Increasing Speed and Hand Coordination, Which of the Million Techniques Should I Employ?

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by JimF, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. JimF

    JimF SS.org Regular

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    Like everyone, I’d like to get faster at lead playing. I’m a pretty solid rhythm player but my solos aren’t great.

    I mainly play guitar when I’m writing, as opposed to learning other artist’s songs etc, and as such all my bad habits have been compounded, and gaps in my ability have been avoided, and I’ve focused on what I can do, rather than what I can’t. Still can’t sweep pick? I guess this song won’t have a sweep lead in the breakdown then!

    I want to work on my playing. I tried guitar lessons a few years ago and they left me cold. Similarly I enjoy photography, and enrolled in a nightschool course to improve my skills, and found this total underwhelming and didn’t offer anything I couldn’t just find online.


    So I took to YouTube and found lots of conflicting advice.


    Some people said you should practice scales/patterns with a metronome, pushing the tempo up as you go (a technique that has worked when trying to get up to speed for sections before recording them)

    Some people say to practice the ‘1-2-3-4-next string-1-2-3-4-next string’ pattern. I use this as a warmup but don’t know how effective its been for me so far.

    Should I just try and play things explosively fast with bad technique and hope it changes?

    Should I try to learn a lot of my favourite songs, but aim to learn them with the correct technique, i.e. alternative picking not Hetfield 100% downstrokes? This is what I think will be best.


    Anything I haven’t mentioned?


    Any ideas on practicing times? 6 hours a day? 2 hours a week? Is it simply a case of the more I put in the more I’ll get out?


    Stupid questions with obvious answers, but really I’d just like some guidance. I’ve always treated the guitar as a fun distraction, a gear collecting hobby, but now I need to step up my game and actually apply some dedication and improve as a player!
     
  2. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    I was going to start the same exact thread. I hope I can find answers here as well since I am a pretty good rhythm player, but when it comes to learning faster solos man I just take forever! Took me over a month with the Trooper Solo by just trying to wing it.

    I was thinking of using a metronome starting off at 60bpm and playing one note per click. After I feel that I can do that repetitively with no mistakes I bump it 10bpm. Then once I get to a point where I get hesitant because of the clicks, then I go back down to 60bpm, but instead I play 2 notes per click and repeat the same thing and add one note per click after a rotation as I like to call it. I also break up other peoples solos and do this same method to make sure each part is easily memorized and learned properly.

    To anyone further reading this thread, does this method hold any value? Might be a help to the OP aswell along with myself, been pondering making a thread on this and glad someone else is not the only one strugglign with this somewhat.
     
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  3. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Hey...how did everybody get in my room?

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    I do the 1234 warmup before shows to get my hands in sync. It’s effective for that, but I don’t know if it alone is an effective means of improving speed necessarily.

    I write a lot of music in GuiarPro so that I’m not restricted by familiar shapes and patterns. I have found that playing anything I write at tempo is best. I’ll play a section maybe 10 times; if there’s a spot I’m constantly flubbing or not playing cleanly, I’ll slow it down and focus on my picking pattern and/or fingering until I find the right combo that gets it sounding right. Then I bring the tempo back up and get used to the new feeling at speed.

    If you want to learn sweep picking, then write a section with a slower sweep line. Focus on clean playing always, and practice practice practice. Don’t be afraid to push your writing to be one notch above your current skill level, and practice it until you’ve nailed it. This applies to technique, overall tempo, odd time sigs, and theory implementation (moreso in taking time during writing).
     
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  4. JimF

    JimF SS.org Regular

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    Thanks! To be honest I actually do write in Guitar Pro and end up with some parts I struggle to play. Good to know it’s not just me!
     
  5. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    Check out the Rock Discipline video by John Petrucci.
     
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  6. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    When a Cheetah is born, it can't run... ring any bell?

    This to say that to play fast one must be relaxed and to be relaxed fast one had to practice A LOT (meaning invested time) at slow speeds. This is true to any physical activity, including fast guitar shredding...

    Because playing scales up and down might be boring, and the metronome is dull sounding (most of the times), use drum backtracks, delays, looper pedals to play over at varying speeds. The thing is not only useful for one to grow speed and consistency, but more important, to learn how and when to use it.
     
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  7. Metropolis

    Metropolis SS.org Regular

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    Efficiency and understanding little details about picking technique is the key to faster playing, no exceptions. It means that your muscles and nervous system are enough trained to excecute tasks they need to do. Also finding picking techniques that fit to your style of playing. I usually start playing slow when I'm trying to learn new things, which is about 60% from original tempo. By this way you can teach your so called muscle memory to work in preferred direction.

    Playing actual music than 1-2-3-4 warm ups is always more preferred and interesting. Often in this kind of topics name Troy Grady pops out, his Youtube lessons and interviews with players around the world are pretty mind blowing. I've liked Rick Graham's approach to playing techniques as well, even though I'm totally different style of player. Paul Gilbert is always a good teacher too.

    Usually these kind of struggles with guitar playing are related to not being relaxed enough and efficient. For example you have to do pickslanting in some degree to sweep pick. In the end finding a good teacher who can see these things in your playing could be very practical too.



     
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  8. JimF

    JimF SS.org Regular

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    Amazing info guys thank you! Some of this stuff seems obvious to read, but sometimes you need to see it in front of you!
    I'll try all this soon! I've got an RG Prestige on the way to the NGD should spur me on too!
     
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  9. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    I will definitely give this a try. I really need to discipline myself and critique myself honestly of when to bump up the BPM and question if I really got it down. Something that I is just bound to happen at times. I am sure I will say I will do it, but acting it out will be the true challenge for me.


    Some very good videos! There is another video by Ben Eller about why you suck at guitar: Alternate picking. He gives you some exercises that will give you "massive shred gains."

    Ben Eller is probably the best, most thorough, and informational YT Guitar Instructor out there! I really think at times he is underappreciated! I would love for him to be my personal teacher or for him to have courses that you would pay for like on Udemy or wherever.

    Ben Eller is the best!
     
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  10. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    That should definitely put you in the mood to start playing fast stuff. I have had my soloists for a little under a year now and I have yet to learn something super impressive to show off
     
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  11. Nicki

    Nicki SS.org Regular

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    You're kind of kicking yourself in the scrotum if you're not learning songs from other bands. The advantage with it is that there's techniques and licks in songs that you can pick up and use in your own playing down the road.

    As for building speed, my approach is to take technical speedy bits in songs, break them into manageable chunks, slow it down, play it 5 times perfect in a row at a slower bpm, speed it up by 3-5bpm and repeat. Naturally, I use guitar pro for all of this, but when doing other stuff such as scale runs, phrasing and so on, I use a metronome.

    Long story short, mimicry is the best way to learn.
     
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  12. Vyn

    Vyn Not a Sparkly Vampire Contributor

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    A mix of scales/drills and pieces that you find challenging but fun to play/listen to is the way to go. If you just do scales and drills, you'll find yourself in a horrible rut when you plateau at a particular speed and you'll just want to quit (at the very least, loose motivation).

    Always practise with a metronome, 5-10bpm increments at max. The rule of 7 is a good one - you must be able to play 100% cleanly on a dry clean channel (a dry clean channel will be the most honest sound and you WILL hear every fuck up) the scale/drill/riff 7 times in a row at the current tempo before you can crank up the pace. If you fuck up, the counter goes back to 0 - Ie I complete my 1,2,3 and 4th attempts but fuck up on the 5th, back to 0. Be harsh with your critiques as well, don't let dead notes, open strings ringing or anything slide as they become huge problems as you get faster.

    Most importantly, don't be afraid to start slow, even if it's only 1/4 notes at 30bpm. You'll be rewarded for it later.
     
  13. JustinRhoads1980

    JustinRhoads1980 SS.org Regular

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    I think I will start doing this. I tend to use the distortion channel on my amp when doing this stuff.
     
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  14. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    As @Vyn said, go clean sound when practicing. It allows one to focus on cleanly executed techniques. Distortion has more compression and might be funnier to play with, it eventually makes it sound easy, but it's with clean tones that one really feels/knows/discovers how good one is.

    Ok, you're allowed for a little reverb, compression or delays, but don't get it into the really wet FX realm... that's another part of practicing...
     
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  15. Vyn

    Vyn Not a Sparkly Vampire Contributor

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    A little reverb can help you build confidence, especially when you begin your regime. A dry clean tone will make you feel like the worst player on the planet if you're not expecting it xD
     
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  16. Metropolis

    Metropolis SS.org Regular

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    It's sometimes good to just listen how playing sounds without any distortion or even without amplification, but it's not recommended when you want to improve proper muting technique with a lot of distortion. I just go with not too much gain and dry as possible without any reverbs and delays. If it sounds clean and tight without those then it'll sound even better with effects added.
     
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  17. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Some pretty good info percolating in here. A couple observations I'd add:

    1) I'd suggest getting REALLY good at identifying and diagnosing problems. If necessary, record or video yourself, and slow it down - the iphone slo mo mode is actually really useful for this, and Reaper is very easy to work with too, if you want to slow down lines. Something is stopping you from playing "faster." What, exactly, is it that you're struggling with on a particular lick? Find that, and find a way to either fix it in your technique, or find a way to practice just that.

    2) I'm a big proponent of the Cracking the Code series, though with the caveat that as Troy Grady has continued to move on and analyze the approach of other players, his thinking has evolved a little bit - the biggest takeaway is when he's talking about "pickslanting," while in some cases it DOES have to do with the physical orientation of the pick (especially in Yngwie and Eric Johnson, where the series started), it doesn't always, and the real key is the concept of the pickstroke "escaping" above the plane of the strings on certain strokes (upstrokes, in the case of "downward pickslanters" like Johnson and Yngwie) to facilitate string changes. Beyond that, one of his fairly key observations is that a lot of the problems in faster playing simply don't exist when playing slowly, so starting slowly and building up isn't always going to help, since a lot of problems you'll run into don't start cropping up until you're playing faster.

    3) For legato, while some high gain practice is necessary for getting your muting in order, I also recommend practicing unplugged. If you can get a line to ring out clearly with no amp at all, you can get it to ring out clearly plugged through anything.

    4) For practice, for the most part, the more you put in, the more you get out... But, quality of practice matters, less in terms of "perfect practice makes perfect" (which is usually but not always true - see prior point about fast vs slow playing and problems that just don't exist at low speed) but that you want to be sure you're practicing things that challenge you and continuously looking for new things to practice, rather than simply repeating the same drills and getting VERY good at a few things, but nothing else. Only other thing, though, is repetitive stress injury (RSI) is absolutely a thing, so listen to your body, and don't try to play through pain. You'll regret it.
     
  18. sharedEQ

    sharedEQ SS.org Regular

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    Watch those pickslanting primer videos on YouTube. It will give you an idea of some of the challenges encountered while picking lines. You will also notice that there are many different solutions to the problem; fast pickers develop pet techniques to help them overcome some issues.

    Since your goal is to play fast, I wouldn't focus too much on perfecting your technique, but start by learning "easy" fast licks that don't trip up your picking. IOW, you don't have to be able to pick everything, every scale form, at the highest speed; thats virtually impossible at least when starting. But you can learn some good speed licks to mix in.

    The general idea is that you can learn fast repeating picked patterns that involve one or two strings, then move it laterally up and down the neck between modes. Or if its a pentatonic lick you can move it between pentatonic positions. This is what Zakk Wylde does most of the time.

    Also, incorporating legato playing can help extend your range and allow you to transition/move around between licks as easy as possible. Its an easy way to play scales. You can "roll" through the 3nps modes by just picking the first note and then hammering or pulling off the remaing notes before moving to the next string. Thats one of the easiest ways to build speed.

    Once you have built a nice vocabulary and can improvise over some backing tracks, then you might want to revisit your alternate picking technique and devise specific exercises to improve it.

    Arpeggios are really important and you can learn them anywhere. You don't have to learn six string arpeggios, there are plenty of useful 2 and 3 string arpeggio licks that are either picked or sweeped.

    Good luck.
     
  19. sharedEQ

    sharedEQ SS.org Regular

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    I like his videos, but its also clear that all the top players learned to pick through repetition on their own. They came up with techniques to facilitate string changes that involve intuition and/or muscle memory. Only when Grady later points out to them what they are doing do they nod and say "yeah, I guess that's what I'm doing".

    In that sense, I believe he has over analyzed it. His system/analysis has too many moving parts and tries to explain intellectually what most players will discover after theyve practiced their speed lines a thousand times. IOW, watching the CTC videos doesn't save you from having to practice the lines thousands of times and its not clear if it helps in development of technique or muscle memory.

    IOOW, if you start with one of the picking methods like "Rock Discipline" "Intense Rock" "Speed Kills" or "Speed Mechanics" you will discover most/all of the things from CTC on your own.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
  20. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Well, yes and no.

    As he points out, a lot of the elite players have subconsciously solved a lot of the problems of alternate picking on their own, and most guys who have put in a lot of time practicing have at least partially solved the problems alt picking across multiple streams involves (speaking personally, my picking mechanic was a partially formed, not exceptionally clean example of what Grady refers to as "crosspicking").

    However, while these are solutions that a lot of elite players have worked out by trial and error, it's certainly a lot faster to have someone show you the approach and steer you in the right direction from day one.

    Idunno - I think where you and I disagree is that while a lot of elite players DO successfully work out solutions to these problems, the fact that elite-caliber guitarists are way rarer than elite caliber instrumentalists on other instruments suggests that a lot of other players DON'T. And, that (and this should be self-evident and as a guy who tends to be very methodical and intellectual about problem solving on his own, I'm embarrassed I never really sat down and reasoned through this stuff myself) a look at the actual mechanics of alternate picking down to the individual components of the muscle movements required to move a pick can allow you to work out approaches that mitigate a lot of those problems.
     

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