Hi you're in the studio with Luke from GuitarIQ.com. Welcome to the first video in the Guitar iQ&A series, where you send in your burning guitar questions and I do my best to answer them! Today's question comes in from Manuel, who says:
“Among many other things I'm working on, I would like to improve my playing speed. I'm not a shredder and don't want to be. But sometimes I feel like there's speed missing from my hands. Is there a daily exercise I can do to improve my overall playing speed?”
Absolutely. There are tons of exercises you can do to improve speed, strength, and stamina. I have a book planned for release later in the year on this exact topic! However, learning all the speed exercises in the world won't help much if you don't have the basic foundations in place. I want to answer your question by briefly providing an overall framework for developing speed and knowing what to work on.
In my book Lead Guitar Breakthrough, I touch on the topic of developing speed. In general, I think guitar players are often guilty of putting too much emphasis on playing speed. Things like musicality, dynamics, tone, and developing a great ear for melody will get you much further as a musician than just being able to play something fast! Having said that, adding flourishes of speed to your playing (when used musically) can be a powerful tool for expressing your ideas on the fretboard.
The main takeaway from this video: Speed is simply the byproduct of two key things, accuracy and economy. First, accuracy. There is a dramatic difference between playing something fast and playing something badly at a fast tempo. There's a quote from a book I read (I think it was The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle) where he visits a very prestigious music institution. One of their key philosophies was this: If someone can walk past your practice room and identify the song you're playing... than you're playing it too fast! When you practice in slow motion you have time to think about your technique, focus on making your notes clean and consistent, and most of all spot those problem areas that keep tripping you up. Once you can play something perfectly at half speed, for example, you can then slowly work your way up to replicating this at your ideal tempo.
Now, the second key is economy. What does that mean? It means working on getting your technique to a point where you can eliminate unnecessary movement, tension, and stress in your playing. Examples of this are: Not being mindful of your body position and the tension in your neck and shoulders. Pushing down too hard on the strings or lifting your fingers too far away from the fretboard between notes. Not holding your pick properly or placing too much strain on your wrist or elbow when playing. Admittedly, this is a fairly big topic. And it's something I don't feel enough guitar players focus on. The general principal is really simple: Smooth and relaxed movements are far more conducive to speed than tense and rigid ones. I've written a book called Play Guitar Better. It's basically a quick-start guide to developing great technique where I break these things down in a lot more detail. So if you're looking to get more from your technique, I think a lot of people will find that helpful.
So, when looking to develop playing speed, they're the fundamental ideas I think you need to focus on. Remember the takeaway: Speed is the byproduct of accuracy and economy. It's not about trying to just make your playing quicker, it's about focusing on making your movements smaller and more efficient. Manuel, hopefully that helped answer your question... and I hope there was something in there that everyone else can apply to their own playing.
That's it from me. If you found this video helpful, please like and subscribe. If you're interested in either of those books I mentioned you can find them over at GuitarIQ.com. And last of all, if you have a question that you'd like answered just leave it in the comments or head over to the Q&A tab on our website. And you might find your question featured in a video! All the best in the practice room this week. Chat soon!