How To Play Guitar Fast! 5 Tips to Increase Speed

In my post “Thoughts on Practice from a Wise, Old Guitarist,” I asked Bill, a well-aged retired, professional guitar player how to increase my guitar speed after hearing how fast he played on his old recordings.  He just told me to “practice, practice, and practice.”  But how do we practice when we want to learn how to play guitar fast?

1. Start slow, Speedy

This couldn’t be more important.  Practice playing guitar scales slow at first with proper fingering, posture, and technique.  Set a metronome at a slow speed then practice at faster speeds.  It’s really boring at first (I won’t lie to you), but it’ll be harder to play guitar faster if you don’t have good technique.  You must walk before you run.

2. Alternate Picking

As you pluck the individual strings with your pick, pluck each string alternately with a down pluck and an up pluck with the pick.  When you play a guitar scale or lead line, don’t pluck every single note with a downwards pluck.  You’re losing speed.  Alternate your picking.

3. Relax

Any tension in your arms, wrists, hands, or fingers will hinder your speed.  When you’re playing guitar fast everything should be relaxed.  If you notice yourself getting tense when you get faster, slow it down, eliminate the tension, and then gradually speed back up.  

4. Develop a Nervous Twitch

Okay, so I’m referring back to my previous post here about Bill. Bill not only told me to practice but to develop a bit of “nervous twitch” in my picking hand.  I don’t have any ideas on how to do this.  Do you?

5. “Patience, young skywalker, patience.”

Eat Yoda’s words.  While you should notice results if you try these things, don’t expect that your guitar speed will jump to that of Van Halen overnight.  Be faithful in your practice and keep these things in mind and you’ll progress.  

These are just some things that have helped me learn how to play guitar fast.  What are things that have helped you pick up your guitar speed?

About Brett McQueen

Brett McQueen is a musician, songwriter, and the founder and editor of Guitar Friendly and Ukulele Tricks. Learn more about him here and follow him on Twitter at @GuitarFriendly.