Do you strongly desire to play with lightning fast tremolo picking guitar technique? It's actually a lot easier than you might expect. In reality, tons of guitarists have a hard time playing fast tremolo picking lines because they are under the impression that merely moving their hands faster will lead them actually play faster. However, this conventional wisdom is entirely false and I'll tell you why...
A huge amount of guitarists already have the ability to play as fast as any virtuoso player. However, they (and you) are held back by the distance that the pick moves through the string whenever they pick a note. Unfortunately, many guitarists NEVER realize this and believe that their picking motions are already effective and their slow playing comes from not being able to move their hand faster (when in reality it's the total opposite).
To develop insane tremolo picking speed, you must increase the frequency at which your pick comes into contact with the string (don't confuse this with simply moving your hand faster). When you do this, you strike the string many more times and your tremolo picking speed shoots through the ceiling!
Before you continue reading, check out the video below so you can see how to practice this for yourself:
Like you saw in the video above, you will immediately play with two times the tremolo picking speed by merely splitting your pick attack distance in half. Now that you are familiar with this idea, begin picking faster using the exercise below:
Rule number one of developing your picking speed: you need to always watch your picking hand as you practice picking technique! Whenever you use up all your guitar practice time by watching your fretting hand or not even looking at your hands at all, you will struggle to make any strong gains in your picking speed.
To begin developing faster picking speed, select an open string to use tremolo picking on and go through the following steps:
Step One: Continually pick using sixteenth notes at a slower bpm for around 15 seconds. Angle your pick at about a 40 degree angle while facing it towards the headstock of the guitar. This will keep you from losing dynamics or picking lightly while reducing picking movements. Like this:
Note: You will also generate greater power in your picking attack while using less effort by playing with a thicker pick (1.50 mm or more) instead of a thin one.
Step Two: Next, play at about a 10% faster rate while continuing to pick for an additional 5-10 seconds. Remember to keep watching your picking hand and maintain compact picking motions. This will make sure that no unneeded movement is being used that would keep you from increasing speed.
Step Three: Gradually raise the tempo you are picking at while still paying careful attention to your picking hand motions to reduce the distance between up/down strokes as much as you can. Additionally, pay attention to the following:
- Don't ignore power and articulation whenever you are cutting down the distance in your pick attack. Keep a good amount of articulation in your attack by putting more of the pick in the string. This way you will be able to produce small picking motions while still maintaining a booming, powerful attack (instead of picking with the very tip of the pick like so many guitarists do - reducing their articulation).
- Your forearm and picking hand shoulder must be very relaxed whenever you are picking fast. It will not help you to tense up these muscles... it will only make you tired while increasing the chances of injury. Try to keep these muscles completely relaxed as you notice your speed increasing.
Keep raising your speed until you are tremolo picking at the maximum speed possible. Continue playing at this speed for an additional ten seconds or so.
Step Four: Now take a short break from playing for a minute before repeating the first three steps three more times. To improve your tremolo picking technique even more, switch between playing open strings and playing fretted notes (this will produce different levels of tension in the strings and challenge you to get better). Use this exercise together with an effective guitar practice routine to get huge results in your speed picking ability.
IMPORTANT: This concept of shortening the distance in your picking attack can be used in other areas besides just tremolo picking! As demonstrated in the video above, you should also implement this idea into your playing while using multiple string guitar licks and scales. This will combine your tremolo picking with other areas of your lead guitar technique and raise your overall speed.
Using the lick below together with the exercise above. While doing this, focus on your picking hand so that you keep your pick attack as tight as possible (while playing with plenty of power and loudness).
Now that you know how to build tons of tremolo picking speed, know that this is only one part of becoming a very fast guitarist. To understand more about the other factors for building fast guitar speed, check out this mini course about how to play guitar faster.
To learn a ton more about how to not only increase your max guitar speed but also become a highly accomplished musician, take the best online rock guitar lessons.
Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.
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