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Storm Stenvold >> Developing Speed >>

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Backing Tracks

Teacher: Hello and welcome to Developing Speed Techniques. In this series we will look at exercises and phrases to develop controlled speed technique.

Teacher: Some might ask, why Speed? We might all agree that fast playing does not necessarily equate to good playing. Still, there is an emotion to speed that is nice to have under your belt. Also, learning speed technique correctly means having confidence and control when playing at slow tempos.

Teacher: For what I think we want to achieve I present the Five C's of Speed.

  1. Context of Speed  - We are looking to achieve speed runs in the context of our normal (slower) playing.
  2. Control of Speed - We want to have control over these phrases, not out of control.
  3. Clean Speed - Speed runs will be perceived as much faster with clean execution and timing.
  4. Concept of Speed - Th
  5. Consistency of Speed - The development of controlled speed takes practice. Still, those following the exercises given in this series should feel and see improvement in their speed technique in less than a dozen practice sessions.

Teacher: Al DiMeola, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, John Petrucci, Eddie Van Halen, John McLaughlin are some guitarists noted for their technique.

Teacher: All dedicated themselves to consistent practice for years.

Teacher: Let's get started with Right Hand Position.

Right Hand Position

Teacher: When looking at the playing of 'fast' guitarists, there are many different right hand picking positions. Each has a hand and pick position that works for them.
Finally, it almost required to have a metronome to get the most out of these exercises. I loaded some looping jam tracks at the beginning of the lesson to get us rolling.

Teacher: A metronome will give you more incremental progress which is what we are after.

Teacher: Lets get started with Right Hand Position.

Picking Grip

Teacher: An effective way to find the best one for you is to work on developing your 'tremolo'.

Teacher: Tremolo picking is rapidly alternate picking on one string.

Teacher: Rather than trying to speed up slow, but accurate, picking take your tremolo technique and then slow it down and control it.

Teacher: The long term goal is to develop one picking position that can be controlled to cover all speeds and picking patterns. This is the best way to integrate speed playing in to your style.

Teacher: Find a right hand position that is comfortable and relaxed. If you find that your body, arm or hand is tensed up, your teeth are clenched, you forget to breathe, etc... you haven't found your fastest possible right hand position. Besides not being particularly healthy!

Teacher: Experiment with tremolos on different strings. Loud and soft tremolos, muted strings and open. And combinations of all the above.

Teacher: You might also try looking in the mirror when performing these tremolos. It is sometimes easy to spot tension using this as feedback.

Teacher: I prefer a heavy pick. More immediate feedback from the string and less delay in sounding the note. The right answer is what you prefer. I tell my students to start with a heavy pick.

Teacher: Right hand positions possible include anchored, usually using the side of the palm on the bridge or on unused strings.

Teacher: Also using the little finger to touch the pickguard is a common anchor. But some speed players, including Eddie Van Halen and many jazzers don't touch the right hand to the guitar when fast picking

Teacher: Work for a light touch in both hands. Gripping the pick more firmly wiil then be useful to bring out accents.

Teacher: There are many variations of pick angle as well. Experiment. I hit the string fairly perpendicular, but many angle slighty 'forward'.

Teacher: Try to get the least amount of movement. I think it should be isolated to the thumb, fingers and wrist as much as possible. Some forearm, no elbow.

Teacher: Let's work on some exercises to build speed.

Downstrokes - Quarter Notes

Teacher: This first tab is of a picking pattern to get us grounded. Keeping a steady beat play one note on each beat using all downstrokes. Probably start around 140-150 BPM. BPM= Beats per Minute.

Four Note Speed Burst

Teacher: Now change two consecutive downstrokes into a down-up-down-up-down pattern. Starting and ending exactly on consecutive metronome clicks. Once this burst is even then speed up the metronome.

Teacher: In the tabs, D=Downstroke, U=Upstroke.

Teacher: The example emphasizes playing four notes per beat, an even two or four feel. You should supplement it with learning to play six notes per beat to develop the 'triplet feel'.

Six Note Speed Burst (Triplet Feel)

Teacher: If this is difficult, slow down the tempo at which you are practicing the phrase. For some, the drum tracks end at 160 BPM and this may not challenge enough. Then get out your metronome/drum machine. Everyone has a metronome, right? Be honest. If not, get a battery powered digital one. They are small enough to fit in any case or music stand and are very durable. Drum loops of different tempos at the beginning of the lesson.

Teacher: The concept of speed is think in flowing groups of notes rather than ivdividual strokes played fast.

Concept of Speed - Notes in Groups

Teacher: You can speed up and control groups much more easily. Even when the notes are in an even stream you group them. This helps most when you utilize the next group as a 'goal' note to be reached exactly on time/beat.

Teacher: Let's get our left and right hands coordinated.

Quasi-Chromatic exercise

Teacher: Simple exercises that don't involve a lot of mental energy are often the best way to fine tune your basic coordination.

Teacher: Almost any fingering pattern which is easy to visualize will work fine. The example is a classic exercise for left and right hand coordination.

Teacher: Remember you will be playing these exercises slowly at first, but use your tremolo speed style of right hand picking!

Teacher: A great variation is to play the same fingering pattern evenly while accenting the first of every three notes.

Quasi-Chromatic in 'three' accents

Teacher: Accents are a great way to stay on the beat and avoid 'floating' in time. If you can't accent where you choose, slow down until you can.

Teacher: Switch the order of the notes on the starting string and repeat that new pattern from string to string.

Quasi-Chromatic - new order

Teacher: Accent in fours.

Teacher: There are 24 possible combinations if you really want to put in some practice time. 1-2-3-4, 2-3-4-1, 4-2-3-1, etc..

Teacher: A cool variation is this riff/warmup.

Mixed Finger Exercise

Teacher: This is actually a riff I learned from Lyle Ronglien, who runs Another Riff site with cool archives and lessons. A Great exercise that combines four different fingering combinations both ascending and descending.

Quasi-Chromatic string change

Teacher: Include a string change. Now each repeat will also have a string change. Try accenting in fours and threes.

Quasi-Chromatic Three Note Per String

Teacher: It is extremely important to develop techniques based on fingering patterns that use three notes per string. Three note per string patterns are very usefully as we will see later. You can still accent these in groups of four.

Teacher: Let's try building some speed with this idea.

Speed Builder Lick 1

Teacher: Understand that most speed runs utilize a pattern of left and right hand movement which will repeat in identical or similar fashion string after string.

Teacher: The first important concept is to identify and master this 'increment' from the beginning and up to, and including, the first note of where it starts to repeat. Don't worry about speeding up the rest of the run until you can blaze on this first section.

Increment + Tremolo Alternation

Teacher: A few notes of the increment alternating with tremolo.

Four Note Alternation

Six Note Increment

Teacher: Four notes then six note increments, which ends with the first note of the repeat.

Teacher: Now try to master the next increment. Then connect the two increments together. Tackle each section until you can easily play it individually before adding it on to the run.

Six Note Increment Part 2

Increment Connection

Teacher: Finally you put them together.

Teacher: Well time is up. I will send one more riff, more 'down' in sound. Work with these and make up your own.

Teacher: Next time we will look at the next piece of the puzzle, applying this coordination to scale positions.

Descending Speed Lick

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