The Touch For Speed

Undoubtedly, one of the most popular subjects that my
subscribers inquire about is how to get their fingers to fly
over fretboard clean and fast.

I remember being floored by two and only two guitarists in
my entire life. Ed Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen. I listened
to Yngwie's debut CD over and over and couldn't wait to see
him live. When I did, I was even more blown away by how easy
he made that speed look.

Now, after a lot of study and practice myself, I've come to
realize that "making it look easy" is simply a by-product of
being on top of your game. In other words, Yngwie doesn't
labor to get his fingers to move that fast. He had to labor
to get to that level, but now that he's there, it's just a
matter of relaxing and playing.

Now, my right hand picking technique really developed when I
started getting control of my timing. That timing was
developed by practicing my scale patterns, sweep picking
my arpeggios using a metronome and recording a lot of tunes.

Prior to that, I was really good at my left hand technique
and relied on it a lot to get my speed. You know, hammer-ons
and pull-offs.

But I titled this article from a problem that I still have
to this day. Unless I'm conscious of it and remind myself
not to do it, I sometimes have a tendency to labor when I
play fast.

Ok, here's what I'm talking about. There's a fine line
between pressing too hard on the strings and slowing
yourself down, and pressing light enough to get your speed
while preserving your note quality.

In contrast, let's say you're doing a bend on the third
string, second fret. That's an A to a B and a bend that
requires some effort from your fingers. Give it a try.
Notice how much force you need to exert to get that A note
up to the B.

Now when you're doing a straight succession of notes such as
indicated below, you want to play with a lighter touch to
the strings.

E --------------------------------------------------
B --------------------------------------------------
G -----------4------------------4-------------------
D --4--5--7-----7--5---4--5--7-----7--5-------------
A --------------------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------------------

Play this example a few times. As you do, pay close
attention as to how your fingers manipulate the strings.

Some things to keep in mind:

  1. When starting, keep your first, second and fourth fingers
    stretched over the frets that they will play. This is
    crucial to your efficiency. Before you even play a note,
    position your fingers in this manner.
  2. Learn to keep your fingers as close to the strings as
    possible when you are not touching them. This simply gives
    you a faster response time for pressing and releasing the
  3. Only press the string as hard as necessary to sound the
    note cleanly. Stay away from laboring and literally
    putting too much muscle into your playing.

Practice these three simple points and I'm sure you'll
immediately see an improvement in your speed.

And lastly, always practice with a metronome. I know...I know.
You probably hate metronomes. I used to hate them too because
they revealed how crummy my timing was. Well, looking back,
I wish I had the discipline back then that I have now.

Try not to make the same mistake I did.

Your playing will become stronger in a shorter period of time
when you get accustomed to a metronome and practice those three
simple points.

Article by Will Landrum of
Will is helping thousands of on-line guitarists with his all
original content web site.

Will Landrum is a guitarist and composer from Virginia who dabbles in heavy rock Instrumentals with blues and neo-classical influences.

His latest CD is entitled "Living Digits", which features eight compositions produced by Landrum and Michael Fath.

Will Landrum