How To Practice for Maximum Guitar Speed - Part 2: Speed Builder Strategy 2

by Tom Hess


Please be sure to read Part 1 before attempting to follow the advice offered here in Part 2. I am offering a completely different approach to building great speed compared to what I described in Part 1, but this new system does not work well unless you have mastered the ability to play cleanly and accurately at slow tempos (this is critical).

Unlike the first system described in Part 1, which takes several weeks to complete, this new approach can be done in a single practice session. This new approach is not intended as a substitute for my other method, it is rather a supplemental practice tool intended for more advanced players.

My "Ladder" System

Let’s say you can play a particular guitar technique at 100 bpm (beats per minute) on a metronome cleanly and consistently. Let’s also assume that your goal is to play the same technique at 200 bpm.

Warm up for:

15 minutes in the winter months
10 minutes in the spring and autumn months
5  minutes in the summer months

Play at 60  bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 90  bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 75  bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 105 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 90  bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 120 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 105 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 135 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 120 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 150 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 135 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 165 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 150 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 180 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 165 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 195 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 180 bpm for 2-3 minutes
Play at 210 bpm for 2-3 minutes 

As you can imagine, the beginning of this routine will be easy if you can already play this without problems at 100 bpm. But it will be totally impossible to play well during the latter part of the routine. Play it anyway! Yes I know it will sound horrible, it will be a huge mess of sloppy musical chaos. Don’t worry about that when doing this routine, because you are not going to practice this way every day.

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 The ladder system is designed to do two main things:

  1. (most important!) It will train your brain that greater guitar playing speed is possible (even if sloppy for now) for you. To go far beyond what you think you can do well today is important as a psychological tool. You see, speed (like many aspects of music) has more to do with self – imposed psychological limitations than physical ones.
  2. It gets your hands to move faster than they ever do in normal practicing (even though the motions are sloppy and not something you will put into a recording of your next solo),

Most speed barriers come as a result of synchronization problems between the two hands – lack of speed is usually not caused directly from how fast you are able to move your hands. BUT because the main cause is a synchronization issue between the hands, your practicing becomes limited to synchronization practice and not on sheer speed (even if you are totally aware of it). Your increased synchronization skills will improve your overall guitar technique, but you will have not really trained your hands to move much faster than before…..This system does this. I’m sorry to have to keep repeating the point, but it is so important! This system is a supplemental one and not a substitute for normal practicing.

A word of caution: Because this practice system is extremely demanding on your fingers, hands, wrists and arms, you must be very careful to avoid pain. If you feel any pain when doing this technique, you must stop at once and rest before attempting this again. Never play in pain, or excessive stress on your muscles or joints. Doing so can cause you serious long term physical problems. Also, make sure you are thoroughly warmed up before practicing anything strenuous (especially when attempting my ladder system!).

To learn more about increasing your guitar speed, read the other parts of this article series:

  • How To Practice For Maximum Guitar Speed - Part 1: Learn an effective 10 stage guitar practice strategy for developing better guitar speed.
     
  • How To Practice For Maximum Guitar Speed - Part 3: Learn how to practice playing guitar fast so you can use your speed in 'real life' playing situations.
     
  • How To Practice For Maximum Guitar Speed - Part 4: Find out how to achieve your guitar speed goals in much less time than it takes an average guitarist.
     
  • How To Practice For Maximum Guitar Speed - Part 5: Learn why conventional guitar speed building advice fails and what you must do instead to become a faster guitarist.

Develop virtuoso guitar playing technique with your own guitar instructor.

 

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