#1
Hi everyone,

I am new here but have been playing guitar for about 15 years. Within the past year I really got into lead playing. Over the years, I've picked up a lot of things here and there and had gotten pretty good, but for about the last 15 months have been seriously hammering away at technical lead guitar playing.
That being said, I can play many licks, etc., fluidly with 16 notes at around 160-170 bpm, and sixteenth note triplets around 120 bpm. I practice with a metronome and start slow and have worked to those speeds over a good period of time.
So, my question is, how do I continue to build speed and get faster? I know speed isn't everything but I would like to be able to play faster if I had to. Anyone have any suggestions? Is it a matter of making my hands stronger? I do a lot of chromatic work as warm ups, including a lot of hammer ons and pull offs for finger strength. Is it a matter of playing to the metronome longer at higher speeds? Thanks for your time and help.
#2
Playing guitar, like working out/lifting weights, involves muscle memory; when you play a familiar tune, you're often able to do so with increasing speed because your fingers just know where to go. One suggestion would be to try playing lead runs in different styles or genres from what you're used to, this way that brain/ear/finger synergy will get shaken up a bit.

Finger strength is important but I believe that hand dexterity is even more critical. Do you stretch your hands at all? One easy one that's pretty effective is to take the pinky and thumb of one hand and to place them between two consecutive fingers of your other (presumably, picking) hand. Use the strength in your hand to drive the pinky and thumb apart thereby stretching the two fingers on your other hand (let's say ring finger and pinky/middle and ring/pointer and ring as the possible sets).

Lastly, to take another weight-training analogy, you can try playing at a speed that is well beyond your ability and then ratcheting it back to a speed that is only just a bit beyond your current max. The fitness analogy is that if you try to lift 200 lbs and can just barely get it off the floor but you then try to lift 150 lbs, it should be easier than if you just tried to lift the 150 straight away. Replace lbs with bpm and lifting with picking and there you have it!

Basically, just mix it up and you should see some improvement! Welcome to the UG community!
#3
That last paragraph doesn't really hold true, either for weights or guitar. Trying to do something you simply cannot do has absolutely no benefit when it comes to improving your skills.

What you need to do is keep your focus away from long term goals and instead concentrate on achievable short term goals. If, for arguments sake, you can play a piece comfortably at 140 bpm then 200 bpm isn't your concern, it's not got any erlevance to you at this point in time. Your concern is 150 bpm, or even 145. Those targets are achievable in a sensible timeframe, and once you've reached that target you set the next one. Eventually you're at 190bpm and 200bpm is simply the next small step when you've already. Approaching it that way I guarantee you'll hit 200bpm in less time than if you keep trying to get too far ahead of yourself
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#4
First, I didn't realize there was a competition for who would provide the most correct response, so thanks for the unwarranted and unnecessary criticism. Second, I didn't say to lift a weight you cannot lift or play at a speed that you cannot play at, I said to go for something that's beyond what you're trying to do (but still within your range). If you can lift 200 lbs off the ground even a little bit then, for all intents and purposes, you can lift it. It might take you a few tries but eventually you'll lift it further and further. The way you interpreted my words was to try to lift, say, 3,000 pounds--something that couldn't possibly lifted. Doing THAT, like you said, will have absolutely no benefit. As for weight lifting or fitness, the strongest case I can make is with chin ups/pull ups. For someone who cannot do a single rep the way to approach it is simply to hang for as long as you can (usually 30 seconds to begin with). When you can work your way up to 60 seconds and more, you will be building strength in the necessary areas to help you achieve that first rep.

Your approach differs from mine but they're both relevant and are equally important. Together, we provided two different opportunities for improvement. Remember--there isn't any ONE way to learn something.
#5
Quote by lpwjbklyn
First, I didn't realize there was a competition for who would provide the most correct response, so thanks for the unwarranted and unnecessary criticism. Second, I didn't say to lift a weight you cannot lift or play at a speed that you cannot play at, I said to go for something that's beyond what you're trying to do (but still within your range). If you can lift 200 lbs off the ground even a little bit then, for all intents and purposes, you can lift it. It might take you a few tries but eventually you'll lift it further and further. The way you interpreted my words was to try to lift, say, 3,000 pounds--something that couldn't possibly lifted. Doing THAT, like you said, will have absolutely no benefit. As for weight lifting or fitness, the strongest case I can make is with chin ups/pull ups. For someone who cannot do a single rep the way to approach it is simply to hang for as long as you can (usually 30 seconds to begin with). When you can work your way up to 60 seconds and more, you will be building strength in the necessary areas to help you achieve that first rep.

Your approach differs from mine but they're both relevant and are equally important. Together, we provided two different opportunities for improvement. Remember--there isn't any ONE way to learn something.


Only it doesn't work like that. At all.

This is a matter of technique, not just pressing on until you can do it. If we have to keep going with the weights analogy, this would be like you being unable to lift 150lbs or whatever because you're lifting from the back or not lifting straight up or whatever (I don't know much about weight lifting technique). It doesn't matter how many times you try to lift that weight with bad technique, you're never going to do it and you run the risk of injury.

Stamina for guitar works that way, but not speed. It's not just a matter of muscle twitch speed or strength or whatever, speed is technique and technique is speed.
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#6
If you got those licks up to speed like that by practicing with the metronome, you can take them to a higher speed by practicing with a metronome. You should cut down the amount of time that you work on chromatics, if not cut them out completely. Chromatics are one of the biggest wastes of practice time for a guitarist. In all the time that it takes you to master a out-dated chromatic exercise, you could master some licks that will actually have a use in your playing. The chromatics serve as just an exercise, the licks would serve as a technical work-out as well as an tool that's applicable to your soloing and will actually sound good.

As for making your hands stronger, strength shouldn't really be the primary worry. Economy of motion and knowing how to apply minimal force to the string to get a clean sound out of it are far more important. Before you think of strength, think of the tension which you're applying to fret notes, think of how you can practice in a manner that will allow you to execute your phrases with minimal movement of the hands. You'll be much better off with a focus on using minimal pressure and saving motion than on trying to build "hand strength"
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Last edited by Faded Grey at Jun 2, 2011,
#7
Thanks for the responses, guys. I can see what all of you mean, and I guess I will just keep taking it slow. After all, that's how I got to where I am now.

As for chromatics, I only spend about 10 minutes of my practice time on them and I use it as a first warm up exercise.

I appreciate your help and time, guys.
#8
@lpwjbklyn, in all fairness you did say

" you can try playing at a speed that is well beyond your ability"

it's not a matter of how I interpreted it, "well beyond your ability" doesn't mean "a bit beyond your ability". Nothing wrong with flexing your muscles a bit to see how far your practicing has actually taken you, but trying to do things you flat-out can't do serves no practical purpose when it comes to getting better at something.

If you want to lift 150lbs above your head whether or not you can lift 200lbs just off the ground is irrelevant. But if you've been regularly lifting 150lbs above your head theres no harm in giving 160 a go to see if you've got more in the tank. And if you can't you can be certain it won't take too much work to get there.
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#9
I don't think finger strength is very important when it comes to your technique playing faster. You require very little finger strength to actually fret notes, it's just a matter of being as efficient as possible in fretting the notes. You should be more concerned with finger dexterity.