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Fast guitar solos won't make you a rockstar.  I used to improvise at top speed.  I played huge shows but I'm not a star.   

"It's becoming a sport, 'he can play faster, he's better..... Who cares?  That’s not what it's all about."     -Yngwie Malmsteen

Playing fast guitar is a life sentence.    

You have to play guitar everyday for hours. 
You can do it, but don't ever stop.

guitar solo pointer  Practice the finger exercises.  It's the best soloing practice routine!

play faster guitar solos exercise 1

pointer  Practice the rhythm exercises, the 2nd best routine!

soloing rhythm exercise 1       

Speed for me "was totally irrelevant.  That was something that had been done before.  Instead, I put my energy into songwriting and approaching the instrument in a totally fresh way."      -The Edge

Fast guitar solos:

Do you still want to play fast?  Of course you do.  It's fun and it rocks.

"Rock and roll was built for fast…  With a little perseverance, you can learn to endure those hours of practice and do it with great speed."     -Billy Gibbons

Maintaining this level of skill is difficult,  "I can't lay off, I need to be on top of myself.  It's really hard to do when you’re on the road, but you wake up the next morning and still have to do it."      -Yngwie  Malmsteen

I have an identity crisis, "when I find that I'm not the fastest, or that in fact, that isn't the important part.”     -Eric  Clapton

Slow practice

Martial artists practice forms in slow motion.   Then when they do it fast, it's smooth and automatic.   The same is true for guitar playing.  

When your learning, slow is fast.  "If you’re really looking for something in particular, it helps to take your time."      -Billy Gibbons

When I play new lines or techniques "I practice it slow 80% of the time, then 20% of the time I try to do it for speed.  If you play it all slow, you won't have the experience of doing it fast, if you do it all fast you'll make too many mistakes and be sloppy."      -Steve Morse


“The athletic aspect of playing guitar is ever present…  I think it takes 20 to 100 repetitions to establish the nerve richness necessary to carry out a given move as a reflex.”  It also takes “21 days of maintaining that level of performance for that reflex to become permanent.”       -Howard Roberts

1% of your cells die daily.  In 3 months you have new fingers. 

Practice every day until you die or give up.    

Play a riff, line or exercise until it's clean. 
Play it over and over.   

Finger exercises     These make you incredibly fast and precise.

Circle picking

Circle picking is the fastest way to pick.  
It's a combination of wrist, finger and arm motion.   

The wrist rotates back and forth,
and provides the crosspicking motion.  
It puts the pick into position to play on any string. 

The fingers draw circles with the pick.
This motion can be subtle or exaggerated.
You can draw circles across 1, 2 or even 3 strings at a time.
Sometimes you'll want to angle the pick, instead of keeping it vertical.

Don't lock yourself into one motion.  
Different motions produce different sounds.  
Some will be faster, and sound better.  
Decide what you like.

I hold a pick “like you hold a pencil...  The motion is generated from the thumb and first finger, rather than the wrist or elbow.  But I use all kinds of motion, depending on whether I'm doing single string stuff or chords."        -Jerry Garcia

At the tempos we played “it was the only way to get the notes out.”  It’s like “how you’d draw ovals and circles with a pencil…  Most people write by moving their thumb and forefinger” It’s “just like writing your name across the strings.”

“I use the fingers and the wrist when I pick...  The wrist if arched rotates very nicely…  It moves just about the distance that is a practical working distance across the strings… The wrist is mechanically better for handling the area of strings.”

I vary this technique when “playing one string at a time.”  The point of motion moves “to the tip of the finger and the thumb where the pick is, and you're treating the thing like a little scalpel.  There’s no wrist action.”         -Howard Roberts

"Some people pick with their wrists locked, but my picking comes more from the wrist."  To get articulation with my fingers "I hold the pick between my thumb and theside of my curled index finger."      -Vernon Reid

Sweep picking

Sweep to the next string.
Maintain the same directional motion.

sweep pick

This allows you to play certain patterns very quickly.
Play the finger Exercises

Finger picking

"After playing with Paco de Lucia, I'd have to say that flamenco technique is the most superior approach to the guitar."     -John McLaughlin

If I have to play "a lot of fast notes, I use the thumb and the finger, and if it's very fast I use the thumb and two fingers."     -Chet Atkins

I finger pick with my "thumb and first two fingers, and I anchor with the back of my hand, and my other two fingers, so it's a solid base."      -Mark Knopfler

Fingers can easily play things a pick can't play at all.
Fingers can play multiple strings at the same time.  

Fingers can play faster than a pick. 
Each finger can alternate as fast as a pick.   
Play with the tip of your finger skin.

It's easier to play some things with a pick.

Fingers take longer to get coordinated.

The pick easily gets good tone for lots of techniques.
See finger picking technique


Fast playing has to be clean.  
You can't have wrong notes ringing out.   

"My electric sound is extremely distorted and has a lot of sustain, but with the way I play it sounds clean."      -Yngwie Malmsteen

"By muting the strings you aren't using, picking every note and selecting the proper pickup, you can get a pretty clear sound while having a lot of distortion."            -Steve Morse

 I "keep the heel of my right hand on the strings that I'm not playing.  That keeps them from ringing which is real important in high volume situations."      -Steve Morse

Play the rhythm exercises

Palm mute 

Palm mute
Set your palm on the strings to mute them all.  This is good for rhythm guitar.
The edge of your palm can mute the low strings when they're putting out feedback.  

Partial mute 1 
Set your palm just above the strings, so it's lightly touching them.  .
This chokes off part of the note and removes a few overtones.  
This helps when your using distortion.  It makes the sound less muddy. 
This requires a lot of touch and feel.

Partial mute 2

Set your palm on the strings while you play.  
This chokes off most of the note and removes the sustain.

Fretting fingers

Flatten your fingers across the strings. 
This is an alternative to the palm mute.

Lift mute  
Lift your finger off the fret to mute the string.  
Be careful as the finger leaves the string. 

If it's not done smoothly, the string will sound a note.

Static mute  
Rest your fingers on the strings to mute them
.  .  
They prevent feedback and accidental strikes..

Picking fingers

The thumb rests on the low string and mutes it.  

Move the thumb and mute the string below the string you're playing on.  
This prevents accidental strikes.

The fingers rest on the strings until needed.  
They prevent feedback, and accidental strikes.  

If a note is ringing too long, you can drop a finger onto the string.

Creative muting 

Your sleeve

 Let the sleeve of your shirt rest on the strings.  It removes a lot of sustain.


"I was experimenting a lot with damping my guitar strings, using tape over the strings near the bridge to give zero sustain.  Using echo I found some remarkable effects.  Using a bottleneck I got this incredible sound."         -The Edge

Practice muting with your palm, fretting and picking fingers:

Play the finger exercises and the rhythm exercises
Use a drum machine and improvise. 


Echo enhances your playing.  
You have to get the settings right.  

Listen to how the echo interacts with the riff.

Stomp box pedals:  You set the echo speed manually.  Use your ears.

Digital pedals:  Set it to the exact speed.  Do the math.

An off-beat echo might provide the sound you need.  An on-beat echo sounds great.
I can't say one is better than the other.

Any guitar effect will inspire you to create new sounds.  

"The critical thing is the echo.  I'm playing 16th notes and the echo device supplies the triplet, so it's a very fast thing."       -The Edge   

"I change my echo settings fairly often in concert.  I usually try to have some rhythmic time signature in common with the tune.  I usually set them on a triplet.   It's a sort of melodic delay to use.  That may just be my fantasy, I don't know."        -David Gilmore


"Sometimes on stage I do a whole solo with my left hand."       -Yngwie Malmsteen

This lets you drink water while you play.

"I don't pick all the notes; I'll pick one and do a lot of slurs and bends."      -Larry Carlton

"I hammer on two or three bass strings with a bar, not with the fingertip."      -Michael Hedges

Hammer-ons are the key to playing fast.
A pick can play one note at a time.  A hammer-on can be played by any finger at any time.  
The pull-off is covered under  bar chords 

Make the hammer-on sound the same as a picked note.   If it sounds faint, raise your pickups.

Play the finger exercises at double speed without picking.

I stopped using hammer-ons because "I realized that my picking technique was almost zero.  I said, 'alright, I'm going to pick every note... I started from zero.  I bought a metronome, set it on the lowest setting and went one stroke up, one stroke down.  Finally I was at 3/4 of the speed I could play before.  I've never been able to play as fast, which is disappointing, but I can do more things quicker."          -Steve Morse

This was a mistake.  
Never trade one skill for another. 
He learned how to crosspick solos, but he sacrificed 25% of his speed. 

Add to your skills, don't sacrifice them.

Practice trills" with the metronome.  
Trills are fast hammer-on, pull off combinations that use the same finger, and repeat two notes.

Practice trills with all your fingers.
            Finger 1 can trill with an open string note.   It's the least important trill finger.
            Finger 4 (pinky) is the most important trill finger.   

finger numbers

If you can't do trills:
Use your other hand to tap the trilling finger up and down into the string.
It show your finger muscles how it works.    

Smooth and easy

"It takes a lot of work to develop speed while staying relaxed."      -John McLaughlin

"I rest the heel of my hand on the bridge.  From that anchor my hand is resting and relaxed.  If you suffer from tension in the arm or shoulder, perhaps there's something wrong with the positioning of your hand."        -John McLaughlin

"You could…knock my arms off the instrument because I'm totally loose and relaxed."          -Pat Methany

Your fingers need to be graceful, fast and accurate.  
This takes time.  Your hands need to be strong, but loose.  
You'll feel the difference when it starts to happen.  
Your hands won't feel tense, and they'll apply just enough pressure to fret the note.

Stretch your hands   See Stretches

Practice until your better than the day before.
Take a day off to rest your hands once or twice a week,.


Jamming makes you play very fast.

Find a fast drummer, guitarist or bassist.  
They will push you to speeds you never thought possible.

You'll play the same thing over and over as you find the essence of the song.
Simplify and give your friends room to create.
This gives your fingers time to warm up.  
You build up the jam, and it develops energy and power.

You get in the zone, and you go off.
Suddenly your fingers do amazing things and you play incredible solos.
It can be pure magic.

Come down from the top

"Most guitar players I've noticed tend to use a flat fingering.  I've trained myself to come straight down on top of the string."       -Jerry Garcia

Keep the palm parallel to the side of the neck.
Don't twist your hand, unless you need to reach for a note.  

Bring your fingers straight down onto the strings.  

Play the finger exercises.

Anticipate the move

When you play a scale, 3 fingers usually play each string.

After the first finger plays its note, move it to the next string.
Do this while the other fingers play their notes.  This gets the finger ready to play its next note.

Practice at slow speeds.

Play a riff or line.  Play a scale.

Each finger can do this.

You can also:
Lift the finger off the fret and mute the string.   Hold the finger in place.
Hold the finger on the fret.  The note is ready to be sounded.
Lift the finger and hold it just above the strings.

Lay fingers flat

Flatten your finger if there's no time to lift it and move it.  

lay flat
The numbers show the order the notes are played,            
and the fingers you use.

Fingering diagram

Laid back  

To play on a higher string, flatten your finger.  

laid back    
5 is the next note.
   It's hard to lift finger 4 and put it back down.
   Lay finger 4 down flat, and fret the next note
    Practice with each finger.

Laid forward

To play the next lower string flatten your finger and slide it forward.

5 is the next note.  
   Lay the finger flat.  
   Slide or roll it forward.  
   This can be tricky.  Practice with every finger.

    If you anticipate this move, use a flatter fingering instead of coming straight down on the string.


Maintain position 

Instead of shifting your hands position, let the 1 or 4 fingers stretch.  
fingering diagram

Outside stretch

outside stretch  
     White arrows show the stretches .
     Blue numbers = fingering
     Blue dots = stretched finger position

     Keep the 2 and 3 fingers in position.  
     They are harder to separate.

Inside stretch

inside stretch Fingers 2 and 3 are busy.
 They can't lay flat, for whatever reason..  

  Black dots =
starting fingering
  White arrows = 
 Blue dots = stretched finger position

 Blue numbers = fingering


Use fingers 1 or 4 to slide in and hit a note.  
 You'll rarely need to slide 1 and 4 in at the same time.

Slide into position

The opposite of the last concept.
This involves a shift or slide forward or back.

This scale covers 2 and a half octaves.

slide into position
Numbers =
the fingering.
Underlined numbers =
the next position.
Blue arrow
shows the slide into the next position.

This range will be good enough for most solos.

This shows a minor scale.

You can apply this concept to any scale.

If you shift your position by one fret:

Remember where the notes are, they'll be played by different fingers.

You can slide an octave, fifth, fourth, third, etc.

Hold a finger on the frets and sound the notes as you slide.

Fast action

This means that the strings are close to the frets.


You can tap the string and sound the note.  

Your finger can release the note faster.

It won't have to lift as high.   

If you have slow action:
Use the 1 finger as a bar, this will lower the string.  
Hammer-on with the other fingers.

Buy a guitar with good action.
Play the guitar at a store, before buying it on the internet.
It's better to buy a perfect guitar from a guitar store and pay more.

Guitars with good action eventually go bad.  
Keep it in a case, and don't lean it on it's neck.  
You can adjust your action, but it's better to get a guitar thats already perfect.

I'll buy a guitar “If the neck and action feel right.  You simply need to play it to really tell."    -Kieth Richards

String tension

Tight strings are faster than loose strings.
They don't move with the pick.
If you want to play metal solos use tighter strings.

Loose strings can be bent farther than tight strings.
If you want to play blues, use looser strings.

Adjusting the action

It depends on the guitar, and the hardware on it.  
Look at the instructions that come with your guitar

Don't fret-out the strings.  You'll hear buzzing.
You'll have to raise them a little.

Tune your guitar.  
The notes up high should be the same as the notes down low.
If they aren't, you have a choice:
     Raise the strings.
     Keep them low, develop lightning speed and get a better guitar someday.

Cheater speed

Not every guitar will let you do this, but it's worth trying.

Your pick often dips below the level of the strings.   This slows you down.

pick dip

Raise the rear pickup and give yourself a platform to play on.  
It prevents the pick from dipping too far.    
To raise the pickup, adjust the middle screw on both sides.  
pickup adjustment      
You can play twice as fast in five minutes.  Seriously.               
You can raise the front pickup instead.
This gives you more room to palm mute.

Use the lower pickup for sound, or you'll hear the pick scraping.
Some pickups have raised screws on them.
Lower these screws into the pickup by turning them.  

Maximize time

Use your time wisely.  It's limited.

Watching TV:
Play finger exercises, scales, chords or riffs.  Do it by feel.  

Wear a pocket amp and never take off your guitar.
Take it on walks, to your friends house, etc.

Tap your fingers at work or school.
Tap them faster and faster in any combination.   
See No guitar lessons

Listen to music all the time.

Dumb shit
I used to fret a guitar with my left hand while driving.  Don't kill yourself.

I used to rollerblade down giant hills playing my guitar through a pocket amp and headphones.  Fun.  The same rule applies.

Barre chords

Bar chords use the 1 finger as a bar.  
Lift any fretting finger and the notes under the 1 finger will sound.

              E minor shape                    Em7 shape
e minor bar chorde minor 7 shape      
  White numbers = the fingering.
  Black numbers = the intervals

   Play the E minor shape.
   Add the b7  to make Em7
   Remove the b7.  You have Em again.   

   This is the basic concept.

These chords can be treated like a scale.

e minor scaleBlack  = chord notes.  
Green  = scale notes
Red     = chromatic     (wrong or tense)
Fast chromatic notes sound good

The 1 finger can make a shorter bar.
Any finger can make a bar.

Any hammer-on, pull-off combination will sound two notes

Use one finger to hold multiple strings whenever possible.

Fingering patterns

All cars will drive, but only race cars go fast.  Fingering patterns are the same way.  Some are very fast.

The fastest patterns alternate fingers without shifting position.
This allows for maximum speed, efficiency and note selection.

"Fingering is the big key to unlocking technique.  Sometimes I spent days and weeks on different fingerings to discover the right one."      -John McLaughlin

"I wouldn't think twice about assuming an awkward position to make a chord.  Who cares if you have to do something weird to make it sound right?  The hard part is remembering all the unusual configurations.  If you do make one mistake, you blow it."      -Steve Morse    

Use the color coded guitar fretboard.  
Print it out and tape it to your guitar.  (or use sticker paper)

If you find a chord or scale you like, find the easiest fingering to play.  
You'll likely have to move to a new position on the neck. 

Open string notes

Open strings add a new dimension to your playing.
Simple patterns can sound amazing.
Lift any finger and get an open string note.

E minor open notes
This shows an E minor scale.

Green = open notes.
Black = fretted notes

White numbers = fingering

Use the color patterns.  Tape one to your guitar.
You'll see when open notes are available.

Move any open string pattern up and down and listen to the effect.
You'll change the chord, and the sound.
You can stumble across amazing sounds.
Patterns at the 5th, 7th, 12, 17th and 19th frets sound great.

Use a capo to play in a different key with open strings. 

3 Notes per string

These are the fastest scale patterns.
They allow you to sweep to the next string.

These scales use stretches and a position shift.

Minor scale          
3 note minor  minor tab motions

     White numbers =
     Red lines =
     Blue arrow =
slide forward a position

     White circle =
 root note

Major scale

3 note majormajor scale tab

     White numbers =
     Red lines =
     Blue arrow =
slide forward a position

     White circle =
root note

There is a 3 note scale for every position.
You don't have to practice all of them.

Be able to play these two scales fast.
Use the other ones at slower speeds.

The guitar colors will show you all the patterns.

Scale fragments

Very few people play full scales up and down the neck.

Often you'll need to play a short scale run.  

It may be part of a riff or between chords.

Scale fragments simplify the scale.
You can focus on smooth sweep picking.


fragment 1 minorfragment 2 minor      

       Blue numbers =
       Black numbers =
       Practice the upper octave of the scale as well.
        Start with a down stroke because the first string has 3 notes.
        This allows you to sweep to the next string.


Major fragmentmajor fragment 2

       Blue numbers = fingering
       Black numbers =
       Practice the upper octave of the scale as well.
        Start with an upstroke because the first string has 2 notes.
        This allows you to sweep to the next string.


A sequence arranges the scale notes in a repeating pattern.
Sequencing doesn't make you play faster, but it's part of soloing.

3 note sequences            Triplet sequencing
4 note sequences            1/16 note sequencing

Applying the patterns:
Play the sequences, find one you like.
Figure out the interval pattern.          
Use the sequencing chart to figure out more of each sequence.

See Scales, theory, and sequencing for more clarity.

Pick motions

Scales and sequences aren't the only ways to play fast..

Many picking patterns exist.

Each pattern can create intense riffs and lines.

Use any notes with any pattern.

If you re-tune your guitar, you can get any note combinations.
The possibilities are infinite.  

Play the finger exercises.  
Play all the variations.
Make your own variations.  
Tell me about them.

Two hand tapping

To create the illusion of playing 3 parts, I "play a bass note with my right thumb while fingering with my left thumb.  The fingers of my left hand are trilling between two notes, creating a constant rhythm and suggesting a chord between those notes and the bass notes.  Then I play melody notes by fingering up high with my right hand index finger, and plucking with my thumb or third finger."      -Steve Morse

"The left hand provides the hammer on- pull offs, so the right hand has to do melodies or something.  It's Chapman Stick technique, hammering on, pulling off, sliding, just like Van-Halen, only applied to acoustic guitar."   -Michael Hedges

Watch guitar players

Some things look easier than they sound.

Yngwie Malmsteen             "Arpeggios from hell"              


People say I use circle picking, but "I don't know what that is.  The pick is flat in my hand, and my hand just floats, it doesn't touch the face of the guitar."         -John McLaughlin    

As for right hand picking, "there are so many styles that work, it's so individual."  I pick "almost all of the notes."  That requires a "lot of fluidity in the wrist.       -John McLaughlin          

"You have to really play and practice if you’re going to be any good, and I don't do that."        -George Harrison 

"When I'm playing fast, I tend to play more linearly, more scale oriented."       -Larry Carlton

 I use my little finger on my fretting hand a lot.  "I prefer to use it even more than my ring finger."   It can cover 3 frets             -Jerry Garcia

Technique is important, but it really "depends on what kind of music you want to play.  Everybody finds their own path.”

“It gets me when the technique becomes the featured item.  It's like spending hours polishing the water faucet thinking that’s going to make the water purer  or tastier.  It doesn't work like that."           -Pat Methany

I don't use a pick, and "that’s one of my downfalls too.  In order to get a certain amount of speed you should use a pick."      -Wes Montgomery

I disagree, You can play faster with the fingers, but each method has certain tendencies and makes different sounds.  
I had a finger method to play 16th notes at 250bpm or more.

"I just didn't like the sound,  I tried it for two months.  Didn't use the thumb at all.  But after two months I still couldn't use the pick, but then I couldn't use the thumb either.  I liked the tone better with the thumb, but the technique better with the pick, but I couldn't have them both."    -Wes Montgomery   

Notice that he traded one skill for another.  I had both skills at the same time.  Spend 4-8 hours a day for 3 months, alternating days between the two skills.  Each day you need to play at a higher level than the previous day.    

My picking style is "a cross between finger style and flat picking."     -Jimmy Page 

Coming out of retirement "I was desperate, but I didn't scramble.  I just leaned more on what was in my mind than what was in my chops.  One note can go a long way if it's the right note and it will probably whip the guy with 20 notes.  With 20 notes he's got a lot of problems.  But then the speed came back.  Chops come back and you don't worry about them."       -Les Paul    

People enjoy "the spectacle of someone raging through a thing and playing a million notes, and as a piece of theater it can be good, but we know that music is really something more than that."      -Ry Cooder

"For me, the only danger is being too much in love with guitar playing.  The music is the most important thing.  Any musician can gain something by analyzing their role in the context of whatever music they're playing.  A guitar player who can back up tastefully, who can find something interesting to say behind a vocal and who knows what music is about is doing the whole job."            -Jerry Garcia

"I don't think music has anything to do with how many notes anybody plays.  I've tried to make something have passion with less notes, but at times I like it fiery.  But I do think that some guys play without any feeling at all."              -Alan Holdsworth

"It doesn't matter that 5 years ago I might have been able to play just as fast or faster.  I'm improving as a musician.  I'm not looking at myself as a guitar player.  I'm a musician, a composer, an arranger, and a producer.  Those things are so demanding that being a guitar player is not so important anymore."     -Yngwie Malmsteen

I don't think I play too fast, "but maybe too much.  I don't see anything wrong with playing fast.  I play a lot of slow notes as well."     -Yngwie Malmsteen

Instead of the guitar being a "single note instrument for doing very fast runs;” I use “a well rounded, capable-of-anything approach."     -Steve Morse

Don't be hard on yourself if your not Yngwie Malmsteen or Eddie Van Halen.  You have to become yourself.  It's cool to play an Allen Holdsworth phrase, but it's harder to play one of your own. 

If you can play really quickly, try to articulate your phrases, sometimes you should play slowly.
       -Vernon Reid

One of my friends showed me a "picking exercise" and I turned it into a solo.      -Vernon Reid