The Touch For Speed
- Will Landrum

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Undoubtedly, one of the most popular subjects that my subscribers inquire about is how to get their fingers to fly over fretboard clean and fast.

I remember being floored by two and only two guitarists in my entire life. Ed Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen. I listened to Yngwie's debut CD over and over and couldn't wait to see him live. When I DID, I was even more blown away by how easy he made that speed look.

Now, after a lot of study and practice myself, I've come to realize that "making it look easy" is simply a by-product of being on top of your game. In other words, Yngwie doesn't labor to get his fingers to move that fast. He had to labor to get to that level, but now that he's there, it's just a matter of relaxing and playing.

Now, my right hand picking technique really developed when I started getting control of my timing. That timing was developed by practicing my scale patterns, sweep picking my arpeggios using a metronome and recording a lot of tunes.

Prior to that, I was really good at my left hand technique and relied on it a lot to get my speed. You know, hammer-ons and pull-offs.

But I titled this article from a problem that I still have to this day. Unless I'm conscious of it and remind myself not to do it, I sometimes have a tendency to labor when I play fast.

Ok, here's what I'm talking about. There's a fine line between pressing too hard on the strings and slowing yourself down, and pressing light enough to get your speed while preserving your note quality.

In contrast, let's say you're doing a bend on the third string, second fret. That's an A to a B and a bend that requires some effort from your fingers. Give it a try. Notice how much force you need to exert to get that A note up to the B.

Now when you're doing a straight succession of notes such as indicated below, you want to play with a lighter touch to the strings.

E --------------------------------------------------
B --------------------------------------------------
G -----------4------------------4-------------------
D --4--5--7-----7--5---4--5--7-----7--5-------------
A --------------------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------------------

Play this example a few times. As you do, pay close attention as to how your fingers manipulate the strings.

Some things to keep in mind:

1. When starting, keep your first, second and fourth fingers stretched over the frets that they will play. This is crucial to your efficiency. Before you even play a note, position your fingers in this manner.

2. Learn to keep your fingers as close to the strings as possible when you are NOT touching them. This simply gives you a faster response time for pressing and releasing the string.

3. Only press the string as hard as necessary to sound the note cleanly. Stay away from laboring and literally putting too much muscle into your playing.

Practice these three simple points and I'm sure you'll immediately see an improvement in your speed.

And lastly, always practice with a metronome. I know...I know. You probably hate metronomes. I used to hate them too because they revealed how crummy my timing was. Well, looking back, I wish I had the discipline back then that I have now.

Try not to make the same mistake I did.

Your playing will become stronger in a shorter period of time when you get accustomed to a metronome and practice those three simple points.




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