Guitar Speed Exercises – Your Ultimate Guide

Guitar speed exercises help us to crank up our speed and articulation properly without straining our hands. Let’s find out how!

In this free lesson you will learn…

  • 4 powerful guitar speed exercises
  • A tasty sliding lick in C major
  • The power of alternate picking
  • How to get your hands to talk to each other
  • A cool string-skipping practice routine.

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The Importance Of Guitar Speed Exercises

There’s one thing that every guitarist chases after at some point in their musical journey:

Speed.

When we first start out playing guitar, we all do the same things:

  • Watch all the cool YouTube videos of the fastest shredders ripping it up
  • Watch the typical “how to play fast” and “guitar speed exercises” videos
  • (Maybe) buy a book or two on speed

The thing that we don’t account for when first learning how to play faster is accuracy.

In order to play the guitar with speed, we also need to play it with precision.

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Precision and accuracy are harder to come by than you might think, and developing those skill effectively takes time, dedication and solid practice (but you already knew that).

  • Once we have developed a better sense of note accuracy in our playing, ramping the speed up will be no problem at all.
  • Hitting the right notes is difficult at high speeds, and if you’re into any of the faster styles of music like rock & metal, odds are there is something inside of you that’s just dying to shred up a storm.

Well fret not, fellow stringers – Your friends at National Guitar Academy have got you covered.

Let’s talk about speed training, and why it’s so important.

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Why Should We Practice Speed Training?

Let’s get one thing straight right away – Your hands have limitations.

That’s right, you’re a human. That means you can only go so far with your speed to start with.

We’ll write that down one more time in bold letters:
‘To start with’

That doesn’t mean those limitations are permanent – it just means you need to develop a solid practice routine to push the boundaries of those limitations further.

This is the beauty of music – It forces us to grow.

  • You want to play that Steve Vai song you love so much? You’d better work for it.
  • Joe Satriani? Plini? Brad Paisley?
  • These are all shredders who have spent their fair share of time in front of a metronome keeping time.

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Speed training in guitar speed exercises goes like this:

  • Start at a speed that is slow and comfortable.
  • Play an exercise at that speed, and make sure it’s slow enough that you can play clearly and sound out each note individually. We don’t want notes to bleed together – We want them to stand out.
  • Repeat this process until you are playing with absolute clarity.
  • Increase the speed by 10bpm and play the same exercise.
  • If the speed is too fast, decrease it by 5bpm.

Easy-speed-training-guitar

‘This seems silly and repetitive – What does this do?’

  • It might at first, but what you’re actually doing is increasing your hands durability at a specific speed. This helps your hands to master that exercise at that specific speed, helping your overall sense of articulation.
  • Additionally, playing this way helps us hear what we are playing far better than just mindlessly shredding through guitar speed exercises one exercise after another.

Now, what about stretching?

Guitar-Speed-Exercises

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Guitar Speed Exercises – The Importance Of Proper Stretching

We’ve said this in almost every exercise article ever, but stretching is a make-or-break situation.

Do you think a professional hockey player just jumps on the ice and wins the Stanley Cup?

No way.

These folks stretch before they play, and so should you.

Stretching puts life on our hands, wrists and forearms. It also tells us where we may have points of concern in those areas, and helps us be mindful and conscious of the condition of our hands.

Did you feel something new that hurt more than it did before while you were stretching?

Go see a doctor, plain and simple.

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Pro Tip: Here are a few quick exercises you can do to warm up your hands before tackling these guitar speed exercises:

  • Stretch your fingers and thumb up at the wrist, then down. Hold for 10 seconds each
  • Cross one arm over your chest and turn to stretch the shoulder. Hold your shoulder with your other hand
  • Point your elbow up behind your head, and crawl your fingers down the middle of your back. Hold for 10 seconds per arm and push lightly on the top of the elbow.
  • Do yoga! Check out our friend Adriene and her Yoga For Musicians video!
  • Do jumping jacks to get the blood flowing through your arms and body

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We Can’t Say It Enough – Start Slow!

Guitar speed exercises are all about pacing.

If you jump too far ahead in speed, you won’t be able to keep pace with yourself.

  • Make sure you set goals for yourself and smash them one at a time.
  • If you’ve managed to master a 10bpm increase in a week to two weeks, that’s fantastic!
  • If it’s 5bpm, that’s perfectly fine as well!

It’s important to set reasonable goals for yourself that you can accomplish at your own pace.

You’ll feel a better sense of accomplishment more immediately by achieving a small goal than you will by not reaching a large one when you want to.

how-to-increase-guitar-speed

We can’t recommend enough that you use the ‘10 Up – 5 Down’ speed training regimen that we’ve outlined above.

This will help you to set a reasonable and effective pace to work on your guitar speed exercises, and it will leave you feeling incredibly accomplished.

  • Remember that the guitar, like all instruments is a personal thing. This is about you and your comfort level, not about impressing other people for the sake of a good show or a party trick.
  • Don’t ever put pressure on yourself to increase your speed too quickly – This can lead to strain and injury which will just set you back further.

Speaking of strains and injury, let’s talk about where ‘the line’ is!

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Hand Strains: How Much Is ‘Too Much’ & How To Tell

Playing the guitar effectively involves an intense series of fine movements.

Our hands only look like they are dancing across the fretboard. In actual fact however, the most effective guitarists uses minimal movement to navigate their way across the frets.

This helps to reduce strain, but also involves a lot of practice in order to master. This type of muscle focus can be difficult to develop at first, and sometimes we can push it a little bit too far.

If you feel like something is hurting in a way that it shouldn’t be (pain in the wrist and forearms, discomfort in the hands) then you should put the guitar down and stretch right away.

Guitar speed exercises are only practical when your hands are in good shape!

how-to-play-guitar-faster

Strains present themselves pretty clearly, especially if you’re a guitarist.

When playing through these guitar speed exercises, you’ll want to make sure that you’re paying attention to how your hands feel.

  • If something is uncomfortable, trying rotating either one of your hands just slightly in its position.
  • Sometimes a fine movement is all it takes to remove the wall of discomfort, and your hands will always speak to you if something is wrong.
  • Listen to your hands!

Alright, all stretched out and ready to shred? Let’s break the sound barrier with some guitar speed exercises.

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Guitar Speed Exercises I – Alternate Picking

We know it may seem basic at first, but alternate picking is one of the major keys to unlocking your speed on the fretboard.

While not favored by absolutely every guitarist ever, alternate picking provides a smooth and economical approach to the strings that helps us use natural momentum to navigate.

  • This makes it a necessary skill to develop for any guitarist wanting to tackle guitar speed exercises.
  • In this example, we’ve flipped the Chromatic scale to be slightly more challenging.
  • Instead of the typical 1-2-3-4 pattern that we’re used to seeing, we’re going to alternate fret positions at each string between the first and second positions.

For another take on this approach, check out this article from Guitar World on shredding.

guitar-exercises-for-speed

This not only forces extra movement in the fret hand, but it forces our pick hand to pay closer attention as well.

This will help greatly with our coordination, and so these types of guitar speed exercises are important to master.

Pro Tip: Start this one around 80bpm to give your fret hand time to get used to stretching to the fifth fret.

The descending version of this pattern needs our pinky finger to do a bit of stretching, so we hope you’re all warmed up.

(If you skipped the stretching section, now would be a good time to scroll back up)

Take a run at this descending pattern below:

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Guitar Speed Exercises II – 2 Pick Strokes / Note

We’re going to take the same exercise from above and double up the amount of notes we’re playing.

Playing two pick strokes per note helps us become more aware of our articulation, increasing our efficiency and accuracy.

We also often refer to this technique as ‘tremolo picking.’

Check out the example below and be aware of how your pick moves across the strings.

techniques-for-guitar-speed

In the descending pattern, we once again want to be mindful of that pinky finger stretch.

Use the momentum of alternate picking to get your pick hand smoothly from string to string.

Pro Tip: Utilize pick momentum whenever you can.

Gravity is your friend and many times by adapting to a strict alternate picking pattern, we can clear through guitar speed exercises with maximum efficiency.

guitar-speed-technique

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

Guitar Speed Exercises III – Combining Picking & Legato

In this next example, we’re going to play a passage in the key of C major from a low C to a high C.

Guitar speed exercises like these don’t just help us work on our speed and timing, but they also give us a great example of how to move through different box shapes of a scale.

  • In this example, we start on the note C at the third fret on the A string. Lead with your index finger and follow with your ring finger on the fifth fret, sliding to the 7th.
  • We slide with our ring finger so that we can leave our index open for movement in the opposite direction when needed.

Check out the example below and keep an eye out for the playing directions!

easy-way-to-play-guitar-fast

In the descending version of this example, we’re going to be sliding backwards a fair bit.

  • To play guitar speed exercises like these effectively, we’re going to want to focus on the coordination between picking and sliding, as well as which fingers will take which frets.
  • We’ve outlined this tab with a bit more musical direction so you can get a firm idea of how this should be played.

Pro Tip: You should practice this shape in every key, or as many as you can.

This helps us get an idea for what it sounds like when we ‘climb’ the major scale, and these guitar speed exercises are laid out as such. Riffs like these are great to keep in the toolbox.

easy-way-to-play-guitar-fast

Guitar Speed Exercises IV – String Skipping

Our final drill involves string skipping, as well as hammer-ons and pull-offs.

These last two guitar speed exercises may look easy, but playing them smoothly is a different story.

We’ve outlined this drill in two ways per tab – One using just the index and ring fingers; the other using just the middle and pinky fingers.

We recommend playing both of these guitar speed exercises repeatedly to encourage finger independence and equal strength.

Pro Tip: In these last two guitar speed exercises, you should be picking every string only once, allowing your secondary finger to hammer-on or pull-off to the next note.

  • This technique helps create momentum once again, this time in both of our hands instead of the pick.
  • Additionally, playing this way helps our hands communicate with each other, as they rotate duties on carrying the intended notes through whatever progression you are playing.

Now hit this last example like you’re Yngwie Malmsteen and then drink some water.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Did you have fun with these guitar speed exercises? Feeling confident?
Let’s keep the practice party going – We recommend:

  • Taking these speed skills and applying them to a challenging song you want to learn
  • Drill these exercises with your guitar teacher
  • Practice with your friends and encourage them to use a metronome!
  • Talk to other guitarists online or in person about their favourite practice regimens
  • Keep a practice journal so you can visualize your progress

Recommended Resources

If you loved this free lesson on guitar speed exercises, you’re going to love some of the other free content that we’ve got in store for you!

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