Open-String Guitar Licks That Build Guitar Picking Speed
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Want to build guitar picking speed, improve your 2-hand synchronization for lead guitar, while having fun at the same time?
Then you’ll love the open-string guitar licks I’ll show you in this lead guitar article.
What’s so special about these open-string guitar licks?
And how do they help you enhance your guitar picking speed and 2-hand synchronization?
Open-string guitar licks sound quite aggressive rhythmically (especially when you play them the way I show you in this guitar picking speed article).
This builds a lot of musical tension in your lead guitar paying.
And it also means:
You can play these metal guitar licks on the lower strings of your guitar and turn them from lead guitar drills to rhythm guitar riffs.
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... open-string guitar licks present a specific 2-hand synchronization challenge that regular scales (and arpeggios) do not. More on this below.
Watch this video to see what these drills are and how to practice them to build your guitar picking speed:
Want even more tips for building your guitar picking speed and 2-hand synchronization for lead guitar?
Check these out:
Guitar Picking Speed & 2-Hand Synchronization Tip #1: Use Reverse Picking On Single-String Licks
This is one of the best ways to improve your guitar picking speed with open-string guitar licks. It improves your 2-hand synchronization by balancing the power of your upstrokes and downstrokes in your lead guitar licks.
As the name implies: simply take the metal guitar licks you are practicing and start them with an upstroke instead of a downstroke.
Note: You don’t need to play metal guitar licks starting on an upstroke ‘all the time’ (even if you’ve been able to build a lot of guitar picking speed with this approach). This idea is simply for practicing.
(Work on it during your lead guitar practice warm up time or for a fixed number of minutes in your practice schedule.)
A few notes about increasing your guitar picking speed using this method:
- Don’t tense up your body to make the notes louder. Using excess tension when playing lead guitar (and practicing open-string guitar licks) is a common mistake that hurts your guitar speed.
To relax excess tension, do a ‘tension audit’ through your entire body as you practice your metal guitar licks to build guitar picking speed.
What’s a tension audit?
It’s where you focus on one part of your body at a time: your jaw, your shoulders, your triceps, your forearms, your stomach, your thighs, your calves and feet.... and relax them one by one.
Here is what this looks like:
- Don’t exaggerate the upstroke motion to make the note louder. You can easily achieve flawless 2-hand synchronization in your lead guitar playing (and play metal guitar licks very tight) when you simply dip the guitar pick a bit deeper into the trench of the strings.
What this does is produces a louder lead guitar note by using more of the pick to strike the string... rather than applying more force to make the notes louder in your metal guitar licks.
And because you’re not using as much tension to play notes – you end up with more guitar picking speed (and often – tighter 2-hand synchronization).
Watch this video to see what I mean:
- Don’t freak out if you play your open-string guitar licks slower than normal at first
Whenever you try anything new – whether it is a new practice method for speeding up open-string guitar licks or fixing some bad habit in your lead guitar playing, your guitar picking speed will (temporarily) go backwards.
This is particularly common with open-string guitar licks, because they demand a high degree of 2-hand synchronization. But don't worry – this is temporary. As long as you keep practicing, your guitar picking speed on open-string guitar licks (and all other metal guitar licks) will soon shoot past your old plateau.
Guitar Picking Speed & 2-Hand Synchronization Tip #2: Play Open-String Guitar Licks (And All Lead Guitar Licks) With Great Timing
Most guitarists think that “timing” is only about rhythm guitar. But if you want to develop a lot of guitar picking speed and (especially) level-up your 2-hand synchronization – you have to play lead guitar licks in time with the click too.
Here is how to develop this lead guitar skill with the open-string guitar licks from this article:
Don’t practice with quarter notes (one lead guitar note per click) – practice your lead guitar exercises in the note values they are meant to be played (8th notes, 16th notes or triplets). Playing open-string guitar licks (or any metal guitar licks) in quarter notes makes it difficult to play in time while also playing independently of the metronome.
Here is why:
For one thing, playing in quarter notes makes it impossible to play past a certain tempo (since most metronomes can only set the tempo so high).
But more importantly: if you’re reliant on having to hear the click to know when to play the next note of your open-string guitar licks, you will have to cut the previous note short. That will create awkward gaps between notes that sound very sloppy.
Line up the correct note with the click of the metronome (or hit of the drums).
This is an easy to way to check your lead guitar timing, reset your 2-hand synchronization and make it easier to boost your guitar picking speed. Simply focus on the first note of the beat and make it sync up with the click. This way, as you play your open-string guitar licks (or any metal guitar licks you are practicing), you only have to focus on one note per beat vs. ‘every single note’ in the lick. This makes it much easier to control your timing and build guitar picking speed.
Listen to the lick played in time in a tab editor like Guitar Pro (or similar program).
This makes it easier to remember both the sound and the feeling of the open-string guitar licks being played in time.
Record the licks into your computer and listen to their timing in headphones at half speed.
This makes it very easy to tell if your lead guitar timing is on point (since you’ll be doing this step away from the guitar).
Alternate trying to play the lick in time and intentionally playing with bad timing.
If you struggle with lead guitar timing when you try to build your guitar picking speed (and 2-hand synchronization) ...
... challenge yourself to intentionally play with WORSE timing than normal (for about 30 seconds).
Believe it or not, when you return to playing normally – your lead guitar timing will be a bit tighter, even without you trying. (And that improved lead guitar timing will transfer to all lead guitar licks you practice – not just the open-string guitar licks from this article.)
Change the rhythm of your lead guitar licks.
If the metal guitar licks you are practicing have a triplet rhythm – play them as 16th notes (or vice versa).
If you can do this while keeping your lead guitar playing in time with the metronome – you are well on track to reaching your guitar picking speed and 2-hand synchronization goals.
Guitar Picking Speed & 2-Hand Synchronization Tip #3: Play Unplugged
This is possibly the simplest way to increase your guitar picking speed and 2-hand synchronization... because all you do is practice open-string guitar licks with the amp off.
The benefit of this?
Playing lead guitar exercises unplugged develops your pick attack and forces you to listen to the quality of each note in your metal guitar licks.
As a result, when you turn your amplifier back on, playing at your old guitar picking speed feels like taking a blowtorch to a stick of butter.
You have to (temporarily) play much slower while you are training your guitar picking speed unplugged. But the speed & 2-hand synchronization gains are worth it.
The best way to fit unplugged guitar practice into your guitar picking speed training is during your warm up time. You don’t need more than 5-15 minutes of unplugged lead guitar practice to see improvements in your accuracy with open-string guitar licks.
Question: “Tom Hess, why not simply play metal guitar licks with a clean tone? Wouldn’t that achieve the same 2-hand synchronization benefits?”
Answer: Amplification (even when done with a clean tone) masks 2-hand synchronization weaknesses. This means you don’t get the full benefits for your guitar picking speed when you practice with a clean tone that you do by playing open-string guitar licks unplugged.
That said, don’t overdo unplugged guitar picking speed practice. You should still spend plenty of time practicing metal guitar licks with distortion (to clean up sloppy string noise).
Guitar Picking Speed & 2-Hand Synchronization Tip #4: Find Your 2-Hand Synchronization Threshold Of Control
When it comes to building guitar picking speed, it’s important to remember that “guitar picking speed” consists of several lead guitar elements.
2-hand synchronization is one of them.
The proper metronome tempo for improving your 2-hand synchronization is the fastest speed at which you can keep your hands in sync. This is called your “2-hand synchronization threshold of control”.
Once you find the tempo for that element of your guitar picking speed – practice your metal guitar licks at ‘that’ tempo to tighten your 2-hand synchronization.
Here is a video to show what this process looks like:
Question: “Tom Hess, why not simply continuously push your maximum guitar picking speed faster and faster?”
Answer: Because doing so will create a wider gap between your top speed of 2-hand synchronization and maximum guitar picking speed. And that gap will limit how much of your guitar picking speed you can actually use in real-life lead guitar playing. It’s very frustrating when you are have a lot of potential guitar picking speed, but can use only a fraction of it when playing your metal guitar licks.
Guitar Picking Speed & 2-Hand Synchronization Tip #5: Break The 1:1 Note Ratio When Training Your 2-Hand Synchronization
One of the reasons why I love using open-string guitar licks to build 2-hand synchronization is because they disrupt the 1:1 ratio of picking and fretting notes.
Normally, when you play metal guitar licks – you pick every note that you fret. (In other words; a 1:1 ratio is happening.). But when you break that ratio (by inserting open strings, such as in open-string guitar licks), you end up with an interesting 2-hand synchronization challenge in your metal guitar licks.
When you alternate fretted notes with open strings, the challenge comes from:
1. The change in string tension (open strings have far less tension than fretted notes do).
2. The change in ratio of picking hand motions to fretting hand motions.
This is a big reason why playing open-string guitar licks (like the ones from this guitar picking speed article) is such a great way to build 2-hand synchronization.
Just make sure that the open-string notes you add to your metal guitar licks are in key.
Another way to challenge your 2-hand synchronization by breaking the 1:1 note ratio is to alternate between playing one pair of notes with picking and playing the next pair using legato (hammer ons and pull offs).
Now that you know cool metal guitar licks that improve your lead guitar playing, the next step is to learn even more about improving your guitar picking technique and speed. I can help you with that in my free eGuide, titled: How To Build Lightning Fast Guitar Picking Speed. Download it today and get a guitar picking speed practice routine for boosting your speed, even if you only have 10-20 minutes per day to practice your guitar.
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