Easy Way To Increase Your Guitar Speed Using 2-String Guitar Licks

by Tom Hess


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In this article, you’ll learn some of the best exercises that help increase your guitar speed.

What are they?

Answer:

2-string guitar licks.

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Here is what makes 2-string guitar licks great for helping you increase your guitar speed in your lead guitar playing:

2-string guitar licks isolate key elements of guitar speed:

  • Playing guitar fast on one string
     
  • Playing guitar fast on string changes.
     

Today, I show you..

...7 of my favorite 2-string guitar licks that help you focus on these elements of guitar speed and master them quickly.

And when you practice these 2-string guitar licks like I show you...

...you almost can’t fail to increase your guitar speed.

To begin, watch the video below and start practicing these 2-string guitar licks in your next guitar speed practice session:
 


Now that you can play these easy 2-string guitar licks, here are more 2-string guitar lick ideas for lead guitar that help increase your guitar speed: 


Lead Guitar Speed Tip 1: Practice 2-String Arpeggios

If you want to increase your guitar speed with sweep picking, 2-string arpeggios belong in your guitar speed practice routine.
Here is why:

Arpeggio 2-string guitar licks let you focus on the most crucial elements of sweep picking technique.

Those elements are:

  • Efficiency of your picking hand technique. (To put it bluntly: you can forget about sweep picking fast and clean without it.)

    As well as…
     
  • Keeping your hands in sync on string changes. (Why is this important? Because when you go back and forth between strings in arpeggio 2-string guitar licks, it’s very easy for your hands to get out of sync as you try to increase your guitar speed.)

But here is the good news:

Once you conquer these elements of arpeggio 2-string guitar licks, sweep picking fast and clean starts to feel like a hot knife through butter.

And even if you already play the standard 3 & 5-string guitar arpeggios well… practicing 2-string arpeggios will only make your sweep picking cleaner & faster.

That’s exactly what happened to me once I finally mastered these 2-string guitar licks in my playing.

The same happened to thousands of my guitar students whom I helped conquer 2-string guitar licks (arpeggios and scale sequences).

Now, it’s your turn to increase your guitar speed with them.

Watch the video below where I show you how to play 2-string guitar licks (that use sweep picking) fast & clean:
 


Bonus: 2-string guitar licks (especially arpeggios in the video above) also help you increase your guitar speed with directional picking.

What’s directional picking?

It’s a lead guitar technique where you alternate pick when you are on a single string…

…and when you change strings - you pick in the direction of the string change.

Meaning: you always move to a higher (in pitch) string with a downstroke… and move to a lower (in pitch) string with an upstroke.

This is a fantastic lead guitar technique that helps you increase your guitar speed in less time than you would with strict alternate picking.


Question: “Tom Hess, why do so many great lead guitar players use (and advocate) strict alternate picking when playing lead guitar?”

Answer: Directional picking is a relatively new lead guitar technique. Alternate picking has been around a lot longer. Most guitar players from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000’s did not have anyone to teach them directional picking when they were beginners. They developed their guitar speed in spite of the inefficiencies of strict alternate picking… not because it is a superior lead guitar technique. They had to work much harder (and longer) to reach their lead guitar playing goals.


How To Master Directional Picking


Lead Guitar Speed Tip 2: Practice Scales Horizontally (Using 2-String Guitar Licks).

2-string guitar licks give you an awesome opportunity to learn your scales (and increase your guitar speed).

Here is how:

2-string guitar licks force you to play scales in ways few guitar players ever practice them: horizontally.

Playing scales “horizontally” means: you play scales from fret 1 up to the highest fret of your guitar.

Here is how this helps your lead guitar playing and allows you to increase your guitar speed:

1. Your fretboard visualization with scales improves fast. (This makes you a better lead guitar player instantly.)

2. You can create lead guitar scale sequences. Practicing scale sequences is a great way to increase your guitar speed (and have that guitar speed be usable in your lead guitar playing).
 


Question: “Tom Hess, why do you say that most guitar players don't practice scales horizontally?”

Answer: Because most guitar players build guitar speed with scales by playing them vertically. (From the 6th string to other 1st string.) The problem with this is twofold:

First, you almost never have to play “vertical” scales when you play lead guitar. And second: it’s quite a bit harder to play scales straight up and down compared to playing them horizontally.

(That’s because it takes a lot more control to move your guitar pick across 6 strings than it does to play 2-string guitar licks.)

Watch this video to see how to use horizontal scale 2-string guitar licks to learn your guitar scales better and faster:
 


Question: “Tom Hess, how does directional picking work with 2-string guitar licks and horizontal scale playing? Say you are playing back and forth on strings 6 and 5. Doesn't this mean the pattern starts over on an upstroke when you go back to the 6th string? Or are you switching between alternate and directional picking here? I’m so confused!”

Answer: It is all very simple. Directional picking is one system of picking when you play lead guitar. It works exactly the same way when playing 2-string guitar licks as it does for all other lead guitar licks. The lead guitar principle (that helps you increase your guitar speed) is:

Move your pick in the direction of the next string.

That’s it. Always move your guitar pick the shortest possible distance to its next note. When you do – your pick will naturally ascend to a thinner string using an upstroke and descend to a thicker using an upstroke. This is one lead guitar speed rule to which there are no exceptions.

Want more guitar speed tips that help you play guitar faster and cleaner? Check out this free eGuide on how to boost your guitar speed by 10% in 1 day.

Bonus tip: practice 2-string guitar licks and scales using string skipping.

For example: Instead of playing 2-string guitar licks on strings that are next to each other (e.g. Strings 6 and 5), play them on strings 6 and 4 instead.

String skipping 2-string guitar licks are a phenomenal way to train your picking hand accuracy and increase your guitar speed for lead guitar playing.

But… you better know how to practice these types of 2-string guitar licks correctly.

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Here is a story that illustrates what I mean:

At a recent HESSFEST event, a guitar student of mine asked me a common lead guitar speed question:

“Tom Hess, how can I increase my guitar speed with 2-string guitar licks using string skipping?

I have been practicing for a long time, tried many approaches and practiced many different lead guitar exercises. Still - nothing seems to be helping me play string skipping 2-string guitar licks faster.

My string skipping falls apart when I try to accelerate my guitar speed to much faster tempos.

What should I do?”

So, I asked him to demonstrate how he practiced those string skipping 2-string guitar licks at home.

And right away, I noticed 2 BIG reasons why he was stuck and couldn’t build guitar speed with those 2-string guitar licks.

The first issue was simple:

He was not looking at his picking hand. Which meant, he couldn't fully analyze his guitar picking motion while changing strings on his 2-string guitar licks.

As soon as I pointed this out, we both quickly noticed how this “simple” issue made it impossible to notice the 2nd (much larger) problem.

And that 2nd problem was making his string skipping WAAAAAY harder than it should be.

Watch the video to see what the guitar speed mistake was and how I helped my student fix it in a few minutes:
 


Lead Guitar Speed Tip 3: Mute Excess String Noise

To mute excess string noise when you play 2-string guitar licks, you need to mute the higher (thinner) string and the lower (thicker) strings.

Muting the lower strings:

Many guitar players use the palm of their picking hand to mute lower strings when playing 2-string guitar licks. This technique is pretty good at keeping most of the lower strings quiet...

...but it has several disadvantages.

Watch this video (starting from 2:58) to see why it’s hard to mute excess string noise using your palm (and what to do instead)
 


Here are the main problems caused by using your palm to mute string noise in your 2-string guitar licks:

  1. When you change strings, it takes a moment for the palm to begin muting the string you just played a moment before. This creates brief moments of unwanted guitar string noise.

    The noise occurs for 2 main reasons:
    1. The flesh of your palm is very soft. This means it takes more time for your palm to actually stop the string from ringing.
       
    2. It is not easy to get your palm in the perfect position to consistently mute lower strings in all playing situations.
  1. When you use your palm to mute unwanted string noise, the natural position of your guitar pick (when not playing) is away from the strings. This is what I call your “Natural Point Of Rest”.

Why is this bad?

When your pick is at rest up and away from the strings, your picking hand has to move a lot more to play notes during your 2-string guitar licks.

Also:

The more your picking hand moves, the higher the chance of sloppy playing, unwanted string noise and slower picking speed.


So, what is the solution? 

A great alternative to using your palm to mute lower strings is to mute with your picking hand’s thumb.

It looks like this:
 

muting guitar string with picking hand


Muting The Higher Strings

Many guitar players don’t know how to mute unwanted guitar string noise from the higher (thinner) strings.

This part of your playing can be a big cause of sloppy guitar string noise. And that noise could be making it hard for you to increase your guitar speed.

There are two main techniques for muting noise from the higher strings that I teach to my students to help them improve their guitar technique.

The first technique involves using the underside (the fingerprint side) of the fretting hand’s index finger.

This part of your finger is used to lightly touch the higher strings that you want to mute. (The key word in the last sentence is “lightly”. )

You do not want to press down so hard that these notes begin to sound like regular fretted notes. 

Simply rest your finger on them, preventing them from making noise.

It looks like this:
 

Muting guitar string with fingerprint side


Use these tips to clean excess string noise in your 2-string guitar licks.


Lead Guitar Speed Tip 5: Use Focus Rotation

This is a fantastic guitar practice technique that also helps you increase your guitar speed.

What you do is this:

You make a list of all lead guitar elements that go into building speed with the 2-string guitar licks you learned in this article.

They might be: picking hand efficiency, fretting hand efficiency, 2-hand synchronization, picking articulation, excess tension control and excess string noise control.

Then you focus on one element at a time while you practice any of the 2-string guitar licks I’ve shown you in this video.

Want to see an example of how to use focus rotation to increase your guitar speed? Check out this video:
 


This guitar speed practice technique (focus rotation) applies not only to elements of guitar speed, but to individual notes within the 2-string guitar licks – helping you increase your guitar speed with them.

For example:

Begin playing any of the 2-string guitar licks from this article over and over.

Then select one of the notes in the lick to focus on as you play. This means: mentally focus on it with your ear and let the other notes go by on autopilot as you play.

Do not worry if the other notes cause guitar playing mistakes! Stay focused only on the one note you should listen for (more on this below).

Repeat the exercise over and over until the note you are focusing on is consistently clean (9 times out of 10).

Rotate your focus to the next note in the 2-string guitar lick you selected. At this point, you let the previous note you focused on go on autopilot. Focus only on the new note you should be listening for. Analyze your technique & make it perfect.

Repeat this process until all notes are clean. Then you’re able to increase your guitar speed.

Now that you know how to increase your guitar speed with 2-string guitar licks, what’s next?

The next step is to discover how to practice guitar in the best way, so you can increase your guitar speed by 10% or more in just one day. I can show you how in my new free eGuide, titled: “Speed Blitz – How to Play Guitar 10% Faster In One Day”.

Download your copy for free today, so at this time tomorrow – you can be playing guitar 10% faster.


Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

Struggling to improve your guitar playing? Get some help from the best guitar teacher online.

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