Misconceptions Of Practicing For Speed

It is a fact that the majority of lead guitarists want to increase the speed of their playing.

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It is a fact that the majority of lead guitarists want to increase the speed of their playing. Having virtuoso playing ability is a wonderful way to add a new tool to your arsenal as a musician. However this tool is also one of the most difficult to attain. There have been many articles written on the topic and the most common advice that is often heard is practice slowly and use a metronome. Of course this is very good advice that should definitely be followed. However, there are a great number of struggling guitarists out there who use a metronome daily and practice a lot, yet are still frustrated with their lack of progress. Some of them decide that they don't have talent to attain such high level of ability and give up, while others continue in hopes that one day their work will pay off. From my experience, I feel that there is one very common misconception about practicing for speed development and I will do my best to clear it up with this article. The part where most people go wrong is in their thinking. Most guitarists assume that speed is something that can be attained directly as in: I'm going to practice this lick for 20 minutes and try to play it faster than I could before. Even those players who practice slowly and then try to increase their speed using a metronome find that a lot of times this approach fails to bring the results that they are looking for. The root of the problem is in the fact that players focus all of their energy on the end result (being able to play fast) and this is making them miss everything they need to see in order to achieve it. I will explain what I mean. The problem is in the believing that speed comes directly as a result of practicing. A much more effective way of thinking about it would be to say that practicing should involve becoming very focused on the physical aspects required to play a certain phrase, and speed will naturally develop as a result. Stop! Go back and re-read the last sentence several times and think about it! After the motions become smooth and well ingrained in the muscle memory, they become so easy to execute then you don't even have to think about playing fast, the fingers just do it themselves. A lot of players struggle with speed because their movements are often imprecise and full of tension. Tension is a body's natural reaction to something it is not familiar with. When I had a consultation on virtuoso picking technique with Ney Mello he told me that simply trying to play fast is pointless, because if you don't know the motions, you are telling your hands to speed up something that they have never even learned!, You may be wondering: what specifically should I be focusing on? You can start by thinking about the left hand fingering, the picking pattern, the motions of the right hand, and monitoring levels of tension throughout the body. This very well may require you to practice even slower than you probably ever have before with a metronome. After you work these things out for the lick that you are having trouble with, then you can pull out the metronome and pay attention to keeping your technique the same as you did when you were working out the correct physical motions of playing it. I can see some students saying that using this approach would require too much unnecessary focus and concentration on something as superficial as technique. Well unfortunately, there is no way around this. If you want to become a great player, you have to put forth a lot of mental energy into mastering the instrument on a physical level. Having great technique will enable you to express your musical ideas exactly the way you hear them. So concentration and mental focus is a price well worth paying to acquire this ability. Also this approach to practicing should be utilized anytime you are having trouble playing something and not only to improve speed. After you feel like you really have a handle on the motions of playing a lick at a super slow tempo you can pull out your metronome and begin a slow work up through the tempos. If at any point you feel that you've hit a plateau (you can't move up past a certain BPM marking for example), go back to the super slow practice without the metronome and reinforce the correct movements into the muscle memory. This is a very different mindset than simply trying over and over again to push through the plateau in ability. The point is to get you to think about what you are doing What I learned from experience was that speed was really a byproduct of accuracy and consistency in learning the motions. After you practice in this way for awhile you will notice that the passage is becoming easier to play and you are able to play it faster than before. Why did this happen? Because the motions are now so well ingrained in your muscles and also because you took the time to really pay attention to playing accurately using the most efficient technique. Once again this a very different mindset than sitting down and mindlessly playing the lick over and over to the metronome. This approach may bring you limited results in the beginning, but it will not bring you virtuoso levels of technique. So the main point that I want you to take away from this article is that when you sit down to practice something to the metronome, make sure that you think about what you are doing. Pay attention to the fingering and picking that you use. Depending on the phrase you may want to use different mindsets with the right hand that you would for other things. This is important to notice and it is important to practice something slow very accurately with attention to the exact details if you are going to play it fast. This is what I mean when I say that speed is a by product of accuracy and consistency. This seems very obvious but a lot of players use different techniques when the practice a lick at a slow speed and then try to play it fast using different motions that their body hasn't learned yet! No wonder that the rate of progress has diminished. And by the way, this applies to not only picking through scales, but also to techniques such as sweep picking and legato (and essentially any other musical technique) So I hope that you understand now that speed should not be a direct goal of your practice, it will develop by itself if you take the time to learn the motions that you use when you play guitar. Remember: focusing on speed as a primary objective will make you miss everything you need to achieve it. Good luck with your practicing and playing! Mike Philippov is a solo guitarist, music composer and instructor. He has published his instructional articles on many guitar websites that are read by thousands of guitar students worldwide. His music was performed at recitals held at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Mike has also taught at several guitar clinics including one that was held at Oak Brook Academy of Music and Art in Chicago IL. Mike is also a co-author of several instructional books: The Ultimate Sweep Picker's Guide, and Serious Improvement for the Developing Guitarist. Currently Mike is busy working on several projects including composing and recording a solo CD featuring music in the neo-classical and progressive rock styles as well as more instructional products that are in the works at this time. Please visit Mikephilippov.com and sign up for a free newsletter which is sent out periodically and contains helpful tips and advice for guitar players.

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    chocobo rally
    sorry guys but everyone is focusingtoo much on tecniques whilst forgetting to learn theory i decided to start slow and i have made impecable progress since i decided to learn my stuff before playing it im guessing a lot of people here have watched a vidoe lesson by the like of malmsteen or mustaine and listened to what they say and gone: wtf is he talking about that was my motive and now i can learn a lot quicker and easier than ever before. dont think im nagging but learn your theory!
    ontherun
    The faster you play the shittier it sounds. Whether you hit the right notes or not! Someone please put an end to this "virtuoso" shit. It's smelling up the music pool. Jimi Hendrix was a virtuoso. That's about it.
    trueguitarhero
    w00t, i'm gonna have to give this a try. I might finally break that wall I've hit in my playing.
    ismith
    I'm fast. Not to brag, but this is pretty good advice. I don't agree with the metronome part, but if you want to get fast, you have to focus on your physical ability. Also focus on your picking hand, it's the most important part of playing. It's very smart to practice fast instead of practicing slow and working it up faster.
    N031
    The problem for me is getting is syncronizing the picking, but anyway, this is what worked for me, i don't know if you all wanna try it. What I always did is KILL myself tring to play something faster than i could play it naturall without a metronome,. Not too much faster, but considerably. It'll be very messy but after a long time you'll eventually catch up to what you're trying to play, THEN what i do, when i've finally played it at an unreasonable speed for me, I slow i down just, a smidge, and play it to a metronome. So basically, i get the speed down THEN i go back and get the coordination, but i NEVER forget to get the coordination down. I always go back and do that. It works pretty well for me. The "starting slow and moving on up" thing never wroked for me, but the other worked just fine.
    ExSane364
    I like how you said, "You can start by thinking about the left hand fingering, the picking pattern, the motions of the right hand, and monitoring levels of tension throughout the body." but that doesnt leave much for the finish eh?
    mnhockey99
    This guy needs an accurate map to playing fast, then he wouldn't need to write long articles. Tom Hess where are you when we REALLY need you?
    Metallica_Man55
    great for beginners, a bit long, but very informative. it looks like you really thought this out. great job, man.
    Mobu
    cool article! I carefully played Sweet Child o Mine for about 2 hrs, and the next day, i could play it better than Slash himself (yeah, bragging!)
    JRock589
    Great article, wonderful idea. The whole process seems rather hard..but I suppose the best things in life are difficult to attain eh? Haha.
    Raizer Sabre
    hmm, interesting. i don't play guitar, but i'm sure pretty much all instruments can apply these techniques if you wanna get speed on them. i know i'll be trying something like this on my keyboard
    chocobo rally
    by the way good article you adress a very common problem and offer basic yet effective solutions for all players struggling with speed =)
    nido
    I still focus on getting speedy man,its My main goal.I do agree with you that technique comes first in order to do this.but I was well aware of that as well.when I started sweep picking It took me like a whole day just to get my technique perfect.from holding the plectrum in a correct way to most minimal movements of doin the roll with the left hand.I got to sweep pick on the first day, it wasnt perfect !!! Today I think I can do it okay , but Im still looking for ways to perfect my technique.this strat I use on all of my techniques speed picking, etc etc.....if thers a better and faster way someone please pm me!!!
    Metalology
    Metalology wrote: There have been many articles written on the topic and the most common advice that is often heard is practice slowly and use a metronome. Of course this is very good advice that should definitely be followed. True and good article!
    I forgot to add that there is much more than just though, which was brought out in the article. Again, good article!
    Metalology
    There have been many articles written on the topic and the most common advice that is often heard is practice slowly and use a metronome. Of course this is very good advice that should definitely be followed.
    True and good article!
    I,Voyager
    Really great article. A lot of the time, I practice scales and exercises while watching tv or something, so I'm not paying an ounce of attention to my guitar. Guess I can't do that anymore...
    JoshUrban
    Nice article! Keep up the great work. I'll certainly give this a try in my next practice routine.
    1337void
    This article was nothing less than revolutionary for my playing. For a year i just tried to play stuff as fast as i could in order to advance in speed, and that caused sloppy and out of time playing and wasnt very effective for building speed either. This "very slow" playing approach however seems to work way better. I CANT BELIEVE I DIDNT DO THIS EARLIER. That wouldve helped my playing tremendously, but nevertheless good i learned it now!
    RG_FANMAN
    excellant article! makes me feel better about not being super fast and fluid after only a few months of guitar.
    Boof14
    This article is great advice. For those who are really into it you could try Steve Vai's 10hr workout. (I get bored after about an hour.) But hey, anyone who has the time and patience to do a 10hr workout deserves to be good!
    darb0114
    this is a great article. Another way to think of it is when you absolutely can't play a part any better, so then you go on to something else. When you come back to that part at a latter time, you can play it no problem. Your technique is more developed, so the speed just comes naturally.
    njc3190
    Wow! this is actually the most truthful and accurate piece of advice i've ever heard about guitar playing. Thanx Mike
    IvanGroznij
    wow, what a great artticle! Thanks Mike, i always enjoy your columns. Your free bonus article on your website was awesome too!
    veckd
    thank you soo much. It seemed this article was aimed 100% at me. I owe you a lot.
    Guitar Sushi
    People misunderstand what a metronome is for. It's simply for making sure you're notes hit the beat correctly. Playing to a very high bpm is kind of stupid because it defeats the purpose of trying to get in time with a band. That's the other reason why people think metronomes are so useless. Because they have never played in a band and when they change tempo slightly, it isn't that noticeable. A metronome helps your notes get precise an perfectly in place. I love them ;.
    wasp2020
    Nice article. Too many people think having a metronome is some sort of stairway to heaven - all they need to do is grit their teeth, abandon any thought, and play to beat their last bpm. And that's just so wrong for so many reasons.
    Silky Smooth
    Great article Pinpointing mistakes in your playing going through all the motions slowly can REALLY help. It's 100% true that you can't play smooth and fast without first getting the proper technique under your belt.
    sid77
    great point just like you mentioned i always focused on playing faster maybe its time for a change
    Raizer Sabre
    TheCama wrote: i don't give a shit about playing fast. i can play really fast but that's not the point. it's about music, not about who's the fastest. fast solo's are mostly gay sounding and most of you are fake poser guitarists who can't even play or sing. haha losers.
    ok, try showing us a thing or two and play us an amazing solo while singing, then try having a go at some real guitarists
    mmtroop321
    hey thank you, you have no idea how much this helped me....i have always thought to myself to do this but i guess i just blew it of but not anymore....thanks
    shwilly
    This is pretty sad, but the reason I was drawn to the article was that sweet picture of a blue guitar with golden tune-o-matic bridge, otherwise I might've never read this. Very cool article!
    last_biscuit
    ontherun wrote: The faster you play the shittier it sounds. Whether you hit the right notes or not! Someone please put an end to this "virtuoso" shit. It's smelling up the music pool. Jimi Hendrix was a virtuoso. That's about it.
    'Cos that's open-minded... Anyway, a very good article. I think it does a good job at clearing up WHAT you should be using a metronome for, and WHEN you should be using it.
    ChoPxSueY
    Wow good advice, never thought of it that way, spread the word! 10/10 from me
    notaninja
    strangely enough, my guitar teacher (who has played for about 20 years) taught me the "go through it 934534 times and youll get faster" technique. it was my concert band teacher that told me to leave it all to muscle memory, so i thank him... even if he was always pissy
    Silverwolf
    ontherun wrote: The faster you play the shittier it sounds. Whether you hit the right notes or not! Someone please put an end to this "virtuoso" shit. It's smelling up the music pool. Jimi Hendrix was a virtuoso. That's about it.
    Jimi was far from a virtuoso. He was/is quite possibly the most influential guitarist ever. However, techinally he pales in comparison to Petrucci, Romeo, Vai, etc. Fast solos willa always be amazing and awe inpspiring if done correctly. Same reason why Nirvana's solo's are complete are not. Because Kurt couldn't play worth shit. (Again highly influential, but technically awful)