Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by GAD, Feb 19, 2009.

  1. GAD

    GAD Wubbalubbadubdub Silver Supporting Member

    May 22, 2008
    I would like to play faster. Now hear me out before you roll your eyes...

    I'm not looking to be ripping sweeps over arpeggios at lightning speed. I've discovered through recording myself, that when I play descending runs, I get sloppy. Oddly enough I don't seem to have this problem when I play ascending runs. I think it's because I can get away with hammer-on triplets. I've never been able to do pull-offs as fast as I can do hammer-ons.

    Even if I pick every note, it's like my fingers don't keep up with my brain.


  2. Brion

    Brion Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2002
    It's probably a mechanics problem. Play with a metronome drum machine or other rythmic device at slow speeds paying close attention to economy of motion in both hands. Only move your fingers/pick as far as they need to get to the next note/string. Only speed up the metronome 4 or so BPM once you have the mechanics down. You need to train/retrain your muscle memory and only repetition of proper mechanics will achieve this. The key is accuracy and repetition. Speed will follow. I hope this helps.
  3. stevel

    stevel Member

    Apr 6, 2008
    Hampton Roads, Virginia
    It sounds like you're saying that the problem is simply with descending runs, since it happens even when you pick every note.

    I agree with Brion that that indicates a mechanics problem.

    I would guess (without being able to see your hands as you do this) that there are two possible culprits - and it could be either or both.

    1. You are having a problem moving from a higher string to a lower string.

    2. You are having a problem "lifting" a finger out of the way.

    1. is less likely, especially if it's something you notice when you're descending even just 3 notes.

    So let's look at 2. as it's a common problem.

    A. Often, people don't "pre-place" the finger that's on the lower fret, so the lower fretted note is not "ready" in time to be picked when it's to be played. This means you get a "drop-out" of sound which sounds "choppy" and "sloppy".

    B. People often "lift" a higher fretted finger to play the lower fretted note too slowly - this means the finger doesn't come away from the fret in time to allow the lower fretted note to ring clearly.

    This often isn't a big problem with ascending notes because people tend to "hammer" their finger down even though they're not playing a hammer-on. This means the finger falls at a fast enough rate that it doesn't deaden out the lower note.

    But with descending notes, people simply "lift" their finger - you dont "pull-off" (and you really can't because pull-offs involve a sideways force that hammer-ons don't).

    What this typically does is make the "lift rate" too slow - whereas if you could do a pull-off, it would be fast enough (though again, that's impractical when picking all the notes).

    Although, since you also might have issues with pull-offs, you're probably dealing yourself a double-whammy.

    What I'd recommend (and remember, I'm suggesting this based on what you said, not having seen you play, so keep that in mind) is that you practice descending runs in minute detail.

    Set your metronome to turtle.

    Play a note with your middle finger, then after 1, 2 or 4 beats (depending on how slow your turtle is) play a note with your first finger.

    You should do this two ways:
    1. pre-place the first finger
    2. don't pre-place the first finger (remember, ascending, you never have the ability to pre-place a finger for the next note in line on a single string).

    What your goal is is to get your middle finger to lift about a nanosecond before you pick the 2nd note for #1 above.

    For #2 above, you have to make sure you lift your middle finger about a nanosecond before you pick, at which point your first finger should come down simultaneously with the pick (just like when you're doing ascending patterns).

    Make sure the middle finger note rings continuously (no break in sound) and the only new sound is the new note - no "doubles" bey lifting the finger sooner than you pick, or picking sooner than you lift the finger, and no dropouts by not having the first finger down at the right time, or not lifiting the middle finger quickly enough to get out of the way of the 2nd note.

    It would not be a bad idea to check this same principle ascending as well just to make sure there are no weak spots there as well (for example, you may think you're cleaner ascending, but may find doing this from the 3rd to 4th finger is a problem).

    I would do this with all finger combinations.

    3-1 - etc.


    There's a thread here on finger exercises. What are they good for? THIS (among other things).

    Here's what I do:

    Start on high E, 12th fret, go 1-2 down to low E and back up.

    Then I do the same thing on the 11th fret with 2-3.
    Then 10th fret, 3-4

    By starting on the high E and moving to the low E, this "stretches" the hand from a relaxed position to a "reaching over the neck" position and back. By starting at the 12th fret, it also starts with closer frets, and gradually works to wider frets, giving you hand a chance to warm up and stretch as you go.

    I do every possible combination of 2 fingers, 3 fingers, and 4 fingers (including "out of order" like 1-3-2-4)

    I also do it with descending patterns - 2-1, 3-2, 4-3, 3-1, 4-1, 4-2, 3-2-1, 4-3-2, etc.

    I also do it with rotations. For example: 1-2-3, 2-3-1, and 3-1-2.

    Once I get down to the 1st fret, I just work my way up again (I'm not super meticulous about this, it just keeps me moving across various positions to aid in muscle memory as to how far to reach in various positions on the neck - if I was really into it, I'd to every single exercise on ever practical fret!)

    Now, the most important thing here is to be CLEAN. SPEED does not matter. Speed will come. But, it does not matter how fast you can move your fingers, or the pick, if the notes are not clean it doesn't matter - it will still come out sloppy.

    Listen to the notes as you play - do them slow enough so that you can hear the attack of each new note, and make damn sure that each and every note comes out cleanly.

    Since I no longer do all of these for hours, I will speed up the metronome a little between each set. But, do not try to play them faster than you can. Once you reach a tempo that something can not be played at, trying to play it faster than that tempo will not teach you hands and your brain anything. Take it back a notch, and nail it at the slower tempo. After a while, you'll find you can bring it up little by little.

    I do these exercises picking every note, and H-O/P-O a set on a string (again, if I was super into it, I'd do a combination of the two per exercise, or on a string by string basis, and I'd do some reverse picking).

    By picking every note of all these exercises, and doing the forward, backward and rotations, it means you will have an even distrubution of the finger use, the finger that reaches for an adjacent string, and the pick direction as you cross strings.

    If you do H-O/P-O, you can decide if you want to pick the first note always with a down, or a down when going down, and/or a down when going up, or, with a mixture, etc.

    For Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs in general (when I want to work LH, and not RH too), I do:

    1-h-2-h-3-h-4 as 3 notes of a triplet to the next beat, then 4-p-3-p-2-p-1 on the next fret up, same rhtyhm. All the way up the E string to the 12th fret, and then all the way down the B string to the first fret; up the G, down the D, etc. - or whatever direction I start with.

    I also do:
    1-h-2-h-3-h-4-p-3-p-2-p-1 as "tri-puh-let-tri-puh-let-note" - a "double-triplet" to a half note so it's a measure of 4/4. Then I move up a fret and reverse the direction.

    You could go crazy and do mutiple patterns within this (1-2-3-2-3-4-3-2-3-2-1, etc.) to practice long slurs, but I haven't gone that crazy myself.

    But do these and your LH will know you're working it.

    As I said, that other thread about Finger Exercises have lots of thoughts about them, but I think the following things are important:

    Finger Equality - use of all fingers, patterns, directions - all combinations equally.

    Muscle Memory - someone said "yeah, but I'll never use X pattern" - not true, you might, and it's good to be prepared for it.

    Coordination - LH and RH

    And most importantly:

    Precision. Most people simply "play through" exercises and don't pay attention to what they're doing (and consequently can develop, or exacerbate bad habits).

    You MUST LISTEN to the sounds that come out in order for exercises like this to be really effective, and in order for you to correct any problems. Recognizing a problem is the first step to correcting it.

    See if you can isolate what it is that's causing your "descending sloppiness" (I offer but one, albeit common, possibility above) and once you do that, you can work on fixing it.


    Finger exercises
  4. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

    Feb 10, 2007
    troy stetina's speed mechanics for lead guitar is a great book with a lot really great exercises, highly recommended, he has website as but will let you find it.
  5. GAD

    GAD Wubbalubbadubdub Silver Supporting Member

    May 22, 2008
    Wow Steve, thanks! Lots to think about and try. I'll dig in tomorow and see if you're right.


Share This Page