Every guitar player wants to be faster, but it can be tough to know how to practice. Here are four very simple guitar speed exercises to help increase your left and right-hand speed and accuracy while playing the guitar. Using a metronome is an absolute necessity when trying to develop speed. To a point where I think that practicing any guitar speed exercise is useless without a metronome.
(Semi) Chromatic Guitar Speed Exercise
With a metronome, start playing (in tab) 3-4-5-6 on each string of your guitar, progressing up from the low E string to the high E string, then reverse direction and go back down. After playing for a minute, increase the tempo by about 5 BPM on your metronome and repeat the exercise. Keep increasing the tempo until you get to a point where you can’t play, then decrease the tempo by 5 BPM, repeat the exercise, and decrease by another 5-10BPM and play a minute or two more. This guitar speed exercise increases your left-hand speed and by slowing down at the end, you sort of “cool down” and ensure that you don’t sacrifice accuracy for speed (which kind of defeats the purpose, anyway!).
Triplets Up A Scale
Pick a scale at a hand position and start your metronome at a slow tempo. Go up the scale in bursts of three triplets, starting each new group of 3 triplet notes on the 2nd note of the last triplet. So, for instance, if you were playing the C Major scale, play C D E, then D E F, and so on, all the way up to the limit of your current hand position and all the way back down. Gradually increase your tempo. This will familiarize your hand with whatever scale form you’re learning and will better your sense of rhythm when soloing. Once you get fast, try incorporating a few strings of these triplets into your soloing. You’ll be amazed at how natural it feels. This is also a very fun guitar speed exercise.
Notes Up And Down A String
The last two guitar speed exercises worked on your raw strength, but part of speed playing is knowing the notes that you’re using. Try picking out a note and a string at random, maybe with flashcards, and as quickly as possible play the note at the two spots it happens on that string. Then move up to the next string, and find the note, then to the next string, and so on. This will help you develop instant knowledge of the fretboard that will help make your speed usable. If you want to learn more, read about my way of memorizing the fretboard.
Right Hand Guitar Speed Exercise
To work on the speed of the right hand, play the first exercise but only use downstrokes for the first half, then when you turn around and start coming back down towards the low E string, play only upstrokes. This will increase your individual picking speed.
Feel free to experiment to find an exercise that works for you and keeps you entertained while you practice, but also be careful never to practice at a speed that’s too fast for your playing–this will make you less accurate, and can take some time to undo.