Guitar speed exercises are essential for your progress as a guitarist.
More than just picking speed is needed, you need to burn musical phrases and chord progressions into your nervous system because, face it, no one is going to be impressed with how fast you are playing scales.
This is accomplished by turning the individual phrases of a song, such as a blues intro or lick into a exercise and moving it up and down the neck with a metronome so that it becomes part of you no one can take away. This is something you can do on your own as you learn individual blues licks by moving them up and down the neck one fret at a time.
The mechanics of moving fingers and strings and gaining the reflexes can be learned and refined by exercises that are not necessarily musical but trains your hands to move in a quick, relaxed and fluid manner.
There are some exercises, I'll provide a few for you, that will help you gain reflexes, neuro pathways that translate and transfer over to other areas of your playing.
The training of the nervous system for guitar speed is allot like any other training such as hitting a tennis ball or learning to steer a car. Do it enough without killing yourself or other people and you should get faster and more precise.
There are several stages to this development.
Stage one – unconscious incompetence. You don't know that you are not that good and when you watch another player it really does not seem like what they are doing is all that hard.
Stage Two – Conscious incompetence. You tried your hand at playing a new piece and you know you are really bad at it. Reality hits. You either give up or get determined that this thing is not going to whoop you.
Stage Two and a half – Guitar speed exercises. Practicing each exercise, hopefully in the form of a musical phrase, starting very slow and precise and then increasing the speed on the metronome or drum machine until you can play the piece or pieces at the speed that you are aiming for
Stage Three – conscious competence – you can play the piece but you have to concentrate and remember to remember what it is exactly you are trying to play. The kid knocking on the door, the phone ringing, the guy in the crowd wanting to kick your ass or a variety of other distractions throw off your groove at this point.
Stage Four – Unconscious competence – you no longer have to think about what you are trying to play. You just play. This is the graduation from guitar student to guitar player that is not easily distracted away from playing, but takes things in stride.
As John Lennon put it, “turn off your mind, relax and float down stream.”
You no longer play the music, the music is part of you.
Guitar Speed Exercises.
The Five components of accuracy and speed.
The First exercise is deceptively simple, but when played at a very slow speed and steadily increased the wrist and fingers are gaining the stamina to hold the pick securely for long periods of time. Which, at first is harder than it sounds. Picks do come in a variety of textures to improve that grip and you should try as many as it takes to find the one that helps you fly over the fret board at lightning speed.
This exercise coordinates the picking and the fretting hands, builds endurance and makes picking automatic. Try out the Guitar Pro Files for this exercise. You can make the looping function increase speed as you go along. This is a wonderful tool.
The next exercise is a alternate picking speed exercise. With a reversal of direction comes a reversal of the down up motion and turns it to up down. The reflex to effortlessly change picking direction is so important to fluid motion on the fret board. You will thank yourself for all the hard work.
Exercises 3 and 4 is pentatonic box number one played as a speed exercise.
In exercise 3 it is all downward picking time all downward picking. Switch it up and change it to all upward picking. Exercise 4 is a down up pattern reversed on the way up. The playback on the Guitar Pro File will sound the same either direction.
Exercise 5 is what I call a modified sweep picking exercise. This is a sweep picking exercise with numerous steps back to a previous string. This is to increase coordination between the left and right hands and build direction changing reaction time. Use the supplied Guitar Pro files to get the most out of all of these exercises.
Hammer ons are like plyometric exercises for your fingers. This builds fast twitch muscle fiber.
Pick down going down and up going back.
Exercise 7 is not only fun but will build coordination to combine changing to a different string after a rapid hammer on - pull off sequence.
Exercise 8 is a simple sweep picking exercise with lots of left hand - right hand coordination moves.
Exercise 9 - Hammer ons and pull offs across the neck and back
Exercise 10 gets all your little friends stuck to the end of your arm in the party.
Use finger 1 and 2 then 1 and 3 and then 1 and 4. You can mix it up with the other fingers too for some stretching. Good workout.
Do these exercises until you can't stand it anymore, take a break and then go for it again. You should take a bath everyday, same with your Guitar Speed Exercises.