Guitar Speed Bursts: How To Play Guitar Fast And Clean

by Tom Hess

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If you want to know how to build guitar speed quickly, speed bursts are the way to go.

Here is why:

Speed bursts help you break through speed plateaus without doing much (or any) slow guitar practice.

And no, I don’t mean to say that slow guitar practice is bad.

But slow guitar practice does have its problems.

For one thing: slow guitar practice is pretty boring when all you want to do is play guitar fast.

Secondly: many mistakes only happen when you start to play guitar fast. And when you do slow guitar practice, they disappear.

That means much of your guitar practice time is wasted.


Speed bursts.

With speed bursts, you get to focus on the exact obstacles to your guitar speed and fix them quickly.

Best part? When you practice with speed bursts, you can use guitar speed exercises that are useful in real-life playing.

Like the guitar speed exercises I show you in this speed bursts video:

Now that you know how speed bursts work, here is how to make the most of them in your guitar practice, so you can play guitar fast as soon as possible:

Guitar Practice Speed Bursts Tip #1: Put Longer Gaps Between Speed Bursts

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How To Play Guitar Faster

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What makes speed bursts work so well when you are trying to play guitar fast?

Answer: the gaps of silence you put between repetitions of speed bursts.

That’s because the gaps let you assess how well your speed bursts sound.

Ask yourself these questions:

“How clean are the speed bursts I'm playing?”

“Are my hands in sync?” “Are the notes in time?” “Is my body relaxed?” “Is there sloppy guitar string noise in my speed bursts?” “Is the picking hand articulation consistent?”

If something in your speed bursts doesn't sound clean (or isn’t consistent from one repetition of speed bursts to another), silence lets you spot and correct it.

This makes your guitar practice very effective and helps you build more guitar speed in less time.

The mistake most guitar players make when trying to play guitar fast is: playing speed bursts one after the other with almost no silence between repetitions.

If that’s what your guitar practice looks like, you end up wasting a lot of time, with little guitar speed improvement to show for it.

Question: “Tom Hess, how long should the gaps of silence be when I practice speed bursts and try to build my guitar speed?”

Answer: The length can vary, but it the gap cannot be “too long” – it can only be too short. If you are unsure how clean your speed bursts are, make the gap longer.

Note: make sure your gap of silence gives you enough time to relax excess muscle tension while you do your speed bursts guitar practice.

Why is that important?

Answer: excess muscle tension is the number 1 killer of guitar technique (and guitar speed). The more excess tension you hold in your body, the harder it becomes to play guitar fast.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to relax excess body tension by doing what I call “tension audit”.

See this guitar technique video to understand how a tension audit works and how it helps you to play guitar fast:

Want even more help with controlling excess muscle tension during your guitar speed practice with speed bursts? Check out this free excess muscle tension control eGuide.

Guitar Practice Speed Bursts Tip #2: Set The Metronome To Faster Tempos Than You Would Normally Play

The beauty of speed bursts is: they let you play at a faster guitar speed than you would normally practice at.

You get to feel what it’s like to play guitar fast using only a few notes. (The “few notes” are your speed bursts.)

And when your speed bursts start to feeling too easy? You make them longer (without changing the tempo).

That is how speed bursts help you “worm” your way into playing at higher tempos.

This is a very advanced guitar speed training technique most people don’t know. And it helps you build guitar speed without doing a lot of slow guitar practice.

Question: “Tom Hess, how fast should I set the metronome when building guitar speed using speed bursts?”

Answer: Set the metronome 10% faster than your maximum speed. This is fast enough to force you to concentrate, but still slow enough to be within striking distance of a new speed milestone.

Question: “Tom Hess, does building guitar speed with speed bursts only work for scales and scale sequences?”

Answer: No. Speed bursts help you build guitar speed with any guitar technique. This includes: scales you play with picking, legato guitar licks, 2-hand tapping, sweep picking, string skipping or any other technique you work on during your guitar practice.

You can even use speed bursts to build guitar speed for fast rhythm guitar as well! (For example: galloping thrash rhythms.)

See this video to understand what I mean:

Guitar Practice Speed Bursts Tip #3: Pay attention to one note at a time

One of the challenges with building guitar speed is: paying attention to the quality of each note as you begin to play guitar fast.

Speed bursts make this problem easier to solve, because you are only playing a few notes at a time.

However, it’s still easy to let mistakes slip through the cracks as your guitar speed increases.


Choose one note of your speed burst to pay attention to for a couple of minutes during your guitar practice. Ignore the other notes of the burst (and accept that they will probably not be clean).

Focus your attention to the single note of your speed burst you choose to focus on, until it is clean.

Then rotate your attention for another 2 minutes of your guitar practice time. This way you will clean up the entire speed burst, one note at a time and make your guitar speed sound clean.

Watch this video demo of how to play guitar fast using this method:

Question: “Tom Hess, if I focus on only one note of the speed burst, doesn't this train me to play the rest of the speed burst sloppily?”

Answer: No. You only focus on one note for a small part of your guitar practice time. Then you rotate your focus to every other note of the speed burst in turn. This way you will fix any sloppy mistakes and build a lot of guitar speed along the way.

Guitar Practice Speed Bursts Tip #4: Make Your Guitar Technique Very Efficient.

Many people think to play guitar fast, you have to move your hands very quickly.

This is false.

Guitar speed is all about efficiency. Meaning: to play guitar fast, you guitar practice needs to train your hands to move less.

The less your hands move when you practice speed bursts, the less tired you feel, the more guitar speed you build and the more fun your guitar practice becomes.

How do you train your hands to move less as you try to build guitar speed with speed bursts during your guitar practice?

Answer: Focus your guitar practice around these guitar technique fundamentals:

1. Minimize excess picking motions. Here is how:

Use directional picking. This means: use alternate picking on the same string, but always change strings in the direction of the string change. Meaning: use a downstroke to change strings when ascending and change strings with an upstroke when descending.

Directional picking reduces the amount of movement your guitar pick makes on many scale sequences by 1/3. That means you can build more guitar speed with less guitar practice.

(Yes, I know that many of your favorite guitarists probably play guitar fast using alternate picking. But you can get to their level of guitar speed faster when you use directional picking in your guitar practice.)

2. Train economy of motion in your fretting hand. Here is how:

The secret to economy of motion in your fretting hand is: your thumb position. When you practice building guitar speed with scale fragment (or arpeggio) speed bursts, put your thumb behind the neck of the guitar.

Your thumb should point towards the ceiling and be behind the middle finger if you want to play guitar fast with ease. Focus on this during your guitar practice.

Avoid wrapping your fretting hand’s thumb around the neck of the guitar unless you are bending or doing vibrato.

(Note: it’s also ok to wrap your thumb over the neck when you play guitar fast on the highest frets of your guitar.).

Besides thumb position, focus on fretting notes using your fingertips during your guitar practice with speed bursts.

This makes it easy to fret notes with less effort and build more guitar speed in less time.

3. 2-hand synchronization – there are 2 types of guitar speed: your maximum guitar speed and your usable guitar speed (the fastest guitar speed you’d want anyone to actually hear). Your 2-hand synchronization top speed is the latter.

When you practice to play guitar fast with speed bursts, focus on raising your 2-hand synchronization top speed.

A great way to do this during your guitar practice is to play speed bursts unplugged.

The tighter you can get your hands to stay in sync during unplugged guitar practice, the more speed bursts help you to play guitar fast and make your fast speed sound good.

Watch this video to see how to train 2-hand synchronization:

As a side benefit, the more efficient your guitar technique is, the cleaner your guitar speed sounds. So, take this part of your guitar practice seriously. It’s no fun to play guitar fast if your guitar speed is sloppy.

Fix Sloppy Guitar Playing

Guitar Practice Speed Bursts Tip #5: Clean Up Sloppy String Noise In Your Speed Bursts. Here Is How:

1. Use thumb muting.

Thumb muting means: you rest your picking hand’s thumb on the lower (in pitch) strings – muting them.

Then, as you do your speed bursts guitar practice, you slide the thumb up and down the strings you are not playing, to keep your playing clean.

Question: “Tom Hess, why do thumb muting? Isn’t it also possible to play guitar fast and clean using palm muting?”

Answer: Palm muting is an inferior way to mute string noise compared to thumb muting.

Here is why: when you palm mute, your pick is at rest up away from the strings. This means it takes longer for your guitar pick to get back inside the trench of the strings to play the next note.

But when you do thumb muting?

Your guitar pick’s natural point of rest is inside the trench (space) between strings. That means it’s easier to build guitar speed (because your pick doesn't have to move very much to play fast). it also means your notes are way more likely to be consistently muted.

Question: “Tom Hess, when I try to build guitar speed using thumb muting, I hear pinch harmonics during my guitar practice. What am I doing wrong?

Answer: This means you are likely holding your guitar pick incorrectly. To do thumb muting the right way (and make it easy to play guitar fast), hold it between the fingerprint of your thumb and index finger. This is how you would pick up a pencil from a desk. This position keeps the thumb from hanging over the edge of the pick and makes it easy to avoid unintentional pinch harmonics.

2. Cover the higher (in pitch) strings with your fretting hand’s index finger. Use the underside of your index finger to lightly touch the higher strings. This gives you an extra layer of noise protection during your speed bursts guitar practice and makes your guitar speed sound clean.

3. You can also touch the higher (in pitch) strings using your picking hand’s ring finger or pinkie finger. This gives your guitar speed yet another layer of protection against string noise and helps you play guitar fast and clean.

Now you know how to build your guitar speed using speed bursts. The next step is to transform the rest of your guitar playing (everything from your guitar technique to music knowledge, creativity, lead guitar soloing and more).

I can help you with that in my personalized Breakthrough Guitar Lessons.

Here is how it works:

You tell me everything about your guitar playing strengths, weaknesses, musical background, and musical goals. I then create your personalized guitar lesson strategy. As you practice your lessons, I give you a ton of feedback to help you master your guitar lessons and reach your musical goals.

To begin, click the green “Start Now” button below. 

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.

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