Hi there guitar fanatics, and welcome to the first of many monthly
columns for Premier Guitar. I thought I’d start my first installment
from the bottom up and share my practice techniques. I’ve talked
to many guitar players who can’t always see the progress from
all the work they do. Here are my favorite exercises for building
speed and dexterity (hand strength), and some things to get you
- Make sure you have a place where you won’t be disturbed.
- Let your family and friends know this is your time to focus and
you need their support so you can improve.
- Also try to be consistent by playing five days a week from 15, 30
or 60 minutes a day.
- Buy a metronome or drum machine to help your timing.
- Take breaks periodically, rest your hands and shake them out to
avoid problems like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other muscular
- Don’t practice in front of the TV all the time. It’s fun sometimes,
but you need to focus. Now, if you’re sitting there trying to learn
the themes to all you favorite TV shows, that could be some good
- Don’t always practice with full distortion, as it can mask sloppy
technique. Try using a clean tone as well.
Pick with a good, strong contact with the string, use conviction
and don’t be wimpy. I use heavy picks, as they are better for fast
picking. When you play slow you should hit the string harder and
as you speed up play lighter. You need to have your left and right
hand in sync. The key to playing fast is playing slow. By starting
slow you stay in control.
Use strict alternate picking. This is a common four finger exercise,
but I’ve added some different combinations to explore. Make sure
to go up all the strings (only the bottom two strings are shown)
and then shift up one fret and come down the next fret.
Start your metronome at 50 BPM and play the exercise in a cycle
for 30 seconds; after 30 seconds bring the metronome up one
click and play for another 30 seconds. Keep speeding up until you
start to get sloppy. At that point stop and write on a note pad the
speed you reached (maybe 100 BPM). Then go to the next exercise
and start back at 50 BPM. The next day when you start to
practice, try to beat your previous number (i.e. 110 BPM).
C major scale. This is a simple scale pattern to help you to build
speed and use a common fingering for melodic playing. Use the
same approach – start slow and build up every 30 seconds. Try
experimenting with your favorite scales or modes and apply the
E minor pedal tone. I use pedal tone licks to practice staying close
to the string while picking; if you can keep the pick close to the
string and don’t hit adjacent strings you will sound cleaner. This
uses an E minor pedal tone lick with a triplet timing. It’s 3 notes
per beat (123,123,etc.).
This uses an A minor scale pattern on the top two strings only. Try
it in different octaves (same notes but higher or lower pitch) and
remember to start slow.
I’ll see you all next month for a new lesson. In the meantime,
practice hard, have fun and it will pay off in the long run. Visit me
online if you have questions.
you can email Gary at: email@example.com