How to Play Faster Part I - Exercises

In this article (and video lesson) I show you how you can get the most out of your practice routines by challenging your hands in more musical ways.

Ultimate Guitar
Hi. In this article I will discuss exercises to increase speed and finger dexterity. My previous lesson/article on developing chops got quite the negative response, so I figured that I'd better address each single tip contained in that lesson by means of a video. This text is a shorter version of what I say in the video, which I recommend watching video for visualization purposes.

At the core of this lesson is my skepticism concerning the chromatic exercise as a means to develop speed. If you've been playing for a while, your fingers need a bigger challenge than the 1-2-3-4 pattern. This is easily fixed by increasing the intervals or in this case, the frets between the fingers. Try combinations such as 1-3-4-5 or 1-3-4-6 instead.

The other thing is that if you're playing the chromatic exercise at 240 bpm, you might think you're also supposed to play everything else at that speed. The problem is, the chromatic exercise endorses a 4-note per string pattern, which is very natural for both hands ("easy"), while most scalar runs out there will force you to play 3 notes per string. The difference will be noticeable.

The solution is rather simple: instead of practicing chromatic exercises, or 4-note-per-string exercises, practice rather major scales or the myxolydian mode all over the neck (in all keys). You may also practice playing minor scales across all six strings to the beat of a metronome.

Another advantage of this approach is that your practice session will sound more musical. You might also end up becoming familiar with new fretting patterns (don't forget to use your little finger).

Here's the video. It'd be great if you could watch it from start to end, while you have your guitar in your hands and thus are able imitate whatever I am doing. In case you like the video and want to support my teaching endeavors, subscribe to the channel and share the video. Rock on.

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P.S.: this is the first of several videos on how to take your technique to the next level. Next episode coming up soon. Follow me on Facebook to stay up to date on new lessons and music:

About the author
By Miguel Marquez. Facebook page.

9 comments sorted by best / new / date

    if you want to be flexible don't place your thumb like that
    Pay attention to the thumb placement of guys such as Guthrie Govan and John Petrucci...
    Oh really, pay attention to Shawn lane thumb placement and look at his speed compared to others.
    You should realize that on the electric guitar, thumb placement tends to be flexible. When playing wide stretches, then yes, you need your thumb to be placed on a certain position, but when playing less demanding intervals, then it's perfectly fine to place it on the upper side of the back of the neck. Shawn's speed came mainly from his superb picking hand technique, not from his thumb placement anyway.
    Thats not all true imo, your hands play together, thumb placement thats kinda a grey area but to say his speed comes from mostly his picking hands technique isnt exactly all true. I do think your video was killer though and for anyone to say your thumb needs to be here ot there is just a sad misconception, not that its untrue but I THINK its what suits you most personally, the way you play isnt wrong or bad its just what works for you.
    I'm just saying that the electric guitarists I admire seem to have a very liberal thumb placement: adjusting it according to their needs. If I am going to play a wide stretch of 7 frets, then yes, my thumb is placed classical style.
    Thanks for the tips. Been wanting to build some speed gradually and been practicing chromatic exercises for a while. Time to switch it up to something more familiar in music.
    There is some really useful stuff in there and you are obviously a great player and can explain your ideas really well. My only criticism would be that it may be good to plug into an amp (just a clean amp with little volume) so that we can hear what you are playing a little easier. You play each example so quickly that its almost impossible to hear the notes that you are actually playing. Also, chop off the fingers of the person sitting at your computer double-clicking the mouse every 20 seconds, it's so close to the mic that it's coming across louder than your guitar... :p Looking forward to more of these as I really do think your ideas and explanations are great. Thanks for sharing!!
    I was on vacation abroad when I came up with the concept for that video so that's why I couldn't amplify my guitar. I'm glad you liked the video despite the clicking of the camera (auto-focus).