Speed Guitar Drills & MIDI Practice Files
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Speed is nothing unless it's musical and rhythmic , so the drills are based around MIDI and MP3 files in a progressive range of speeds.
Before we get into the drills here are some suggestions :-
- always warm up before starting flat out speed work
- practice with an amp & clean tone; it will help you keep your tone even & highlight muffed notes
- remember you need to develop both hands ; many guitarists have excellent fretting hands but have never really thought about picking technique
- you need to use all your fingers to achieve real speed , we'll be focusing on little and 2'nd fingers and trying to increase finger independence
- work at it ; the first few sessions will probably leave you sore, even if you play regular guitar often
- look after little things - make sure your action is as low as it can go, keep your guitar neck polished.
- Choose the right pick, in terms of flex and grip - stiffer is usually better for speed
- listen to the greats ; Randy Rhoads, John McLaughlin, Frank Zappa, Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen

You should notice rapid improvement in your speed and fingering strength if you can do these drills for a few minutes fairly often.

Get in tune - this is a MIDI file of Top E

NEW ! - Here's a new high speed jam track - it's a 300 bpm bop blues in G.
Bop Blues in G - 300 bpm

Exercise Number 1 - this is an exercise to develop the core disciplines of guitar speed, which is to say alternate picking, synchronization of both hands, relaxation and consistency of timing. There are a series of tracks ranging from 100 to 200 beats per minute (bpm) - over time you should be able to achieve reliable speed at all bpm levels.

As you play the tracks look for tension in your face or body and try to consciously relax so that your muscles are not having to battle the opposing muscle.

Every note in this exercise should be picked - no hammers or pull-offs.

here is the
TAB for the Guitar riff and some alternate suggestions
Here are the MP3 tracks at 6 different tempos. .
100 bpm
120 bpm
140 bpm
160 bpm
180 bpm
200 bpm

Exercise Number 2 - this is a semi-classical exercise in A Min - the chords go ;
Amin E7 E7 Amin
Amin E7 E7 Amin
Dmin Amin E7 Amin/E7/

Listen to the MIDI below, which includes the guitar riff
12 bars of the basic riff, at 140 beats per minute (bpm) and here is the
TAB for the Guitar part

Finally here is 48 bars of just the backing at 4 different tempos.
120 bpm
140 bpm
160 bpm
180 bpm

The natural way to play this riff, is with a pull-off to sound the second note, but once you have that under wraps, try picking all three notes with a downstroke or alternate picking. Finally try reversing the riff & playing from low to high.

Exercise Number 3 - Major & Minor Scales ;
The first exercise is a simple major scale that moves chromatically through every key, beginning in C.

120 bpm
140 bpm
160 bpm

You can play this many different ways & in many different positions. One nice variation is start on a low C & use your right hand to mute the sound. Use different picking approachs with just downstrokes or alternate picking.

These next scales are minor scales that again move chromatically through every key, beginning in C. I guess this is a melodic minor scale - if you don't know what that is is try this.

120 bpm
160 bpm

Exercise Number 4 - playing hard rock licks & riffs with 16'th notes ;

A lot of blues based music has a rhymthic feel thats kind of boom-ba-boom-ba, boom-ba-boom-ba and a lead line that's structured in triplets works well. Here is an example ->Triplet Blues
But that doesn't work so well for hard rock music without that swing/shuffle in the rhythm. Take a listen to Jimmy Page play 'Communication Breakdown' for example. If you want to play this kind of pace, you have to understand and play 16'th notes. That's when each beat of a 4/4 bar is subdivided into 4 equal notes.

The basic riff in this example is a simple descending pattern of 4 16'th notes, played over the first 2 bars of each 4 bar chorus. In the first 2 choruses, the MIDI guitar is there to guide you & you are on your own in the last 2 choruses. When you get the feel of the 16'th note pattern you can start to fill in with some lead breaks and fills of your own.

Hard Rock Riff in A, 112 bpm

Exercise Number 5 - picking 16'th notes;

This exercise is a simple scale pattern, played in 16'th notes, over a chromatic chord pattern, that rises from C Maj 7 to E Maj 7 and back again. The idea is to pick each and every note and develop a strong picking hand.Here it is with the guitar part at 100 bpm and the tab Tab
Focus on using alternate strokes of the plectrum. It also makes a pretty spacey jam file.

Exercise 4 - no guitar part, 100 bpm,
Exercise 4 - no guitar part, 120 bpm
Exercise 4 - no guitar part, 140 bpm

Exercise Number 6 - beyond 16'th notes - sextuplets, triplets and 32nd notes;

Players like Randy Rhoads and Yngwie Malmsteen use a couple of lead patterns that go beyond mere 16'th notes, typically sextuplets and 32nd notes. In a sextuplet, each beat of a bar is sub-divided into 6 individual notes. For 32'nd notes each beat is sub-divided into 8 notes. These patterns work well against slower tempo straight time rhythms , up to say 120 bpm, giving a nice impetus or a closing flourish to a solo.

The 3 example files below are meant to help you differentiate the feel of 16th, sextuplet and 32nd notes. I recorded a MIDI version of each riff and then a live guitar version - check it out and do likewise.

16th notes , straight 4/4 time, 100 bpm
Sextuplets, straight 4/4 time, 100 bpm
32nd notes , straight 4/4 time, 100 bpm

This last track involves playing exactly 800 notes per minute ! Still got a way to go to beat Bert Weedon.

Exercise Number 7 - speed and swing rhythms;

Rhythms with a swing feel are often played much faster than straight rock numbers. The 'basic' swing/jazz solo uses swung 8'th notes but you can also play complete triplets. Even at fairly high bpm you can also force 16'th notes against a swing rhythm to provide some extra velocity. Check these examples out -

Swung 8th notes , Swing4/4 time, 180 bpm
Triplets,Swing 4/4 time, 180 bpm
16th notes , Swing 4/4 time, 180 bpm

Exercise Number 8 - synchronize left and right hand;

This exercise is all about synchronizing the fretting hand and picking hand , with the aim of achieving clean rhythmic alternate picking at high speeds. The piece is alternate bars of 16'th notes and 8'th notes, picking every note so you have to make a change of position and rhythm too - practice this hard for a week and you should see some nice improvement.

100 BPM
120 BPM
130 BPM
140 BPM
160 BPM
170 BPM
180 BPM

Exercise Number 9 - a word about downstrokes;

Pretty much every instruction about picking you can find suggests that alternate picking or circle picking is the only way to play guitar, but in reality many great players, like BB King, Jimi Hendrix, Slash, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton often play extended lead passages with pure downstrokes. So what's the deal ?
Actually playing with solid downstrokes, is a stylistically essential blues technique that gives consistent tone and accenting and its also just simple and reliable to play in a jam or live situation.
In some ways you can think of using alternate picking all the time as running when you should walk ! Check it out and build your chops jamming say a shuffle at 150 bpm using just downstrokes.


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