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Lesson Series

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Andy James - Metal Edge Part 7: How To Play Fast Part 2

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 7 **

Hello and welcome to this issue where we are going to take a look at the second instalment of “How to play fast”.

Hopefully, those of you who have taken a look and gone through the examples in the first lesson, should now be ready to extend your playing into using two strings. These next four examples are using the high E and the B string and predominantly using the alternate picking technique in the right hand. For me this is a preferred technique for playing fast, as it is more accurate and places less strain on your left hand than using, say, purely legato technique, which requires a lot more left hand strength.

The aim of these guitar exercises is to build up strength, accuracy and co-ordination which are the three most important aspects to developing a clean and consistent overall technique on guitar. They are not the most musically exciting examples but, never the less, boredom often sets in with repetition, but as the old adage states “No pain, No gain!”. If you stick with this kind of thing, you will see results, it's only a matter of time before your body gets used to this type of playing and should feel easier the more you do it. Ironically the better you get, the less you have to practice as it becomes just like riding a bike and even if you don’t play for a week, you could still consistently pull these kind of licks off without breaking a sweat.

Don’t get me wrong, practice is the key! But, when the technique side of things doesn’t hinder you as much, you can spend more time working on your expression and musicality, which ultimately makes you into a musician and not just a guitarist. This is important if you want people to enjoy your playing overall, rather than just having short-lived interest in your playing by others just for being a fast guitarist.

Lets take a look at the exercises that will hopefully develop your speed.

Lick 1:

This is a pentatonic lick in the key of E minor. it’s a lick that alternates two notes moving - the top two notes in fact. The 17th fret then changes to the 15th fret and alternates. The key to this lick is the pull-off after picking the first note, which will make this lick flow a lot better and allow you to build speed relatively easily. Always take the time to practice this slow and pay attention to keeping the notes clean and even. Then this should remain as you speed the lick up to the maximum speed you can manage.

Lick 2:

Now we are venturing into three note per string territory which is a very common way of playing fast on the guitar. Quite often this is used over all six strings, either using positions of the major scale, playing six note groupings in octaves, or playing string skipped pentatonic ideas. All of which can utilize the pattern which we are about to look at. Sometimes knowing a few well practised sequences allows you to extend them over much greater distances and gives you a lot of mileage. Again practice this sequence slow paying attention to the accents that help you keep time with this kind of lick.

Lick 3 :

This is an extension of lick 2 but is going to train you to shift between positions which is important because you need to be able to move through scale shapes so you don’t get stuck playing in the same position all the time. Again, this is a sequence that can be used across more than just two strings but with guitar it's better to start small with a pattern then just see how far you can extend it until you run out of fretboard. Trial and error is a very good way of building vocabulary, and also application helps for these new ideas to stay in your brain. Often when I learn a new lick or technique, it will creep into everything I play so it sticks. Also new techniques can inspire whole songs though that isn’t always the case.

Lick 4 :

A few years ago I decided that using sweep picking as a primary technique for playing arpeggios wasn’t proving to be the best technique for me. There are certain things I like to sweep but there are always things you wish you could really nail in this world, but just can't quite get. I think it's very rare, with the exception of a few, to be able to completely nail every technique in the book. I decided that this more simplified way of playing arpeggios was going to work better for me, along with string skipping. Quite often I will re-arrange things to fit my own technique especially when playing other people's stuff, but that is the beauty of the guitar, that this can be done. Emphasis on playing this slow is a must to get the shifts under your fingers then gradually speed it up.

All these licks can be practised to a metronome or drum machine just to help you with your inner clock, then when you come to using this stuff with a band it makes rhythmical sense.

That’s it for part 2 of “How to play fast”, until next time, rock on!

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