Zealous guitar disciples often ask the question, “How can I play faster?” Let’s be honest, it’s fascinating to see our guitar heroes play breath-taking lines and arpeggios. But for most guitar players, there seems to be an unbridgeable gap between their own skills and the skills of their guitar heroes.
For a lot of students, the goal to play as fast as their heroes seems like an unattainable dream. When you try to play as fast as possible you may notice that the longer you play, the more tense you become, resulting in sloppy playing. This leads to slower playing and occasionally you are forced to stop playing, due to pain caused by the tension.
But fear not – a solution is in sight:
There are a lot of methods which, if practised on a regular basis, make reaching your goals possible. I have devised a practise method which helps with the transition from slow, controlled movements to fast and automatic movements.
It’s important that you are used to practising slowly, so you can identify tension and dissolve it
(see my article: Why practice slowly).
Ok, let’s begin:
Ex1 is a simple 16th note sequence played over 2 strings
Now play the sequence as shown in Ex 2. That means; play the notes on the third beat twice, at twice the speed (32th notes, not 16th notes).
To do so, you have to choose a basic speed in which you are able to play the 32th notes.
The idea is to relax while playing the slower notes, dissolve the tension which might occur in the fast passages and try to take the relaxation with you into the fast parts
When this is working well, lengthen the fast parts, like in Ex 3
Another difficulty in the example which needs some attention, is that you have to negotiate a change from the b string to the e string.
In Ex 2 and Ex 3, the change between the strings was during the slow parts. However, in Ex 4, the change is after a fast part, followed by slow notes where you can relax.
In Ex 5, as you can see, the change between the strings is in the middle of a fast passage.
You can use this practising method for every kind of technical aspects (position shifting, string skipping, right hand, Legato, etc.). If you have difficulties in applying this principle to your concrete pieces, remember: a good teacher can help you with it.
In conclusion I want to refer to two articles about this topic, written by Tom Hess (great guitarist, teacher and mentor).
How to practice for maximum speed – part 1
How to practice for maximum speed – part 2