faster fin­gers

Fol­low our step-by-step plan for quicker, slicker, bet­ter play­ing – guar­an­teed!

Guitar Techniques - - FRONT PAGE -

It’s an un­de­ni­able thrill to hear some­one re­ally nail a fast, tech­ni­cal pas­sage on any in­stru­ment. While not ev­ery­one wants to make this their main goal, there are few play­ers that would turn down the chance to im­prove their tech­ni­cal fa­cil­ity in one way or an­other. So, where do you start? We’ve taken a few com­mon ‘prob­lem’ ar­eas and zoned in on spe­cific pat­terns or ex­er­cises to break out of them. We’ve bro­ken th­ese down into three main ar­eas: al­ter­nate pick­ing, legato and econ­omy pick­ing.

Let’s start with al­ter­nate pick­ing – a tech­nique that tra­di­tion­ally eludes gui­tarists, whose early at­tempts usu­ally in­volve tak­ing a deep breath and hold­ing it while tens­ing up ready for ac­tion. Seems log­i­cal enough, but this ap­proach usu­ally leads to a cy­cle of in­con­sis­tency, frus­tra­tion and pos­si­ble in­jury. The brain and fin­gers be­come ‘wired’ to stum­ble over trick­ier ar­eas, with messy re­sults. Easy enough to gloss over when you’re sit­ting at home, but what about when your band is cover­ing The Drill Song and you’re ex­pected to de­liver con­sis­tently?

Legato presents a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge – gen­er­at­ing lines of notes with min­i­mal to no in­put from the pick­ing hand re­quires stamina and con­trol. Many less ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers reach for the gain con­trol, as­sum­ing (cor­rectly) that the in­creased sen­si­tiv­ity and com­pres­sion will help bring out those ham­mer-ons and pull-offs. The trou­ble is, it brings out all the han­dling noise too, so what you gain in ease of play­ing, you lose in ar­tic­u­la­tion. More on this later...

Econ­omy pick­ing is a great com­pro­mise, al­low­ing eas­ier and more fluid ar­tic­u­la­tion for groups of notes, but many of the pre­vi­ous is­sues ap­ply here too – plus the dilemma of when to pick and when to play legato.

Okay, time for some an­swers. When ap­proach­ing (or reap­prais­ing) any tech­nique, it’s im­por­tant to look at ev­ery as­pect and make sure you’re do­ing it as ef­fi­ciently as you can. Min­i­mum move­ment at the tip of the pick choos­ing the most com­fort­able an­gle, us­ing only your wrist, not the whole fore­arm. Choos­ing the most log­i­cal fret­ting fin­gers and not lift­ing them any more than nec­es­sary, sav­ing ef­fort and time. Econ­omy in mo­tion and log­i­cal up and down strokes when cross­ing the strings.

Per­haps most im­por­tantly, al­ways prac­tise to a click, a drum ma­chine, or some other point of ref­er­ence for tim­ing – oth­er­wise small er­rors that you for­give your­self in pri­vate may lead to com­ing un­stuck in pub­lic. While all this might not sound aw­fully artis­tic or cre­ative, it ac­tu­ally does fa­cil­i­tate greater cre­ativ­ity when you have in­cre­men­tally built up the con­di­tioned re­flexes – or ‘mus­cle me­mory’ – to al­low you the choice of ex­actly where and when you em­ploy a par­tic­u­lar tech­nique to best serve the solo, or song.

Reg­u­lar prac­tise is es­sen­tial, even if it’s only for a few min­utes a day. In fact, this may be prefer­able to long, pun­ish­ing ses­sions that can ac­tu­ally fur­ther en­trench any prob­lem ‘habits’ or men­tal at­ti­tudes you may de­velop about your play­ing as a re­sult of im­pa­tience and bore­dom. You’ll be sur­prised how quickly you can im­prove your co­or­di­na­tion – and in turn your speed – as long as you al­ways warm up and stay on top of the de­tails.

small er­rors you for give your­self for at home may lead to com­ing un­stuck when play­ing in pub­lic

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