The Secret to High Speed Blues Guitar Lead Playing

Chop the licks into small pieces and learn them step by step.

Ultimate Guitar
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to follow a guitarist's fingers when they play a high speed blues lick?

Sometimes it even seems impossible what they play. In the following article you will learn how to achieve such a level of speed in your lead playing. The secret is to chop the licks into small pieces and learn them step by step.

In the following clip I am going to teach you high paced licks in E.

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Below you can see the first lick I played.

Method to Clarify Complicated High Speed Licks

High speed licks might seem very complex, but the technical aspects behind them are actually not that challenging. In order to understand these high speed licks, it's essential to divide them into small parts. You should realize that these licks are not so challenging, once you are acquainted with their technical aspects. As soon as you know how the lick is built, it all comes down to training.

Many legendary blues guitar players, for example SRV, created licks on the lower notes and they repeated them a few times. These licks are often very recognizable. The last lick in the video was such a type of lick. I'm going to begin with explaining that one right now. So let's take a closer look to that particular lick.

First of all, we are going to analyze the left hand. Notice that the lick is derived from a very commonly used scale, i.e. the open position of the blues scale in E. This is a guitarist favorite given the possibility to implement open strings. In case you are not acquainted with this one yet, here it is in the tablature below:

Left and Right Hand Movement Efficiency

Considering the left hand, this lick is not very challenging. So we are going to focus on the right hand now. Inside picking is the best choice of picking in the case of this lick in particular. Now, you might ask yourself why. The answer is that inside picking does not involve many different movements. In contrast to inside picking, alternate picking does require a lot of movement variation. Inside picking contributes to a higher speed with more ease and it decreases the chances of making mistakes. Definitely train this lick by using the best choice of picking pattern, which is inside picking in this case.

About the Author:
Antony Reynaert is a blues guitarist and teacher from Belgium. He teaches locally as well as online through his online blues guitar lessons website.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Starting off playing classical on a traditional nylon stringed guitar, there are two main things that I've found increase my speed for blues on electric: 1. The higher pressure required to correctly 'fret' a string on an acoustic means that I can now play the lighter pressure strings one handed (just left)- not hammering. 2. Playing without a plectrum is needed on many pieces, so when playing single (few) stringed notes at a time you can move from one note to the next superbly fast without moving your wrist. I recommend to anyone who has access to an acoustic play it regularly for these advantages, it is well worth it.
    I can see how playing an acoustic (or low electric on a guitar with crappy setup) can strengthen your fingers...but obviously a good guitar with low action and plenty of volume and distortion for sustain is how the even the greatest players make high speed hammering and pulling look effortless and easy. But yes its cool to start your technique on crappy equipment but even the guitar gods will not sound as good playing leads on crappy (or acoustic) guitars.