So, you want to tremolo pick lightning fast but struggle to do so? The #1 reason why you and many guitar players can’t tremolo pick at high speeds is the common MYTH that simply moving your hands faster enables you to actually play guitar faster. This assumption could not be further from the truth.
Fact is, most guitarists already have more than enough speed in their hands to play at highly advanced/virtuoso levels. What’s holding them (and you) back is the distance that the pick travels for every note you play on guitar. Most guitarists NEVER become aware of this and assume that their motions are efficient and that their lack of speed is a result of not moving their hand fast enough (when the truth is the exact opposite).
To make your tremolo picking insanely fast, you need to increase the frequency at which your pick strikes the string (this is NOT at all the same thing as moving the hand “faster” - more on this below). By doing this, you increase the number of times your pick comes into contact with the string and your tremolo picking speed skyrockets!
Before reading any further, watch the video below to see exactly how to do this when you practice speed picking:
As you saw in the video above, you will instantly double your tremolo picking speed by simply cutting your pick attack distance in half. Now that you understand this concept, use the exercise below to start building your picking speed right now.
Rule #1 of improving your picking speed: you MUST LOOK AT your picking hand when you practice your picking technique! If you spend all your guitar practice time looking at your fretting hand or (even worse) not watching your hands at all, your picking speed will never reach its full potential.
To improve your picking speed on guitar, choose an open string to begin your tremolo picking practice and go through the steps below:
Step One: Pick continuously using 4 notes per beat (16th notes) at a slow tempo for about 10 seconds (you don’t need to use a metronome for this exercise). Keep your pick angled towards the head of the guitar (where the tunings pegs are) at about 30-40 degree angle. This slant will help you to minimize picking motions without sacrificing dynamics or having to pick any softer. Just like this:
Tip: You will also create more power in your pick attack with less effort by using a thick pick (around 1.50 mm or so) rather than a thin/flexible one.
Step Two: Now, play about 10% faster and continue picking for another 5-10 seconds. As you do this, keep watching your picking hand and keep your picking motions just as compact as they were in the previous step. This will ensure that no unnecessary movement is used that would prevent you from gaining speed.
Step Three: Continue increasing the tempo you are picking at while paying close attention to your picking hand and keeping the distance between up/down strokes to a minimum. As you do this, also pay attention to the following:
- Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing power and articulation as you shorten the distance in your pick attack. Maintain a high degree of articulation by sticking more of the pick into the string. This will allow you to make small picking motions but still maintain a loud, powerful attack (as opposed to picking with the very edge of the pick as many guitarists do - limiting their articulation).
- Your upper arm and picking hand shoulder need to be relaxed when you pick fast. Tensing these muscles does nothing to help your guitar playing and only makes you tired and more prone to injury. Concentrate on keeping these muscles relaxed as your speed increases.
Continue gradually increasing your speed until you are tremolo picking at the highest speed you can play at. Sustain this speed for 10-15 seconds.
Step Four: Rest your hands for 30 seconds and repeat steps 1-3 several more times (for a total of 15-20 minutes of practice). To refine your tremolo picking technique even more, alternate between picking open strings and using fretted notes (this will create different levels of tension on the string and challenge your picking control in different ways). Add this exercise to your guitar practice schedule and work on it on a regular basis to see HUGE results in your speed picking ability.
IMPORTANT: Don’t limit this concept of shortening the distance while picking to single string tremolo playing only! As demonstrated in the video above, you should also apply this concept to multiple string guitar licks and scales. This will integrate your tremolo picking skills with other aspects of your lead guitar playing and improve your overall speed.
Apply the exercise above to the lick below. As you do this, remember to pay close attention to your picking hand to keep your pick attack as compact as possible (while STILL picking the notes with lots of power and volume).
Now that you understand how to build tons of tremolo picking speed on guitar, realize that this is just ONE aspect of becoming a faster guitar player. To learn more about the other elements that go into building fast guitar speed, check out this guitar speed mini course.
To learn a whole lot more about how to not only build scary guitar speed but also become a highly creative and expressive musician, work together with me by taking online rock and metal guitar lessons.
Learn to combine ripping fast guitar speed with tons of musical emotion and creativity in the very best online guitar lessons.
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