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Let's say I need to play

10 13 12 13 - 10 13 12 13 - ...

quickly on a single string. Label my fingers as index 1, middle 2, ring 3, and pinky 4.

If I put 1, pick, lift 1, put 4, pick, lift 4, ... In other words only one finger frets the string at a time. I find that there is a lot of excessive string noise, especially when I play fast.

However, if I put 1, pick, put 4, pick, put 3, lift 4, pick, put 4, pick, lift 3 & 4, pick ... similar to a hammer on - pull off, multiple fingers on the string at the same time. The sound is a lot cleaner because the string is never lifted up all the way, but this is also harder and seems to require a lot more practice to put the fingers down in the correct order.

How do experienced guitarists play this fast and cleanly?

Thanks!

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For that particular phrase, I'd put 1 on, play, put 3+4 on, play, lift 4, play, put 4 back, play. Then repeat. All the time, index(1) is left pressing fret 10.

As you say, hammer ons and pull offs work, and will sound smoother. They'll need a lot of slow work to build up the pattern in muscle memory, but the end result will be legato, as opposed to hearing every note picked - which will give a somewhat different effect, although the fingering will remain very similar, it's just that hammering and pulling will change the way the fingers go on and off.

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    Yup - that's what I'd do. Maybe the OP has too high an action, or is pressing too hard... – Doktor Mayhem Jun 21 '18 at 8:53
  • Thanks! I have no problem with hammer ons and pull offs, but it's the coordination between finger 3, 4 and right hand that's kinda tripping me up a bit. I need to think consciously to put both down and lift both up, while keeping 1 on the fretboard. – sonph Jun 21 '18 at 21:35
  • Since ring and pinky are somewhat like Siamese twins, it won't be that difficult. You've probably trained them to be two separate items. For this, revert to them moving together, partially. – Tim Jun 21 '18 at 21:41
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First, there is no reason to lift the first finger in this phrase even if you are alternate picking.

The key to speed is practicing perfect optimal movements at a very slow speed. I have seen "shredder" videos (not from the masters but "amateur" shredders imo) that claim the key to speed is engaging the twitch muscle in the arm. This leads to an exaggerated sloppy movement. The issue you are describing is one of synchronization between your left and right hands.

You're description is very smart. You are placing the left hand finger before engaging the right hand. Many guitarists are not aware of this, especially self taught guitarists. The left hand needs to be set before the beat, it needs to be slightly ahead.

Based on your description you simply aren't there yet, but your practice technique is good.

I've been able to get clean alternate picking across all 6 strings at 16th notes at 220-240 bpm, and on one string or a pair of neighboring strings at over 300bpm, with melodic patterns (not just an Eddie VH tremolo).

For me, I start out practicing the pattern one note per beat at 60 bpm. The training is not "speed" training but getting the pattern in muscle memory so there is no confusion whatsoever. Only then do I start ramping up the metronome. If I get to a speed where I feel tension in the picking arm or get confusion in the left hand fingering I go back to a slower speed.

Over the long run your sense of touch will become enhanced and you will not have to go as far back with each new lick.

Some tips include (1) keep left hand fingers as close to the string as possible at all times, (2) keep the pick as close to the strings as possible at all times (without grazing the string, causes buzzing), (3) plant fingers where they need to be as soon as possible (not a moment before the note).

For example in the 1-2-3-4 chromatic exercise across all 6 strings as soon a finger 2 goes down I lift and plat finger 1 on the next string. Optimize movement to reduce confusion.

For many guitarists when they start to play faster the automatically start to exaggerate the body movements. This is natural but this is exactly the thing that we train NOT to do.

Time is the key. Take time to program your biological computer and you will see effects over time. It you rush it you'll just be sloppy and disappointed with the results.

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