 strums to the beat, all evenly spaced.

Now, that’s very easily said, very difficultly done. (where are the grammar police when you need them?)

Lets actually DO this – it does your playing no good to listen to me telling you what to do, it benefits you when you DO it. So, guitar in hand, whole notes, in 1, 2, 3, 4

Strum 2 3 4
Strum 2 3 4
Strum 2 3 4

There, that wasn’t too hard, was it?

Now, half notes –

Strum 2 Strum 4
Strum 2 Strum 4
Strum 2 Strum 4

Pretty easy again…

Now quarter notes…

Strum strum strum strum (hmmm, this isn’t the best notation for this&hellip

1 2 3 4

Strum on the S btw.

Bored yet? Good, that means you’re finding this easy.

Eighth notes…

1 2 3 4


1 2 3 4

Okay, now, I’ll bet you’ve noticed two things now –

First, that I skipped triplets, second, that you’re probably doing every other strum for 8th and 16th notes using an upstroke. Did I tell you to do that? No. But you did anyway, because it makes sense.

Yes, it does. But I’ll bet you aren’t doing any of the following –

Strumming the chords with short, aggressive strokes, and then muting them.
Playing the first chord with an upstroke.
Playing all the slower note divisions (whatever your tempo) in a bright ska upstroke style.
Taking a leisurely strum that sounds individual notes.
Using your dynamic range from one (so quiet you can hardly hear it – as quiet as you can physically play it) to TEN (AS HARD AS YOU CAN HIT THAT PLANK!).
Exaggerating the accented chords (the ones on the beat!)

It’s no wonder most people sound boring at slow tempos with simple chords – you don’t have to, it’s just that people don’t pay attention to tone, dynamics and clarity on simple stuff like this – indeed, where it’s most effective.

And don’t just leave it at my examples – SWAP between them. Play one chord loud and sharp as hell, the next chord quiet and leisurely.

Have I made my point?

Okay, triplets are our first odd number to a single beat. These will fry your head, because (moving from 8th to triplet to 16th) count –

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and
1 e and 2 e and 3 e and 4 e and
1 e and uh 2 e and uh 3 e and uh 4 e and uh…

Try it, it’s tricky. Count it out loud so you can hear yourself. Don’t mentally sound it and then think you’re a percussion master because you probably aren’t and you’re probably quite bad at this. Do it.

The next thing on the agenda is whether to strum

UP down up DOWN up down and so on (which can be tricky if you can’t accent your upstrokes)


DOWN up down DOWN up down (which means “restarting&rdquo

Try both and learn em both.

Alright, you can do all the other note divisions yourself, can’t you? Basically, the wheat will, the chaff won’t.

Okay, if you’ve been following, I’ve been addressing point one (timekeeping) and point 2 (control of note quality) but not 3 (flexibility).

That, in this case, is your ability to swap between any set of rhythms and rests on any chord, while maintaining a firm control of tone and dynamics. A mammoth task by any standards. Aim that high and work hard and even if you fail you’ll be playing better than about 99% of guitarists.

Note I haven’t been sadistic enough to introduce lots of odd time signatures… that’s MT’s territory.
Although here are some technique pointers –

Strumming, as everything else, should be loose.
You’ll find this pretty hard if you anchor, as you need to be able to strum 6 string chords quickly.
Let the motion come from a loose arm, loose wrist and loose shoulder.
Don’t dig in too much with the pick, obviously it’s going to be hard if you do.
Stay loose, homeslice.
Don’t stop strumming when you have a rest among lots of fast chords – just don’t hit the strings! If you play funk, you know what I’m talking about.
Ffs, stay loose.
5.3 Alternate Picking

Alrighty, time to do some of that single note nonsense that we on UG are fond of. Alternate picking, as it’s commonly accepted.

Now, for all you crazy people out there who economy pick, I’m afraid that I think that a solid grounding in alternate picking is necessary to eco pick well. And more importantly, I’m hardly an authority on economy picking, though I have seen and met people who do it extraordinarily well, and even guiltily use it myself sometimes, I’m don’t think I’m able to teach it to a high standard.


Alternate picking – the fundamental concept is that you pick a note, and then you pick the next one with the opposite stroke. This is what I’ll be writing about, and most of the examples will be centred on problems for alternate pickers.

Before we move on to exercises and examples, lets go over how to alternate pick effectively. This is the most important stuff from this lesson -

Hand synchronisation. Believe it or not, your hands have to work together. That means one note fretted by the left hand AT THE SAME TIME as one note picked with the right. That’s pretty simple, yet hundreds of guitarists forget this and do the following – crank the gain, finger a 3nps scale at speed, and spazz out their picking arm. This approach is a pile of balls. Been there, done that. The arm spazz is a fantastic technique for one thing only –

Sloppy, out of time, inconsistent and weak sounding lines on one string.

Which sounds useless to me. Get together a real picking technique – your left hand should fret the note at THE SAME TIME EXACTLY as you pick it. That’s what clean alternate picking is all about. Listen to this -

You must be equally good with downstokes and upstrokes. Why? Because you’ll be playing half your notes with each! Imagine a player where every second note sounds weedy and they can only cross strings on certain strokes… put your hand up if you ARE that player. Good, now lets fix that – obviously, work the weak stroke (lets face it, unless you’re weird – perfectly plausible – it’ll be the upstroke) until it’s not weak. Run through your picking mega licks starting on the opposite pickstroke, so that you learn them accenting on the weak stroke, crossing strings in the manner you’re weakest… And voila, chunky, consistent pickstrokes!

Most of the motion should come from the wrist - don't worry about have no elbow movement, but the all the smaller movements (and almost all your movements should be small) should be from the wrist.

Flexibility! Because alternate picking is so simple, people tend to underestimate how many lines there are that your hand has to be able to play. You need to be able to do more than run scales – you need to hop strings, play loud or quiet, dig in or barely touch, create artificial harmonix ( lawl! ), play with swing or play straight – and importantly, be able to do ALL OF THE ABOVE WITHOUT THINKING!
If you’re looking at your right hand mid run, you’re gonna **** it up. You’ll have enough to do watching your left hand, where there’s a lot more to keep track of visually!

5.4 Economy Picking

Economy picking is the same as alternate picking, but with a single important difference.

If you alternate pick a 3 note-per-string scale from your lowest string, for the 3rd and 4th notes, you need to perform a downstroke on the low E and then an upstroke on the A. Many people find this awkward and unnatural at first.

If you economy pick the same run, you’d continue the downstroke from the 6th string and pick “through” it and the A string in one fluid motion (like a small version of “sweep picking”, more on that later). This is quite handy, because it also means that you can use the same trick again between the A and D, and then D and G… and so on, as long as you’re playing an odd number of notes on each string.

People would have you believe that this makes economy picking “better” than alternate picking.

Personally, I believe that it’s one pickstroke extra to the arsenal of a good player.

It seems from my brief explanation that it would be

More efficient (and hence faster)

Smoother sounding

Good for beginners

Let me address those points one by one –

Efficient? Yes! For that pickstroke, it is easier. However, you will need to alternate pick between string crossings that cannot be economy picked, and you will need to alternate pick anything on a single string (you cannot “sweep” between 2 consecutive notes on a single string). In short, to get the most out of this system, you need to be able to visualise fingerings for whatever you want to play that can be picked using as many swept pickstrokes as possible, like Frank Gambale (go Google and learn!).

So, much more efficient for about a third of your pickstrokes, if you have godly fingerboard knowledge. Or you can obviously legato notes that fall on inconvenient pickstrokes – as do many alternate pickers, a moot point, tbh.

Smoother sounding? Yes! Alternate picking sounds snappier and “heavier”. I like to have a bit of both at my disposal, some people hate one sounds or the other.

Good for beginners? I would say no. It’s hard for beginners to control the eco pickstroke properly and with timing and consistency.

Another simple point is that as an eco picker (a pure eco picker) you are slave to string changes. As a pure alternate picker you are slave to the beat. Which is better for a beginner?
Finally, I’d like to point out that neither eco or alt pickers think out each pickstroke, each is totally natural if practiced correctly – a point to bear in mind if you find yourself experimenting with the “other” style and struggling – it takes time for it to feel natural, just like holding a big plank and running your fingers over taut cheesewire.
5.5 Sweep Picking

Sweep picking, or “sweeping” is a method of playing notes on consecutive strings with great ease and speed. Unfortunately this leads to the vast majority of people attempting it turning the gain to 11 and just piling in.

Sweep picking is based on a simple concept. When you have two or more strings “in a row” - like this -


Rather than picking that “Down, up, down, up”, you would pick all four notes with one continuous motion. This requires practising very carefully – it's very easy, especially if you practice too quickly, to just “fluff” the notes in the middle, or to let the notes ring into each other (which is really just playing a chord, isn't it?).

As always, the answer is to go very, very slowly, and make sure each note is perfectly formed and perfectly in time!

Sweeping requires even more careful muting than normal, as every string you pick is one that can potentially ring on, and with sweeping you go through strings a lot quicker than with any other techniques!

To this end, normally people gently unfret each note after picking it – NOT lifting your finger and inch above the fretboard, but just releasing the note enough that the string is completely silent.

Secondly, the palm of the hand follows the pick, muting every string not being played.

As you can see, there's not much more to this much SuperSecretMegaTechnique than a simple pickstroke. It's a matter of just learning to do it properly, not learning “shapes”.

Which brings me onto something that severely irritates me – most people when sweeping simply sweep shapes, with no understanding of where they come from or why. Constantly people ask for “Sweep scales” or “sweep arpeggios” - but if you can't form these yourself you really should not be attempting to learn a technique designed to play them as fast as possible. If you do not understand how arpeggios work and how to find them on the fingerboard then you have much bigger problems than “learning to sweep pick”!

Try this excellent video lesson for further instruction - http://www.ultimate-guitar.tv/guitar_lessons/steal_this_video_sweep_picking.html

5.6 Hybrid Picking

Quite simply, the most useful thing after having got your traditional guitar technique down is "Hybrid Picking". It's a very simple idea - you see those 3 fingers on your right hand that aren't holding a pick? Well, now you're going to use them!

The first thing this allows you do to is arpeggiate chords much more easily. Whereas before one would have had to pick them by moving the whole hand around, now you can just take it easy and let your fingers do the work. The traditional notation is P I M A - thumb, index, middle and ring, respectively. However, P and I are busy holding a pick, so you'll be using mostly M and A. You can also incorporate your pinky as you progress, but we'll build from a simple foundation. Pick this down up M, down up M… Try to keep the different notes consistent in volume and attack.


Or you can finally do what classical, jazz and country guitarists can do with their right hands - play a bassline and chords simultaneously. Here's a really easy example - start checking out classical guitar for some fingerbreakers. Use the pick for the notes on the E and A string, and the 3 right hand fingers to pluck the rest.


Now, you can also use it to play harmonised lines with much greater ease - for example, here's the opening of the Rugrats theme. The lower note is played with pick, the higher with middle.


Okay, so between those we already have a persuasive argument for using hybrid picking. Here's another.


Now, imagine (or try) to play it with a pick. Any lick like this is so much easier with hybrid picking that it's funny.

Also, when you try and play odd note groupings, or 2 note per string scales, it makes things much easier to involve your right hand fingers. This is how I personally would pick some descending 5s in the pentatonic scale – M, pulloff, up, pulloff, down, although I don’t think that’s the only way to do it.

5.7 Tapping

Arguably more useful than Hybrid Picking in genres like metal and shred, it's a classic lead guitar sound popularized by Van Halen. Basically, it once again involves using your right hand for something other than ordinary picking. In this case, you'll be using it to play legato.

If you read the earlier section on legato - basically, just apply that to your right hand and you're sorted! You "hammer on" by "tapping" a right hand finger down on to a fret to sound the note (and holding it to sustain the note!), and you "pull off" by slightly plucking the note up or down and removing your finger. Some tappers pull-off up, some pull-off down. The two best tappers I've ever seen in person are both 8 finger tapping gods and one pulls off up and the other pulls off down. In my limited experience, I'd recommend pulling off up as it uses the natural strength of the grip of your hand.

For most people, it makes sense to use your middle finger to tap, because that means you can keep hold of your pick.

Try the following example, slowly. Sustain the notes you tap - don't jab at it! Imagine that you're just extending the legato technique you already have to your right hand – including consistent tone and volume.


...That includes slides, by the way.


Okay, here's a lick I love, using two fingers to tap.


Alright then, here's an example of how you can play arpeggios at scary speed with tapping. I strongly recommend you check out Guthrie Govan, one of the best guitarists alive.


Finally, here's an atonal Buckethead/Thorendal style lick. This sounds killer as long as you can nail it cleanly.


So, that's really it. There’s an excellent bunch of exercises in the Ultimate Guitar Pro Exercises Thread for two handed tapping, including some easy ones that sound nice.
7.1 I have a problem not covered here…

Then make a thread for it, by all means! But to help us help you –

Be clear and specific. I read a thread recently where a poster was asking for help with forearm pain when practicing – but didn’t specify in which arm.

Post pictures if you can.

Post video, and post it of you playing at a slow speed, say less than 30 bpm, then medium (whatever is your medium) and fast (whatever is your fast). Most often you will even be able to see that you change how you play as you speed up, and this is causing the problem – in which case you need to slowly bring the tempo up and remain focused on keeping your technique consistent until you break that habit.

Read the links people give you. All your problems have been solved by others already.

7.2 I need sweep shapes!/Moar Lickz!!/Moar Exorcizes!!!

“Sweep shapes” are most often arpeggios, which are constructed by taking the notes of a chord and playing them separately. Sweep shapes simply run up and down arpeggios most of the time, although any one note per string shape (any you can think of) can be great for sweeping.

As goes the Moar licks and exercises, there is the excellent Ultimate Guitar Pro Exercises Thread (here - https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1091788 )which contains hundreds of things to stimulate the mind and fingers.

7.3 Give it time!

Do not expect to play fast and well without putting in SERIOUS effort. Thousands of hours of practice go into the kind of technique most people class “shred”. Do not expect to play like John Petrucci within 2 months of unanchoring and slowly and perfectly relearning picking technique completely. I find I can make real progress (in speed, fluency and sound) on a specific area of technique with about 8 weeks of about an hour a day (that’s around 60 hours). However, sometimes you’ll have an hour of practice that changes everything.

Much more importantly, enjoy the progress you make. There’s lots of nice views from half way up the mountain as well.

Keep practicing! When you feel like you’re going nowhere you are still building up muscle memory and improving gradually. It takes time to show up, and sometimes after a day off it’ll all hit you at once. It’ll feel great but it won’t happen if you binge and starve practice.

7.4 Thanks for reading!

Finally, thanks for reading and best of luck to you all with your playing. I’d like to dedicate this to the late great Shawn Lane, a guitarist that showed me how possible the impossible was, and how beautiful it sounded.

7.5 Guitar Pro tabs

(actually all available in exercises sticky!)
8. Collected Wisdom
8.1 Steven Seagull and why setting "Speed Goals" is a bad idea.

Quote by steven seagull
In all honesty you shouldn't be setting ANY speed goals, certainly not this early on - speed is not a skill, it's just a reflection of your skills. Your priority is to simply get comfortable with the guitar and build a good knowledge of the basics, that means everything. Picking single notes in scales is one tiny aspect of the guitar, you need to broaden your outlook. You need to be learning chords, working on your right hand rhythm technique, start working on your listening skills and above all start playing some simple songs.

Speed doesn't develop on a day to day basis, it develops over months and years - the metronome is not a speedometer and it's not some sort of measure of how good you are, it's just there to keep time for you. Likewise your speed at playing scales is irrelevant, what matters is whether you can actually use that speed - being able to play a single scale pattern at xxbpm when you can't actually play a song is pointless. Remember, you picked up the guitar because you wanted to play the thing, not do exercises.

Don't get me wrong, exercises are important and help your development but they're only a part of the picture, it's vital you develop a balanced approach to learning as early as possible, dividing your time between practicing AND playing.

You should only really worry about speed when you're already a competent, all-round player and are really looking to push yourself. Guitar follows the law of diminishing returns in that the better you get then the harder it is to improve further. Early on it's fairly rewarding but later on you can be putting in 10 times the effort for what seems very little gain.

At the moment your simply getting used to the guitar so you will feel like your charging ahead, but all that's happening is your hands are gradually becoming accustomed to what you're asking them to do so it's getting easier. Whilst that's happening there's absolutely no point in paying attention to the numbers on the metronome and it's downright counterproductive to start "chasing" it. You can't practice speed, however you can practice the things that govern it like accuracy, control, dexterity, finger independence, timing, synchronisation, stamina and fretboard knowledge....THOSE are the things you need to actually be concerned about. The problem is people are obsessed with measuring things in some empirical way, and because you can attach a number to speed that's what people fixate on. In reality if you worry about the things that really matter, the things that you actually have control over and can influence, then speed will take care of itself.
(sections messily retrieved, need work!)

edg on practicing for speed -

Quote by edg
I\'ve been playing over 30 years and I can tell you the secret to speed: never, ever think
about it or practice it
. Most of you aren\'t going to believe that and will continue trying
the parlor game of "increasing the metronome just right". Good luck. I\'ve tried
that too for a long long time. It really doesn\'t work.

It you want to solve a problem, look in the place where the answers are. The answers
are where the cause is. "Speed problems" are an effect, not a cause. If you keep trying
to deal with "speed problems" you\'ll never fix them. So, what\'s the problem? It\'s
a control problem and it\'s an awareness problem. Simply put, if you lose control and/or
awareness of what you\'re doing, you can\'t ever play effectively -- at any speed!

Focus on having total control over your notes -- the timing, dynamics, feeling of them.
Be aware of how you want a note to sound. When you\'re in control and aware, you
are naturally relaxed. Make it your goal to feel like that all the time. When you don\'t feel
that way, something has gone wrong and that\'s a signal to look into it. Practicing total
control and awareness at slow speed, will give that to you at ANY speed.

Control and awareness and focusing your attention aren\'t just something you either
have or not and that\'s it. They are SKILLS. If you practice them, you get better at
them. They may not be easy skills to master, but that\'s what it is. Anyone can play
fast. All you need to do is correctly identify the right causes of what\'s preventing that,
and address them.
8.3 Isidora on motivation and fear of inadequacy

Quote by Isidora
You don\'t sound like you\'ve lost motivation to me at all. Sounds to me like you\'re getting scared. Not that I\'m calling you a coward or anything. What you\'re feeling is totally normal. You\'re in the habit of comparing your skills to that of giants like Satch and Vai, and every time you try to duplicate what they do, you fall flat on your a**. You realize you can\'t compare to your idols, and knowing that makes you feel like sh!t. Now every time you so much as look at your guitar all you can think about is how inadequate you are. This isn\'t a sign that you lack motivation. Anyone would have trouble practicing if merely looking at their axe caused them misery. Your problem is that you\'re worried that you\'re stuck. You\'re worried that you\'ll never be able to make the kind of improvements your want to. You\'re afraid that you\'ll always be right where you are now, looking up at your heroes and thinking about how far below them you are. You\'re afraid of wasting hours of your time and a lot of effort and years later being no better than you are now. These are all normal fears, and I\'m sure 90% of the people on UG have had them. I know I certainly have.

What you\'ve got to do is find confidence in your ability to improve. If you can convince yourself that your hard work is paying off, that you are in fact getting better, you\'ll stop being so afraid. I suggest you start keeping track of your progress in some way. Identify some particular skill that you know you need to work on and focus on improving that. Set aside some time everyday to do exercises designed to improve that particular skill. And, write down an assessment of how well the practice went. Keep a notebook of these daily assessments, so you\'ll have them handy to read over when you want to. This can be really helpful when you\'re trying to build confidence. Not being very good at a skill even after three weeks of practice can really hurt. Looking back on your daily assessments and being reminded that you were a lot worse at it when you started can really boost the ego.

I\'ll give you an example of how this has helped me recently. I\'m just learning to play keyboards, and I want to play a song that requires sixteenth note triplets played at 120 bpm. I\'ve been practicing at this for at least 40 minutes every day for the past three weeks, and I still can\'t do it. The best I can do is 100 bpm. It hurts a bit, and I sometimes feel discouraged. But then, I look over my daily assessments, and I remind myself that when I first started this, I could only play sixteenth note triplets at 60 bpm, and I wasn\'t very consistent even at that tempo. Going from that to being able to play them consistently at 100 bpm isn\'t bad. I\'m making progress. And, I know I\'ll reach my goal someday.

Another thing that might help you is a change in attitude. A lot of novice musicians feel dissatisfied with their practices. After they get done with one, all they can think about is how much better they wish they were. I\'d guess about 95% of them get over this eventually. The other 5% have a chance of actually being good at what they do. Yes, you read that right. Good musicians are never completely satisfied with anything they do. They\'ve just learned not to be discouraged by their mistakes, that\'s all. I promise you, when Vai gets done with a practice, he\'s not completely satisfied with his work. He\'s thinking of all the things he did wrong, taking note of all the little imperfections, and devising ways to improve. It\'s like the Geddy Lee quote I have in my sig, "Music is all about wanting to be better at it." It\'s an endless quest.

EDIT: Hot dang, I got long-winded, didn\'t I. Sorry for that. Hope it helped in some way, though.
8.3 Guru-age on why to practice incredibly slowly

Quote by Freepower
^ thats a great example. Finally, it takes time! Practice slowly (25bpm and less) for 20 mins a day on economy of motion and your technique will improve gradually, but continually, I promise.

Quote by Gacel
hehe from your posts I notice that you love really slow tempos, and its ok to play slowly, but 25bpm ... well the 20 mins will be gone and I would have played the lick 10-12 times!

if I can play cleanly at 80bpm, then I can practice the same stuff a lot more in the same 20 mins, right? ^^

Quote by se012101
There is a big difference. At 80 bpm, even though you can play it cleanly , you are still using muscle memory - you are not really "telling" your fingers how to move, they are just repeating the learned movements. At extreme slow tempos, such as 25bpm, you actually are able to consciously tell the fingers what to do, which is essential if you are trying to make a technique modification.

Quote by Gacel
mmmm, ok, now I get it, if I want to fix some problem I need to play at a speed that allows my BRAIN to command my hands, kk

Quote by Freepower
^ because you can only do something BETTER than your current muscle memory if you\'re giving your fingers new instructions, yah?