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I've been playing guitar for a couple of years already and just started electric a couple of months ago. One of the things I've been struggling with was the speed. After watching multiple videos on speed playing I noticed that - unlike the people in the videos - I was bringing my fingers way above the fret board when transitioning between positions therefore losing a lot of speed due to that extra distance.
My Question: How do I force myself to keep my fingers closer to the fret board at all times? (also if you can provide some extra tips in left hand speed techniques it will be helpful)

  • After playing electric guitar for a couple of months, you want to play at speed. To me that's somewhat like not being able to walk yet, but trying to run. Slow it all down, concentrate on making your playing legato and smooth sounding, and when you can walk well, the running will follow better. – Tim Jun 1 '18 at 8:50
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Practice all your body movements very slowly. Not just the notes you play but the actions of "lift", "shift", "place", etc.

I have a method of practicing shifts over all distances on the finger board that goes something like this...

consider a straight 16 note (or eight etc, doesn't really matter) run that has a large shift somewhere.

I take the following grouping of movements (play, lift, shift, place) and repeat. Play through the shift only (not the whole run) with these movements in rhythm with the metronome (1, 2, 3, 4) or (1 e an da) at a very slow tempo. This gives you 3/4 of a beat to get to where you are going. Do it relaxed, eyes closed (if possible). Then DON'T SPEED UP but shorten the time that you give to the (lift, shift, place) and more time to the note, until you can "shift" all at once in a quarter beat or less. Now the shift will feel like nothing. And yes before you ask, each shift needs to be learnt like this. Each distance and for each pair of starting finger and ending finger. Hence the famous Vomit Exercise on the upright bass.

As for amount of lift, keep the hand as close as possible to the strings. To produce this feeling in muscle memory I'd start by shifting with your fingers still touching the string (not a glissando that you can hear). Then as you practice lift them slightly.

As an aside the above works for speed picking as well (pick as close to the string as possible).

I find that it's natural for most people to move with more exaggerated movements the faster they move, also to play "harder" when they play faster. These may be reflexive actions that are programmed in our primitive brain and nervous systems. When you learn an instrument a large part of it is reprogramming to get past these habits. Once the distance is in the muscle memory you'll find you can play as fast as you like without thinking.

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Here's a style of practice I've been using on the banjo in order to develop this skill. I think it should apply just as well to the guitar. Note: My answer is specific to melodic playing rather than playing chord sequences.

  • Practice a scale or run in different keys by progressing around the circle of 4ths (or 5ths, but 4ths sounds better). For example, you might play a run first in C, then F, then Bb, etc., until you get back to C. This forces you to move all around the fretboard, and as a bonus gets you practice in every key, and helps in memorizing the order of the circle.

  • Use the metronome.

  • When switching from one key to another (for example, from C to F), do not give yourself any extra time to switch. The last note of the run in C should occur on one tick of the metronome; the first note of the run in F should occur on the very next tick. This is hard, especially as the speed of the metronome starts to get faster, but you won't be able to do this unless your movements are very efficient. You will have to keep your fingers close to the strings to make this work.

  • Demand accurate sound from yourself. For example, if you find yourself cutting the duration of the last note of a run short in order to make time for moving your hand to the new position, figure out how to move your hand more quickly and accurately instead so that every note sounds the same.

  • As is usual for metronome practice, once you get it good at a certain speed, increase the speed.

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