In music, playing speed isn’t everything. However, your ability to play with speed can make you a better musician overall. For example, as you increase your picking speed, your whole playing style begins to loosen up and your fingers will feel more flexible. By having greater dexterity in your fingers, you will be able to do a lot more and have an easier time playing, not only in terms of picking but fretting as well.
Working on improving your playing speed can be made easier and more fun with the right guitar. There are many quality acoustic guitar models under $300 that are comfortable to play and make practice time more productive.
So how do you increase your guitar playing speed? Here are some tried-and-tested ways to do just that.
Do warm-ups and loosen up
When you practice playing faster, your hands may have a tendency to tense up, so before practice, do some back, shoulder, arm, hand and finger stretches to warm up and loosen up your muscles. Sit properly and try your best to stay relaxed. Breathe and mentally prepare yourself for the task ahead.
Build up your playing speed gradually
Start by practicing slowly but surely. Speed doesn’t come right away, so be patient. What’s important is that you develop accuracy when playing so that when start building up your playing speed, you’ll hit the right notes every time. Playing fast without paying attention to where your fingers are going can result in sloppy playing and make you prone to committing errors.
Practice alternate picking
You can also increase your speed by using alternate picking, where you hold the pick between your index finger and your thumb with the pointed end of the pick facing the strings. Alternate between downstrokes and upstrokes (downstroke first). When you use alternate picking, you can double the number of notes you play.'
Get your rhythm going by using a metronome
Keep time and practice accuracy by using a metronome. It can be a stand-alone device, a metronome app or software, a backing track or any other tool you can use to develop rhythm. Gradually increase the BPM, or beats per minute, of the metronome and challenge yourself to maintain accuracy as you begin to play faster.
Develop hand coordination
Your fretting and your picking hand should work in tandem, so focus on developing good coordination between the two. For you to play at a higher speed, both of your hands should be equally strong, flexible, dexterous and accurate. In addition, you need to train your hands to move in perfect sync for every note that you play.
If one hand is a bit “behind” in terms of fretting or picking, it would be a good idea to focus on that one first so it can perform as well as the other. Do exercises such as scales, chord transitions and fingerpicking exercises to teach your hands to move smoothly across the fretboard or pick the right strings at the right tempo.
Improving your guitar playing speed would depend on your mastery of guitar techniques. The more you know efficient techniques, the more you can apply them to your playing and make it easier. And the easier it is for you to play, the more you can play as fast as you want - so take your time mastering those techniques, keep practicing and speed will surely follow.