Hi, someone might already use this technique, but this might be useful is for people who don’t know about it (like me three months ago). I tried using the metronome to get faster at playing songs. I always got stuck at a BPM and could never progress (for example, if I were at 60 bpm and I went up to 80, I would always make a mistake and go back down to 60). I had this problem for a while. I recently discovered this new technique, where I have two metronomes at use; I use one metronome to practice speed and another to practice accuracy (Let’s say my accuracy metronome is at 40 bpm, and my speed one at 110). If I mess up my speed metronome, I would immediately pause it and switch to my accuracy metronome. I’d say this technique is best when practicing a part of a song or rift (Tell me if you think this would work for scales or other stuff). I haven’t come up with a name yet. I’ve been calling it “the tortoise and the hare” technique, and that’s all I thought into it. Sorry if this is long, or this is not the right place to post this. If you discovered this already, id loves to hear feedback.
Edit: My original post failed to convey what my point was. This technique is not jumping back and forth to some high bpm that your stumbling through and then to a smaller bpm that you should be at in the first place. You should start at a bpm that is comfortable to you and go up in small increments. Once you plateau at a bpm and can’t go any higher without messing up, instead of lowering the metronome your using, open a different metronome with a smaller bpm, switching between, as I mentioned in my post. This way, you won’t get stuck easily and can progress more. I admit that there may be some flaws to this idea, I wanted to share what’s working for me now. Also, I wanted other people’s opinions on this. I would also recommend reading Kasper’s replies to my post for more context because he also explains some things I failed to.
Have you tryed going from 60 bpm to 65bpm the 70 bpm?
Jumping from 60 to 80 wouldn’t be very productive and
jumping from 40 to 110 seem pointless.
Speed will come a lot quicker with smaller steps.
When learning scales you start very slow and learn them right
the first time. If you make mistakes while learning scales your
learning them wrong.
Yeah not really sure about that one mate unless I’ve misunderstood. 110bpm speed vs 40bpm accuracy, seems to me like its better to stay at 40bpm, and build up from there incrementally, with accuracy as the barometer for upping the speed. I’ve heard it said many times that speed comes with accuracy.
Yeah, I only advance the metronome in steps of 2-4 BPM. I can’t imagine jumping 20 at a time. And if your accuracy rate is 40, going to 110 to practice “speed” seems counterproductive to me.
Not sure about this. I only go up 2bpm at a time. It should feel like you didn’t even adjust the metronome at all.
The first golden rule is about accuracy and not practicing mistakes at all, mistakes stick!
I’m sorry, but I have to throw in a slightly different opinion
I think it has pretty much been established amongst the modern generation of “technical players” out there that the old idea of starting slow and incrementing speed in tiny steps simply does not work!
Think about it; you don’t learn to run by walking a tiny bit faster and faster every day… at some point you have to really switch to “running mode”, which is an entirely different body mechanic than walking. It’s the same with playing fast on guitar… and it is a very common reason for hitting speed plateaus on something! Trust me, I did the same thing hundreds of times in the past. At some point you simply cannot play something any faster, using your “playing slow and accurate” technique, which is where you start when you focus on learning the actual notes in a lick. You have to allow your brain and fingers to switch into a different mode…
There are of course other tips relevant to know about, and it is of course not productive either to start at a target speed that you aren’t even close to being able to play.
Let’s say I want to learn a solo, played a 120bmp - this is how I personally go around learning it.
First step is to learn the right notes. This means encoding the left hand to play the right notes in the right order. And this is where I agree with the rule about “mistakes stick”… so in this phase I would indeed play very slowly and focus on never making mistakes. On the other hand, during this step I also don’t expect to play the entire thing in time. There might be pauses and such between the individual phrases. The important part is that my left hand knows which notes to play in which order.
Then I want to play the entire thing, in time with the music. I need to find a speed that is fast enough that I’m sure I’ll use the same technique as I will in the end result - so slower than original recording, but it needs to be fast enough that I’m in “play fast mode”.
For me this is typically anywhere between 70% and 85% of original tempo. If you cannot play the solo at that speed, then I believe you’re trying to learn something that is still too complicated for you.
Then I need to get it all up to 100%. There are a bunch of sub-tips for this. The most useful are (briefly)
- “Chunking”; Don’t think of each individual note, group them together in 4-8 note patterns that will be programmed into your brain as “one thing”, both with regards to fingering and rhythm. Yes, this is possible… most of our own “signature licks” has been encoded into us like this, we just fire them off without thinking (more than; I want to play that lick now).
- “Speed bursts”; Practice small segments at full speed, then perhaps drop down in tempo a little. Or, if practicing along to a recording, set up a loop and focus on only playing that small segment at speed
- Go beyond the target speed; Another crazy sounding tip that really works… say that you feel 120bpm is simply too much, you just cannot do it. Try setting the tempo to 130bpm, and do your very best to try to play along. You will probably fail, and it will be messy. But when you then drop back to 120bpm it will suddenly feel slow to you, and often that can be what allows you to play it comfortably at that speed. Sounds crazy, I know, but it works and I’ve used it often…
There are much more to say on this topic, but I think I’ve droned on for long enough and probably lost most of you along the way
Sorry, one more thing - I wanted to give a practical example for all of the above points.
Now, the song might very well not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I invite you to listen to the segment from 4:00 to 4:30 in this song that I learned and performed:
Consider this; do you guys really think that my brain can keep up with all those notes individually? Or that I, in any way, consider how to play each one?
Actually it’s a perfect example of all the “speed tips” I listed above:
It’s a ton of notes, but in essence it’s the same thing being repeated over and over. It’s a lot of triads (chords) being arpeggiated on the two highest strings. For the first part I’ve encoded these in 4 note chunks - a pull-off on the high e string, followed by a “mini sweep” on b and e string. Later the riff varies a little bit and becomes a 6 note pattern. But when playing the entire thing I only focus on which chord/triad to play next, not the individual 4 (or 6) notes.
The motion of doing the mini-sweep is almost impossible to do very slowly. To learn this I needed to start pretty fast
In the beginning I simply practiced doing one round of the pattern. Simply; pull-off, then mini sweep… pause… repeat
I used the “go beyond” idea a lot, because this stuff is fast at target speed, and I did struggle
But, as you can hear, in the end I got it down pretty good
My method was to learn a few bars at a time, slow then up to speed when I felt I was familiar enough with them; but occasionally if it was something like a part of a solo with tapping in it - like EVH, I would split it up as much as needed.
I think that the most important thing is to remember that these accomplishments don’t come without a great deal of practice and patience. One of my last projects took me nearly a year to get to a standard that I was happy with ( that said my health wasn’t good during that period).
I think that the majority of people who pack up with playing guitar do so because they lack patience and get frustrated by their own elevated expectations; it’s so easy a rabbit hole to fall into!
@Kasper perfectly demonstrates the high value of having good people in this community who are happy and willing to share their learning tips from a position of having achieved a technical ability beyond beginner / intermediate.
Thanks for all this advice Kasper.
This rings loud in my ears:
There have been many instances, and I am included, of people learning some basic lead guitar skills and shooting way up high to learn a favourite solo that is still, technically, on another level.
All that said, I do remember a Paul Davids video some years back in which he filmed himself incrementally increasing his speed with a piece - I think it may have been a classical study, I forget. … add-in … I have found it here. I guess he is of that school of thought.
Cool video from Paul, and I really like his content and his way of teaching - so this is not a bash, but…
I think he is cheating a little bit, perhaps not intentionally, but still cheating. The thing is, he is already at such an advanced level of playing that he has the technique to do this at target speed.
I can actually see, in his video, how his technique changes from when he’s playing slow to when he’s playing fast. So Paul already have (a lot) of technical practice, and can probably “switch mode” without even thinking about it… even gradually. Btw, this piece he’s practicing is incredibly complex and technically challenging (lots of cross picking - playing just one note on each string).
So all in all, I do not think his learning process (over just a few days) accurately represents that of the average student. And I find it very likely that many would indeed hit a plateau - very early even - if they attempted to learn this piece.
Cool video though!
disclaimer: more experienced players will think that, what I’m about to say, is obvious. I know. it’s just my two cents to warn people who are taking their first steps in to lead fundamentals
I think there are 2 layers in this and they don’t contradict.
There is much debate about on how to increase speed and youtube ads feed the discussion.
The important nuance is indeed that you won’t wint medal with a sloppy running/sprinting mode. Having speed and accuracy face off can be an interesting 2-dimensional approach to learning, helping your brain to remember what both things mean in terms of muscle memory.
I encourage to explore multiple ways to your path as you wll quickly feel what works best for you BUT for players who are still developing their lead fundamentals, I will always be the advocate of the slow starts to achieve brilliance on the basics. Your body need a concept of a clean, accurate and perfectly dosed fret and pick action and how to build phrases with it.
When you go to this “running mode”, these fundamentals are STILL your building blocks.
That’s why we will warn players about the risk of sloppy habits and creep in your fundamentals.
There are ways to learn how to play: slow to faster.
This is how you learn to play.
So, I could agree that the “running” mode is different than their “walking” mode.
That’s the quest to learn how to play FAST
For some, the running is a faster way of walking, for others it isn’t
For all, the running will be crap if the walking isn’t flawless.
Hey, great post Lieven, and I want to add that I agree with what you’re saying as well…
There is nothing worse to listen to than someone trying to play faster than they actually are capable off!! And I hope I never fall into that category myself - if so, please let me know
The “ride the lightning” track I posted above is borderline that for me, but I know I hold myself to very high standards as well… On the other hand, we also do need to push ourselves, and especially on guitar forums/sites like this one. Oh well, that’s a side track.
But the overall message from me is that all of my tips above are made under the assumption that the player is aware of how his own “end result” is actually sounding. I still maintain they are the best way to improve on speed, but a sound level of self critique and realizing your own limits are still even more important
It’s awesome btw!
Lukily, I have somebody in my band doing that kind of stuff so I don’t have to!
Some interesting point made here.
I certainly agree you should increment in small steps. I have always struggled with my tempo to the point I gave up on scale type metronome exercises as I just could not break through the plateau I was on, around 115-120 bpm with 8th, which sucks. But recently with what I have been playing/learning that lack of speed has come back to haunt me and I started to do some speed drills again and after a few days of really focused practice I got back up from a comfortable 80 bpm to 120 bpm, again only 8ths.
But it is in small increments normally, now I’ll start at 100 and go up to 115 in 5 bpm jumps because I know I can get there and be accurate. 115 upwards starts to get iffy, so I change to 2 bpm bumps until I crash and burn which at the moment about 124. So I will then back off to 122 and stay there for a couple of minutes to consolidate that tempo.
However, I have been doing what Kasper suggests about forcing yourself to go faster. I’ve kind of looked at it like my old training routines for running and interval training, where you do a few short bursts and then a recovery jog at a comfortable speed. My logic was its just another physical activity so the process should work the same.
So I tried going above my comfortable reliable speed of 115-120 and jumped up to 130. First few times it was a complete train wreck but I go back to safety regroup and start again. Now using our good old pattern 1 G major scale, that Justin tells us to start with, I am ok at 130 going up until I hit the B string which at the moment is 50/50 but I got a bit further each day. BUT then going back to say 120 it felt a whole lot easier. Which is what interval training is all about, raising you comfortable pace to a higher level for longer.
The other running/training related approach I take is not to do the speed drills every day. At the moment its every other day. This allows the muscles to recover and beds in that speed memory and reaffirmed movement by just easy scales each day like a gentle jog. I have just started a similar routing for 4 fret chromatic scales but it now paying off with some licks that were way beyond me tempo wise. One step at a time.
My 2 cents and I am know expert but finally seeing some improvements.
and let’s not forget the importance of a good night’s sleep!
To really solidify your muscle memory, enough sleep and enough deep sleep is crucial.
analogy with dveloping muscles: you build muscles by “hurting” them a bit but it’s when you rest and feed them protein, they heal and fill up these microtears and this increases your muscle mass. Now imagine your brain being harassed by you trying to memorize and “muscle memorize” this stuff all the time. it need the downtime to “rehash” it so it becomes optimized and permanent.
Meanwhile, use your ears, since making music is 80% listening and 20% playing, just as drawing is 80% observing and 20% drawing
Sorry I didn’t explain this better, but the 110 bpm in my example would still be comfortable to an extent, as in I still built up to that bpm in increments (let’s say my starting “speed” bpm is 60, and I built up from there), I could still play at that speed decently, not perfectly. The only Metronome I would not increase or decrease would be the accuracy bpm. I use that to iron out the mistakes from my speed bpm. It works for me because whenever I plateau at a bpm where I’m playing at that speed decently but not perfectly, having to go back down would always frustrate me a lot, and I would end up just not making any progress. Thank you for the reply, have a good day.
A problem of mine was adjusting the metronome faster than what is comfortable. I’m not very patient (that is a me problem though). This technique works for me is because I get bored staying at a lower bpm. Being stuck playing slow frustrates me more than anything. I could try using the slow method again because saying I’m impatient isn’t much of an excuse. Thank you for the reply.
Great post @Kasper it’s good to hear from more experienced folks and their approach to learning more advanced stuff. I am trying to step up my game so I took all your words to the chest but one thing I needed to ask about:
How one determines when is the right time to start learning particular piece that perhaps is bit more difficult to other stuff one learnt in the past? How to choose songs sort of gradually, when should I determine and how if song is just too difficult to me and what chances I have to ever being able to learn it? Hopefully my question does make sort of sense.