What is the one thing that all your favorite guitar players have in common when you watch them playing fast? Here is the answer: without exception, every one of them plays in a way that looks extremely effortless. Fact is, shred guitar playing not only seems effortless – it actually IS effortless, and to be more precise, it BECOMES effortless once you proceed through the process of working out this skill properly.
Sadly, nearly all guitar players can’t make their speed playing feel easy, and any effort to play guitar fast is a challenge. Reasons why this happens are plenty, but one of the most typical is pursuing the traditional practice mindset of beginning to practice slowly and building up speed little by little. Despite the fact that this approach DOES have a few of advantages, it also has many serious restrictions (when applied at the wrong time or mistakenly… as happens quite often).
Below are the reasons why the conventional speed practice strategy (beginning to practice slowly and improving speed gradually) makes it hard to build guitar speed:
- It’s easy to become lazy and make entirely different movements at slow speeds in comparison to what you do when playing fast. Consequently, as soon as your speed improves past a particular point, your playing will become uncomfortable and hard, because now you will be using movements that you did not use in the past. I’ve already discussed this to a great extent in this article about how practicing slowly can occasionally hurt your guitar playing.
- Releasing the excessive tension that usually builds up through faster playing is something that the traditional approach doesn’t allow you to practice. Therefore, as your speed grows, your guitar playing begins to become more and more like a challenge and you get fatigued fast.
- You don’t practice for actual speed in your guitar playing (where you have to start playing without playing anything before). It’s much easier to play an exercise over and over, incrementally arriving at your peak speed and having the playing of that one exercise be great. However, when you must play the exact same exercise at your top speed IMMEDIATELY, with everything feeling effortless and sounding clean, the feeling is much different. Thus, traditional guitar speed building mindset doesn’t prepare you for playing in real life.
- Conventional guitar speed building strategy aims at speeding up the whole exercise all at once. Generally this leads to mindless guitar practice (playing an exercise again and again, merely wishing to get faster) rather than centering your attention on identifying the specific problems that restrain your speed. I talk about this concept in depth in this article on how to play whatever you desire on guitar.
Note: the traditional approach of beginning to practice slowly and progressively increasing speed IS effective when you are learning something new (and it’s usually very helpful for guitar players at an intermediate – beginner levels). Nevertheless the more advanced you become as a guitarist (and the faster you want improve your speed in a certain practice exercise), the more you will need to get more specific practice procedures for overcoming your guitar speed plateaus.
Now that you realize the disadvantages of the traditional approach for building speed on guitar, I will show you one of many approaches you can take to overcome guitar speed plateaus and make your playing feel effortless. This is one of the strategies I use with my guitar students to help them achieve higher levels of guitar speed.
Practicing Guitar With Speed Bursts
Rather than playing a whole phrase at a very slow tempo and incrementally increasing speed, split up that phrase into very small bursts (between 4-8 notes each) and practice every one of these at your TOP speed.
Watch this video to get a clear understanding of how to practice this concept:
When you practice guitar in speed bursts, it will help you to develop your guitar speed much faster. Below are the reasons why:
- Your guitar speed will in fact come to be useful in real life playing (where you can’t play something time after time and rather must jump in and play something at your peak speed instantly).
- You are able to use rests between the speed bursts to release tension from your hands and ensure that you use no more tension than necessary. This is a really effective approach to make your guitar playing feel extremely effortless and comfortable… exactly like your favorite guitar players.
- You will teach your mind/ears to process notes at extreme speeds while noticing and correcting mistakes in your guitar playing. This is CRITICAL, because if you attempt to play guitar fast while lacking this skill, it will sound like a crazy mess.
- You can quickly isolate very specific mistakes within a longer phrase and fix them one at a time, so you can play the whole phrase fast and clean.
Now that you’ve learned the above way of making your fast playing feel effortless, the next action you must take is to learn all the other techniques that will help you MULTIPLY your guitar speed while reducing your practice time in half (I will teach you how to do this for free). Discover how it’s done by reading this page about increasing your guitar speed.