Improving fret hand technique to play faster


I have a technique question for those who can play single note lines, along with string changes, fast.

In an effort to play faster, I have been critically dissecting what I am doing with my fretting hand and my picking hand.

In doing so, I have learned to make your picking motions as small as possible, without sacrificing what your attempting to articulate, and therefore improving picking efficiency.

With my fretting hand, I have learned you want to make your motions small and efficient as well. I learned once I slowed down, is my pinky would float up and away from the fretboard. This appears to make attempting to play faster more difficult in terms of accuracy and speed. My other fingers are better at hovering over the fretboard, but I need to work on improving them as well.

Another thing I noticed is the following and I would really like those that can shred to come in:

When playing ascending notes, do you keep the preceding finger(s) down on the fretboard as you ascend, or does each finger lift off the fretboard as the next finger frets the next note?

I hope this makes sense. If not, I can ask a different way.

Thanks! Elliott

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I am suspicious of this approach to say the least.

I don’t know, but the picking hand has around 0.075 seconds to do one pick stroke, so I assume a finger can only move up or down in that same interval and not go up/over/down or do any such “expensive” (slow) motion.

Good questions.

  1. Troy Stetina was a proponent of “small” fretting hand movements, and he’s certainly no slouch. At the same time, I think a loose fretting hand and smooth technique gets you further than small motions, if small motions translate into being stiff.

  2. For probably 90% of fretting situations, I don’t think it matters. The only time it DOES matter is when as you go from one fret to another, the prior fret’s finger needs to be used somewhere else - super easy example, box pentatonic shape on the 12th in E, if you’re playing the 12th fret with the pointer annd 14th fret with the ring finger, then you pretty much HAVE to be lifting your pointer finger as you fret your ring finger.

That said, I think this is the thread that’s been the MOST beneficial to my fretting hand since I’ve been a member here, that’s really made me rethink some of my “default” fingering choices.


I’m glad that thread has helped you!

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Thanks! Still a lot for me to digest in there, but it’s got me thinking about something I used to take for granted, and that’s the important part!

I used to have that issue as well. There are a slew of great guitarists who do the same thing (Andy James for exampe) so maybe it’s not a huge problem. For me, I play classical guitar as well as rock and having stray fingers makes playing certain pieces nearly impossible! There are a couple of exercises I used to do every day that kept all 4 fretting fingers closer to the guitar. One of them is called the “spider exercise”. There are many variations of it and I highly recommend them for building dexterity and flexibility in the fingers.

Thank you everyone for the replies!