How To Increase Your Guitar Speed By Isolating The Movements In Both Hands

It's much easier to increase your guitar speed when you separate the movements of your picking hand from those of your fretting hand. Most guitar players don't do this and struggle to get faster without sacrificing cleanliness of playing. Once you know how to properly isolate the movements in both hands, your guitar speed and accuracy goes through the roof!

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But here is the thing:

Simply separating the motions is not enough. You also need to know what exactly to look for in each hand (picking hand and fretting hand) while you practice.

Without this, your guitar practice is useless.

So, when you separate the motions of each hand, here is what to look for:

Picking Hand Element #1: Efficiency & Economy Of Motion

I once taught a guitar player who wanted help with building guitar speed. But when I saw him play…

… I saw that his problem had nothing to do with “guitar speed” (or lack of speed).

It was lack of efficiency.

His pick was moving way too far away from the strings between notes. Which meant: in the time it took his guitar pick just to return to the string…

… he could have picked 2-3 more notes.

So, I told him: “if all you do is cut the distance your pick moves in half, your speed would literally double”.

That’s how powerful an improvement in efficiency can be.

The lesson for you?

Pay attention to how much your pick moves between notes. And make the motions as small as you can get away with (while still getting the notes to sound the way you want).

Picking Hand Element #2: String Noise Control

Know anybody who loves the sound of sloppy guitar playing?

Me neither.

String noise makes your playing sound bad no matter how fast you play.

And conversely: the cleaner your playing is – the better you sound. (Even if you aren’t playing fast.)

The best way to mute string noise with your picking hand is by using thumb muting.

How do you do thumb muting?

Simply rest your picking hand’s thumb on the strings and slide it up and down the strings as you play scales. The thumb will stop the open strings from ringing out.

Question: “Tom Hess, when I try to do thumb muting, I hear nothing but pinch harmonics. What can I do?”

Answer: To avoid pinch harmonics from thumb muting, don’t let your thumb hang over the edge of the pick.

Instead, pull the thumb back so it doesn't touch the string you are trying to play. To help with this, hold the pick on the pad of the index finger (not on the side). This will help to do thumb muting the right way and avoid unintended pinch harmonics.

Picking Hand Element #3: Relax Unwanted Muscle Tension

Excess tension is a killer of guitar speed.

The secret to relaxing excess tension?

Do a “tension audit” throughout your body. It works like this:

Repeat an exercise over and over. As you do, focus on relaxing your picking hand shoulder, your forearm and your wrist.

Focus on each part of the body for a few seconds and relax it. You will likely find some parts of your picking hand to have more tension than others. Focus on them more and relax them.

After you focus on the elements of picking hand technique, it’s time to shift gears and pay attention to the fretting hand.

Here are the elements of your fretting hand technique to refine:

Fretting Hand Element #1: Efficiency & Economy Of Motion

Fretting hand efficiency means:

- moving your fingers just enough to fret notes, but not more.

- keeping your thumb behind the neck of the guitar, opposite the middle finger most of the time. (You can break this rule and wrap your thumb around the neck of the guitar when you do bends and vibrato.)

- keep the knuckles of the fingers curved when you fret notes. This ensures you fret notes clearly with the least amount of pressure. (The only exception to this is finger rolling during some arpeggios. )

- fret notes right next to the fret wire.

- keep your fingers close to the strings between notes (especially the index finger).

Fretting Hand Element #2: String Noise Control

Believe it or not, your fretting hand can (and should) mute excess string noise, similar to your picking hand.

Here is how:

Use your index finger to rest across the (higher in pitch) strings while you play.

Using fretting hand index finger muting (together with thumb muting) helps ensure your guitar playing is consistently clean.

Fretting Hand Element #2: Excess Tension

Excess tension in your fretting hand can cripple your guitar playing (and guitar speed) just as much as tension in your picking hand.

To relax it, do a “tension audit” of the fretting hand shoulder, arm, wrist and fingers as you play.


Pay attention to (and relax) other parts of your body that aren’t used to play guitar:

Your jaw (and tongue), your stomach, thighs, calves and feet. All these parts of the body must be fully relaxed at all times.

Now you know one of the best ways to refine your guitar technique. The next step is to transform the rest of your guitar playing (everything from your guitar technique, fretboard knowledge, creativity and music knowledge), so you can…

…Finally put it all together and feel like a real musician!

I can help you with this inside my Breakthrough Guitar Lessons.

Here is how it works:

You tell me about your guitar playing challenges, current skill level, musical knowledge and your goals.

I create a lesson strategy and your lesson materials tailored specifically for you.

As you practice your lessons, I am here for you every step of the way.

I give you feedback on your guitar playing, answer your questions live on video every week, give you unlimited email support and train you in student-only live video classes.

And if you do your best to practice what I teach you at least 30 minutes per day, you almost can’t fail to turn your guitar playing into something you feel really proud of.

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