Building Speed

I would guess that it’s the nature of the beast. From Classic to Rock; from Country to Raggae; Blues to Alternative, and everything in between, Speed is on the mind of most guitarists. I have to admit, when I started out playing guitar, I thought it would just come with time. If you want to know how to build speed on your guitar, then you came to the right place.

Well, to some degree speed does come in time. You do become faster as the months turn into years. Everybody has an engine under the hood and can drive. But if what you’re looking for is something that can break the sound barrier, then you are going to have to practice diligently and properly.

First I suggest that you practice every every day. Set aside some time that is only used for speed exercises. I know in today’s fast-paced world that time is a luxury,  however, you need to concentrate while you are practicing. If you have constant distractions while practicing, then you are not going to see the results (or at least not as quickly).

Now you will need to practice all imaginable variations with your 4 fingers. If we were to number your fingers (starting with your index finger) and number them 1, 2, 3, and 4? Your index would be 1, your middle would be 2, your ring would be 3, and your pinky would be 4. This is also how they number your fingers for guitar chord diagrams. Finger-picking uses a different standard. We aren’t going to get into that in this lesson.

Now, start with the first fret on your heaviest string (the sixth string) and lay your fingers, one on each fret, so that finger 1 is on the first fret, finger 2 is on the second fret, finger 3 is on the third fret, and finger 4 is on the fourth fret.

Play the notes one at a time so that you’re using fingers 1, 2, 3, & 4. Now do the same thing on the fifth string, then the fourth string, then the third string, then the second string, and finally the first string. Not too bad, huh? Alright then let’s do it again, but when you place your pinky (#4) on the fourth fret of the first string, play the sequence (1, 2, 3, 4) as before only start with the first string, then the second, then the third, and so on till you end up on the 6th string and your pinky on the fourth fret.

When you become comfortable with playing that, we are going to get more familiar with the fretboard. I know you know this but I’m going to say it anyways. As you move up the neck, the frets become closer together, so the feel of the guitar changes as you move around.

For the next phase of this exercise, play through the first half of the previous exercise (1, 2, 3, 4 on strings 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). Once you place your pinky (#4) on the fourth fret of the 1st string, slide your pinky up one fret (to the 5th fret) and play fingers 4, 3, 2, 1. Start on the 5th fret and play your fingers 4, 3, 2, 1 on frets 5, 4, 3, 2. So now you are playing finger 4 on the 5th fret, finger 3 on the 4th fret, finger 2 on the 3rd fret, and finger 1 on the 2nd fret. Play strings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (your smallest string to your heaviest string). And when you get there, slide your index up another fret (to the third fret) and continue like this all the way to the 12th fret (or beyond if you wish). Keep playing this until you feel comfortable in doing so. You will get there faster than you think. I made a quick video to show it to you. The video should explain it better. A picture is worth a thousand words. How true it is…

The next phase of this exercise is to reverse the pattern (4, 3, 2, 1) after you get to the 12th fret and play it from the 12th to the first fret. You are just playing the first part backwards to get back down the neck. This exercise can be repeated as many times as you like. In the beginning, I would suggest ten times for good practice.

Once you feel you have this under control, you should try all the possible patterns. Instead of 1, 2, 3, 4, try 2, 3, 4, 1. Then try 3, 4, 1, 2 and so forth. below is a list of all of the possible variations using just your 4 fingers:

1, 2, 3, 4            1, 2, 4, 3            1,3, 2, 4

1, 3, 4, 2            1, 4, 2, 3            1, 4, 3, 2

2, 3, 4, 1            2, 3, 1, 4            2, 4, 1, 3

2,4, 3, 1             2, 1, 3, 4            2, 1, 4, 3

3, 4, 1, 2            3, 4, 2, 1            3, 1, 2, 4

3, 1, 4, 2            3, 2, 4, 1            3, 2, 1, 4

4, 1, 2, 3            4, 1, 3, 2            4, 2, 3, 1

4, 2, 1, 3            4, 3, 1, 2            4, 3, 2, 1

Now you can practice these to get your fingers used to any possible pattern that they might encounter. It is a lot (I know) but there is a price you pay for everything in life. And as I have told my own children, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it”.

After spending some time with this, go back to playing those scales (i.e. major, minor, or pentatonic) and see if your skills and speed hasn’t progressed? I have yet to see it fail.

Oh, and you can always use the strings as patterns too. Try skipping a string so that you are using strings 6, 4, 2, and as you go back up use 1, 3, 5. You can mix the strings up; try doing your patterns on strings 6, 4, 5, 3, 4, 2, 3, 1. or any combination you like. The more variations you throw ar yourself, the better prepared you will be when it comes time to play a new lead.

As with everything, there are tricks that make things work better. For example, your A – B – C’s. Most of us learned it while singing the letters to the tune “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It was a tool we used that made learning easier. So now I am going to give you the greatest piece of the puzzle. This is the trick that makes it easier and works faster than anything I could teach you… play it in time (whatever it is that you are playing). It could be a lead, a scale, it doesn’t matter, just play it in time exactly as it is suppose to be played, and gradually speed it up. Even if you have to start out playing it 10 times slower than the original, play it in time and gradually increase the speed . And so that you do it properly, use a metronome, or you could use a drum machine as well. They don’t cost very much and they are perfect time keepers. Use it to slowly increase the speed and if you increased it too much and can’t keep up, just slow it down again till you can perform it correctly and then try increasing the speed again, slowly. The trick is to always play it correctly. If you practice it sloppy, don’t expect to play it right when you’re on stage at the next gig or in front of that little hottie you’ve been trying to impress. Practice it right, accurately, and then increase the speed. If you follow this example, soon you will be impressing yourself with what you can do. Which is what we should be striving for, to be all we can be.

I hope that this lesson has helped you in progressing as a guitarist. Remember, you’ll only get out of it what you put into it. Practice, Practice, Practice!

Take care,




I Started out in 1976 trying out to sing in bands but no bands were interested in me. In 1977 I started playing guitar. The individual that was teaching me (who for now will remain anonymous) told me that I would NEVER learn how to play guitar because I had no sense of rhythm. I joined my first band in 1978 called "Dead Center" in Jacksonville, Florida. I played an Aspen guitar, black; a Les Paul copy and in 1981. I gave that guitar to the teacher who said I'd never learn to play. I wrote my first song in 1979 or '80. Over the years I have been in many bands but my passion has been songwriting. I have written well over 100 songs and though the early ones were kind of rough around the edges, I think that most of them could be dusted off and given a new facelift. Today I am still working on my songs. Currently I can play guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, harmonica, and Native American flute. The flutes that I play are ones that I made myself. My guitars are the Epiphone G-400 faded, an Ibanez RG370 DX, an Epiphone G 1275 double neck guitar. My acoustic guitars are an Alvarez 12 string and an old Kay guitar. My drum set is a Peace drum set. I do my recording on a Zoom HD16.
Zoom HD16, Using the Bounce Feature
Line 6 JM4 Looper Intro
Behringer FBQ6200
  • November 19, 2012 at 9:00 pm

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    August 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? The overall look of your website is great, as well as the content!. Thanks For Your article about Building Speed .

    • September 1, 2012 at 4:58 pm

      sometimes you might just want try something eeiasr than a bass guitar maybe you want try a amplifier guitar before you do bass guitar i had to learn electric then i had to learn bass just to play normal sometimes it takes more than just learning one now i can play greenday,linkin park,snow patrol,all american rejects,fall out boy and lots of other types.

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    August 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm

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  • kore
    July 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I cant get how you can share like this. Wonderful posts admin very much thanks!

  • Tanya Serrao
    June 9, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Wonderfully written post! Thank you so much for the tips!

    • Amar
      September 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm

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  • June 9, 2012 at 1:28 am

    I have always wanted to learn to play the guitar. I hope some day I can afford to :O)

  • tammy dodson
    June 9, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Always wanted to play but when I tried to learn it was hopeless.

  • Emily W
    June 8, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Great post! It makes me want to get out my guitar and learn how to practice in a structured, methodical way, they way you’ve described here. I learned from a book how to play basic chords and a little bit of finger picking, but I’m sure my technique is very sloppy. Even if you recognized what I was playing, it would be obvious to a classically trained guitarist that I’m just kind of winging it. I bet this type of methodical practice really pays off if you do it consistently.

  • June 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    I shared this with my hubby. He has ALWAYS wanted to play the guitar and this is a really good intro to it. Thanks tons!!

  • June 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I have a son that is almost 5 and has been “playing” on his guitar for a little over a year now. I have no clue how to even begin to help him learn, so this will really help me with teaching him and helping him along the road! Thanks!

  • Kimberly
    June 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    I know a few people who could benefit from this article. Thank you for taking the time to share this information. I play the flute, but my sister plays the guitar and would love this!

    • Mark
      June 9, 2012 at 6:32 am

      You can build speed in the same way for your flute. Take a phrase and play it to the beat of a metronome. Keep speeding it up slowly and before you know it, you’ve become faster at playing it!
      Good luck…

  • Sherry Fowler
    June 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    wish i could play the guitar! I love listening to my son play; its so relaxing

  • Dee S
    June 8, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I have not played the guitar in years…now I need to pick it back up!

  • Misty Newman
    June 8, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Great article. I always said I was going to learn to play the guitar or Banjo but I’ve always put it off. My husband plays some and he really enjoys it. I play the piano and I can play just about any song on the guitar just by humming the tune and playing around on the guitar. I don’t use the proper chords or technique, that’s why I would love to learn. My 4 & 5 year old daughters love music so in a couple of years I’m going to encourage them to take lessons to learn to play an instument. My youngest wants to play the guitar so I hope that is what she chooses!

  • June 8, 2012 at 9:23 am

    I shared this with my boyfriend. He said you covered everything really well. I don’t play guitar only piano and clarinet as well as sing.

  • Cynthia
    June 8, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Ive always wanted to learn how to play guitar actually 😀 This will take some time to learn but its definitely helpful 😀

  • Sylvia Ortiz
    June 8, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Learning to play a guitar sounds so simple now! Thanks.

  • Brittany
    June 7, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    This is a great post. I use to play a lot and should really pick it up again. This makes me want to get back into it.

  • jenn
    June 7, 2012 at 8:11 am

    My son is the guitar player in the house and I know he would love this information, I will definitely bookmark it for him. Thanks

  • June 6, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I really enjoyed reading the article. My son and his friend has tried to learn to play with not much luck, so I will be sure to pass this on for them to read. I think it will be a big help to them. Thanks for the article.

  • Melissa Belle
    June 6, 2012 at 7:03 am

    I’ve always wanted to learn how to play guitar, this post is great! Thanks

  • June 6, 2012 at 4:30 am

    I”ve played piano and flute, but never the guitar.

    • July 3, 2012 at 4:26 am

      teaching your self guitar requires a lot of work. You could learn from various online sites, and youtube offers many lessons. Also, if u know any other instrument just take what u know and try teach yourself.

      • Mark
        July 5, 2012 at 8:03 am

        I would be willing to help if you let me know what you need.

        • Paachu
          September 3, 2012 at 3:42 am

          . Playing bass has a different feel .Though, since you have some bacngroukd with guitar, I think you’d get used to the bass fairly quickly. It shouldn’t be too hard if you’re going to be playing it in your band. You’ll do fine. But remember to HAVE FUN!

  • June 6, 2012 at 4:00 am

    My daughter is starting to show interest in learning a musical instrament. I have been thinking of signing her up for guitar lessons. I am going to bookmark this and have her read it to see if this sounds like something she could stick with.

    Very well written. Thank you for sharing!

  • Juia Prue Potvin
    June 6, 2012 at 2:43 am

    great info, took me back to my lessons as child, practice,practice, rub the finger tips & practice more… =)

  • Trayce Mc
    June 6, 2012 at 12:58 am

    What a great article! I would love to learn guitar!!

  • johnny-amy lynn
    June 5, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    My hubby plays the Drums, so Music IS a huge part of our lives!!! He has played for Over 20 yrs and he iis awesome, I really enjoyed reading this article, thank u!!!

  • Katherine Short
    June 5, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    I had no idea playing the guitar was so technical! I play percussion, and there are a lot of very technical aspects to that, of course. But I didn’t realize other instruments were that hard. I’m very impressed.

  • Ambrielle
    June 5, 2012 at 3:46 am

    Great article, and practice is key, so is patience! I miss my guitar wasn’t great but I could play a little.

  • Shannon A.
    June 5, 2012 at 1:20 am

    wonderful article! very insperational, never give up, great determination. Best wishes to you.

  • June 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    nice post! I really need to pick up my guitar again – pinning this for reference!

  • sarah h
    June 4, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Wow, this is extremely well written. I will have to send this to my cousin who recently got into playing an acoustic guitar 🙂 I am sure this would help him out so much!!! Anyone can follow along to this b/c of how detailed it is! thanks!

  • Ashley Tucker
    June 4, 2012 at 7:27 am

    This is a very good post on learning to play the guitar!!

  • Jamie Martin
    June 4, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Bookmarking; I want to learn to play soon!

  • Paul T / Pauline T
    June 4, 2012 at 2:52 am

    great article. My daughter has been practicing for almost two years now and she is improving but she is so impatient. She takes that after my hubby. The bog post was very useful….thanks – emscout9 at Hotmail dot com

  • June 4, 2012 at 12:15 am

    I have never played the guitar but this article sounds very helpful to anyone who wants to play the guitar.

  • carol roberts
    June 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    i wish i could play seems interesting one day

  • June 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks for this – maybe I’ll give it another go!

  • Bianca Roman
    June 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    i always wanted to play guitar, but somehow my hand-eye coordination is not very good lol. but the steps you’ve laid out make it a tad bit easier for people like me!

  • joni
    June 3, 2012 at 12:35 am

    Nice clog post. I used to play an accoustic guitar when I was younger. I have passed it on to my teen daughter who is much better at it then I ever have been.

  • Michelle H.
    June 2, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    My husband plays classical guitar. Some of my kids know how to play a little. I want to share this article with my husband and kids.

  • tami husak
    June 2, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    very nice article, i sure wish i was musically inclined liked my dad, he was in a singing group way back in the day!!

  • kamilah
    June 2, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I don’t think it is easy enough for me to learn, but I do think it is cool.

  • shelly peterson
    June 2, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Great article! My son and I both would love to learn how to play the guitar.

  • jennifer wexler
    June 2, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    I’m always amazed at how guitarist make playing look so effortless. It definitely takes a lot of practice. Thanks for the post.

  • Dianna Thomas
    June 2, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Boy does this take me back– as a child I had to have piano lesson, then later– I played the clarinet, oboe, and sax– everything was always practice– no time for play to be good you need to practice– I hated it so much–but as it turned out it was a benefit in learning this– it calms me..takes me places others can’t go–lets me explore–and met others– so many benefits.Thank you for refreshing my reviews

  • Rachel Robertson (Azrael)
    June 2, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Thank you for the blog post 🙂 I will show this to my hubby who is learning to play 🙂

  • Stacey Jacobson
    June 2, 2012 at 5:03 am

    This is a good article to read I am going to have my sister read it she is trying to learn how to play the guitar.

  • Laurel Klem
    June 2, 2012 at 2:00 am

    I played a little when I was younger, really enjoyed it. This is a great video!

  • Stacy Hamacher
    June 2, 2012 at 12:31 am

    Very nice

  • Bobbi Bird
    June 1, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    What an interesting article. It is written in terms that anyone can follow (which is really nice). I always loved listening to someone play a guitar (my husband plays some), never learned myself though.

  • Wendi Scharrer
    June 1, 2012 at 5:33 am

    My son plays guitar…me not so much. lol My fingers will not cooperate! Numbering your fingers might help…liked that idea!

  • June 1, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Thank you so much for the information! I am forwarding it to my daughter and my nephew who want to learn how to play.

  • June 1, 2012 at 3:24 am

    I must tell you that since my boyfriend plays guitar I called him away from watching his beloved basketball games to read this post. Well….He says this post was awesome and could help many people! He was impressed and having said that I’m impressed that he’s impressed (not an easy thing for him) so GREAT job!

  • Nancy
    June 1, 2012 at 3:08 am

    You are right. Air guitar is about the only thing I’m speedy on. Thanks for the tips.

  • Rick
    June 1, 2012 at 3:04 am

    Building speed is a great article. I wish I had the talent to do it.

  • Shanon Bramblette
    June 1, 2012 at 2:55 am

    Never got the hang of learning how to play…but I still plan to. Good tips.

  • Misty
    June 1, 2012 at 2:43 am

    Very interesting. I wish I was musically inclined.

  • elaine
    May 31, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    ive tried to learn to play but never got the hang of it

  • May 31, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Very informative. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the guitar and this form of learning is a lot easier for me to understand. My Mom has tried to teach me and it just hasn’t worked out, but I know it’s about heart and wanting it enough to learn and if I had more tutorials like these it would be fun to see myself grow into a guitar player! 🙂

  • angela adelman
    May 31, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Thank you so much for having or helping sponsor this contest for the Amazon Card for dog gifts. That is such a nice thing to do to allow people the opportunity to win something.
    Good luck all

  • Candy Gabriel
    May 31, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Took piano lessons for several years and played cello for a year in early grade school. Can’t read music well but have a fairly good ear. Liked your thoughtful post, so maybe I should try the guitar.

  • kelly nicholson
    May 31, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    never player..i wish i had time

  • May 31, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I’ve always wanted to learn guitar. If I ever get around to it, I know where to come for a brushup. Thanks for the great instruction.

  • barbara Tryon
    May 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    My youngest son is a really good player, I am going have him read this. He has tried and tried to teach me to play. I just cannot do it.

  • laura
    May 31, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    id love to learn how to play 🙂

  • May 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I would love to be able to play the guitar I always wanted to try it and so does my husband . I think her would be better at it than me I seem to be tone def lol

  • Pamela Halligan
    May 31, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    I wish I could play the guitar, or any instrument for that matter, but I have tried and failed. It takes talent, and I praise anyone who masters the art. I enjoy listening to great guitar players, including Slash from Guns N’ Roses and Tom Perry from Aerosmith.

  • Terri Betz
    May 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Excellent article! As a guitar player…forever….I can tell you it will become second nature to you! Sometimes, when I hear a song I haven’t heard in a while, my fingers move n I think about the strings n chords….:)
    Thanks for the heart felt effort and knowledge in this post!
    You rock!

  • christi baham willie
    May 31, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    So awesome of you to post this to help people!! My daughter has her own FIRST guitar and LOVES to play!!!

  • May 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I think that this is such a neat blog post! Wow how nice that you are learning to play the guitar! I could never do this. My son has been playing the guitar for years and he can play very fast! I am going to show my son this post and ask him what he thinks!

  • Lisa
    May 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I would love to learn

  • May 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I tried to learn to play the guitar but my fingers bend backwards at the first joint so that didn’t work out well. My hubby used to play and I could sit and listen to him play forever. He was didn’t play fast, he had only been playing for about three years but I wish so bad that he would pick it back up and start playing it again and learn to play faster. He enjoyed playing and I sure enjoyed listening. He is just so busy working now and never seems to have the time. 🙁

    • Viney
      September 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      You’ve really impressed me with that aenswr!

  • Sara Logan
    May 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Man that does not look easy! I tried to learn guitar once but never got the hang of it. My older brother is awesome at it though.

  • May 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    my brother is great at guitar. I never quite got it but this may help!

  • Margaret Smith
    May 31, 2012 at 11:25 am

    My teen son has been trying to play on his own. This is such a great idea.
    Thanks so much.

  • Kathlean Owens
    May 31, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Excellent explanation of how to improve your guitar playing and speed.

  • Lori
    May 31, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Sounds kind of hard!! I probably couldn’t do it!

  • Kristie Betts
    May 31, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Would love to learn how to play

  • Holly Thomas
    May 31, 2012 at 9:55 am

    My Husband just started playing,he will find this very helpful.

  • Sarah L
    May 31, 2012 at 4:57 am

    Very good tips.
    How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
    Practice, Practice, Practice!

  • Amy Orvin
    May 31, 2012 at 4:47 am

    Playing the guitar looks really hard. I couldn’t do it.
    [email protected]

  • Thuy Vu
    May 31, 2012 at 4:33 am

    My husband plays the guitar and we have been looking for ways to teach our 7 year old simple chords. This will be perfect. I am definitely going to share with him. Thanks again.

  • Jenna Anderson Smith
    May 31, 2012 at 4:20 am

    I would love to be able to play the guitar! I absolutely loved this article. Thank you for sharing!

  • Krystal Ramirez
    May 31, 2012 at 3:01 am

    I don’t play Guitar but my father in law does!! WHen I was living in the basement he would be my alarm clock!! He would sing old school Puerto Rican songs as he played!!

  • melody
    May 31, 2012 at 3:00 am

    I’ve never tried to play the guitar before mainly because it seems so intimidating. I do love to listen to it being played though. My brother plays for fun and I’ll be sure to pass this on.

  • Karen
    May 31, 2012 at 2:19 am

    This was such a great post on learning to play the guitar.

  • Seyma Shabbir
    May 31, 2012 at 2:16 am

    I tried to learn to play the guitar but it was too hard so I gave up. Lots of respect for people with patience who can do this and do it well!

  • michelle oakley warner
    May 31, 2012 at 2:01 am

    my daughter has been trying to learn how to play guitar and she has given up a couple times then picked it back up again, im saving this so i can show her and maybe it will help her, so glad i got to read this thanks

  • Michele Behlen
    May 31, 2012 at 1:59 am

    I always wanted to learn to play the guitar but it just never happened. Your words, you only get out of it what you put into it are true in everything you do in life.

  • Carolyn Ann Coley (Griffith, Smith)
    May 31, 2012 at 1:55 am

    I enjoyed the article, I think that it’s true in just about everything, Practice, Practice, Practice. Thanks for the article.

  • April 9, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Hi there! This blog post could not be written any better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I will send this information to him. Fairly certain he will have a great read. I appreciate you for sharing!

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