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Speed Development

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KirkD
(@kirkd)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 58
Topic starter  

I can hear the groans already - "Not another question about developing speed." Yep, another question about developing speed. :D I did try to search the forums and browsed a bit but didn't find anything that really got to the heart of the matter. So...

I've been playing for about a year and I'm at the point now where I'm starting to learn songs from beginning to end. Obviously there are some speed issues with some songs, for example, Joe Satriani's Always with Me, Always with You. Yes, this song has some mind blowing parts, but all the more interesting to work on, right? I can do the intro no problem, and then it starts with 16th note triplets at 120 bpm. Ouch. I need to be faster, and I have no illusions that this is going to take some time. So, I found this article describing a practice method for building speed:

http://www.tomhess.net/Articles/HowToPracticeForMaximumSpeedPart1.aspx

I like this one very much because it is a regimented, detailed practice schedule. My OCD is showing. I've heard hundreds of times to slow down to very slow and gradually build up, but that has an infinite number of meanings. This seems to be right on target with a specific plan.

Another song I've worked on in the past, but I want to put through the same practice schedule is Jack Johnson's Banana Pancakes. This one is a lot different as it is all chorded, barre chords specifically. So that should be a fantastic one to work on building chord change speed and accuracy.

My question boils down to this, is this routine a reasonable one to follow? If not (or even if so), what specific recommendations can anyone provide regarding practicing. Let me know if you want any more information about me, my practice schedule, etc.

-Kirk


   
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Voodoo_Merman
(@voodoo_merman)
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You will have to answer that question for yourself. That routine might be reasonable for me but, that doesn't mean that it will work for you. Guitar practicing techniques are like religions/belief systems. One person finds enlightenment through certain methods and other people want that too and follow the regime. Some succeed, some fail despite their best efforts. But, a single belief system cant work for everybody (No offense to anybody who has opinions to the contrary). Nor can a single practicing routine.

Experiment with as many ideas as possible until you find the one that is perfect for you. Then look for a better one! Whatever methods you choose to subscribe to just make sure that when you first start off, play it so slowly that it is impossible to make a mistake. Work your way up from there.

At this time I would like to tell you that NO MATTER WHAT...IT IS WITH GOD. HE IS GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL. HIS WAY IS IN LOVE, THROUGH WHICH WE ALL ARE. IT IS TRULY -- A LOVE SUPREME --. John Coltrane


   
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KirkD
(@kirkd)
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Joined: 16 years ago
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Topic starter  

Thanks for the reply.

Let's say I have a piece that I can play 100% perfectly at 60 bpm (1 quarter note per second). I suppose if I were to ask, "Should I increase by %5 per week? 10% per week? 10% every two weeks?" that there is no solid answer to that question. I assume the response would be on the order of, "Try it and find what you like best."

Correct?

Well, here's my typical practice routine. Please feel free to comment if I'm missing something fundamental. Remember, I've only been doing this for just less than one year.

Pentatonic Minor scales up and down the fret board starting on the low E string at every whole note position - E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, and then back down. I'm playing the scale over all strings which translates into 2 notes per string.

Pentatonic Major scales up and down the fret board just like the Minor.

Alternating Em Pentatonic and G M Pentatonic scales at the 12th and 15th frets, resp. Usually about 10-15 times.

Speed drills as per the post above. At this point I'm practicing Always with Me Always with You (up to the end of the first set of 16th note triplets - or are the 32nd? I forget), an alternate picking string skipping exercise provided by my guitar instructor, and the main line from Message in a Bottle. Each one gets play about 20 times with a metronome.

Chord practice:
For open chords I'm playing Margarittaville from this web site's East Songs for Beginners.

For barre chords I'm playing a progression given to me by my instructor: Cm7 (8th fret), F7 (8th fret), BbM7 (6th fret), Ebm7 (6th fret - not sure if this is the exact right chord, but close), Am7b5 (5th fret), D7 (5th fret), Gm (3rd fret).

Sometimes I then do a little free playing of whatever strikes me as interesting - 12 bar blues is common at different locations and different patterns. If I'm feeling really energetic I'll go to this page: http://www.riffeo.com/ and find a backing track in either G or Em so that I can solo using my Pentatonic M/m scales.

This usually runs about 1-2 hours per day. What would you add, change, delete???


   
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Clau20
(@clau20)
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I don't know if it'll help but I would try to do some exercice with more than 2 notes per string to develop speed

Maybe the typical exercice 1-2-3-4 all over the neck on all string:

---------------------------------------------------1-2-3-4--2-3-4-5-----------------------------------
------------------------------------------1-2-3-4---------------------2-3-4-5--------------------------
--------------------------------1-2-3-4-----------------------------------------2-3-4-5---------------
----------------------1-2-3-4-------------------------------------------------------------2-3-4-5----
------------1-2-3-4-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
--1-2-3-4-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Or a little bit different

----------------------------------------------------2-3-4-1------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------1-2-3-4-----------3-4-1-2----------------------------------------------
--------------------------------4-1-2-3-------------------------------4-1-2-3------------------------------------
----------------------3-4-1-2---------------------------------------------------1-2-3-4--------------------------
------------2-3-4-1-----------------------------------------------------------------------2-3-4-1------------------
--1-2-3-4-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------4-1-2-3--2-3-4-5------

All over the neck with a metronome :wink:

Oh, and you can hit the string just once and play the 3 last note with hammer-on and reverse the exercice to do it with pull-off

" First time I heard the music
I thought it was my own
I could feel it in my heartbeat
I could feel it in my bones
... Blame it on the love of Rock'n'Roll! "


   
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Wes Inman
(@wes-inman)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5582
 

Kirk

No groans here buddy, I can feel your pain. I have been playing 35 years and have never been fast. While I have never really liked hyper Metal guitar, I would be a complete liar if I said I didn't want to be fast. I love slow soulful playing like David Gilmore of Pink Floyd, but once in awhile I wanted to really rip. Let's face it, playing fast ROCKS! :twisted:

I have spent the last 5 years or so really working on speed. Along the way I discovered a secret. I promise you, if you practice this method, you will SOUND fast. You are not really playing that fast, but trust me, you will SOUND fast. :D

This is sort of a trick many guitarists use. But it is not a trick, it is a legitimate technique guitarists use to sound super fast.

Let's see if I can explain it.

YOU SOUND FAST BY PLAYING FOUR NOTES WITH THREE NOTES.

I want you to listen to this old song, Highway Star by Deep Purple. Ritchie Blackmore was really the first shredder. He was one of the first players to really sound fast. Nowadays there are many who sound faster, but believe me, Ritchie can rip.

Listen to the solo, but especially the part starting at exactly 4:31 minutes into the song. This is the trick.

Pretty hot, huh?? Ritchie smokes!

Well, here is what he is doing. He is playing straight 16th notes, all alternating picking down/up. So every beat is four picks.


Solo from Highway Star by Deep Purple (Ritchie Blackmore)

e--5-7-8-8--5-7-8-8--5-7-8-8--5-7-8-8-
b-------------------------------------
i m r r

e--7-8-10-10--7-8-10-10--7-8-10-10--7-8-10-10-
b---------------------------------------------
i m p p

e--8-10-12-12--8-10-12-12--8-10-12-12--8-10-12-12-
b-------------------------------------------------
i m p p

e--15-0-0-0--14-0-0-0--13-0-0-0--12-0-0-0-
b-----------------------------------------
m m m m

But he is only playing 3 notes with his fretting hand! That is super important, that is the trick.

One trick that many shredders use is three-note-per-string scales. So you are fretting three notes only. But they pick four 16th notes. You can double the first note, second note, or third note, it doesn't matter. But it is going to SOUND fast.
And it really is fast. The problem is most players can pick much faster than their fretting fingers can move. This method allows you to pick super fast, but your fretting hand does not have to be as fast.

Trust me, practice this. You are going to sound much faster, and it won't take long.

This may not help you at all with the song you are working on right now. But I promise with just a little practice of this technique, you are gonna be ripping. Try and see.

Wes

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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KirkD
(@kirkd)
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Topic starter  

Wes,

Thanks for the tip. That is a cool trick! Much like hammers and pulls giving a perceived speed up. Nice.

One of the main reasons I'm working on speed is that, well, I'm a rank amateur at this. One year old to be exact. And, I'm trying to work on Always with Me Always with You (Satriani) which has a couple of spots that, to me, are very fast. He specifically has a couple of sections with 32nd note triplets or sexlets that should be played at 144. YIPE! So, reproducing something of this sort as opposed to my own compositions is the current drive.

-Kirk


   
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Wes Inman
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5582
 

Is this the song?

You know, when you hear of 32nd notes at 144 BPM, that sounds incredibly fast. But listening to this video, the song actually sounds quite easy to play, except for a very few fast phrases. I have a feeling those 32nd notes are those fast hammer-ons at the very end of the song.

I know this is just a video, but I really don't see any super-fast alternate picking in this song. It looks like he uses hammer-ons and pull-offs for most of the fast runs in this song.

And that was the point I was trying to make. While shredders can alternate-pick super fast, a lot of what you hear often involves a trick where you get more notes than you pick, or pick more than you fret. I think you know what I mean.

What I mean is you really only have three notes in each phrase of that Ritchie Blackmore solo. Play these in straight triplets and they sound good. But by playing four sixteenth notes, adding one more note in each phrase, then each phrase sounds incredibly fast. There are many other little techniques like this that can give more sensation of speed that are actually fairly easy to perform. This was just one of the many tricks.

Good luck on that song, first time I've listened to it, very nice.

Record it in Hear Here when you get it down. :D

Wes

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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Blueline
(@blueline)
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That's one of my all time favorite songs. (Actually have it as my ring tone/ring back) Good luck learning the song. It's on my official "songs to learn before I grow too old" list. Should take me about a year to learn!!! :lol:

Teamwork- A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.


   
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NoteBoat
(@noteboat)
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The problem is most players can pick much faster than their fretting fingers can move.

Wes, I personally never found that to be true in my own playing. The pick has always been my limiting factor for speed.

Anyway, on to Kirk's question, and my two cents worth of advice.

The routine looks ok, but it doesn't go into the reason why slow practice builds speed. And that's really the crux if it... because slow practice won't build speed - but it's impossible to build speed without slow practice.

Lemme 'splain :)

Speed comes about through economy of motion, and minimizing resistance. In order to develop the habits needed to play fast, you have to be able to concentrate on those two things... which means you're going to do it slowly, over and over, until it's habit. But if you're not paying attention to the things required for speed, all the slow practice in the world won't give you speed.

On to those two things in detail...

Economy of motion: how high are you lifting your fretting fingers? How far beyond the string are you moving your pick? Are you lifting your pick out of the plane of the strings? Are there any extra movements of your hands, elbows, or even your shoulders, or movements that you could make smaller?

Those are things you need to fix. You do that by practicing slowly, even VERRRY slowly, focusing and concentrating on keeping those fingers close to the fretboard, making the pick move as little as possible, etc.

Minimizing resistance: resistance comes from a couple of sources, external and internal. The external is where the rubber meets the road... or in this case, where the pick meets the string. If you're digging in too deep, your pick has to fight to push the string out of the way - you should be picking with the last 1/8" or less of the pick's tip. At extreme speeds, you're not so worried about dynamics, so you can also angle the pick, so the rounded edge "bumps" over the string, rather than forcing through it.

The internal source is muscle tension. You have to be relaxed to play fast, or you won't be able to play fast for very long. I know that's easier said than done, but if you find yourself tensing up - take a break. Any more speed practice will be counter-productive.

As far as working with a metronome, there are two basic strategies I teach. The first is similar to the article you referenced: play slow until you can play it perfectly, then move up. I call that "laddering" your speed. The second I call "leaping"...

Take something you can play at 80bpm, but not 84bpm (or whatever - adjust your speed for each exercise you play, as your development will be different for different string combinations, keys, etc). Play it at 80. Now play it (or try to) just once* at 160. You'll fall apart. That's OK. Put the metronome at 84 and play it.

Chances are you played it better than you had before at 84 - it seems like a slow speed in comparison to 160. If you did it perfectly at 84, go to 160 again (once), then try 88.

This will build speed quickly... quicker than laddering. There's a serious downside, though - since you haven't taken the time to fix any technique issues, your 'top end' will be slower than if you go with slow practice and laddering.

*Be sure to only play once at the high speed - you don't want to be spending time practicing mistakes. And should you fail at 84, drop down to 80 (or lower) and be sure you've played it perfectly. Practice makes permanent, so you want to play perfectly as often as humanly possible.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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Wes Inman
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Wes, I personally never found that to be true in my own playing. The pick has always been my limiting factor for speed

NoteBoat, yes, for me also. I have always been a Blues type player using lots of hammer-ons and pull-offs. I really do not pick much at all. But for the last several years I have practiced hard to develop fast alternate picking, outside picking, and inside picking. And though progress has been slow, I am much faster and accurate than two years ago or so.

Your recommendations are excellent and similar to a Speed Metal Techniqes by Troy Stetina book I have. He also discusses using a minimum of motion. He says frequently, "distance equals time".

He also agrees with you in that in order to really play super fast, you have to practice super fast. He says to start with a very short phrase, maybe three or four notes at most. Play this super fast with accuracy, then add notes to the phrase. With consistent practice you will be able to play long passages at high speed.

Thanks again for the great advice.

Wes

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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Hyperborea
(@hyperborea)
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Minimizing resistance: resistance comes from a couple of sources, external and internal. The external is where the rubber meets the road... or in this case, where the pick meets the string. If you're digging in too deep, your pick has to fight to push the string out of the way - you should be picking with the last 1/8" or less of the pick's tip. At extreme speeds, you're not so worried about dynamics, so you can also angle the pick, so the rounded edge "bumps" over the string, rather than forcing through it.

So, to get this better picking control and to learn not to dig in so much I have seen the "Stylus" pick and exercise book - http://www.styluspick.com/ It's got an end on it that is designed to only work if you use the very end of it and if you dig too deep it catches up on the strings. When you practice with it you are supposed to learn to only use the very tip of the pick. That's the theory anyways. Has anybody tried this? It's not very expensive - $10 for the exercise book and 2 picks - but it's more the wasted time that I want to avoid if it's just a bogus practice tool. Any opinions on this for speed improvement?

Pop music is about stealing pocket money from children. - Ian Anderson


   
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Wes Inman
(@wes-inman)
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Joined: 19 years ago
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Hyperborea

I am not familiar with this particular pick, but back in the 80's Michael Angelo Batio had a speed picking video that included special pointed picks like that. My brother-in-law had the video and let me try the pick a few times. It was very different, I really didn't get the chance to use it enough to see if it would improve my playing, but my brother-in-law could play impressively fast after a few months with it.

It is probably worth it if only because it forces you to learn how to hold the pick properly to really pick fast. You do have to use just the very tip of a pick to alternate pick super fast. So it is probably a good tool. I think they should give you more than two picks, I don't know about others, but I lose picks constantly. If the booklet has good exercises it is probably worth the investment.

My 2 cents.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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Combs
(@combs)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 30
 

Guys, I am too young at the guitar game to make any input to the speed issue, but I took one look at the song in question and went straight to iTunes and bought it. Fantastic. I just changed from electric to acoustic, but I might just have to dig the electric out from time to time for gems like this. Not that I could ever play them, but it is fun trying.

The fast bit for me seems to be the hand over section. I haven't come to grips with this style yet, but it doesn't seem to be 'playing a guitar' to me. I obviosly have a lot to learn. Now for another listen to that song.....


   
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kent_eh
(@kent_eh)
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Posts: 1882
 

Just to re-enforce what has been said about pick position and speed, here's a Joe Satriani quote on the subject:
When you're playing fast, the more the pick dips below the string line, the more drag there will be, which can be a problem. I've noticed that with all the fastest players I've been standing next to the last few years of G3 tour—Vai, Yngwie, Paul Gilbert, or Petrucci—it's just the tip of the pick that's getting down there, unless they're purposely trying to get that “I am indeed killing this string” sound. They all have a way of lifting off a little bit as they go faster.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
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