#1
I've been playing guitar for around 12 years and feel that I plateaud a long time ago and would specifically like to improve my speed when playing lead.

Around a month ago I starting practicing 7 days a week using the following schedule:
1. Two octave, three note per string major scales, root note on 6th string, from F major through to C# major, ascending and descending
2. Same as 1, but minor
3. Same as 1, but root note on 5th string, from Bb major through to F# major
4. Same as 3, but minor
5. Chromatic scale, 4 notes per string, starting on first fret on 6th string, ending on 12th fret on 1st string

I am practicing on an acoustic guitar, with 4 notes for every beat of the metronome. The schedule takes around 10 minutes a day.
Starting at 60bpm, I've been increasing the speed of the metronome by 3bpm every week. At the end of the practice session every day, I also do a "speed test" where I set my metronome to increase by 3bpm every four bars, and see how far I can push myself.

I'd be interested in any feedback people may have, such as:
Am I increasing my speed too quickly? Or too slowly?
Are there other scales or exercises I should be practicing instead?
Any other feedback

Thanks!
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#2
Both speed and scales are incidental acquisitions that come from learning to play songs; they are neither the direct paths nor should they be held as the motivations in learning to play. 

Rather than pushing for speed, let it come as the natural result of learning to play songs.

Rather than playing scales, recognize in the lines you learn and improvise for songs that they are comprised of parts of scales.

Your focus should be totally on learning songs because everything you want to understand and be able to execute on the instrument is in the songs you want to be able to play.
Quote by reverb66
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#3
PlusPaul
Quote by PlusPaul
Both speed and scales are incidental acquisitions that come from learning to play songs; they are neither the direct paths nor should they be held as the motivations in learning to play. 

Rather than pushing for speed, let it come as the natural result of learning to play songs.

Rather than playing scales, recognize in the lines you learn and improvise for songs that they are comprised of parts of scales.

Your focus should be totally on learning songs because everything you want to understand and be able to execute on the instrument is in the songs you want to be able to play.


As mentioned in my post, I've been playing guitar for 12 years and have learned plenty of songs in that time. Right now, the majority of my playing time is spent improvising and writing songs.
Due to the lack of time I have in the evenings (and due to my nature), I need something that is structured and repeatable every day.
Adam Black 12 String
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#4
I was trying to be nice, but I should have been clearer in my answer... 
No, you are not practicing correctly. You are focused on the wrong things (speed and scales).
Quote by reverb66
I'm pretty sure the Bible requires that you play through a tube amp in Texas.
#5
Quote by PlusPaul
I was trying to be nice, but I should have been clearer in my answer... 
No, you are not practicing correctly. You are focused on the wrong things (speed and scales).

I have to agree. If you have been playing 12 years and you want to increase your speed just learn some faster songs, and yes, use a metronome for it if you like, but much better to play along with the original - and the other thing to do is join a band or find some other way of playing with other people.
#6
Quote by PlusPaul
I was trying to be nice, but I should have been clearer in my answer... 
No, you are not practicing correctly. You are focused on the wrong things (speed and scales).


What would you suggest I focus on instead?
Adam Black 12 String
Alesis X Guitar
Epiphone DR-200ce
Italia Maranello Standard
Fender American Deluxe Strat

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Behringer UD100
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#7
Quote by PSimonR
I have to agree. If you have been playing 12 years and you want to increase your speed just learn some faster songs, and yes, use a metronome for it if you like, but much better to play along with the original - and the other thing to do is join a band or find some other way of playing with other people.


Again, just to reiterate, I'm not looking to improve my speed to play other people's songs, I'm looking to do it to improve my speed when improvising and writing my own songs.
My question was "Am I practicing to increase my speed correctly?" not "Should I be practicing to increase my speed?"
Adam Black 12 String
Alesis X Guitar
Epiphone DR-200ce
Italia Maranello Standard
Fender American Deluxe Strat

Digitech Whammy
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Behringer UD100
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Roland Cube 15
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#8
So practice improvising faster, if you play scales when improvising then it does not sound good, although it does help you learn them - but I assume you know them now. Look at Fretjam on Youtube for tips on impro and scale playing.

e.g.
#9
dwally89 Just spent about 20 minutes writing something, and a click of the mouse zapped it.  Send me a private message with your email address, and I'll send you some great exercises for speed and accuracy building.

60 bpm is too slow for 1/16ths, unless investigating your body responses while playing ... then it's way too fast.

I use acoustic a lot, and when I practice technique, I'll use 90, then 120, then 160-170 bpm (1/16th notes), either across strings or along1 or 2 strings.

But this is just a means to an end ... I almost never play scale patterns ... they just sound like exercises.

But I  get where you're coming from.  Don't forget there's a load of satisfaction in practicing new ways to apply various musical principles, learn new stuff (i've been playing over 40 years now, and I understand harmony etc inside out, but am still finding new voicings, progressions, phrasing, rhythmic experiments, melodic approaches  ...
#10
Quote by dwally89
What would you suggest I focus on instead?

Post #2, "Your focus should be totally on...
Quote by reverb66
I'm pretty sure the Bible requires that you play through a tube amp in Texas.
#11
Quote by jerrykramskoy
dwally89 Just spent about 20 minutes writing something, and a click of the mouse zapped it.  Send me a private message with your email address, and I'll send you some great exercises for speed and accuracy building.

60 bpm is too slow for 1/16ths, unless investigating your body responses while playing ... then it's way too fast.

I use acoustic a lot, and when I practice technique, I'll use 90, then 120, then 160-170 bpm (1/16th notes), either across strings or along1 or 2 strings.

But this is just a means to an end ... I almost never play scale patterns ... they just sound like exercises.

But I  get where you're coming from.  Don't forget there's a load of satisfaction in practicing new ways to apply various musical principles, learn new stuff (i've been playing over 40 years now, and I understand harmony etc inside out, but am still finding new voicings, progressions, phrasing, rhythmic experiments, melodic approaches  ...


Could you send these to me as well?
#12
I guess one has to ask why you are looking to build speed. You say:

I'm looking to do it to improve my speed when improvising and writing my own songs.


Ok, so what about other people's songs? Can you play those to a satisfactory speed? If so, is the lack of speed because you're calculating stuff in your head which is slowing you down (while improvising)? Or do you simply not have the dexterity to go as fast as you'd like to go (a physical, rather than mental limitation)?

Assuming it is a physical limitation, which would make sense considering the exercise you are doing, why do you think this will help you progress past your plateau? Is speed what you feel is your defining limitation is as a guitarist? What about rhythm and different time signatures? What about theory? What about different genres? The use of harmony? Chord tone soloing? Etc...

I'm simply asking, not to be rude, but to help us understand where you are coming from, and what exercises might be as beneficial, if not more so, than speed exercises to help you become a more accomplished player.
#14
Quote by gweddle.nz
I guess one has to ask why you are looking to build speed. You say:


Ok, so what about other people's songs? Can you play those to a satisfactory speed? If so, is the lack of speed because you're calculating stuff in your head which is slowing you down (while improvising)? Or do you simply not have the dexterity to go as fast as you'd like to go (a physical, rather than mental limitation)?

Assuming it is a physical limitation, which would make sense considering the exercise you are doing, why do you think this will help you progress past your plateau? Is speed what you feel is your defining limitation is as a guitarist? What about rhythm and different time signatures? What about theory? What about different genres? The use of harmony? Chord tone soloing? Etc...

I'm simply asking, not to be rude, but to help us understand where you are coming from, and what exercises might be as beneficial, if not more so, than speed exercises to help you become a more accomplished player.

A lot of good stuff to think on here...drilling a bunch of exercises won't help you improvise if the root of the  problem is you can't think fast enough (which it often is)....you'll never hit the next note faster than the time it takes you to figure out what the next note should actually be. And even if it is purely a technical issue there's far more effective things to practice than straight scale runs. Personally I think arpeggios are going to be much more helpful to your daily grind-type exercise, but you need to throw in a healthy dose of melodic patterns and solo passages which I suspect jerry will have sent you.

Always be thinking of context when you practice - ask yourself "how will I be able to use this when I'm making music?"
Actually called Mark!

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#15
I've been in this position over the years where I think I've plateaued and struggle to figure out what to do. I agree with pretty much everyone that focusing on scales and patterns has its place but its not the way to improve your speed especially in the context of improvising. That takes playing. Lots and lots of playing. Get a looper and loop a riff or chord progression and then play over that. If you are working on a specific scale then improvise just using that. Download iReal Pro to get tons of backing tracks that you can modify to your taste and needs. Play out of your comfort zone. And record everything. Listen back and find the bits you like and transcribe them to build up a personal library of licks. Then play those licks in other keys and positions and tempos. But seriously, the most important thing is to just play. Speed is like dynamics, its just another tool used to make music.
Last edited by rmoskal74 at Jun 26, 2017,
#17
Quote by jerrykramskoy
dwally89 Just spent about 20 minutes writing something, and a click of the mouse zapped it.  Send me a private message with your email address, and I'll send you some great exercises for speed and accuracy building.

60 bpm is too slow for 1/16ths, unless investigating your body responses while playing ... then it's way too fast.

I use acoustic a lot, and when I practice technique, I'll use 90, then 120, then 160-170 bpm (1/16th notes), either across strings or along1 or 2 strings.

But this is just a means to an end ... I almost never play scale patterns ... they just sound like exercises.

But I  get where you're coming from.  Don't forget there's a load of satisfaction in practicing new ways to apply various musical principles, learn new stuff (i've been playing over 40 years now, and I understand harmony etc inside out, but am still finding new voicings, progressions, phrasing, rhythmic experiments, melodic approaches  ...

I started at 60bpm (better to start to slow than too fast, right?), and over the weeks have been speeding up, and am now at 75bpm. There's no way I could play scales (comfortably) at four notes per beat at 90, 120, or 160bpm.
Will send you PM
Adam Black 12 String
Alesis X Guitar
Epiphone DR-200ce
Italia Maranello Standard
Fender American Deluxe Strat

Digitech Whammy
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Behringer UD100
Boss RC-2

Roland Cube 15
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Sound City 20 Watt Valve
#18
Quote by gweddle.nz
I guess one has to ask why you are looking to build speed. You say:


Ok, so what about other people's songs? Can you play those to a satisfactory speed? If so, is the lack of speed because you're calculating stuff in your head which is slowing you down (while improvising)? Or do you simply not have the dexterity to go as fast as you'd like to go (a physical, rather than mental limitation)?

Assuming it is a physical limitation, which would make sense considering the exercise you are doing, why do you think this will help you progress past your plateau? Is speed what you feel is your defining limitation is as a guitarist? What about rhythm and different time signatures? What about theory? What about different genres? The use of harmony? Chord tone soloing? Etc...

I'm simply asking, not to be rude, but to help us understand where you are coming from, and what exercises might be as beneficial, if not more so, than speed exercises to help you become a more accomplished player.

I guess it depends what songs... Nowadays I tend to mainly play acoustic, although I do try and remember to play electric every so often. When playing acoustic, I tend to mainly play chords and sing over it, improvise, play along to backing tracks, and use my loop pedal.
You make a good point about the calculating stuff in my head - sometimes I feel that my brain can't keep up with my fingers. Not sure if this is due to lack of practice, or just a limitation?
Regarding dexterity/physical limitations, I have wondered if that might be holding me back. I hoped that with regular, consistent practice I'll at least be able to improve a bit.
I'd say I have decent rhythm, and can play in 4/4, 3/4 and 6/8 - learning other time signatures doesn't interest me much. Theory is one of my strong points - I know the 7 main modes, harmonic minor, what chords are in which key, how to figure out what key a song is in, transposing, secondary dominants, etc.
Adam Black 12 String
Alesis X Guitar
Epiphone DR-200ce
Italia Maranello Standard
Fender American Deluxe Strat

Digitech Whammy
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Behringer UD100
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#19
Quote by steven seagull
A lot of good stuff to think on here...drilling a bunch of exercises won't help you improvise if the root of the  problem is you can't think fast enough (which it often is)....you'll never hit the next note faster than the time it takes you to figure out what the next note should actually be. And even if it is purely a technical issue there's far more effective things to practice than straight scale runs. Personally I think arpeggios are going to be much more helpful to your daily grind-type exercise, but you need to throw in a healthy dose of melodic patterns and solo passages which I suspect jerry will have sent you.

Always be thinking of context when you practice - ask yourself "how will I be able to use this when I'm making music?"

If the problem is that I can't think fast enough (which it might be), is that something that I have to live with, or is it something that I can work on?
Adam Black 12 String
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Fender American Deluxe Strat

Digitech Whammy
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Behringer UD100
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Roland Cube 15
Marshall DSL-401
Sound City 20 Watt Valve
#20
Well, I'd prefer to let one of the more experienced players answer that as I'm not a great improviser. Though it may help to know what it is about improv that slows you down (e.g. deciding on the next chord, finding an arpeggio, finding the notes you are hearing in your head, etc....).
#22
Quote by dwally89
If the problem is that I can't think fast enough (which it might be), is that something that I have to live with, or is it something that I can work on?

Absolutely, the mental part of playing the guitar is as important as the physical part - and just like the physical part it's something you can train and improve. The problem is a lot of players seem to get tunnel vision and approach playing the guitar primarily as a physical pursuit, whereas when it comes to making music there's actually nothing physical about it at all.

If there's no music in your head then realistically no music is going to come out of you, whether that's by singing, playing the guitar or whatever. You need to work on your ear as much as your fingers so start working on learning songs by ear, and for the stuff you already know really listen to it and make sure you're building a connection between the sounds you hear and the physical actions. Same goes for scales and exercises, make extra effort to listen and recognise the relationships between the notes you okay, and mentally connect them to whatever it is your fingers are doing.
Actually called Mark!

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#23
There is so much absurdly good advice in this thread, it's unbelievable... 

Speed is a byproduct, not an end, and the means to it is just play more. Because chances are you're going to spend ridiculous amounts of time looking for some holy grail of an exercise to improve your playing only to realize that, in that time you spent searching, you could just have been playing and improving instead. 

For something more concrete, what I like to do is take a song that's a bit beyond my ability, work out a section of it so that I can play it slowly, and focus on that. This way, it's pushing me to improve my articulation, speed, accuracy, and string control, but also teaching me something musical about voicing, phrasing, and intent. 

“We’re built of contradictions, all of us. It’s those opposing forces that give us strength, like an arch, each block pressing the next. Give me a man whose parts are all aligned in agreement and I’ll show you madness. We walk a narrow path, insanity to each side. A man without contradictions to balance him will soon veer off.”



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