#1
my alternate picking speed is pathetic. 16th notes at 128 bpm....ive been practicing for ages to try to make it faster, but NOTHING seems to be working.

I have this one lick that i'm practicing that just pushes past that boundary. its at 130bpm. whats weird is, I practice that lick at say 80bpm, and I can play it fine for a while, then out of no where a little mistake will happen like the pick hits the same string for a second time when it comes back to the original string i'm picking on....or it'll feel like my hand is having a hard time pushing through the strings when it's relaxed as hell....

Ive been told by many people to just practice it slow for a long time. But how long do I spend practicing slow? How do I know when to move on? that's all i'm confused on....I just finally wanna break past this stupid plateu....

so many people have also said im missing the point, but everything I wanna play, cluding some simple blues things I cant play because of my speed...thanks for your time
#2
Well this probably isn't the best advice, but its worked for me. Basically I just start playing everything at full speed, whether I can do it or not. At first its really sloppy and sounds terrible but over time I get better. Playing stuff slow at first never really helped me, except for licks that are just 4 or 5 notes repeating over and over.
#3
I mean, just one mistake isn't something to call a failure. I played a show last night and **** up a few times, I would still call myself a professional, what with it being my primary source of income.

You also might want to consider just doing rhythm.
#4
I am a very strong believer that you can't force yourself to play fast. Speed comes with time. Practicing regular with a metronome may reduce that time, but it still takes A LOT OF TIME. The day you stop chasing speed is the day you'll be a better musician for it.
Last edited by vayne92 at Jan 8, 2014,
#5
First of all, I agree with vayne92 about not attacking the speed directly. If you attack it from a different angle - learning lots of different stuff, playing everything you play as well as you can - ie. becoming a better musician in general - the speed comes naturally as a by-product.

Second, there is NOTHING pathetic about playing in 16ths at 128, if you are doing it cleanly with good dynamics and phrasing. We kind of get blinded by these crazy numbers "oh, this is at 150 bpm, and this part is in 16th notes triplets, and then I slow down and this part is in straight 16ths, and then I do this little septuplet run and yada yada yada", of course, said like this is something that is easy. This is not easy. We are talking about a fraction of a percent of people on the entire planet that can do this cleanly and convincingly. Playing 16th clean at 128 bpm is already a big accomplishment. If you can do it clean, you should feel proud about your progress - not beat yourself up over it.

Third - 120-130 bpm is a common wall for people, so there's nothing unusual about you having a heard time getting past it. It's the fastest that most people can play using technique that hasn't been dialed in for really fast playing (e.g. economy of movement, minimal tension, etc)

Anyway, to answer your question about how long you have to play slow...well, it's more of an interactive process than that. You answer it by looking at your playing and figuring out if it is the right time to speed up a bit. Try something like this:

1) Do a test. Play a piece too fast. Not everything falls apart fast, but at a speed where you are making mistakes and you're technique is starting to break down. Figure out exactly what is going wrong. What are you doing which is making this not sound good?

2) Slow down to a speed to where you can play the piece without the mistakes you where seeing at the higher speed. Practice this a lot. Really pay attention that you are not making the mistakes that you noticed before.

3) After a few days, speed it up a bit, maybe 5 bpm. Are you starting to make the mistakes? If yes, go back to the slower speed, and try again in a couple more days, if not, do lots of practice at that new speed.

4) Wash rinse and repeat.

Hope this helps.
Last edited by se012101 at Jan 8, 2014,
#6
16ths at 128 isn't slow dude. I'm a semi-professional guitarist and the fastest I ever practice is 16ths at 131 (I can play faster, but music is different from the metronome). There is nothing inherently difficult about moving your hands fast, but doing so evenly is a challenge.

First - are you actually using this speed for music? When you have chops with the metronome, you need to put them to work in actual music.

Second - how are practicing fast stuff? Just plunking a single string? playing scales/arpeggios? I usually practice fast picking across multiple strings (ie two 16ths per string up/down) and with scales. Being able to play at a particular tempo means being able to play -anything- at that tempo, even if you're doing string skips from E to e.

It sounds like you should do some slower practice, too. Slower tempos help you develop a sense of even, steady rhythm. You need to really -feel- a 16th note rhythm before you can play it fast.

Do rhythm ladders. Do your exercise first at an easy tempo, say 20 bpm slower than your maximum, so 108. Then bump to 5bpm and repeat. Do that up to the fastest speed you can maintain continuous 16th notes. Then go 5bpm faster, but do the 16ths in bursts, like alternating 1 beat of 16ths, one of 8ths: xxxx x x xxxx x x

And do all that with sextuplets, too.
Last edited by cdgraves at Jan 8, 2014,
#7
I feel like I'm in the same boat as you TC.

I too have a hard time getting over my set practice speed. Any faster it just gets sloppy. Ultimately frustrating...especially when its been months with little/no improvement.
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#8
Quote by McZaxon

Ive been told by many people to just practice it slow for a long time. But how long do I spend practicing slow? How do I know when to move on? that's all i'm confused on....I just finally wanna break past this stupid plateu....

so many people have also said im missing the point, but everything I wanna play, cluding some simple blues things I cant play because of my speed...thanks for your time

Then you're probably going to have to learn some other things in the meantime to act as stepping stones along the way.

If all you're doing is literally trying to get your alternate picking faster for hours on end then you're really wasting your time.
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#9
Nothing about the blues requires fast picking. It sounds like there's some general technique missing. Don't ignore the left hand, and make sure you use good form with both.
#10
Quote by cdgraves
Second - how are practicing fast stuff? Just plunking a single string? playing scales/arpeggios? I usually practice fast picking across multiple strings (ie two 16ths per string up/down) and with scales.



I'm practicing a lick from one of lick libraries practice technique DVDs...it's an alternate picking lick that goes across 5 strings. But do you think I should start by developing speed by using one string?
#11
Quote by vayne92
I am a very strong believer that you can't force yourself to play fast. Speed comes with time. Practicing regular with a metronome may reduce that time, but it still takes A LOT OF TIME. The day you stop chasing speed is the day you'll be a better musician for it.



I know, and I really should focus on playing other things, but it's just so hard to when I see one of my buddies completely shred (not over emphasizing this) and he's been playing for the same amount of time I am. Not comparing, just saying haha. But I do get what your saying.
#12
Quote by JelloCrust
I mean, just one mistake isn't something to call a failure. I played a show last night and **** up a few times, I would still call myself a professional, what with it being my primary source of income.

You also might want to consider just doing rhythm.



Haha, okay. I just didn't know weather or not to start all over with the metronome if I made a mistake going up.

Definitely not haha, I have BIG goals for myself as a guitar player. I'm giving all my blood sweat and tears to it. High School is kinda getting in the way of that, but i'm almost done. It's gonna be my main study in college.
#13
For myself, I like practicing both ways - accuracy and speed. So I'll play patterns at a comfortable speed that I can be steady and not make mistakes. Then I'll replay things as sort of a "stretch goal". It's not perfect, but it's faster than I would play comfortably. For me, the faster patterns get my picking hand and fretting fingers moving at the "next level" of performance.

So I don't want to sacrifice being able to play accurately, but I'm not afraid to train fingers to go a little faster with a few mistakes. As my accuracy improves, I have some extra speed ready in the fingers...
#14
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#15
Play music. In other words, learn songs. The technique you need is in the songs.

Find a song you really like and learn it completely. Spend your time and energy getting it perfect.
#16
Your goals when practicing a piece should be accuracy, efficiency, and familiarity. When practicing something you should be playing it over and over, perfectly. If your making mistakes every run through, or even maybe once every 4 or 5 times through, you need to slow down to where you're not making mistakes, and develop you technique from there. Pay attention to the distance of your fingers from the fret board, the tension in your hands and arms, how hard you press the strings, the motion of your picking hand wrist, the attack of your pick, make sure everything is muted properly. Use a metronome while practicing to help you play in time and to help synchronize the movement of your hands. If your goal is to just play faster you're going to be sloppy and make mistakes. Aim to play perfectly, if your technique is perfect speed comes naturally with that. If your technique becomes sloppy at any speed you absolutely HAVE to slow it down. Poor practice reinforces bad habits, your body doesn't know the difference between good and bad technique, so if you play something over and over while making mistakes, that's what it learns to do.
#17
Quote by timbo63
For myself, I like practicing both ways - accuracy and speed. So I'll play patterns at a comfortable speed that I can be steady and not make mistakes. Then I'll replay things as sort of a "stretch goal". It's not perfect, but it's faster than I would play comfortably. For me, the faster patterns get my picking hand and fretting fingers moving at the "next level" of performance.

So I don't want to sacrifice being able to play accurately, but I'm not afraid to train fingers to go a little faster with a few mistakes. As my accuracy improves, I have some extra speed ready in the fingers...


For me this is good sound practical advice, in short it's a case of keep practicing.
#18
Quote by Wolforn
Your goals when practicing a piece should be accuracy, efficiency, and familiarity. When practicing something you should be playing it over and over, perfectly. If your making mistakes every run through, or even maybe once every 4 or 5 times through, you need to slow down to where you're not making mistakes, and develop you technique from there. Pay attention to the distance of your fingers from the fret board, the tension in your hands and arms, how hard you press the strings, the motion of your picking hand wrist, the attack of your pick, make sure everything is muted properly. Use a metronome while practicing to help you play in time and to help synchronize the movement of your hands. If your goal is to just play faster you're going to be sloppy and make mistakes. Aim to play perfectly, if your technique is perfect speed comes naturally with that. If your technique becomes sloppy at any speed you absolutely HAVE to slow it down. Poor practice reinforces bad habits, your body doesn't know the difference between good and bad technique, so if you play something over and over while making mistakes, that's what it learns to do.


I like this advice as well, sensible down to earth advice, pay attention to the basics and your practice and stick at it.

I remember reading a piece of advice in (I think) Guitarist magazine back in the 80s, and it was basically practice all single note playing using alternate picking so that it becomes second nature and you just do it automatically and you don't have to think about it, I don't know if this advice still stands, maybe someone could enlighten me. Personally I think if you are practicing scales and the like getting alternate picking ingrained so it's second nature will help improve flow and consistency, it maybe wont improve consistency to start with, it'll probably be a bit harder if anything but once you have it down cold it will be one less thing to think about and therefore you'll eliminate a potential source of errors.
#19
Quote by McZaxon
I'm practicing a lick from one of lick libraries practice technique DVDs...it's an alternate picking lick that goes across 5 strings. But do you think I should start by developing speed by using one string?


You should practice them both. I do exercises on one string, two strings, all 6 strings... what matters is that you're applying the specific technique with care and patience.

There are three basic things you can practice with the guitar: technique, musicianship, and music itself. You should aim for a balance of them.

Some things you practice will be metronome drills where you just repeat one little motion over and over in different places to get your hands used to it. Other things will force you to put that technique to use in real music. And other other things will challenge the way you feel/hear yourself play.

You might try warming up with one/two string picking exercises, then move on to the 5 string thing when your hands are nice and loose. And once your attention span is exhausted, put on some tunes and try your chops out with real music.
#20
^ Really good advice.

Here's a slightly simplified view of alternate picking technique. There are core skills - just the basic motions of doing an inside or outside cross between two adjacent strings, and then there is the ability to put those skills together into a longer lick.

Practicing a longer lick that spans five strings is really more about putting together those basic skills, than exercising them directly. If the basic skills are lacking, then you are just practicing putting together flawed motions into a longer sequence of flawed motions. It sounds like this is why you are not seeing the improvement you'd like to see.

I would do as cdgraves suggests, and add a few simple two string picking exercises into your daily routine. The idea is to get your picking motion refined with an exercise that is very simple and doesn't have any added challenges (like crossing several strings in succession) to throw off your technique, and so that you can focus very intently on what you are doing. As you start to make improvements, it will bleed over into all the more complicated stuff that you are playing.

For example, to practice inside crosses you could do something like this:


-9-11-12-11-9---
--------------12-


And then if you start it on the last note, you have an exercise to practice outside crossing.

And then you could try something that contains both outside and inside crosses like this:


-9-------9-------9-11-12-11-12-11-
---10-12---10-12-



Both of these are designed to be looped and played several times.

Those are the D and G strings by the way. But after you start seeing improvement, find corresponding versions of these exercises first in different positions - so you get used to maintaining the good technique as the string tension varies - and then on different strings.

One note of caution: don't go into complete exercise mode, and work on nothing but technique exercises. Play music! But it does seem like 10 mins a day or so of practicing this kind of stuff will help out.

Good luck!
Last edited by se012101 at Jan 12, 2014,