Bear with me; this is a bit long winded.

I've been playing guitar for about 15 years. I'm an okay guitar player, but I fall short when it comes to solo passages that are very fast.

I've tried, at various times, to work on my speed with a metronome, but I think I must have flaws in my physical technique that prevent me from making progress.

I can pick fast - but there's no synchronization between my left and right hands when I do this. It seems like up to a certain slow speed I can keep the two hands synchronized, but to get to the next level of speed I flail, and that sounds like crap.

I've taken lessons before and watched instructional videos, and one constant that I've noticed is that quite a bit of time is spent showing what notes to hit, but very little time is devoted to describing the proper way to rest the pick hand, or the proper angle to place the fret hand, or the proper position for the thumb, etc. There are also a lot of discussions in various literature about "relaxing", but no one goes to any effort to describe proper hand positions/arm positions that enable proper relaxation.

Recently I've upped my practice schedule; I practice daily now because of an opportunity to start a band, and I've been analyzing my hand positions to see where my major flaws are.

First Problem: Pick Hand Pinky

I anchor my pinky on my pick hand. I don't like this, but the alternative feels even worse. The worst aspect of anchoring is that at certain angles, it forces pressure on my pinky which causes tension in my pick hand which prevents me from properly relaxing; all things that prevent me from improving.

I've seen various players who don't anchor, but do rest their pinkies on their guitar bodies (John Petrucci, for example). His pinky seems to glide effortlessly across his guitar body; it is not affixed to it and slides freely.

I've tried to turn my pinky inward - to curl it more - to reduce the pressure on it against the guitar body. And this seems to achieve the desired effect, but I can't seem to maintain it for very long before the pinky straightens out and becomes rigid with the added pressure against the guitar.

Is there a trick to this? Those of you who rest your pinky against the guitar body but do not anchor it - do you have suggestions/tips for how to achieve this?

Second Problem: Fret Thumb

This seems to be something that nobody talks about, but after analyzing my own thumb and comparing the way I position it during certain passages vs. the way other guitar players position their thumbs, I'm of the mind that I am always doing the right thing with my thumb. And no one has ever said to me, "Your thumb should be here at all times," or "when you play on this part of the neck, your thumb should be this way, and when you play here, your thumb should be this way."

Are there any hard and fast rules about what to do with your thumb against the back of the neck? Are there certain things you can do to improve speed and the quality of your tone/fretting ability? What are the best techniques?

Last Question

Those of you who have achieved speed - what was the tipping point? What did get stuck on, and what exercises did you do that got you beyond the sticking point? What bmp was the hardest for you to overcome? What kind of time did you have to dedicate to achieve what you wanted to achieve?

I know there are no fast solutions. I'm ready to dedicate time to reaching my speed/precision goals, but no amount of practice is going to help if my basic techniques and positions are flawed to begin with.

Looking for any advice I can gather on these topics. Feel free to e-mail me if the forum doesn't suit you (cb.holmes@gmail.com)

Thanks everyone,

-Chris (and no, I'm not related to that Chris Holmes)
i dont know about the pinky problem, but with the thumb there is no set rule where you have to keep it on the back of the guitar because sometimes to reach certain frets it is either impossible, or painful
There are some other posts that address these problems, but here's whay I think:

1. The other post I read on this topic said that eventually, it will benefit you to stop anchoring your pinky to your guitar. However, people brought up examples of virtuoso guitarists that anchor, so it's sounds like it's up to you. I think that it's probably one of those fine-tuning issues that help you get form 15 notes per second to 17, or whatever, so unless you're counting every millisecond, it might not matter. You should just get comfortable playing with whatever style you feel suites you. Bear in mind, though, I don't usually play for speed.

2. I can't figure out if there' s a huge issue when it comes to thumb placement. The only thing I can figure out is these two problems:
I. The problem of bending. I've heard it's much easier to bend towards your thumb, which only makes sense when you're thumb's placed beside the fretboard, with your palm almost flat against the neck, as opposed to planting it on the back of the neck like I do. I can still do bends, but theoretically, you should be able to bend farther using the muscles in your hand that control your grip (which are what you use when your thumb is next to the fretboard) as opposed to your finger muscles alone. (which is what you use when you plant your thumb on the back of the neck)
II. Silencing the base strings. If you play on the higher sounding strings, your low E and, to a lesser extent, your A string will begin to resonate and will cause background noise. If you plant your thumb, the best way to silence this is to dampen the low strings with your palm to stop them from vibrating and then move your palm when you want to play the low strings. It's easier than it sounds with practice. If you keep your thumb on the fretboard, however, you can dampen the bottom strings with your thumb, which might free up your right hand to pick faster. Again, I don't know how this works in practice, but it might not even make that much of a difference.

3. No idea.

Hope this helps.