An In-Depth Guide To How To Play Guitar Faster

Learning how to play guitar faster isn’t just about doing speed drills – Let us help you master your speed & the fretboard too!

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • Our 9 best secrets for playing guitar faster
  • How to use a metronome
  • Why scale exercises are important
  • Our TOP secret for learning how to play guitar faster!

What’s The Key To Learning How To Play Guitar Faster? Practice!

It doesn’t matter who you are – when you start out playing guitar, you dream of playing fast.

  • The thought of shredding up and down the fretboard at lightning speed makes every one of us excited (even if you play R&B or Jazz).
  • The process of getting to a point where we can shred with confidence however, is much more difficult.
  • The key to learning how to play guitar faster is to have patience and practice effectively.

In this free guide, we’re going to teach you the essentials of picking up speed in your playing so you can not only play with speed, but with confidence too!

Ready, set, shred – Let’s go!

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Speed & Articulation Go Hand In Hand

The thing we have to realize about learning how to play guitar faster is that speed is not the only factor.

Many people can shred fast, but not clean. Trust us, there is definitely a difference.

  • What is articulation, though?
  • Think of it this way – Have you ever met someone who mumbles and talks fast?

Sure, they’re speaking quickly, but can you understand them? Of course not.

Playing guitar fast without articulation is much like mumbling – people can see you talking, but they can’t understand you!

So how do we play with articulation?

Simple: We need to practice slowly. Take this chromatic scale below, for example.

  • In this scale exercise, we’re going to practice playing each note as slow as possible and pressing firmly on the string at the desired fret.
  • Despite the title of this article, there will be no speed involved in this exercise. Instead, we want you to play the example below as slow as possible.
  • Listen for the full sound of each note and make sure it is pronounced well before moving to the next fret or string.

You should hear very little to zero fret buzzing as you play this exercise, and each note should sound full and complete before moving on.

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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.

How To Play Guitar Faster – Learn To Count!

When you see someone like Steve Vai play guitar, you don’t expect that someone like that would be counting in their head while playing.

Well, you’d be wrong to think so!

Every musician counts. Period.

Whether they’re shouting “1 – 2 – 3 – 4” at the top of their lungs, mumbling notes to themselves or physically moving to keep time, you can be sure that one massive cog in their musical brain is responsible for counting.

Counting becomes an unconscious thing the more we do it, and it’s important to get different musical counts in your head.

It’s also important to know how many of each note value can fit into a bar, so we’ve included a handy little chart for your reference below!

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Pro Tip: Memorize the chart above, as it teaches us how many of each note value can fit into a bar of music.

Here’s a quick little counting formula to memorize:

Note Value Name Duration Count
Whole Note 4 beats (or the whole bar) 1 – – – 
Half Note 2 beats (2 per bar) 1 – – 3 – –
Quarter Note 1 beat (4 per bar) 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 
Eighth Note ½ of a Quarter Note (8 per bar) 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
Sixteeth Note ½ of an Eighth Note (16 per bar) 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a

Once you’ve mastered counting these note values, move on to the next section where we talk about metronomes and move on to playing!

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How To Practice With A Metronome (The Right Way)

Ah yes, the metronome.

  • It’s the thing that every teacher tells you to use, and the thing that every guitarist hates practicing with.
  • Fear not, however! We’re going to teach you why this little device is the best thing to happen to your guitar playing.
  • The metronome helps us divide up time in music, and teaches us how to fit different note groupings together.

When we begin learning how to play guitar faster, note groupings should be the first thing that we consider.

In this first exercise, try fitting these 8th notes together inside of one beat. Set the metronome low enough so that the speed is manageable, and play these notes as evenly as you can.

Count: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & for each bar.

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Pro Tip: If you don’t have a metronome device to use, your favourite search engine will be able to provide one for you here!

  • Before we can learn how to play guitar faster, we should aim to improve our sense of timing.
  • Count the note values listed above out loud against your metronome to hear how each note value fits within a bar of music.
  • You can even clap if it helps you sound out each note value and how many you can fit in a bar.

This may not seem like something worth doing at first, but it will help you organize your time feel better further down the line.

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How To Play Guitar Faster – Learn Subdivisions & How They Work

There are thousands of different ways to play a bar of music, and it’s important to learn as many of them as possible!

Remember: Learning how to play guitar faster isn’t just about speed and articulation, it’s about learning how to count inside of multiple bars of music and find interesting ways to make rhythm happen.

In the example below, we mix eighth notes and quarter notes together for the first two bars, and finish with a combination of sixteenth notes in the third and fourth bars.

This gives us the chance to mix different note values and hear what that dynamic sounds like.

Give it a shot below!

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This example works best at a slow tempo that allows us to count the beats of each note value out loud as we play.

Once we have gotten the notes and timing under our fingers, begin ramping up the speed of your metronome in increments of 10bpm.

If it gets too fast, dial back by 5bpm to keep things comfortable.

Pro Tip: Using alternate picking is the best way to get the most out of these exercises, as it allows our pick to swing freely back and forth across the strings, creating momentum.

The point of these exercises is to develop confidence and fluidness in our playing so we can learn to play guitar faster – start slow and work up speed at your pace.

If you’re starting to understand how to link note values together at a quicker pace, start playing triplets below!

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How To Play Guitar Faster – Explore Triplets

Triplets are a great way to add a jumpier element to our guitar playing, and they work in all sorts of musical scenarios.

  • Like the name suggests, there are three notes inside of a triplet, and we can fit four triplets inside a bar of music in 4/4 time.
  • To make it easier, we play one triplet inside the same amount of time that we would play a quarter note.

We count triplets like this:

1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a or

1 Trip Let 2 Trip Let 3 Trip Let 4 Trip Let

Triplets are interesting because they make a galloping sound as we play them.

Try this triplet exercise below and count out loud as you play.

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Pro Tip: The key to playing a series of triplets effectively at high speed is alternate picking. Keep a tight pick hand and a close range of motion to the strings!

  • We don’t have to play every stroke of a triplet with the same intensity as the first note.
  • Most often, we can make use of a strong-weak-weak pickstroke pattern instead.
  • This places an accent on the first note of the triplet and lets us follow up with two softer strokes, creating a dynamic in the triplet itself.

Now, let’s put this study of note value to good use and practice our scales!

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How To Play Guitar Faster – Practice Your Scales!

Scales make up every part of music, and they’re important to learn if you want to understand what is happening in a song.

  • However, we’re not talking about music theory today. We’re talking about speed!
  • When learning how to play guitar faster, you’ll want to focus on building speed through practicing your scales.
  • Not only does this benefit your hands, but you will learn where the notes are on the fretboard and allow your ear to become familiar with the sound of individual notes.

A little ear training never hurt anyone!

Try This: If you want to learn how to play guitar faster, take your knowledge of triplets and apply it to the G minor scale in the drill below:

We can also play this exact same scale in four-note groupings for a different sound and effect.

Pro Tip: Learning how to approach scales with different note groupings will truly help you master the fretboard while building speed.

You can build speed on the guitar in a variety of different ways, but we find this one to be the most effective in terms of overall benefit to your playing.

increase-guitar-speed

How To Play Guitar Faster – Repetition & Time Drills

You might find it weird that we haven’t touched a lot on speed-focused drills in this lesson.

  • That’s because we don’t believe that speed drills are the only key to learning how to play guitar faster.
  • Mastery of the fretboard is what will really take you all the way when it comes to speed, because we will have more directions to move in once we reach a speed we are happy with.
  • However, we can’t leave you without a couple super-effective, speed-intensive drills to get your hands moving.

You should make note that these exercises are meant to be practiced often and effectively.

That means that you should sit with a metronome and hash these out with good timing and feel.

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This first exercise involves eighth notes and sliding to help us climb from one octave to the next. Use all four fingers and slide with the pinky.

Pro Tip: It’s important to make use of legato techniques such as hammer-ons and sliding to increase our speed and reach across the fretboard.

These techniques help us increase our dexterity and assist us in learning how to play guitar faster. Practice them!

If you want to learn more about hammer-ons and pull-offs, click here to watch one of our videos!

Are you ready to hear our top secret tip to learning how to play guitar faster? Keep reading!

faster-guitar-playing

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Our TOP Secret For How To Play Guitar Faster – A Practice Journal

The best way to improve your speed is by keeping track of your progress.

  • Playing guitar isn’t something that all of us can commit to full time, so it’s important to keep an eye on what you’ve been studying and what progress you’re making.
  • It’s also important to make note of any walls you may be hitting and the best way to practice getting around them.
  • For example, if you’re practicing how to play guitar faster, you might make a note that 120bpm is your cap for comfort-zone playing, but 140bpm is your target speed to reach for the month.

Document your progress every practice session to properly gauge where your skills lie and where they need improvement!

speed-guitar-playing

Pro Tip: A proper practice journal isn’t just jotting down the statistics of what we are working on playing.

  • We should always make room for notes on the discoveries and breakthroughs that we’ve made while playing the guitar.
  • This beautiful instrument brings a whole world of lightbulb moments with it, and it’s important to document those moments to reflect on later.

Finally, this leads us right into our final point:

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How To Play Guitar Faster – Set Goals That You Can Achieve

Practice makes perfect, but organized practice benefits out guitar playing.

  • When learning how to play guitar faster, you should focus on setting achievable goals.
  • If in your first week of speed training you start at 80bpm, you can set a goal for yourself to move to 100bpm in two weeks.
  • That might seem like a small feat at first glance, but there’s a difference between playing fast and playing clean. 

Make sure you always aim to play clean at high speeds – don’t mumble when you play guitar!

Where Do I Go From Here?

Building speed takes time.

If you’re finding that you want more out of these exercises for learning how to play the guitar faster, we suggest:

Recommended Resources

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