Question: I want to be a better rhythm player. (I tend to practice scales and arpeggios a lot more than my rhythm playing). I've been learning Children of Bodom and Cannibal Corpse riffs, but I struggle with them and cannot play up to speed. Anyway, my question is, do you have any suggestions on ways to be able to play more technical type of speed riffs?
Tom Hess's Answer: Yes, when practicing fast riffs (especially ones that use all downstrokes) pay attention to the returning/recoiling motion, or the motion that returns your hand in position to play the next downstroke. In other words, the ‘downstroke’ is the easy part. Where you are likely having a problem is getting your picking hand to return to the starting position so you can play the next downstroke (I call this the recoil motion). Practice this specific motion. The more efficient this motion becomes, the faster you will be able to play without becoming tired.
Also, when you play, make sure that your hand doesn’t become rigid from tension. You should apply a lot of force to the strings when playing rhythm guitar, but you shouldn’t hold this tension in after playing each note (especially in your picking hand for playing rhythm guitar). So practice releasing tightness from your hand after each note. This will help you to avoid becoming tired and allow you to play faster.
About developing speed, you can apply the free guitar practice resources I have published online. The first is an article on guitar speed exercises. There is a second one with a very useful and effective guitar speed exercise. Check them both out.
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