Building Speed 01. Alternate Picking

This lesson will hopefully help you overcome any obstacles you may have in alternate picking and help you build speed. String skipping is included. The metronome will also be discussed here.

Ultimate Guitar
Hey guys. This is the first lesson in a series on speed building. In this particular lesson I will discuss many obstacles that I have had and you might have when practicing alternate picking. Whether it's changing strings or just getting the technique down, you may find something here. I will give you a helpful warm up I use to build coordination in your picking hand, and several other exercises to build coordination. This will also be my last lesson for about two months. I'm leaving over seas to visit family and work on my own guitar playing. I wanted to do one last lesson before I leave and I thought that since I get many emails on speed building that people will benefit more than if I finished my "Shred Guitar Lesson" series. I hope you all will continue to build technique and skill. I will continue to keep up with my account here, so expect comments. Alright, let's get into this. First, I will show you an example I use to warm-up my picking hand and increase coordination when changing strings. You will only use your picking hand. In the example below an "X" will be used instead of actual numbers. This means to mute the string you play. Use very strict alternate picking for this exercise. Building coordination can help you overcome many obstacles in alternate picking and ultimately gain speed. Good luck. Ex. 1
When playing this warm-up make sure to keep your strokes even and precise. Also, when you finish the string skipped portion start on the B-string and repeat the exercises. You can also play on the other strings until you get to the low E-string. Now, we will work on coordination between picking hand and fretting hand. This will also help to build speed in the long run. I had a hard time with speed due to this exact obstacle. You might have the same issue. This exercise is in the style of Yngwie J. Malmsteen. It really helps build coordination between hands. Here it is: Ex. 2
Alright. Those two exercises are great to build coordination in hands which helps you build up speed. Think of that last exercise in note groups of six. Now, I will give you an obstacle that many guitarists have when switching strings. Lately, I have gotten an e-mail from a fellow UG member telling me that he had trouble switching strings when playing the three-note-per-string scales. I thought I would share the advice and answer I gave him here. When you have a scale fragment such as this: Ex. 3a
And you have trouble switching between the two strings what you can do is isolate the area you are having trouble with. If you have trouble switching from the D-string to the G-string you can maximize your practice time and correct your problem faster by just playing this: Ex. 3b
Once you have that movement down then the rest of the scale fragment should be no problem. Alright. Now, let's talk about the metronome. The metronome keeps a steady noise going at a steady beat. It can be a beep or a click noise. I like the beep personally. The metronome can help you keep time and gain speed. I'm just going to tell you how I use it. After I warm up I set the metronome at around 60 beats per minute (bpm). I play whichever exercise I happen to be working on in quarter notes. Next, I play the same exact exercise in eighth notes. Then, in sixteenth notes. After I finish with that I bump up the speed of the metronome up five bpm. Then play a different, more complicated exercise in quarter notes. Then repeat the rest of the process until I am warmed up and at my speed limit. Then, when I reach my limit I increase it by just one bpm. It might be slow progress, but your muscles will easily be able to get used to the new speed. Because of this it is easy to gain speed and without tearing up your muscles. That's pretty much all I use my metronome for. Now, I will give you one last exercise to help you gain speed and coordination. It will incorporate string skipping, but it will be a simple exercise to build coordination. I believe that coordination is the key to gaining speed. Also hand synchronization is equally important. Remember to use strict alternate picking in this exercise. I promise if you work on coordination and use the metronome trick I taught here you will gain speed. Here's the exercise: Ex. 4
There you have it. Work on these coordination exercises and use that metronome and I promise you will gain speed. I will not post any lessons for quite a while, so work on this lesson and others to build techniques and become a better guitar player. I hope you all get better. I love you all who read my lessons and learn something. In the next lesson in this series I will teach you legato speed building. Don't forget to rate and comment. Also check out my demo of "Red Skies" and rate it too. See you guys in two months :D

21 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Good lesson, a lot of beginners want to be fast in 2 days. with this lesson will let them practice at their own pace and distance and practice correctly with the right bpm and up. cheers!
    The usual vague information about speed building... not once was it mentioned about how slow you must go to understand the release of tension. Really that is the most important part... when you slow everything down and become aware of how tense you are and learn to relax, then building speed comes naturally with repetition. This is the idea of "perfect practice"... Good effort on the article, but definitely incomplete. Regards,
    Thank the lord, Allah, buddah...whatever it is you believe in. I cannot stress, over a keyboard that is, how important this is to building speed. I wish i would have know this years ago. Maybe i wouldn't be as sloppy as i am now. I now have to go back over everything i "know" in order to become clean, fast, and efficient. Thanks!!
    I really have problems with alternate picking probably because I was brought up on economy picking.
    Darth Crow
    A big thanks for this lesson! Looks like it might be just what I have been looking for!
    Thanks for the lesson JacobReedShred. However, I can't help but feel the fellow UGer who said he/she had trouble with string skipping was referring to inside picking as a result of beginning exercises 3a and 3b with an upstroke. Personally, I have no issue playing those exercises quickly beginning with a downstroke, but at high speeds I definitely would struggle starting with an upstroke. Just a thought.
    They specifically said from changing strings. If you get the string change down then the rest will b no problem. Thanks
    wow, I wasn't even looking for something like this but it is really helpful - I think it's important to have a drill that you can keep repeating to yourself just to build up the required muscles
    Thanks for the metronome tip, with that i'm ready to practice the flight of the bumblebee
    This is a really badass lesson! I'm left handed and always had trouble with my picking and fretting hand because many people influence to play right handed. Allows me to go at my own pace but still sound pretty cool. It is much appreciated.