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I have been taking lessons for three months. I practice 1 to 2 sometimes 3 hours 6 days a week. I always practice my finger exercises, pentatonic and major scales as well as the 18 chords I've learned. At what point in time will it start to come together, I am diligent but getting frustrated!!!!Slow and steady but speed is not coming as quick as I thought.

  • It really takes a lot of time to develop speed. And the only key point is not giving up – Shevliaskovic Nov 3 '15 at 6:41
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As dwoz says, you need to practice, practice, practice ...

You seem to be a bit pre-occupied with speed, and really, speed is not the most important thing to be worrying about. Musicality is much more important.

You might like to concentrate for a while on some slow pieces of music (or songs) - there are some terrific pieces of music which do not depend on how fast they are played.

When you can play a piece of music and make it sound beautiful, even at a very slow speed, then you can start to worry about maybe playing it a little bit faster.

Also, three months is not a long time in the scale of time it takes to learn a musical instrument - just remember that Rachmaninov (after many years of being an accomplished musician) used to practise piano pieces by playing them incredibly slowly.

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The guitar is a wonderful and versatile instrument. Learning to play it will give you untold hours of enjoyment over the course of a lifetime. At three months you are only starting to take your first step on a lifelong journey.

Learning to play the guitar well - takes time, practice and dedication. From what you describe, you are putting in the practice and based on the amount of time you are devoting to practice, I would say you have the dedication you need.

But it takes time! I have been playing guitar for over 30 years and I get better every week. That's one thing I love about playing the guitar - there is always room for improvement. One thing you may find comforting, is that the hardest part of learning to play guitar (or any new instrument) is in the beginning. As your skills improve, you will begin to notice that your progress from week to week begins to accelerate.

It's normal to be a little slow after only three months of practicing. You are training your brain to train your fingers to contort into very unnatural and unusual shapes and positions. Mastery of the timing and coordination needed in your picking hand takes a great deal of repetitive practice over a long period of time (much longer than 3 months)!

The most important thing to concentrate on is accuracy in hitting the correct notes and the correct timing (not speed). Rhythm and musicality are more important than speed at this point. Speed will come over time with continued correct practice.

To increase speed between chord changes, you can start by learning to quickly form the shape needed to play one of the two chords. Practice going from a neutral hand position to the chord over and over until it becomes almost natural. You are developing muscle memory and it takes time and repetition.

Once you can go from a neutral hand position and play the chord fairly quickly, do the same exercise with the next cord. Then practice switching between the two chords, concentrating on cleanly playing each chord and gradually building transition speed.

To increase speed on a particular passage consisting of notes - as in a lead solo, or a lick or run or playing a melody - use a metronome (digital and on line versions will work fine) and start painstakingly slow! You want to start at a speed where you can play each note accurately and keep the timing between notes accurate as well (that is where the metronome comes in).

For example, if you are just trying to build speed on a scale, you can play one note per tick of the metronome starting at a speed where you can achieve 100% accuracy. Once you can consistently hit all the correct notes on the correct beat, then speed the metronome up slightly until you are missing a few notes or beats and keep practicing at the new speed until you achieve consistent 100% accuracy.

This is important because if you are playing too fast and making mistakes each time, your brain (and fingers) will remember the mistakes. Whatever you practice over and over eventually becomes ingrained in your muscle memory. So accuracy is important during this learning process.

Another way to build speed in learning a musical phrase consisting of notes - is to break it down into small segments and master one segment before moving to the next. Then you can add them together after you master them all.

Don't worry so much about speed at this point in your development. It will come. Focus more on accuracy and most importantly - try to keep it fun!

Don't get discouraged! One day soon things will start coming together and you will begin to see rapid progress. It's tough coming out of the gate but it get's exponentially easier to improve over time.

Good luck on your journey!

  • Great summary. I feel like it needs the following addition; one of the most important things when it comes to speed is efficiency of motion. When watching fast players play; notice how little fretting fingers move or how little the pick moves. The idea is to keep the motion minimal. The way to do this is to learn it at a very slow speed (like mentioned) and monitor/lessen your movements. – abort Nov 5 '15 at 10:08
  • Thanks @abort Agreed that at a point when you begin focusing on increasing speed - efficiency of movement is a critical factor. We could write a lengthy answer just on the subject of speed. But since OP has only been taking lessons for 3 months - I'm not sure blazing maximum speed is where his focus needs to be at this point. But efficiency of fretting hand and picking hand movement can help at any level. Good comment. – Rockin Cowboy Nov 5 '15 at 17:29
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Learn a song. Apply. Apply. Apply. Learning scales but not knowing any songs is like learning English but not having anything to say. Learning scales, technique, and harmony/theory should happen concurrently with learning songs.

  • Take care with this approach. I've played with so many people who've just learned songs, and can only play those songs - and not apply the skills to anything new. So have to then learn another song in order to play it. – Tim Nov 3 '15 at 8:30
  • @Tim, that's absolutely true. That's why I said "concurrently" (editing to make this more clear). – dwoz Nov 3 '15 at 17:25
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If I have understood your question correctly, you would like to have some passages that you can play with more fluency, since you are getting frustrated feeling like you are playing music always in slow motion, one note at a time.

I am familiar with that frustration, having coached my two children as they have learned string instruments.

There is a certain satisfaction and pride to be had by playing some things fast. Satisfaction and pride are helpful in keeping up your motivation to practice!

So I will tell you how I helped my children have that feeling of playing something fast, and feeling flashy (while not sacrificing all the careful technical development we had worked so hard to achieve). I don't know anything about the right hand of the guitar -- hopefully someone else will explain that part.

Pick the two-octave scale you like the best. After playing it in the usual way you've been taught to practice it, try playing it with a feeling of grouping two notes together. You can give the first of each group of two notes a bit of an accent. You can also imagine your brain sending one message, resulting in two notes coming out, instead of sending one message for each note. It will sound like this: Yada - yada - yada - yada, etc. or Do-re, mi-fa, sol-la, si-do, etc., where each syllable represents one note in the scale.

Do that several days in a row. The next step is to group four notes together in one group. There is a trick to getting this to work well. Try playing like this: do-re-mi-fa-sol (with accent on do and sol), pause, sol-la-si-do-re, pause, etc. In other words, you are playing a group of four notes plus one extra, then another group of four notes and an extra.

The key to playing with fluency is for your hand to be quite relaxed. Don't lift your fingers any higher from the frets than you need to, and when it's time for a finger to come down to form a note, let it come down in a very relaxed way -- don't slam it down. Let it come down in a sneaky way. The reason for this advice: the more relaxed your hand is, the easier time it will have moving the fingers quickly.

Sometimes practice this sequence of groups of four notes without playing the notes with your right hand. This will help your muscle memory establish the patterns.

After some time (it could be some days or some weeks), you can try tossing off groups of 8 notes. A nice rhythm for this step uses a quarter note for the tonic each time, and an eighth note for everything else: do (long) - re mi fa sol la si do (long) etc. with accent on do, fa, do. It might come out a bit messy. It's okay, don't force it. It should feel like when you're kneeling on your bed and you just let yourself tumble down on your side.

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