For many that love strumming tunes, there’s only one better thing than playing their guitar, and that’s playing their guitar fast. How some rock-stars have butter-fingers may seem difficult to fathom, but with our little breakdown of tips and techniques, you’ll be on your way to being a fast-strummer too.

Pace It!

You know how they say it gets better with practice? Well, it also gets faster with practice. Just like with chefs chopping tomatoes, once you’ve played a tune on the guitar enough times, your hands and fingers know just what to do, and in no time they’re dancing by themselves.

man playing the guitar
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

To best achieve this, use a metronome to record the speed at which you play your guitar comfortably. Next, pick a tune you want to master, and play it over and over again over a course of 10 days, gradually increasing the speed and recording the new speed against your previous one. Each day aim for a higher speed. The first few days will see a slow start, but at the end of your 10 days, your speed should be at least double that with which you started.

Pick it Up!

Alternate picking is the most common technique used to help pick up your speed, and it’s easy as peas! This technique economizes hand movements so that you play more notes with less effort and in little time.

To practice this technique, hold the pick between thumb and index finger with the pointed end facing the strings, and alternate your strokes to go down and then up. Play a downstroke first, an upstroke next, then a downstroke, then an upstroke, and so on.

Play It!

It’s fun to play, that’s what music is all about. Go back and forth on the same tune like children that do not tire of the same game, the same story over and over again. Start slow when you learn a tune and focus on playing it well: cleanly, clearly, comfortably.

custom designed guitar
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Once you’ve got that tune down and know you can play it well, then play it fast. When you cannot play it faster, break it down, see which parts are challenging and play the tune slower. And then get back on that horse and play it faster and faster. Make sure that every time you are playing clearly, and cleanly, and make sure your posture is comfortable and without any tension.

And while you’re doing that, have fun; that’s what it’s like to play.

Perform It!

Tape yourself on video if you can, that way you can rewind and replay to zoom in on areas where you need to improve. Is it your posture? Is it a particular transition in chords? Is it your picking speed? Make notes and work towards improving your performance.

In the absence of video, you can use a sound recorder. You’ll hear it when something sounds off, or slower than other parts. Pay attention to what causes that change in pace. Is it your posture? Then find a more comfortable position. Does the tune get tricky? Then break it down, play it over a few times slowly, progress to higher speeds, and then get on with it at top speed.

man doing a guitar performance
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Another way to acquire golden feedback is to perform in front of a friendly fellow guitarist. Not only can they point out areas to improve, you will also learn techniques they use to pick up on their speed at playing.

  1. Play it Again, Sam!  

This has be said in many, many ways. Keep practicing. Practice is key. Practice makes perfect. But really, what you want to hear and do is: practice, practice, practice. Practice because you love it, practice because you want to hear that tune again and again, and practice because now you can play it fast and slow, and backwards and forwards – well at least on fast-forward!

So stay tuned and play on!

Now that you have a grasp for these tips and techniques, playing the guitar fast won’t seem like such an improbable task. Remember everyone that got there before, got there by taking these small steps. You can do it too! No waiting necessary. Just pick up your guitar, and pick up your pace!

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