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,





116 thoughts on “Building Speed

  1. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites
    really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future. Many thanks

  2. 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 .

    1. 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.

  3. Cheers for this excellent blog post. I was wondering whether you were planning on publishing similar posts like this. Keep up the excellent articles!

    1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wtnaed to say that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

    1. 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…

  7. 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!

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

    1. 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.

        1. . 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!

  12. 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!

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

  14. 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!!!

  15. 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.

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

  17. 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!

  18. 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

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

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

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

  24. 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

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

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

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

  29. 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!

  30. 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! 🙂

  31. 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

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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

  35. 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.

  36. 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!

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

  38. 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!

  39. 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. 🙁

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

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

  43. 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!!

  44. 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.

  45. 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!

  46. 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

  47. 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.

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

  49. 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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