#1
Hello All,

Firstly, new to the forum, and this is my first post, though I'm no stranger to internet forums in general. As such, I'm aware there are plenty of threads here on shredding already and of search functions in general. So I beg your collective forgiveness for asking my question(s) - but I have searched the internet and aspects of what I'm asking just never seem to be addressed - almost as if no one wants to "give away the secret" or something.

Secondly, some background: I'm 47 and have been playing since I was 13. I studied Classical in college and have played electric all my life. I'm not a technical wizard but I could get through solos like Crazy Train well enough for many of the cover bands (and their audiences) I've been in. I've never been interested in only being a shredder...but I'd like to have the speed when I want it. Think Neal Schon of Journey - hugely melodic player but can burn like nobody's business when he wants to.

I've decided recently to do a practice regimen, devoting an hour or more to electric (I'm also devoting 2 hours to classical and an hour to piano). Sometimes I'm able to do 2+ hours, sometimes I have gigs with a band and consider the gig that night to be the "practice".

I've been doing some warm-up exercises - finger independence patterns such as 1234, 2341, 3412, etc. on each string. I warm up around 110 and crank up the metronome a notch for each exercise until I get to 115.

I was playing Major and Minor scales starting at 115 and getting up into the 140s.

I also played patterns like 4 note groups (first 4 notes of the scale then go back to note 2 and do the next 4 notes, etc.) in various configurations. I'd start at 115 and work up.

For a while, I was making the starting tempo a bit faster each day which meant each scale form was 1 tick faster than it was the day before (but the first scale was still the same).

I got up to speeds where it was just clear I couldn't do the end ones - in the 140s, maybe 152 depending on the pattern.

Now, what I did get from all of this was a couple of things:
1. My overall playing got cleaner and tighter (this is all alternate picking BTW).
2. New scale forms or patterns that were unplayable at even 110 at first all got better to the point I could play them as fast as the others pretty much. So learning a new pattern and getting it up to speed isn't a problem.
3. I identified a few issues with certain fingering groups and picking issues that are either slowing me down or slopping things up.

Along the way, I tried some different approaches. Initially I would play one scale form starting at the 12th fret and play it at fret 11, 10, 9, etc. until I got as low as it would fit. Then I'd do another form the same way. This was taking a really long time (less time as the tempo increased!).

I also tried finding some Yngwie and Gilbert licks and practicing them. I also tried adapting those and playing them in all kinds of forms to give even time to inside and outside picking, etc.

From this I realized:

Some licks seem like you can just play them faster, and these guys have found what they can do fast and do it, and possibly they avoid other things that slow them down.

I can do the "Gilbert Lick" at about 220 BPM (3 notes per beat) before it starts to fall apart. But that's about the only triplet lick I can do at that speed!

I felt like the scales wouldn't get any faster. I feel like only the licks that are "designed for speed" are faster. But, once I get something up to speed, it's like I can't increase its speed then. So let's say I learn some new pattern. At first I can't play it. But then, a day or two and I can play it as fast as most everything else I play. But, none of that is getting any faster it seems.

So, the first part of my question is:

What should I be practicing?

Should I take a single scale, or lick, or pattern, and spend a day on it, a week on it, a month on it?

I keep reading all these sites and they say "you have to play slow to play fast". I'm not sure I buy that. I've been playing the same warm up exercise at 115 for months now (and a year off an on actually). I can't play it at 130 though.

I think, instead, in order to play fast, you have to practice fast as well. Those patterns I pushed - I pushed them. And they did get faster (to a point).

So the second part of my question is:

How should I be practicing?

Should I take a lick and play it for hours increasing the tempo 1 bpm.

Which brings up another question:

For how long? Is there a maximum speed limit?

I know everyone says that it may take a week to increase the first 3 bpm but it may take 3 weeks to increase 1 more bpm after that. I buy that. That's true with a lot of stuff.

What I want to know is, for those of you that can actually shred, how long really did you spend on something. I mean, did you spend an hour a day. Or are you doing 6 hours a day, or more.I"m sure folks are naturally inclined to play faster out of the gate so it may come easier for some - but if you had to work at it, what worked for you?


Every site I visit has the the same "1234" lick up and down the neck. I can't believe that practicing that 10 hours a day will make you able to play some crazy diminished run the same speed. I think you have to practice the crazy diminished run instead! All running that chromatic exercise does is make you good at that chromatic exercise.

So I want to know what you practiced, how you practiced it, how much time you spent on it, were you able to continually ramp up the speed once you got to the initial top speed, and if so, how, etc. etc.

I've played some 16th note things at 180. Really really short little things and they don't last long and start to fall apart quickly, but I at least know it's *possible*. I could have never hoped to play anything even remotely close to that fast 3 months ago so some of what I'm doing has to be paying off.

But, I want my practice time to be effective and I don't need to be wasting time running scales if there are better things to do. Already, for example, I identified a problem when running a scale up and down - when I get to the top and turn it around there would often be a hiccup at the direction change. 1-3-4-3-1 on the first string for an Ab Major scale for example. The 3-4-3 is sloppy. And while I can push the scale faster if I want, that little issue is not getting fixed. I don't want to play fast and sloppy. I want to play cleanly. And I'd settle for playing 160 clean as a whistle instead of 170 sloppily.

What I'm trying to get away from is the stock answer "practice it with a metronome". Really? How? How long? How do you push the speed?

I want the *details* - and that's what always seems to be lacking in the information I've tried to gather.

Maybe someone out there can help me out...

TIA,
Steve
#2
Watch as many youtube videos of guitarists you like learn basic theory and practice all the time and jam with your friends i think thats all there is to it !!
#3
*Cracks knuckles* Well, well, well something that's in my area of expertise... See the thing is if you're really looking to build dexterity; is that you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. You have to be really analytical, and observe everything you're doing, and when I mean everything, I really do mean EVERYTHING. So here's a few questions you need to ask yourself.

How do you generally pick from your forearm or from your wrist? Do you slant the pick at an angle when you pick or do you not angle the pick? Do you use economy picking or do you use alternative picking? Are you tensed up when in practice sessions or are you relaxed? Are you generally completely focused on what you're doing or does your mind wander off? How long do you practice a specific exercise for?

Pretty much what i'm declaring is what's the most common time duration that all your exercises consist of. Is your fretting hand doing the most minimum amount of movement that it can possibly do?

Do you have flying finger syndrome? Flying syndrome is when you're fretting fingers pretty much fly off the fret board when you're picking notes. Is you're picking hand making the most minimum amount of movement that it can possibly make?

Are you pivoting your wrist when you pick? Do you anchor your finger when picking? Does your picking hand make wide motions when you pick? Do you understand the science, and mechanics behind muscle memory?


Answer all these questions, and I can assure you that your problem will be solved.



EDIT- Check out this thread i'm about to post the link for it down below. I think it has most of the advice you'll need for building technique.


https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1658082

^ Link to thread
Last edited by Black_devils at Jun 23, 2015,
#4
I know it's been said by countless before, but I agree with the mantra of having good technique first, and I mean technique in the sense of "executing a task," meaning play something well at a slow pace, then speed it up. Guthrie Govan said something I love (I will paraphrase), "Music is a language. We never ask someone 'How do I learn how to talk fast?' We learn how to talk well first, then when we need to talk quickly to get our point across, the speed is there because we learned to speak correctly first."
#5
Quote by aknese4
I know it's been said by countless before, but I agree with the mantra of having good technique first, and I mean technique in the sense of "executing a task," meaning play something well at a slow pace, then speed it up. Guthrie Govan said something I love (I will paraphrase), "Music is a language. We never ask someone 'How do I learn how to talk fast?' We learn how to talk well first, then when we need to talk quickly to get our point across, the speed is there because we learned to speak correctly first."


No offense, but this is really bad advice, and I think this is what the O.P was implying about in his post; about people not giving detailed advice or factual evidence. Playing slowly isn't the only key; it's one part of the equation, but there's many more variables involved... He needs to make sure that he's doing everything correctly at first; or he'll still develop bad habits..

Practicing to get speed is about the repetition of implementing the right habits in other words. Making sure that you know for a fact that you've perfected a lick at whatever speed you're at using the correct picking technique. Utilizing the utmost minimum amount of movement that you can possibly, use. While also making sure your picking is being angled at a reasonable point.

Sure someone can play "Said" lick with really horrible technique; with their wrist all over the place or even worse picking from the forearm.. Not to mention this person could also have flying finger syndrome which is the utter most horrible thing to have.. Yet they could still manage to hit 130 at 16th's with whatever lick they've been working on for a while, but they won't be able to breach that speed because they're doing everything incorrectly in order to build speed, and precision.


It's counteractive in a way you don't only need to practice things slowly, but it needs to be done correctly, and perfectly. I see a lot of slow blues guitarist still making mistakes playing really slow.. Yeah we're human, but I must admit if that mantra were true then a lot of blues based guitarist wouldn't have shitty technique. Just because you can play accurately extremely slow doesn't mean you can do it faster.

Gaining speed is another beast when it comes down to these things. Ya know? Some people can play at slower speeds picking from just their forearm with, their pick flailing all over the place, but doing that isn't going to really help you develop the most efficient technique possible. Especially if one of your main goals is developing speed.
Last edited by Black_devils at Jun 23, 2015,
#6
To paraphrase what was said in another thread, speed is not a technique, it is the correct practice of technique.
Last edited by Jake P at Jun 23, 2015,
#7
Quote by Black_devils
No offense, but this is really bad advice, and I think this is what the O.P was implying about in his post; about people not giving detailed advice or factual evidence. Playing slowly isn't the only key; it's one part of the equation, but there's many more variables involved... He needs to make sure that he's doing everything correctly at first; or he'll still develop bad habits..


Exactly. Even in this very thread, the first response - and no offense to the respondent - was nothing useful. "Watch videos" "jam with friends"??? So doing that will make be able to play 200 BPM?

I've been playing 30+ years. It's not only that I need to learn good habits - I might need to unlearn some bad ones!

So I do in fact need facts and details.


Practicing to get speed is about the repetition of implementing the right habits in other words. Making sure that you know for a fact that you've perfected a lick at whatever speed you're at using the correct picking technique. Utilizing the utmost minimum amount of movement that you can possibly, use. While also making sure your picking is being angled at a reasonable point.


This seems reasonable. I guess the question becomes, how do I know my picking technique (for example) is correct? I would guess that, if I can't get any faster than a certain point, something is holding me back (I'm talking in the 140s or 150s, not 220 - that's upper limit for the entire race). So then I'd have to check and see if the picking technique is the problem - but then I've practiced it wrong getting up to that point, and have to unlearn and relearn...
#8
Quote by Black_devils


How do you generally pick from your forearm or from your wrist?


Wrist (aside from strumming chords of course).

Do you slant the pick at an angle when you pick or do you not angle the pick?


Angle the pick slightly (not "upside down" like Benson or Schon, but like most people).

Do you use economy picking or do you use alternative picking?


Both but I'm talking strictly about alternate picking here.

Are you tensed up when in practice sessions or are you relaxed?


Fairly relaxed. Initially I was tensing up with scales but as a built endurance and speed I'd only start to tense up at the very top speeds.

Are you generally completely focused on what you're doing or does your mind wander off?


Largely focused. I noticed early on even the slightest distractions would throw me off my game. There were days when I had something going on at work that would be on my mind and my practice sessions were just horrible. Again though, I've gotten to the point where distractions are less likely to affect me and I can stay focused for longer periods of time. This and the above I attribute to endurance, which I believe is an important part of the equation.

How long do you practice a specific exercise for?


Once through?

I play a scale up and back. Though I was playing them up and down the neck on each fret, so I might do one scale form 9 or 10 repetitions, then a different form the same about. With 11 forms that's about 100 reps give or take - over the course of 45 minutes to an hour.

Other specific exercises - once through. Maybe 4 or 5 times through for a lick. Or something that's a small 16th note pattern I might play 8 times in a row. I'd say each generally takes less than a minute. I've tried a metronome with a timer and I'd run something at 120 for 1 minute - that was a long time and I was fatigued at the end.

So that's one of my specific questions I'm asking: would it be better to practice a lick for a minute, rather than 5 licks in the same amount of time? Should I be devoting 1 minute, or 2 minutes to each exercise - or more? Should I concentrate on fewer exercises but spend more "quality time" on each?

Is your fretting hand doing the most minimum amount of movement that it can possibly do?


I'm not sure. I would say I do have some 'fly away' but when I'm playing at speed my fingers don't really fly away from the neck - there's not time! But I bet it could be more efficient.


Is you're picking hand making the most minimum amount of movement that it can possibly make?


Again, I'm not sure. It probably could do with reduced motion as well.

I do know this - I can play pull-offs faster than I can pick notes, and I can pick notes on a single string faster than I can play with my left hand. That tells me that there's a synchronization issue between the hands. That's one of the reasons I've been doing all the scales - to try and synchronize the hands.



Are you pivoting your wrist when you pick?


Not sure what you mean. My wrist "swivels" essentially.

Do you anchor your finger when picking?


I haven't been. Lately, at faster speeds, I've been finding my pinkie up against the pickguard - in fact, last week it was sore until I realized that's what I'd been doing and that's probably what caused it. But usually my hand just floats above or rests above the strings.


Does your picking hand make wide motions when you pick?


No I don't think so.

Do you understand the science, and mechanics behind muscle memory?


Not in any detail. I know what it is, but that's about the extent of my familiarity with the "science" of it.


Answer all these questions, and I can assure you that your problem will be solved.



EDIT- Check out this thread i'm about to post the link for it down below. I think it has most of the advice you'll need for building technique.


https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1658082

^ Link to thread


I'll check out the thread.

Thanks,
Steve
#9
I created a free 60 min course called "Unleash Your Speed" that you'd probably like; advice and examples for legato, speed picking, sweeping and tapping. Get it at GuitarFoundry.com if you're interested. With speed it's all about finding your "edge" and consistently pushing your tempo. People are usually too worried about perfection; it's like lifting weights: if you can bench 100, who cares if you can do it perfectly for ten years, you're not making any gains. Put an extra 15 on there, and you'll be able to do a few reps more - it won't be perfect, but two weeks later it'll be just like putting up 100.