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Are there any exercises or some tips on how to improve speed? If yes then please tell me! I'm already fairly good at guitar. It's just that I'm struggling a bit with the speed of my fingers.

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  • A recent video I've seen on exactly this topic. There may be some useful tips in there for you. youtube.com/watch?v=gGUbDU-jocQ – AJFaraday Mar 30 at 11:31
  • play excessively slowly, but try to move as fast as possible to the next fingering after playing the previous one. e.g. if ------> is the time to move your hand/fingers between two positions, then play very slowly but instead of doing (1) ---------------> (2) do (1) --> (2). Guaranteed speed (and cleanliness) improvement in a short span. – Jivan Mar 30 at 16:52
  • Practicing with a metronome consistently is one of the most effective ways. Start slow, and increase as it becomes far too easy – element11 Mar 30 at 19:53
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Speed isn't about fretting faster. It's about RELEASING faster. If you release too slowly, then the muscles on the front and back of your hand fight, and you get that "try-hard tendinitis claw."

Thanks for accepting. Maybe I can add a couple more points:

  • the way to know if you're overtrying is to check the back of your hand. That should be relaxed, all the time.

  • none of the power should ever come from tightening your wrist.

  • your fingers should move independently. Your palm should never feel tight or strained, ever.

  • the muscles in the web between your fingers is a pretty good tell, too: they should not be doing any of the work

Short version: If you focus on relaxing constantly, you'll find that the fingers move pretty darned fast on their own.

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    Do you know if the same principle of focusing on releasing applies to other instruments as well? – piiperi Reinstate Monica Mar 29 at 13:39
  • Absolutely. I don't play many different instruments, but I do play piano, and I can say that practicing a fast Chopin or Liszt passage with any tension at all is likely to lead to a trip to the doctor for Cortisol shots. – Bennyboy1973 Mar 29 at 17:25
  • Did you mean cortisone shots? – Richard Hardy Mar 30 at 12:53
  • Yeah I did. I was in college about a million years ago. :D – Bennyboy1973 Mar 30 at 21:09
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There is a standard answer to this. It is fairly simple. You need to practice with a metronome.

  1. First set the metronome for a much slower speed than the one the piece of music you are practising requires and which is just a bit quicker than you are comfortable with.
  2. When this becomes comfortable increase the metronome speed by a small amount, say 5 beats per minute, and repeat.

Keep doing this and eventually you will reach the required speed.

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    I'm not an expert on this, but the speed picking gurus on the internet say that fast and slow playing are two different motions and techniques like walking and running. You don't learn to run by walking faster and faster. Or to play fast by playing slow faster. At some point a change of operating mode is required. Your suggested method may well work, if it's taken as "let the metronome and your feelings of comfort be your coach". But AFAIK, this doesn't always work. Some people hit a brick wall - they can't get any faster no matter how long they try, and cannot find out what the problem is. – piiperi Reinstate Monica Mar 29 at 12:12
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How one picks is an important factor. Sometimes alternate picking is advantageous, but not always. Changing from one string to another, it's worth adressing whether the pick on the last string is going in the same direction as the next string. Last note on a G string works better when playing B string next if that stroke is down. It also makes the playing smoother. Fast by itself doesn't equal good. Fast and smooth is better. That's r.h.

L.h needs fingering to be examined, as often that can be improved: try out different fingering, but also consider if you need to change strings more often, or move up and down the same strings.

Guitars with lower actions are often easier to play fast and smooth as the strings are easier and quicker to press down.

Playing legato also speeds things up. There's no need to pluck every note - hammering on, pulling off, sliding, can help. As can hybrid picking, using fingers as well as pick. I find that particularly useful when playing consecutive notes on non-adjacent strings.

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  • I came to the same conclusion too: hammer on and slide will not only make things faster, but often easier and it adds some expression too – Thomas Mar 28 at 20:14
  • And sweep picking is the absolute step change with regards to picking speed across multiple strings. Took me a while to get the basics right, but it more than doubled my speed straight away - and as I get better I'm getting even faster - and I could not have done that with any other picking technique. – Doktor Mayhem Apr 1 at 20:03
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Learning a Johnny Winter break 50 years ago from vinyl @ 16-2/3, I hit a speed wall trying to play every note. I then just focused on full speed with mistakes. That worked, Hurdle surmounted ... and it soon came together with fewer and fewer mistakes.

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    Interesting. It seems to be the opposite of what's generally advised. – Eric Duminil Mar 28 at 18:49
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    You may have unknowingly, just by intuition, used chunking, breaking down the fast sequences into "chunks", smaller manageable parts, and then focusing on getting the chunks accurately timed and cleaner. The alphabet is a good example, you don't learn A B C D E F G H I J K L M N ... as a continuous ubroken sequence, you break it into shorter segments. A B C D -- E F G -- H I J K -- L M N -- ... etc. Or however you split it. Divide et impera – piiperi Reinstate Monica Mar 29 at 12:18
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One reason for slowness is that we're not sure what happens next. So try to consider each phrase you play as a continuous gesture without hesitation, rather than as a series of individual notes. One hand position should lead unerringly to the next.

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The way I was taught to practice and learn fast runs is to practice them in a dotted fashion. So let's say for a run of quavers, practice it as a run of "dotted quaver - semiquaver - dotted quaver - semiquaver - ...", and then as a run of "semiquaver - dotted quaver - semiquaver - dotted quaver - ..." (repeating the practice in each pattern several times before switching).

That way, you learn and practive the quick moves necessary, but there's enough "breathing space" between them so that mistakes don't accumulate. I've used this practice techique successfully in several pieces.

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The way I teach speed development is to use two tactics together.

Many people will tell you "to get fast, practice slow". This is true, because slow practice allows you to focus on your technique: distance = time. At any given speed, the farther you are moving, the longer it will take.

So the first tactic is to practice slowly, and pay attention to minimizing distance. Lift your fretting hand fingers as little as possible. Make the strokes (with pick or finger) as short as possible. By reducing the distance, you'll reduce the amount of time needed to complete the sound production.

But slow practice isn't the complete answer, because it doesn't help with the mental part, which is shortening your reaction time. For this, the second tactic is needed...

Play at a speed you can execute perfectly. Let's say it's 80bpm. After playing it once, double the speed and try it at 160. As soon as you make the first mistake, stop. Set the metronome one mark faster than your first speed (so now you're at 84). Do it again. If you can do it without a mistake, go to 160, then try 88 after the first mistake.

By really forcing the tempo, the reduction to 84 will seem more manageable. If you get it up to, say 92, and make a mistake, start it all over again at 80. Over time this will improve your reaction.

But quick reaction without proper execution leads to sloppy performance, so you want the bulk of your speed work to be slow, and focused on technique.

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