Ask the Expert – How to increase speed when playing guitar

Joshua Ellis asks:

“What is the best practice method to increase speed when playing guitar? I find that I can play the notes and I get the timing I just need to work on speed.”

This is a good question Joshua.

There is a concept called speed learning which is more to do with getting parts into muscle memory than tackling fast licks. The theory goes, if you play something incorrectly more than twice in a row then your brain has actually learnt it wrong and it takes ten times and long to re-learn it right! Therefore when you are working out the notes make sure that you get it absolutely right and not an approximation even if its painfully slow. Then once you have it under your fingers try to play the WHOLE thing at the same speed and not speed up for the easy bits and slow down for the hard bits. Then to increase speed use a metronome and keep pushing the pace up. If you find hard to get beyond a certain tempo leave it for a day or so and then come back to it. Its amazing how your brain figures it out in your sleep! Finally make sure you relax your body, don’t tense up and don’t sit hunched up. Try to stand up if you can as I’m assuming you won’t be playing seated live.

I actually demo this speed learning technique on one of our online rock & pop guitar lessons. It teaches pentatonic warm up and speed exercises and you’ll see how we first start really slowly and then build up the speed.

If you’ve not covered the five pentatonic scale shapes before I would suggest taking a look at this lesson first though. Pentatonic scales are also taught in detail on the Intermediate Worship Guitar Course.