You just need to visit a few guitar forums and you'll quickly see that there is an obscene number of
guitarists wanting to increase their alternate picking speed. And hey…who am I to judge? After all, developing
fast picking chops definitely allows you to play licks and solos that were previously impossible. Not to
mention that rapid machine-gun picking also sounds really cool. :-) (You only need to listen to Paul
Gilbert to get proof of this!).
So how do you increase your alternate picking speed? Well, unfortunately there's no magic bullet. It takes a
lot of blood, sweat and tears! To become an alternate picking monster takes most players years of consistent
With that said, here are a couple of tips that will help…
High Repetition Quality
You may have read about the importance of repetition and how it is essential to building motor skills like
alternate picking. To put it simply, the more times you play a picking exercise the better you get at it! And
the better you get at it, the faster you'll be able to play it.
But repetition isn't enough. They must be high-quality repetitions. Each time you play the exercise you must
play it with a high degree of perfection. Trying to play too quickly for your current level will only cause you
to make mistakes. And these mistakes will mean it takes you longer to reach your speed goals.
Two: Use Super-Slow Practice Before Using A Metronome
Many guitarists start using their metronome way too early. They start practicing the alternate picking
exercise to a metronome before they have done the necessary preparatory work. And this can cause them to
practice the exercise in a tense way with less-than optimal technique. And this is hardly a great way to build
speed with alternate picking!
So what's the answer?
When I first learn an exercise I learn to play it insanely slow. In fact, I play it so slow that I will
often take around 10-20 seconds to play each note. This allows me to figure out the most relaxed and economical
way to play each note of the exercise. It also gives me to focus on other important things like my overall
posture and my breathing.
And this saves me a LOT of time in the long run. If I work out the best fingerings and pick motions from the
start, it saves having to adjust them later on. And this also allows me to get the exercise up to speed much
sooner than a guitarist who chooses fingerings and pick motions in a much more haphazard way. Only when I can
play the exercise perfectly will I start practicing it with a metronome.
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