How can I raise my picking (and strumming) to 16th notes at 160 beats per minute or higher? I have been trying to incorporate more forearm rotational movement into my picking (imagine turning a circular door knob), rather than forearm lever or wrist, and I can perform this motion at very high speeds, but fail to do it with any sort of control when picking/strumming. The goal here is to have a relaxed picking technique that allows for great speed and control. I can pick using my forearm at 220 BPM 16ths and above, but lack the control to then switch strings or really anything else other than just one single note.

Let's talk about what I'm doing right now. I recently picked up the Guitar Grimoire Progressions and Chords book (I am finding to be great--I already know theory, so it's just a good reference book so I don't have to think so much about what to practice).

  • There is a section of the book with simply many pages of exercise progressions to try, so right now I am trying to play through them all with a metronome with quarter notes, eighth notes, triplets, and 16th notes.

  • Eventually, once I have the first few pages down well, I will record myself playing these exercises so I can discover and practice applicable scales over the progressions.

I have been working on my right hand technique to play more quickly for about a few years now, probably 5-15 minutes a day, and still am quite far off (I'm at around 125BPM 16ths on a good day), so any advice is appreciated. I am left handed, so maybe this has something to do with it, although I would like to think I can overcome this.

  • Left-handed,playing a LH or RH guitar? Some would say (me included) that playing a RH guitar left-handed can be better - for fretting - , but it sounds like your problem is in the strumming hand. But which one?
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 16, 2014 at 5:19

1 Answer 1


One of my favourite guitar players - Tuck Andress, outlines all methods of picking a excellently on his site. Be sure to read through it and try it all out. He outlines each method of holding the pick, finding the angle of picking, rotation vs up-down motion, as well as thumb-only (ala Wes Montgomery) and pure old school classical fingerstyle technique and discusses thier pros and cons. =


Once you settle on a proper technique that works for you, you can get speed easily. 5 - 15 minutes a day is great, but do not stay on the same exercise for too long. Keep moving on and try to start thinking about picking geometrically, optimising picking and motion while crossing strings etc.. no book is going to figure that out for you. Just got to do it yourself.

NOTE: The thing my teachers have always told me is to play at the speed of my thought. This means I am never in "muscular mode", where i am just playing without expression or musical impetus. So try to see speed musically, rather than mechanically, it really helps. Sometimes when you do this, the mechanics work themselves out magically, and then you can analyse them backwards and set them in stone for solid technique.

  • 1
    I actually have read the above link posted, quite a few times, and it is a good read for sure. However, I have a lot of trouble with the Benson picking described there as it causes a lot of tension throughout my arm when I try to do it. The forearm rotational picking as described by PebberBrown seems to help much more. Let me see if I can find the video...
    – Musicoder
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 19:21
  • As you can see in the video it is possible to combine a very slight finger movement along with the rotation of the forearm to pick. I like this method because it allows to keep the picking at a consistent angle.
    – Musicoder
    Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 19:30

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