If you want to play guitar faster, you’ve come to the right place! So many times, musicians get bogged down trying to build up speed when they play. The typical way to handle this is to start slowly, then gradually speed up as you master the music. This is a pretty universal and widely-accepted method, but there are even more effective ways you can learn to play guitar faster and more accurately by following these 6 tips.
Practice to Play Guitar Faster
You’ve probably practiced guitar on your own, with or without guidance from an instructor. Some instructors, however, forget that they need to teach their guitar students how to practice. To play the guitar faster, you can do a few things differently when you practice improving your technique.
The pick should stop after each note, if even for a brief pause. Keep it in the trench between the strings, though. This helps to reduce unnecessary motion which will slow you down. Yes, you read that right, stopping will help you speed up!
Be sure to use a metronome. It can be nerve-wracking, so you may need to use it in small doses. We like the Soundbrenner Pulse because you can feel the pulse. While they are a bit pricey, some have said it's a game-changer for them. For a more affordable option, there are a few free or low-cost smartphone apps available.
Work on finger independence with the guitar. This will help you to play notes with less motion in your fret hand, which will actually increase your speed on guitar. Compare it to typing on a computer keyboard – do you use one finger on each hand, or the “home key” approach? Finger independence will increase your guitar speed exponentially.
Stay close to the frets and use your fingertips. It makes it easier to fret the notes and can increase your speed.
Play Guitar Faster with Less Stress
When we practice any instrument, we tend to make it a whole-body exercise. And, in a way, it is. We’ve known percussionists who have been taught to breathe with the music to improve their accuracy and expression. Regardless of what instrument you are playing, tension is your nemesis.
On guitar, you probably have found yourself tensing up as you practice. Tension contributes to fatigue and locks you down so that you can’t play as fast. By consciously relaxing tension in your body, you can move your fingers more freely on the fretboard. This will increase your guitar fretting speed and finger independence since you are not relying on your whole hand to produce just one note.
Have you ever watched professional musicians play crazy riffs on stage? Many times, they look relaxed and make their guitar speed look easy. Even the stars who look like they’re working hard add that in later after they have mastered the music. It’s a show!
Think Faster, Play Faster
Did you know that learning an instrument is a proven way to actually INCREASE your IQ? Even adults, whose brains are more mature, can increase their IQ by 7 points by learning guitar! So what are you going to do with all of this new brainpower?
If you are using lead sheets or printed music, read ahead. Professional musicians’ eyes are usually several measures ahead of the actual notes they are playing. It’s like looking down the road when you’re driving – if you just look at the hood of your car, you don’t know where you’re going and you aren’t ready for variables. If you are looking down the road, you are ready for what’s coming.
Playing music is the same way. You know a difficult chord change is coming up, or a certain arpeggio is going to require a particular hand position, so you are already planning for that change.
Even if you’re not using a lead sheet or tabs, your brain is working to hear the notes that are coming up. Think through the technique and practice hearing the notes so that all that is left to practice is muscle speed.
Another brain activity that takes place is an interaction between the two hemispheres of the brain. You are using both hands at the same time, which requires cooperation between your “right-brain” and your “left brain.” This requires neuroplasticity and makes for a healthier brain. So don’t forget that your brain is part of the practice session.
Pick Strength for Speed
To increase speed when you play guitar, pick strength is important. This means that your up-stroke is as strong and clear as your down-stroke. And guess what? Practicing this is one of the most prevalent causes of tension in guitar players! Admit it – your hand gets tense, then your forearm, until your shoulder hurts and your back is tense.
So practice pick strength with as little motion and movement as possible, reducing tension throughout your body.
Switching Strings and Guitar Speed
Moving the fretting hand in sync with the picking hand can be a challenge. One way to overcome obstacles with this skill is to isolate the areas where you switch strings. An instructor compared it to eating a sandwich – you don’t cram the whole sandwich into your face at once. You take a bite and chew it up, then take another bite. Here is how you take on building guitar speed, one bite at a time.
If you are playing a scale, you are probably playing 4 notes on one string, then switching to another string for the next 4 notes. Here’s how to build speed when doing that.
- Practice with just your picking hand, playing 4 open-string sixteenth notes, and then one note on the next string. That will be 4 repeated notes with a 5th note on the next string. This helps to get your picking hand moving faster.
- Add the fretting hand and play the 4 chromatic or scale notes on one string, with the 5th note of the next string ending the section. That is one small “bite” of the scale.
- Move on to the next string and repeat the exercise. If you use beat counting like 1-2-3-4, the exercise would count out something like this:
a) 1-e-&-a 2 (played several times)
b) 2-e-&-a 3
c) 3-e-&-a 4
d) 4-e-&-a 1 (the first beat of the next measure)
The Back-and-Forth of Fast Guitar Playing
As you practice and build up speed, you may find that you aren’t playing as fast as you did yesterday. Don’t get discouraged! This happens in every performance-based activity. We always tell our students that practicing guitar for speed is 2 steps forward and 1 step back.
You “get in the groove” when you’re practicing and build up to a certain speed. When you come back to practice the next day, you have to start below your peak performance and build back up. Your metronome marking may be something like this:
- Day 1: 80 bpm beginning, 120 bpm ending
- Day 2: 88 bpm beginning, 126 bpm ending
- Day 3: 120 bpm beginning, 130 bpm ending
- Day 4: 124 bpm beginning, 132 bpm ending
- Day 5: 128 bpm beginning, 136 bpm ending
You get the picture. In 5 days, though, you have more than doubled your speed on guitar!
At Tonara, we have a full staff of musicians, educators, and IT experts who work to supply students and teachers with a quality product. This includes tips for increasing guitar playing speed. We hope you have found these 6 ways to play guitar faster helpful! Please feel free to let us know which ones help you the most, and add your suggestions to our list!