How To Increase Your Guitar Speed Using Directional Picking
Which picking technique is the best for increasing your picking speed?
- Economy picking
- Directional picking
Find out how these picking approaches work, which approach is best for you and how to apply each one into your guitar playing by watching this video:
Click on the video to begin watching it.
See my other guitar playing videos, available to my YouTube subscribers - follow my channel by clicking the button below:
When you practice directional picking on scales (and when you practice sweep picking), the main thing to pay attention to is the motion of changing strings.
When you sweep pick you change strings for every note and when you play scales, you change strings every three notes.
Regarding scales, here is the string changing motion you do NOT want:
Stopping the hand after playing the last note on the previous string and then you initiate the motion again to finish moving the pick to the next higher string.
This is a big problem that will slow down your speed severely.
What you need to do is make the string change happen in one smooth motion as shown in the video.
To play two consecutive down strokes on adjacent strings when ascending you simply let the pick fall from the first note to the second note using gravity. This cuts the motion down by a third and makes it so much easier to play fast.
When you are sweep picking, your picking hand and fretting hand must line up perfectly together. If they don’t, your notes ring together (resulting in messy playing) rather individually as they should.
Fix this by improving the coordination between your hands.
Try this out:
Spend about 10-15 minutes per practice session focusing only on playing two strings at a time.
For example, pick only the 15th fret on the B string and the 14th fret on the E string.
Do it like this:
Starting on the B string/15th fret, pick with a downstroke and continue with that downstroke picking the 14th fret on the E string.
Then go back by picking the 14th fret on the E string using an upstroke and continue that upstroke moving it through to pick the 15th fret on the B string once again.
To keep the strings from ringing out together, mute each string after you play it by lifting the finger that was fretting the note up off the fretboard (very slightly – it should still be touching the string).
Then use your picking hand thumb to mute any strings below the one you are playing on at the time.
Fix A Common Problem That Occurs While Picking Scales At Fast Speeds:
Slowing down at different points within the scale (such as the higher parts where you need to change position).
Why does this happen?
Often during tough parts, your picking hand efficiency breaks down because you have not fully mastered coordination in both hands.
To correct this, isolate these problem areas by working on the harder parts of a scale pattern separately from the ones you’ve mastered for 5-10 minutes during your practice time.
For example: Parts of a scale that require a change in fretboard position.
Bonus tip -
Keep the directional picking in-line (continuing the picking motion perfectly) by double picking the highest note in the pattern before descending.
Double picking is also a great way to keep your hands in sync together. Try double picking every note of a scale or arpeggio you want to work on at a slower tempo than what you normally play it at.
This helps lock both hands together like the gears of a watch, leading to incredibly clean and effortless speed. Working on this simple exercise for just a few minutes before you practice a particular pattern, gives you a boost because it makes playing single notes at a time feel much easier.
What Is The Next Step For Getting Faster On Guitar?
Let me tell you about the best one-two combo:
Having a great guitar teacher combined with tracking & measuring your progress consistently.
A great guitar teacher gives you all the information, advice, coaching and training you need to fulfill your potential on guitar as fast as possible. This means no more struggling to make minimal progress and a massive increase in the motivation you feel to keep getting better (because you get consistent results).
I know this works because I've seen it in my own playing and designed special lesson plans and tools to help other guitarists get better while tracking their results along the way.
Here are just a few testimonials from some of my students who got big results by taking guitar lessons:
“I found Tom Hess on the net through articles, and I read quite a few of those before I went to Tom’s website. Even though I’m not a metal player at all, and Tom is obviously a metal player, I could still see that his ideas and way of teaching could really benefit me. So I pretty much signed up for online guitar lessons with Tom straight away once I’d gone through the website, and it’s just been a real eye opener with the way he teaches…”
... the integration of concepts that he’ll give you and having a really structured strategy… not just week to week lessons, but things that - you can see from one lesson to the next - really develop and continue to work on your technique and your theory and aural skills and those types of things. So I’d played a long time… 20 years before I really caught onto Tom, and I’d had a lot of lessons, and I’d taught and played but I can really see improvements in my technique, sweeping, and picking which weren’t strong parts of my playing.
I feel like Tom has a good gauge of where you’re at as a guitar player and what you need, and there just seemed to be so much more stuff in the lessons week to week than what you’d ever get in an hour or so in a one on one lesson… way more. So yeah I think that and the forum. I think, I’d pay the money just for the forum. That alone would be fine… I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all. So that alone is massive!
The price for the lessons, that’s nothing... nothing. You know, I think it’s, pretty cheap to be honest. I don’t mean that in a bad way, cheap. Cheap is not a good word, but I just think it’s great value… awesome value. I mean, you know, you could pay that for one-to-one lessons and you just don’t get the same results and support of the forum and the content and the strategies.
Other teachers I’ve had have been good players, and some have become good friends too. But when I’ve started lessons with Tom I’ve got something to compare that to and a lot of it is just sort of teaching songs from week to week… a lot of the lesson will be left up to you… you’ll go to your lesson and they’ll be like what do you want to do today? At the time I said, oh do this song or that song, but with Tom you start to realize that you know, there’s more to it… the goals and you know he’s sort of more in contact with what you want to be able to do as a player, because he’s asking you the questions and then setting up the strategies, so I find that really good.
Yeah I can see more results in 18 months in a lot of areas in my playing than you know 20 years. So it’s sort of, you know, would’ve been great 20 years ago to have met Tom.
Simon Candy, Melbourne, Australia
"When I came to Tom for online guitar lessons, I already had a decent overall level of technique and understood the basics of music theory pretty well. I had taken lessons with other teachers before, and went through several guitar method books that promised to teach me how to become a great lead guitar player. I learned all the materials in these books and courses and picked up some useful tips and knowledge along the way. Yet for some reason I still wasn't feeling like a musician. I struggled very much with writing my own songs, creating my own solos and pushing my guitar technique and speed to a higher level (especially sweep picking, alternate picking, and playing clean at high speeds).
When I started learning from Tom, the main thing that made him different from other teachers was that he was showing me how to excel in all aspects of my guitar playing by applying the skills that I already knew together with the new material that I was learning from him.
He made me aware of both strengths and weaknesses in my playing that I did not even know I had. From there he gave me the knowledge, tools and guidance to literally transform my guitar playing by enabling me to overcome things that were preventing me from becoming a truly creative and self-expressive guitar player. These were the kinds of things that none of my previous guitar teachers and books I studied were able to do for me.
After Tom made me aware of all the things I was missing in my guitar playing and provided me with the strategy and tools for solving them, I began to make very fast progress in all areas of my guitar playing.
I can now write my own music and can create lead guitar solos that I am happy and fulfilled with. I also have the technical skills to confidently and easily play anything that I want to express. I have overcome all of the lead guitar challenges that I struggled with before, and increased my guitar speed to virtuoso levels. More importantly, I have the knowledge and understanding of how to continually improve my guitar playing and musical skills to higher and higher levels to continue expressing myself with my music. Overall, I have definitely transformed in a huge way as a musician and as a person through my lessons with Tom Hess. I am grateful to him for guiding me towards becoming the guitarist I always wanted to be!"
Mike Philippov, Indiana, USA
“When I first heard about Tom Hess, I saw that he was a teacher that was very dedicated and serious about it, and that drew me in immediately. That this is a guy that has a plan, has a goal and really if you’re serious about learning guitar, this guy is equally as serious in a way. So it resonated with me straight away.”
I started out just learning by myself and as many others I got stuck. I had a few issues I wanted to get by, but when I met Tom and talked with him and started lessons with him, he opened up a whole new world of possibilities of what guitar playing can be.
I feel very grateful that I found lessons from Tom since I then did what worked from the very beginning. Many guitarists I see that played way longer than I did, they have build up many bad habits. That from the very start, there was clear instruction of how to practice correctly. You build the ability for high speed and whatever you want from the very beginning and you don’t waste time doing inefficient things. So I’m very grateful that I did that, and now I really feel I am able to reach whatever level I want.
The reasons why I think I feel so motivated all the time is because I know that the thing I’m working on is relevant for me and it’s exactly the direct thing I need to get.
The forum just kicks ass. The people in the forum - it’s just like unconditional help all the time. They love to help out, and you also get very inspired by seeing someone just really getting speed really quick and then you say if he can do it, I can do it. It works on the mental side of being a guitarist and that of course that’s the most important thing. Just being around other musicians like that, is just you learn so much faster, is so much less frustration when you can see that all the people are having the same issues that you do, not anything special or anything. It’s just part of learning process, so it kicks ass.
Magnus Gautestad, Norway
Playing killer guitar solos requires both technical ability and the ability to create musical phrases with tons of musical expression. Learn how to do this with interactive guitar lessons.