I've been playing guitar for about 20 years. I've mainly played lead and was often the only guitarist in the band. I focused my attention on the Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert and the the type for my main lead techniques when I was young. Mainly very fast alternate picking and legato type runs, etc.

Over the past decade I've been much more influenced by blues and other styles and my speed has drastically slowed to incorporate better phrasing, more feeling, etc. I still through in fast runs but they are usually short and more to add a little pizaz to the solo then the majority of the solo. I really don't have the muscle stamina in my hands anymore to do long, non-stop, 10+ bar top speed legato or alternate picking runs.

I've got the next two weeks off with my kids for the holiday break and I've pledged to myself to built back some of my speed for alternate picking. I just want to have the option in my tool belt to break out with some real old school shredding.

Let me tell you, this is really hard. I've scoured the internet for lessons that focus on the basics, how to hold the pick, angle of attack, keeping the arm loose and focusing all of the movement on the wrist. I feel like I hit a brick wall. I decided to go really, really slow and make sure I hit each note clearly and consistently to try and relearn better technique and commit it to muscle memory.

I can't tell you how sloppy my technique has become and I never realized it.

Has anyone ever done anything like this and have any advice or suggestions to help me expedite relearning some of these faster chops. Or, is it really back to square one and I have to relearn the speed techniques from basically scratch?
Just like with everyone else there really isn't anything anyone can do that will help that much; you're just going to have to put in the hours.
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Hey Mrspag - not exactly the same situation for me, but I'm coming back from a long period (about 2 years) where I didn't play hardly at all. Like you, I've been playing for a long time overall. It's been about a month since I picked the guitar back up and started putting in a decent amount of time.
A lot of my focus is on alternate picking too. Each time I sit down to practice, I'll make sure I work on a lick or exercise with 4 notes per string, another with 3, 2, and 1. And one or two where there is a lot of crossing back and forth between strings. I'll also mix up the rhythmic grouping while I work on these things - sometimes playing in 16th notes, other times 8th note triplets, 6s, sometimes even 5s. Another thing I'll do is alternate which note I begin on. On one day I'll play a particular exercise starting on a downstroke, the next day I'll start it on an upstroke. Other than that, I'll spend some time relearning parts of songs, and doing some improvising/exploring ideas.
So far I've noticed a lot of improvement, but then again I was starting from being really rusty. Everything seems to still be there, I'm just having to take it real slow and water it a bit, you know!
I don't think you're back to square one, but if it's been 10 years since you played faster stuff, I imagine it will take a few months at least. I think the hardest parts will be unlearning any bad habits you've picked up since then, as it's not just learning something new, you've got to reprogram a bit.
The biggest thing that seems to be helping me right now, is making sure that I don't put too many expectations on myself about getting back to where I was overnight. I'm just kind of chilling out, enjoying playing again, and bringing it back up again a bit at a time.
If muscle stamina is an issue it sounds like you're tensing up too much. The motion of moving a pick or your fretting fingers is very small and requires, ideally, very little energy. No more than typing, really. But if those motions are unfamiliar you end up expending a ton more energy to maintain accuracy and consistency.

I'd say go back to the exercises you were doing way back when and just take it slow. You've identified the issues you have, now isolate the techniques and do some metronome workouts.

In my experience, it's actually really hard to "focus on relaxation", which is a bit of an oxymoronic instruction. When playing real music, Focus on feeling the sound move from your fingers to the instrument. Think what it feels like to play those sounds, almost as if you were playing air guitar.

The fastest way to get results from technique workouts is to do them consistently. If you do an alt picking exercise, even slowly, 5 days a week for a month, you will get results.

And don't forget how easy it is to look at the past with rose colored glasses - it's entirely possible you were playing sloppily back in the 90s!
Last edited by cdgraves at Jan 3, 2014,
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R.I.P. My Signature. Lost to us in the great Signature Massacre of 2014.

Quote by Master Foo
“A man who mistakes secrets for knowledge is like a man who, seeking light, hugs a candle so closely that he smothers it and burns his hand.”