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Thread: technique, speed etc.

  1. #1
    Registered User
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    Nov 2003

    technique, speed etc.

    Hi all

    I've been visiting this board quite a bit of times and there's something that I wanted to say about the often discussed technique and speed subject.


    If you play since a couple of years and practice regularly and your posture, picking technique etc. are correct, you're relaxed and not tense but still you're "only" able to pick 16th notes at 120 bpm or whatever, chances are that it's like that. That's your limit.
    You probably could go on practicing scales and technique forever and maybe take it to 130, but you won't be able to pick 16th's at let's say 180 bpm or faster. Either you have a natural basic "speed" or you don't.

    That's my personal opinion from what I've seen and I'm saying this because I think a lot of guitar players are wasting too much of their time on this.

    All of the fast players I know had it together at a pretty young age and it just came out naturally. There are no "secret exercises" that will take you from 120 to 180, like you won't be able to run 100 m in 10 seconds if you're actually doing it in thirteen. So basically you can forget about all the videos, instructional methods and stuff telling you that you'll become fast. You won't (besides, you'll find all the exercises you'll ever need on sites like iBreahtemusic and others).


    Even if you can play fast - I assert that in every major city on this planet (let's say a population from 250000 +) there are at least a couple of fast players. Now, how many tousand cities on this planet meet this conditions? 1000, 5000, 10000 ? Multiplicate this with the fast players and you'll easily have 4 or 5 digit number of guys that can play fast.
    Got the point. Only being able to play fast doesn't mean nothing. It takes a little more to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack.


    The faster you play, the less complicated the scale has to be to be able to do it using alternate picking. I'd say 90 % of the hyper-fast stuff is based on the diationic scale using common patterns like 123-456-456-712 or 123-432-123-456-456-765-456 etc. etc.
    Now, except for the sake of speed, basically all the fast cats are playing more or less the same or similar **** when it comes down to the hyper-fast stuff. It's all here already, does it really need another fast cat doing the same?
    Unless you're 8 feet tall and the fingers of your hand can stretch over 13 frets I really can't find any new ideas between the actual players.

    Having said all that, don't neglect technique, but also don't overvaluate it. Music is not only about speed but also melodies, rhythm, cool riffs, great chord progressions etc.
    Find out what's your strength, concentrate on that, and don't waste your time with stuff that doesn't get you further.

    One last thing - guys like Paul Gilbert didn't have all the instructional vids and sites like this back in the 80's but did it nevertheless. All you need is a blank sheet, the basic scales major/minor, melodic/harmonic minor and pentatonic. With a little imagination, this should keep you busy for the next thirty years.

  2. #2
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    May 2004
    I don't know about a speed limit. It's really hard to tell on the internet - somebody says they've been practicing forever and still can't play fast, but you don't know if they're practicing three hours a day or three hours a week. There are a whole lot of techniques that allow a person to play fast - relaxing the muscles, not having excess motion in either hand, using only the minimum amount of force necessary, etc. It takes a willingness to relearn how to play, to discard those old habits, to make progress.

    Personally, I feel that if you concentrate on playing well - i.e. not fast - just work on note choice and phrasing, and if you practice a lot, speed will just naturally come. And when it does, it will sound good.

    But, I'm old

  3. #3
    Registered User Unhorizon's Avatar
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    Sep 2003
    I think anyone can become a great player. Many virtuosos say they practiced 10-15 hours a day as kids to get so good at guitar. Does that sound like natural ability? Maybe, but probably not. They were so determined to become great at guitar that they "beat" nature not having given them God-like natural guitar skills.
    And also, I don't think "all the fast cats" are playing the same stuff. Each and every good virtuoso plays a little differently and it's why they are appealing. If guys like Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Joe Satriani, and Ynqwie all played the same stuff, probably only 1 of them would be famous. Why would we need 4 of the same player?

  4. #4
    Experimentalist Koala's Avatar
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    Jun 2002
    Behind you...
    Hmm you know i really disagree with you on the terminal speed theory. If you work you do get better. If you work at it youll run the 100mts in 12.9 secs. Thats sort of a proven fact.

    I do agree with you on the not overvaluating technique thing. I mean this is about making music, not winning a gold medal.

    This thread will surely be controversial but you make some good points.

  5. #5
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    Dec 2003

    totally disagree

    I totally disagree. Everybody could become better (If i can, then you can). Before, 120 was my limit. Now, I raised it to 16th notes at 160 Bpm. Don't wanna sound arrogant but I know I can do more.

    Bottom line, practice will definitely make you better. There are no limits of what we can do.

  6. #6
    I have only been playing 7 months and I can now play clean and perfect 16ths at 144 bmp, I would imagine that is quite good for the time I have spent playing. If I could pick now at phenomenal speeds like Gilbert or Angelo or whatever I probably wouldn't want to create any music at that kind of speed, I don't like it at all but it would be nice to be able to do it.

  7. #7
    Mad Scientist forgottenking2's Avatar
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    Jul 2003
    Houston, TX
    When I first started doing sports (martial arts, lifting weights and what not) I was a chubby weakling who couldn't do one sit up (and work is forcing me back that way now! ) but I kept at it and worked and worked and worked, not dealine, I just knew that I had to work as hard as I could to someday be able to say win a Tae Kwon Do competition. So I did, and at first the results weren't aparent but then one day I stopped to think and there I was bench pressing 180 lbs (I wish I could do that now ) and part of the city's Tae Kwon Do league... so don't say that you either have to get born with it or you'll never get it man, that's what makes people with weak will and little determination quit (and the sad part is that having an ideal will increase the determination and strenghten that will). I started playing the guitar 6 years ago and there are TONS of technical aspects I need to work on, but I am steadily getting better, so KIDS if you work for it you'll get better, I promise.

    You do have a point on technique being overrated, chops are a good thing to have but by no means they replace your ears, or your ability to read music, or your melodic sense... those are skills that HAVE to be cultivated along with technical facility. Think about this, you're a player who can't play much, but you have a great sense for melody; chances are you will be able to get together with somebody and start jamming and doing something musical. I remember this kid saying once something like "I can do most of Vai's workout but one hour of Ear training??? That sounds like torture" What's so awful about ear training? I think chromatic symetrical mechanical excercises are torture (I do them all the time though... I must be masochist ) but we do those to improve our technical skill, why not train our ears? Well, you get the point right?

    Bottom Line: Work on your technique and it will improve, but don't get so caught up on it that you neglect other aspects of music making.

    My 2 cents
    "If God had wanted us to play the piano he would've given us 88 fingers"

  8. #8
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    Jan 2004
    I'm not contradicting anything anyone has said, but I must say that playing 16th notes perfectly in time at 144 bpm after playing guitar for 7 months has to be unusual to say the least. That's quite an achievement.

    I think that the OP may exaggerate a little in the name of making his point. It's a good point - no one should place speed above genuine musical development, and an hour of ear-training will probably do a lot more for you than an hour of chromatics. Having said that, I'm pretty sure that it's not possible to spend years on your playing, carefully refining your technique to the most precise it can be, and still only be capable of 16ths at 120 bpm. So although it might be true that you should give up trying to be fast if this happened to you, I'm not sure that it's actually possible.

  9. #9
    StringsBreaker Wolfgang's Avatar
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    Feb 2003
    i think that there's a limit... forgottenking2 told about weightliftin, so he prolly knows that there are genetical limitations...it's a proven fact that once you reach your genetical limit, you won't be able to lift anything more than that, even if you try really hard...
    i think that technique has to do with muscular and neuronal activity, so you have genetical limits on it too... but that's not necessarily a bad thing... maybe you can't get faster than 150 bpm, but maybe you can skip strings like no other... technique is much more than playin' fast... it's more difficult to play some eric johnson stuff than 3nps patterns at blind speed...

  10. #10
    Firebard RandyEllefson's Avatar
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    Mar 2004
    Gaithersburg Maryland
    I've never really worried about speed or used a metronome and just concentrated on playing scales smoothly and evenly. It seemed to work for me. It seems like many people online are in a rush to get fast. But "if you practice, speed will come".

  11. #11
    Metal Messiah Sakkaku's Avatar
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    Feb 2004
    New Zealand
    When you're learning to drive a car, you don't drive at 80mph do you ? (unless you want to die) You have to practise and practise and practise until you have the ability to drive that fast and not crash. The same parallel carries into guitar playing. The more you practise, and practise CLEANLY and ACCURATELY, the faster you WILL get. There is no time frame to guide you though. Some people get quicker than others in the same amount of time. I'm the kind of guy whom starts off really slow (40bpm) and makes sure I have it perfect before increasing my speed. If I make a mistake, I slow it down until I can get it perfect. I haven't been concentrating on my speed so much lately as I have my overall technique. In particular, I've been practising my huge bends, a la Dave Gilmour. But that's getting off topic so I'll stop right there!

  12. #12
    IbreatheMusic Author Bizarro's Avatar
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    Oct 2002
    Some people are really naturally faster than others. That's a fact. But what that really means in a skill instrument like guitar is that it'll take X amount of time for the fast guy to get to 140 bpm on a certain exercise, and maybe X+Y amount of time for someone not as gifted with speed.

    If you compare it to typing... in my typing class in high school I could type over 40 wpm the first week. I was by far the fastest but I also played guitar and piano so I had a headstart... After 6 months I had gotten to around 70-80 wpm. Everyone else went from 10-20 in the beginning to around 60 in the same amount of time. They got really fast too. 60 wpm is nothing to sneeze at! With steady practice everyone got faster and more accurate. That's what practice is for!

    Speed is not really all that important to music, but accuracy and great timing are definitely important to music. Practicing with a metronome will improve your accuracy and timing, and as a by-product you'll increase your speed.

    I don't really have a point but I type so darn fast I can't stop! Doh!

    Jorge, I can BP 180 lbs! But that's less than I weigh so it's not that impressive. Oh well. I used to be able to bench 225+, but that'll never happen again! 225 looks nice on the bar. 2x45lb weights on each side + a 45lb bar. So symmetrical... So darn heavy...
    Google is your friend Hidden Content

  13. #13
    In the woodshed rmuscat's Avatar
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    Sep 2003
    it is as hard and requires training as much as playing accurately quarter notes (1 beat) at 40bpm (or less!) for a considerable amount of time! say 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes ...

    i can't ... and i think it's hard and takes practice as much as going fast

    p.s. i agree bizarro ... and i also think your nick says it all ... BIZARRO (weird) LOL
    Last edited by rmuscat; 07-10-2004 at 08:31 AM. Reason: originally put as a question and might have been considered as provocative ... oops
    Edwin Land: Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.

  14. #14
    Registered User
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    Mar 2004
    rome, italy
    Let me tell you something. I am always amused by those teenagers always putting those posts where they ask some info about speed: how to play 16th at 200 bpm? How to play them at 250??

    Forget about it: BE PATIENT
    I mean: try to have that quality…. Teenagers like you do not have; that quality that teenagers cannot have: PATIENCE.

    Are you playing your guitar because you like it, or just to show off your technique to that girl you like?

    I’m 28 and have been playing since was 11, so can tell YOU DO NOT HAVE to play 8 hours a day to play fast: obviously the more you play, the more you get.
    It sounds romantic to hear Steve Vai or Yngwie saying they would play 10 hours a day…
    But if you FOCUS on your daily exercise for at least 2 hours per day, 6 times a week (even fingers do need to have a rest!), you’ll be able to play moderately fast after a year.
    … and when I say to be focused on your exercises, I want to say you have to be concentrated, you cannot think of anything else.
    Make your personal schedule, do just 5-6 exercises a day (fast picking, string-skipping, legato, arpeggio, palm muting/rhythm guitar riffs, scales), 15 minutes each, without stopping: in a few months your skills will grow.
    If not, don’t think you’re stupid: perhaps you’re making the wrong exercises. THAT’S ALL

    Remember: 1% of people are stupid; 1% are genius, all the rest of mankind is made of average human being. It’s just a matter of will. Nothing else.
    That’s all.

  15. #15
    IbreatheMusic Author Bizarro's Avatar
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    Oct 2002
    Great points gmc75! Welcome to ibreathe!
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