How to retain efficiency while slowing down?

Recovering string-hopper here.

I’ve followed the advice from (“start with speed”) and I can play 16ths on a single open string between about 120 and 150 bpm with relaxation and minimal effort. I’m not super consistent, but when I get it, it feels “right” - no tension, feels like I could do it a minute or so without getting tired.

My problem is that I cannot play with nearly the same ease or relaxation between 105 and 120 bpm. As soon as I get into that range, it seems like my string-hopping muscle memory kicks in and takes over, and I fall apart.

I have no problem moving the pick back and forth above the string (not making contact) at those speeds. But as soon as the pick touches the string, its like some sort of reflex kicks in, and other muscles start firing unhelpfully.

Any advice for getting through this?


It could be that you are now begining to anticipate the issue (because you now have the knowledge of it).

Personally, I would turn off the metronome (if using one), get your comfory speed going and then slow down a little - chances are you won’t go below the threshold where it goes awry. Repeat this and try to slow down a little more each time. Hopefully, you might get that relaxed sensation for longer. Another thing is to make sure that you are not doing this too long and getting fatigued. I get the mega twitches when I’ve been practicing one thing too long - I don’t realise how fatigued I am at the time.
You could also try playing passages at backing tracks that fall in that trouble zone. The musical element of it may lessen the analytical part of you that might be getting in the way. Play something quite quick in 16ths and then go onto 8th note triplets, without stopping.

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Slower speeds are better played with cross picking, so you are making a curved motion path with the plectrum not a straight one as you are at the higher speeds. Have a search on this blog for cross picking and you’ll find some good information.

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If i am not mistaken, a lot of the pros actually play the speeds you mentioned with a stringhopping motion, simply because it still works at 100-120bpm.

This can be observed frequently in oldschool-guitarlessons when they supposedly demonstrate what happens in a lick and then actually use a different motion than in their fast playing.

My humble personal advice would be to not try to duplicate your tremolo picking motion at slower speeds but instead try to find out why stringhopping feels uncomfortable at slow speeds. Try to find a better form but dont force a no-stringhopping approach at those speeds, its simply not necessary.

I once talked to a drummer who said that faster midtempos (around 160 beats) feel more difficult to him than the more common superfast-blastbeat-stuff.
I totally agree. The common tremolo picked thrash riffings around 200 beats feel pretty effortless to me but whenever i want to play a stompy Bolt-thrower riff with tremolopicking at 160bpm, i have to concentrate on not slowing down speed by tensing up.
So there isnt just fast and slow. Different speeds will require different mechanics, therefore your problem isnt uncommon.

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Wow! That’s EXACTLY what happens to me!!! It’s been going on for more than 30 years!

Couldn’t agree more!