How to "think" at high speeds?

Hi. :slight_smile:
So, I’m trying understand this stuff, I’m one of the many people who seem to hit a wall somewhere around 120-130.

But for me, what feels like the biggest problem so far is being able to process the metronome sounds while trying to keep my hands in time. My hands are a lot quicker than my mind, and so I get a lot of uneven sloppy notes when I try to play ‘fast’

Anyway, so I’m watching the start fast video right, from reading around here, I decided I should try to find a relatively comfortable way of alternate picking I can do at 150 bpm, but how do you mentally process this speed? Do you actually just count 12341234 one hundred and fifty fucking times per minute? This doesn’t seem like a viable option to me. What do? How count?

– Isak

Pick one note in the pattern to concentrate on keeping in time, and focus on counting with respect to that one note. CTC videos refer to this concept as “chunking”. See at 8m28s in the below video. Or more musically speaking, pick a metronome tempo you can process, figure out which notes in a passage line up with the click, and concentrate on keeping those notes in time. Lots of software or electronic metronomes will let you not only set a tempo, but let you emphasize one of the beats, so you could try picking a tempo where the emphasized beats are something you can still process, even if the subdivisions are faster. Some software/electronic metronomes also let you set a time signature and subdivision, so you can get one sound for the first beat of the measure, a different sound for the remaining beats, and third sound for subdivisions.


The mental ‘letting go of control of all the notes’ is difficult at first when going beyond 16ths at 130bpm…it took me a little time for it feel normal mentally. I support the ‘chunks’ advice…just count the beginning of each chuck and let it go.


I’m 363% sure I’ve seen that video multiple times, and am familiar with this concept, it’s weird how when you need to know something, you can’t recall the information you’ve already got :smiley:

This makes things a whole lot easier, yes.

Thanks to you both :slight_smile:

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This is another classic on the subject :slight_smile:

Video should start at 36:00


And tangentially, the keys to the kingdom are at 37m50s:
When you are doing metronome practice for speed, your technique at slow tempos should be the same as the technique at fast tempos. That is, the technique at slow tempos should be a “slowed down” version of a technique you know can still work at high speed. That’s the essence of CTC’s “starting with speed” mantra. Running is not “walking sped up”. Metronome practice is like “tempo sprinting”: you’re performing as close to the ideal movement as possible, but at less than maximum tempo.


I think that you are absolutely right, but the analogy between running and walking is deeply flawed, and I think it should not be used. As you argue, one has to learn the actual technique (what works at high speed), and use exactly that technique at low speeds as well (indeed, every speed), and slowly click up the metronome. [It is impossible for a human to maintain the same technique in locomotion at various speeds, hence that analogy doesn’t work (well, at least for me), but a good picking technique can work at any speed.]

I think that the reason that most players will play the same thing differently at high vs. low speeds is because picking was never formally taught, and guitar people want to be self-taught for some strange reason that I don’t really understand, but it’s all good. :grinning:

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So, follow up question. Do people actually accent with their pick at high speeds? I can play in time decently at 130ish speeds if I do change the notes forth and back and use that as a reference, but I can’t just do it on a single note. To do that I have to go down to 70-80 bpm.

Does that mean I have to stay at 80 and work it upwards? Or am I missing something? :thinking:

Yes, and you hear this in all of Troy’s fast playing on this site. It happens unconsciously because this is how we keep time, by synchronizing the chunks with the beat. It’s literally easier to accent these notes, and if I want to play a run without it I have to concentrate on removing the accent.

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Hm, it does not work like that for me. :slight_smile:

I have to concentrate with all my brainpower and then some to be able to accent anything.


Hey @Isakk, do I understand correctly that you currently hit a speed wall around 120-130 bpms?

This is typically the limit of string hopping, and probably also the fastest tempo where you can concentrate on every single note separately. So it may be worth taking some time to just figure out how to pick faster on a single note on a single string (good old tremolo pikcing). You don’t even need a metronome, just pick fast - you can record a snippet, put it in a DAW and count the notes per second after the event :slight_smile:

As a reference, 150bpm 16th notes is exactly 10 notes per second. If you get somewhere in that neighbourhood, chances are you have overcome string hopping.

After that you can check if you are able to play with this fast motion accompanied by a metronome or drum machine. I suspect you might find that accenting / chunking is really the only possibility.

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Yeah, but the speedwall feels like it’s because I can’t play the notes evenly anymore, so I get thrown off.

When doing unmetered tremolopicking I can do a lot faster speeds, but then I don’t have to think about the timing of the notes or anything like that, so I can just go ham, for lack of a better word. It is around 12 per second. (Drops and rises a bit.)

Also, I thought string hopping was a problem that occured when you did string crossing, is it not?

And, no. I can not play those kinds of speeds along to a metronome, it gets ignored as irrelevant noise.
I can play for instance: 5555-7 on the D string at around 130, putting an accent on the 7 there, but that requires a pause after, a pause of say one beat, then repeat I can repeat it. This might be chunking. (?)

Great news! 12 notes /second is excellent speed and sufficient for most musical applications!

It may indeed be difficult to sync up to a metronome / drum machine at your top speed - at least initially. If you drop it down to 10 (so 150bpm 16th notes, or 6s at 100bpm), does it feel more doable? That could be a good starting point. Fast enough to be… fast :), slow enough to have a degree of conscious control over what you are doing.

Sorry if I was unclear! What I had in mind is more generally an “inefficient picking motion”, where you are not truly alternating muscles between upstrokes and downstrokes. But you probably don’t have this problem if you can pick as fast as 12 notes per sec!

Unmetered tremolo is a different core skill set than metered picking.

The reason it’s recommended on here is that many players here have years if not decades of inefficient habits and the fastest, most efficient way of getting them to overcome it is by just asking them to move the pick across the string with zero regard to tone or timing. It’s an educational tool in learning what “letting go” feels like. It’s not really the final product but it seems like you understand that since you mentioned being unable to time it.

When you learn that skill, the next step is to apply that speed to synchronized patterns. This is much harder and to be honest there are not very many players on this forum who have proven they can do pure alternate picking across multiple distinct patterns at a very high speed. I think I’ve seen like 5 people on here who can do that, and that’s being generous. It’s very difficult.

It might be time for you to ditch the unmetered stuff and work on left hand sync with simple left hand patterns. Unmetered stuff is cool and all but unless all you play is stuff in a noise band or post-rock band or Bruckner symphony, it’s not something you have to dump much time into.

Try the six-note pattern from the Volcano seminar.

Thank you both for informative and helpful answers. I will try 150 bpm tomorrow and get back to you. From what I can recall though, it is also too fast for conscious control :thinking:

I use unmetered mostly in combination with other things to warm up, and when my fingers get “stuck” in slowmotion :slightly_smiling_face:

I see I could have purchased membership instead of the just the pickslanter primer thing, damned be impulsivity. (Have to buy membership to be able to see the Volcano seminar from what I understand, but I will. Will also attempt tomorrow.)

Thanks again :grinning:

What exactly are you refering to with “Volcano Seminar” ? I’m still not used to the navigation on here. :slight_smile:

I think what @guitarenthusiast is referring to is this classic Yngwie melodic sequence:


You can loop it in one position on one string, move it across strings using any of the 3 notes per string major scale patterns, e.g. on the top 2 strings in A minor:


or even move it through different positionson the same string:

-8-5-7-8-7-5-10-7-8-10-8-7- etc.

But you can also use other patterns. The idea is to start with a series of “chunks” that always have the same number of notes and that have some sort of repetitive element going on: typically 4-note chunks or 6-note chunks like in the yngwie example.


Try rethinking the metronome and only focus on landing your first pick stroke dead on the beat.

You’ll find that when you do this, all of the other notes will fall into place.

At speeds above 130 bpm, the tempo becomes too fast for your brain to reliably count “1 ee-and-uh 2 ee-and-uh 3 ee-and-uh 4 ee-and-uh” which leads to you losing track of the beat, and causes your hands to desync and drift further apart.

This holds especially true if you’re playing metal or bluegrass. Some metal songs like Iced Earth’s “Pure Evil” are at 220 bpm, and some bluegrass tunes like “White Freightliner Blues” by Molly Tuttle are at 266 bpm.

At those speeds, it becomes impractical to count “1234 1234.” The tempo’s just too fast for our brain to interface with our hands and keep the beat.

Instead, focus on the beat, and only focus on making sure your first pick stroke lands right on the beat, every single time.

To your picking hand, it’d feel like counting “1 1 1 1”.

I hope that makes sense.


:metal: :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :metal:

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Thanks for clearing that up tommo :grinning:

thecrimsonidol7: Thank you for the reply :blush:
I’m gonna have to partly disagree :grin:
At times when I try to fret things like this

Even if I hit the first 12 directly on the beat, I still linger on the 10, followed by playing 13-12 on the D way too fast to catch up. (I think this is something I’ve mistakenly done in a long practice session. And that I think I know what I have to do to fix it.) But things tend to fall in line quite nicely on a single string, yeah :blush:

To both, and or everyone:
Anyway, it appears I can play 4 note chunks on time around 140± not sure of the exact time. But I’m still unable to hear and or process it real-time.

I recorded a video to see what was going on, and it was very different from my experience in the moment of playing.

When I’m actually playing, it sounds like the metronome does multiple clicks by the time I’ve finished a 4-note chunk. (It does not.)

It might be just that I’m not THAT used to a metronome yet, and particularly at these speeds (I’ve had a strained on/off relationship with them for very many years)

Does this happend to anyone else? Or are you guys able to accurately hear when the clicks are in relation to what you’re playing.

Might’ve mentioned something like this already but it feels like the part of the brain that is responsible for this process is too slow, while the part that actually listens to the beat and plays the notes is doing ok😃

I don’t really like playing to a metronome anymore. The “click click” thing feels too unmusical and almost distracting. I much prefer a backing track or a drum beat in the appropriate style, where I feel more like my playing is fitting in and properly supported.

For example here’s a 120bpm straight drum beat I like to use

And here’s a 120bpm shuffle beat

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