by Michael Korte
Did you ever play something, that was so challenging, but thought it must be possible to play, because you heard or saw someone do the exact same thing, but you could not get your head around how they did it?
Most of the time guitar students say they want to play faster, they think of moving their fingers faster and they start training hammering their fingers up and down on the guitar neck or tense up their picking hand to get more strength and hope to get more moving speed into their wrist, so that they can play those Slayer Riffs.
But this is really not the point here. Truth is, your hands and fingers are most likely already FAST enough to play fast, but your movements are so inefficient that you waste a lot of way and by that: valuable time and energy that could be used to play the next note.
Next time you practice something fast, try the following.
For your fretting hand
A big misconception that can occur is to think you want to move your fingers fast to the fretboard (which is technically correct in itself but not the whole truth) and THEN move it UP as fast as possible, but the approach for getting a finger away from the fretboard is a completely different one.
What you need to and become aware of, is that you merely need to learn to relax your fingers to get them to lift from the fretboard, instead of actively attempting to lift your fingers.
Putting your fingers down to the fretboard requires muscle activity, lifting them, does not.
Look closely to what your fingers do. Play the piece that you want to play but slow it down for now and actively think about relaxing your fingers when you want to lift them, instead of actively lifting them.
This will give you an easier feel when you play and also helps you to develop more stamina. Your hand will not go tired so quickly anymore after a few days or weeks of practicing in this way.
And when you got it on a slow pace, you can start increasing the metronome speed slowly, whenever you practice in this way.
For the picking hand
Fast tremolo pickings can be quite challenging and exhausting, if you have not properly learned how to play them.
You can even seriously damage your forearm muscles, if you overdo it. So, pay close attention to this.
When you play anything, your right hand needs to learn how to relax in between pickings of strings, no matter how fast.
And it is not enough to simply practice relaxing right after you have hit a string, because that is already too much. You can go even further and relax a tiny amount BEFORE your pick hits the desired string. There is a sweet spot, that you need to find for yourself.
Here is how you find that sweet spot.
You need to get your brain 100 percent aware of what it is supposed to tell your picking hand. So, let your picking hand approach a string slowly at first and experiment when you can use the momentum you built up in that hand and can afford to consciously relax your forearm muscles and let physics take care of the rest.
Did you hit that string or was the momentum lost on the way to the string? In the latter case you relaxed to early.
This is even more crucial for upstrokes, because gravity does not work in your favour here.
Take your time and practice upstrokes and downstrokes separately and take your time, do one stroke at a time. If you got a feel of it, you can increase the frequency but only do that very slowly. If you take your time with it and do it properly, chances are you will have gotten rid of this problem once and for all and all you need to do is remind yourself and reinforce this way to play every now and then.
If not, chances are your problems will come back. So take it slow and enjoy the process of seeing more results from day to day.
About the author:
Miika Korte is a professional guitarist from Finland, who teaches kitaratunnit in tampere and loves to bring his students to the next level of their guitar playing. His lessons not only include high quality instructions but also a huge boost in motivation in each and every lesson.