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Guitar Speed Exercises - Finger Independence

I've a number of guitar students who have recently been asking specifically for lessons on how to build speed, so I thought I'd share a number of the useful exercises here.


Firstly, let's address the elephant in the room - Speed is not the be-all-and-end-all. I know a lot of people are not into speed and think that it can actually detract from a piece of music rather than enhance it.


But for me speed for speed sake is not the goal, nor should it really be anybody's, in my opinion. It is, however, a tool that can be used to introduce hugely important musical themes like tension and release. It is also simply necessary to play a lot of music that we love, and that isn't just virtuosic old-school rock like Vai or Satriani. Have you ever noticed how fast jazzers often play?


Here's a great example of some speed playing by the legendary Les Paul himself:





Speed is really a by-product of accuracy, finger dexterity and independence, and hand synchronisation among a number of other things.


With that said, let's look at the first few exercises we're going to focus on this week.


The Scale



The Chromatic Scale is a great one to use to make sure all fingers are involved and we aren't ignoring any in their development. I know many players who almost completely ignore the pinky - well you can't get away with that here!


Let's start by taking a basic look at the Chromatic Scale in case you are not familiar with it.


Guitar Speed Exercise

Exercises

Let's look at the picking exercises for this week:


The first of our exercises simply plays up the scale, ascending using the fingering marked above. The second exercise does the opposite, and descends the scale.


Some things to consider when doing this:


  1. Moving between the pinky and the third finger can sometimes be a struggle, so be sure to play slowly enough to have clean notes throughout.

  2. Are your right and left hands nicely synchronised? - this is another common reason why notes may not always sound cleanly ie we can pick with the right hand before the finger on the left is fully in position.

  3. Use a metronome - even in this first stage, working with a click is an awesome habit to build.

  4. Notice the way we move back one fret each time we move up a string, apart from when we move between the G and B strings?


Guitar Speed Exercise

Guitar Speed Exercise

Okay, so now we are more familiar with the scale, it's time for the third exercise, which is slightly trickier, and really the main one for this week. Make sure to follow the alternate picking marked - down, up, down, up etc - and use the correct fingers.


Start slowly enough that all notes sound perfect, and only increase the tempo of the metronome when happy. Don't rush, remember speed is a by-product of accuracy. We want to build good habits, not bad.


guitar speed exercise

And that's it for this week. Have fun and do let us all know how fast you managed to play, but remember, it has to be played cleanly:)


Here's the PDF download in case you need it.


Chromatic exercises 1-3
.pdf
Download PDF • 146KB

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