How To Play Fast Guitar Scale Sequences And Develop Killer Lead Guitar Technique

by Tom Hess
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Want to improve your guitar speed and play guitar faster?

This lead guitar technique article will help.

I’ll show you a few of my favorite guitar scale sequences that are:

- easy to learn

- fun to practice 

- excellent for level-up your lead guitar chops.

Best part?

You can use these guitar scale sequences to improve your guitar speed without practicing for hours per day.

(Many of my top lead guitar students – who always dreamed of being able to play guitar fast – rarely practice more than 1 hour per day.)

start building lightning fast guitar picking speed
How To Build Lightning Fast Guitar Picking Speed e-Book
FREE Ebook

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

Just follow the simple tips in this video and article and watch the guitar technique gains to pour in.

To begin...

Watch this video on how to play guitar fast using guitar scale sequences:

Now that you know the basics of how to play guitar fast using guitar scale sequences, let’s go deeper.

Here are five more lead guitar speed tips that will boost your guitar technique chops:

Lead Guitar Technique Tip #1: Use Directional Picking To Play Your Guitar Scale Sequences

What is directional picking?

It’s an excellent technique for playing lead guitar licks (such as guitar scale sequences) cleanly and fast.

It’s based on the philosophy of moving directly to the next string (or note) to make it easy to play guitar fast.

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It works like this:

When playing on a single string, you alternate pick your pick strokes. (Since that is the most direct way to get from one note to another when you want a lot of guitar speed.)

But when you change strings?

That’s when you move in the direction of the next string. For example, when moving to a higher (thinner) string, always pick it with a downstroke (no matter what pick stroke you used before in your lead guitar lick).

When moving to a lower (thicker) string, always pick it with an upstroke (no matter what pick stroke you used in your guitar scale sequences).

As simple as this guitar technique is (and as much as it helps you to play guitar fast)...

... it has created a lot of controversy in the lead guitar (and guitar speed) community. And guitar players have been asking questions like this: 

Question: “But Tom Hess, isn’t directional picking just another name for the guitar technique of ‘economy picking’?”

Answer: No. Economy picking is a different guitar technique that some players use to play guitar fast and build guitar speed with guitar scale sequences.

Economy picking requires you to always sweep pick on string changes. (This means many lead guitar licks and guitar scale sequences become unplayable, as they don’t fit that rule.)

Directional picking, on the other hand, is a philosophy that enables you to play anything you want, with no restrictions or limitations on your guitar technique or guitar speed.

Watch this video for a more in-depth explanation about the guitar technique of directional picking:

Question: “But Tom Hess, if directional picking is such a great guitar technique, why do so many lead guitarists (who can play guitar fast) use alternate picking’?”

Answer: It’s a combination of tradition and post-rationalization. Many guitarists have learned to play guitar fast using alternate picking... so, that is the technique they are convinced is best. And it’s certainly possible to build guitar speed with alternate picking. But directional picking is objectively the better guitar technique in every respect.

Question: “But Tom Hess, aren’t ‘you’ post-rationalizing ‘your’ choice to play guitar scale sequences using directional picking?”

Answer: I'm not. I laid out a virtually air-tight case for why directional picking is far superior to alternate picking. You can read it here.

Lead Guitar Technique Tip #2: Mute Excess String Noise When Playing Guitar Scale Sequences

Do you know anyone who likes the sound of sloppy guitar speed, filled with all kinds of string noise?

Yeah – I don’t either.

That’s why, as you’re learning to play guitar fast...

... you need to ensure your guitar scale sequences (and other lead guitar licks) are free of string noise.

First, let’s understand what causes string noise when you play guitar fast.

String noise comes from 3 places:

- unmuted lower-in-pitch (thicker) guitar strings.

- unmuted higher-in-pitch (thinner) guitar strings

- strings ringing (bleeding) together.

Here is how to mute each one:

Use thumb muting to mute noise from the lower (thicker) guitar strings. To do that, simply rest your picking hand’s thumb on the thicker strings as you play guitar scale sequences (and other lead guitar licks you want to build guitar speed with).

Then, as you practice your ability to play guitar fast, simply slide the thumb up and down to keep your lead guitar playing clean.

To mute the higher (thinner) guitar strings, use your fretting hand’s index finger. Like this:

Muting guitar string with fingerprint side

You can also use your picking hand’s ring and pinkie fingers to mute the higher (in pitch) strings when you are holding out single notes with string bends, slides and/or heavy vibrato.

And as far as keeping notes from bleeding together in your guitar licks?

Focus on releasing the finger from each note it has played the moment you sound the following note in your guitar scale sequences.

Tip: by ‘releasing’ – I mean relaxing the finger from the string. NOT lifting the finger up in the air.

Also: don’t release the finger too early. If you do, you’ll avoid the bleeding at the expense of another guitar technique problem (that makes your lead guitar playing sound sloppy): ‘gaps’ of silence between notes. 

To play guitar fast and clean, every note needs to ‘roll’ into the other (i.e., it needs to begin sounding the moment the following note starts ringing... not at any moment before).

Lead Guitar Technique Tip #3: Work On 2-Hand Sync

2-hand synchronization (along with string noise control) is a vital part of what makes your guitar speed sound good (or not).

What is 2-hand synchronization? 

It’s your ability to fret and pick each note of your guitar scale sequences (and other lead guitar licks) when you play guitar fast.

Lack of 2-hand sync (past certain speeds) is a big reason why some tempos in your guitar playing sound sloppy. 

And this is why I tell my guitar students that there are two levels of guitar speed. 

Level 1 – the lead guitar speed you’d want someone to actually hear. 

And level 2 – the maximum lead guitar speed you can achieve with your guitar scale sequences (and other licks)... even though ‘Level 2’ guitar speed is typically sloppy and out of sync.

Here is how lack of 2-hand synchronization affects your ability to play guitar fast and what to do about it:

What are some ways you can practice getting your hands in sync as you practice your ability to play guitar fast?

Here are a few of my favorite guitar technique 2-hand synchronization training methods: 

Double Picking – as the name implies, you pick the notes of your guitar scale sequences two times each. This (temporarily) makes your guitar technique harder to keep in sync because you are disrupting the 1:1 ratio (of one picking motion to one fretting motion)...

... but it makes your playing sound comparatively cleaner when you go back to picking every note once.

Question: “Tom Hess, is it possible to use double picking for sweep picking arpeggios?”

Answer: Yes. Simply use triple picking instead. (Or pick the string any ‘odd’ number of times.) This ensures that your pick continues to move in the direction as it originally was – allowing you to preserve the sweep picking motion in your lead guitar technique. 

Play Unplugged – this requires for your pick attack to be more aggressive (and it practically forces your hands to be in sync). But the good news is – you’ll build some strength reserve in your guitar technique so that it’ll become a breeze to play guitar fast using distortion.

Note: the challenge is in keeping your fretting hand relaxed when you play guitar unplugged (and hit the strings harder with the pick). But that will help you with overall tension control during fast guitar playing (more on this below).

Single string playing – this forces your hands to stay in sync on every note. (And it makes ‘lack’ of 2-hand synchronization very obvious, because you cannot re-sync your hands the way you typically can on every string change.). So, single-string guitar scale sequences are a great thing to practice. If you don’t know how to create such guitar scale sequences – take guitar lessons online.

Increase your guitar speed

Lead Guitar Technique Tip #4: Work On Tension Control

Excess tension is an absolute killer of guitar speed. And it often happens when trying to play guitar faster before you are ready. 

How do you relax excess tension as you build lead guitar speed?

Here are three simple ways:

1. Use a tension audit. This is where you play your guitar scale sequences (or other lead guitar licks) at a slow speed and focus on relaxing tension in the parts of your body that aren’t used to play guitar. I'm talking about: your jaw, your shoulders, your biceps and triceps, forearms, stomach, thighs, calves, legs and feet. 

Here is a video demonstration of what I mean: 

Simply rotate your focus from one part of the body to the next – relaxing each one in turn.

The more you do this, the easier it becomes to play guitar fast without mistakes (and feel relaxed as you do it).

2. Exhale before playing fast. You can do This simple trick if you feel excess muscle tension flaring up right when you’re about to play one of your fast guitar scale sequences. (Typically – from a dead stop. i.e., having played no notes beforehand.)

All you do (as the name implies) is exhale before you start playing. This will force your body to relax and will make it easier to play guitar fast and have it feel easy.

3. Exaggerate the excess muscle tension you feel. This may feel counterintuitive, but exaggeration is a powerful technique that can help your guitar speed.

When you feel tension in some part of your body, you can’t relax – simply tense up even more (for a few seconds). This way, when you relax your body – you’ll relax to a greater extent than you ever could simply by ‘trying to relax.’

Lead Guitar Technique Tip #5: Build Speed Using Speed Bursts

This is a powerful method for building a lot of guitar speed and improving your guitar technique.

All you do is set the metronome 10-15 bpm faster than the tempo at which you typically play guitar fast...

... and practice playing your guitar scale sequences (and other lead guitar licks) in short bursts of a few notes at a time.

This helps your hands and your brain to learn to play guitar fast at a higher tempo by allowing yourself to play only a few notes at a time.

As the new tempo feels easier – start adding more notes.

Watch this guitar speed lesson to see a demonstration of this process: 

Now that you know how to use guitar scale sequences to play guitar fast, the next step is to refine your picking technique, so you have an even easier time reaching your guitar speed goals.

I show you how in my free eGuide called: How To Build Lightning Fast Guitar Picking Speed. Download it today and discover the guitar speed strategies most guitarists will never know.

How to build guitar speed e-Book
Free eGuide

Tom Hess
About 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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