2 Tips To Break Your Speed Barrier
Todd Simpson
Sep 26 2020, 04:34 AM
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These two tips sound pretty simple. They are in fact simple. It just takes a bit of time to get used to doing them.

FIRST:
Reduce the amount of pressure you put on the string and reduce how far away from the strings you pull your fingers. This sounds obvious, yet it’s something that players struggle with for years. One doesn’t have to press all that hard to make a fretted note. It does depend on the guitar, on the height of the action and on the strings chosen. Some player like to make it hard for them to play. This is part of their playing style. Stevie Ray Vaughn set up his guitars to almost fight back. This is just player preference of course. One can go the other way. Set up the guitar to allow the hand to have an economy of energy and motion. This means lowering the strings a bit, not using telephone poll sized guitars necks or telephone wire strings. With a guitar that is properly setup, one can barely use any pressure at all and still fret a note. The finger doesn’t have to touch the wood on the fretboard in order to fret a note. Guitars that are “scalloped” (that have a small valley in the wood between frets, such as Yngwie Stratocasters) are done so to remind the hand that overpressure isn’t needed since the finger doesn’t get to touch the fret board typically. If you feel the fretboard, you may be pressing too hard. If you do press too hard, you over exert the than, which reduces your stamina and you risk pushing the note sharp even without bending. We call this “overpressure”. Exerting overpressure is one of the most common things I see new players doing. It greatly reduces the speed at which one can play, reduces the amount of stamina in the hand and reduces the dynamics of play. So all in all, it’s just a bad idea to use too much pressure on the left hand. One way around this, a way to re-train the hand is to use something called “Thumbless technique” where one lifts the left thumb entirely off the neck temporarily to just press with the fingers. Then later, once the fingers find the minimum pressure needed, the thumb is re introduced to serve as a guide for the hand and not a point of counter pressure. Too much left hand pressure can simply get in the way of progress. Trying to play with a lighter touch can open up one’s playing to new possibilities imho, so it’s a good idea to try to find not only the maximum finger pressure one can use without going sharp, but also the minimum pressure one can use on the left hand.

SECONDLY:
Lifting up too high with the left hand. This is also something players sometimes struggle with for years. It’s almost instinctual, to lift the fingers up and out of the way when they are not fretting. However, this is wasted energy. Pulling the fingers off the strings and leaving them too high strains the hand and reduces stamina. Also, it increases the amount of time and effort required to fret the next notes. The fingers must be brought back in to line with the fret, lowered and positioned. This can create lag in one’s playing and keep one from playing in time/synch. The fix for this is too keep the fingers just above the strings. Just barely above them so that the time from fretted note, to lifting, and fretting the next note can be minimized. Again, the idea is to use an economy of energy and motion. A great example of this style of playing is SLASH (Ex. Guns and Roses) when you watch his hand, it barely reaches above string height. It’s very efficient. As for picking, the same rules apply. Moving the pick to far away from the strings on any given strike can introduce lag and reduce precision. So keeping the arc/wag of the pick hand to a dead minimum can increase efficiency and precision and speed. This is not to say a big pick arc/wag is never useful because sometimes, especially in blues playing, a large pick arc is helpful for tone and a sense of rhythm. But for more precise and faster playing, minimizing the pick arc can be very helpful. Yngwie has one of the most efficient picking hand techniques that I’ve ever seen. So he is a great example. His pick hand never gets “stiff”, he never picks from the elbow and “stiff arms” it, he always uses a minimum of energy and still picks at an incredible rate of speed. It’s also instinctual to tense up when playing fast, this is yet another way the body will get in it’s own way. Getting stiff actually reduces precision/speed and increases fatigue.

So, by learning to play with a lighter and lower touch on the left hand, and with a lighter touch on the picking hand, one can greatly increase speed/precision and reduce fatigue. Again, this isn’t to say that playing with a heavy hand is never required, sometimes, it is. But being able to make the transition between these two styles of play is critical for making progress and becoming a balanced and well rounded player. I found this video to be very helpful in writing this article and it’s complete with examples.

https://youtu.be/yXtBNqDUE98

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This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Sep 26 2020, 04:35 AM
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Phil66
Sep 26 2020, 05:00 PM
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Posts: 7.777
Joined: 5-July 14
From: The Black Country, England
Nice one Todd,

I've often thought about getting a scalloped guitar purely for training pressure on the left hand. When I started I used to think the string had to be pushed onto the fretboard rolleyes.gif

Cheers

Phil

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PosterBoy
Sep 28 2020, 12:14 PM
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I think the problem a lot of us have is we practice our scales to get faster but don't analyse the above things to help us actually get faster.

It's hard to slow it down and focus on these little but crucial things, and the improvements come slowly and we like instant results

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Todd Simpson
Sep 30 2020, 01:26 AM
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Well Said! Yup. It's the small things that often get in our way in terms of progress. These are subtle changes that require a lot of focus and practice. I've seen these two simple issues get in the way of student progress many times. The good news is that with a bit of work, one can break through smile.gif



QUOTE (PosterBoy @ Sep 28 2020, 07:14 AM) *
I think the problem a lot of us have is we practice our scales to get faster but don't analyse the above things to help us actually get faster.

It's hard to slow it down and focus on these little but crucial things, and the improvements come slowly and we like instant results

You are at GuitarMasterClass.net


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Don't miss today's free blues, jazz & country licks. Plus all our lessons are packed with free content!
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