So why do you want to play fast(er)?

We all visit this site and watch Troy’s videos because we want to be able to play faster. Is there a certain kind of music in your head that you’re wanting to play but just can’t execute because of speed limitations?

In my own creative work these days, I’m finding that I put in a fast lick here and there just to feel like I haven’t wasted all my years of practice, not because that’s what the music calls for in that moment. Lately I’ve been asking myself just why I continue to try and improve my speed when it isn’t even something my current musical endeavors call for. I guess it’s because it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.


I want to be able to play Jason Becker’s “Altitudes”. After learning about the man’s story, playing his stuff became one of my life goals. I didn’t really care about playing fast before that.

The fast sections of the song are 113 BPM sextuplets which were impossible to play with my stringhopping technique. I found Troy Grady by searching on how to alternate pick quickly so I could play the non-sweep parts.


That is a good question… the music I tend to write tends to be slow, at times quite shoegaze like and very little fast guitar, if any…

Yet, I still want to be able to play fast licks and phrases. It’s almost like it’s a separate goal from my songwriting goals :thinking:


For me I think it’s that I owe it to my younger self. I was just SUCH a diligent student who was certain all I needed was more practice. So more and more reps, done incorrectly, followed lol! I could get through most stuff I wanted to play but it never felt easy. I was always holding on for dear life and would burn out quickly. It’s nice to be on the right path.

Plus for me guitar is very much a hobby and I play for myself almost exclusively. The challenge aspect is what keeps me going. Just about any tune I’d want to play for fun, I can handle any rhythm or fills and it’s easy. So, not fun. I get much more enjoyment out of being able to play some solo or lick that felt challenging.

Re: musical enjoyment, I can relate to other responses here. If I were just listening to music for enjoyment it likely wouldn’t be virtuoso guitar.


For me the fast stuff can be very expressive when done right. Ever since hearing my first recordings of early Yngwie, I have wanted to be just as expressive with the same effortlessness. The feeling of playing is actually just as important to me as what it actually sounds like. So I have been able to play faster stuff for a long time but getting it to really FEEL good is another thing. Also speedy picking can sound so different depending on so many small variables. And finding the right sound with the right attack and aggression is also an ongoing journey.


for me two reasons:

  1. I want to be able to play over some drum and bass 165bpm, 16th triplets at that speed = 16 notes per second

  2. I get a massive endorphin rush when I play something fast and it sounds great (not very often lol), its the result of solving the “Puzzle” of playing fast I think?


Do let us know when you get there. That’s…freaking fast…you have my full support and encouragement though :metal: :metal: :metal:


I am getting there - I’ve upped from 12.5 to 13.5 notes per second usable. Hoping to get to 14 this week if everything works out.

These two points resonate the most with me. I’ve been able to play fast basically since I started playing - the search is for the feeling of effortlessness. That said, my favorite sorts of guitar playing nowadays aren’t nonstop shredfests, but will feature moments of virtuosity… so even if it isn’t ever-present, the technique needs to be there anyway.

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I spent years playing classical almost exclusively and it’s just a nightmare in terms of technique. Every other instrument is expected to play whatever the composer wrote, but for classical guitar scales at about 150bpm 16th notes are practically an upper limit: you can’t write anything that fast and expect a typical player to manage it.

When I ran across CtC it was a revelation, I was used to struggling with all the grace of a three-legged dog on a skating rink trying to play fast, and suddenly, out of the blue, fast alternate picking was possible and it felt amazing. Fast playing yields a certain type of expressiveness that not everyone wants or needs, but it is something I need, sometimes, to get across what I hear in my head.


To impress others. I have all the speed I need, but I guess being a guy you always wana impress.

Just imagine if you were the only person on the planet, totally alone, would you spend hours trying to shred? lol no. Would even play guitar?

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I’ve always been able to pick fast. Even when I first started. Before I dove head first into Satch, Vai and Petrucci, I jammed to trash and death metal bands and never had a problem with any of those speeds. I never gave much thought to the intricacies of it because I didn’t have to. I’d start something with a downstroke that I played 30 seconds earlier starting with an upstroke. It didn’t make a lot of sense, but it didn’t occur to me that it needed to, either.

But the one player I couldn’t get the hang of was Eric Johnson. Not even close. I could do 2-note per string stuff really fast but not his licks and I could never figure out why. After 15 years of retirement and coming back earlier this year, I needed a bit of help getting my hands and chops back into shape. Where better to start than EJ? I’m usually against algorithmically influenced things but damn if it didn’t open up the world when it came to discovering this site and these lessons. Finally taking a close look at these things has been a miracle in a lot of ways and many of those are hand-saving. It doesn’t hurt when I play like it did when I had to quit. That alone is worth it. But that is all besides the point…

Why do I want to play fast(er)? Because it’s freaking awesome!

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I’ve been playing guitar for over 30 years. Over 20 of those have been in Nashville and I was always able to work, but my main bags are primarily Chet Atkins style fingerpicking and then the blues mixed with blues/rock bag (B.B., Freddie, Albert. Then Hendrix, SRV, Jeff Beck, Eric, etc.) 95 out of 100 times the music I play and enjoy doesn’t necessitate crazy speed, but…

I literally never got over Total Electric Guitar by Eric Johnson, or Venus Isle, or spacing out in high school physics class because it was more important to replay the title track in my mind alone than to pay attention to whatever irrelevant thing the teacher was saying that had no importance to my life whatsoever.

EJ was one of my greatest influences but since I never was able to get over the speed bump, his influence on me was manifested primarily in approach, tone, and ideas more than any specific licks. I wanted to shred Cliffs (but I think my favorite solo might realistically be the second solo on Lonely In The Night), but didn’t know how and when I would play other really fast things in other styles (even Jerry Reed things like “Jerry’s Breakdown”), I could (with enough practice) but also felt the upper arm tensing and it was never a natural feeling. I was able to get through Jerry’s Breakdown. Cliffs was another story. For a while I got scared that maybe the problem was having been distracted by fingerpickers altogether. Maybe 25 years of old Chet stuff held me back from my other goals. But now I don’t think that was the real problem. It was just that I didn’t know where to go for help and didn’t know anyone else with that kind of technique in my day to day real life.

Basically I was moved by EJ just as much as I was moved by Jimi. I could copy Jimi and grab some of Stevie’s licks, but I wasn’t thrilled with my technique limiting my expression or creativity. It was a sacrifice I made, particularly with the arrival of adulthood, responsibilities, and “what are you doing with your life” conversations with parents…

But I still want to be able to play like EJ when the moment calls for it, and this desire has been going on for nearly three decades.

I am hopeful Cracking The Code can help!

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As a fellow EJ enthusiast I can tell you that CtC will help! In fact, I realized it after the first or 2nd video from the Cascade series. Pick-slant and stroke-start and the like I’d never heard of or considered. I also never saw any footage of him so I was clueless why I could beat a metronome but couldn’t play his stuff. The “PSP” series was a massive help in other ways, but I got my monies worth in less than 10 minutes on this site lol

For me it’s a personal challenge - it’s about learning to pick accurately - and fast. I could always play fast legato - but not alt picked. This was a challenge over the last few years. Goes back to when I was young in the 80’s and I couldn’t play Yngwie or Paul Gilbert licks. Perhaps as an older more experienced player - could I actually learn to do it?

I have put a lot of work into it over the last couple of years and have made huge progress. But when you compare my practice to someone in the classical sphere, I don’t work nearly hard enough on it.

because I want to be able to play the things I think of and sometimes the things I think of go like “blibblywibblywibblywibblywib”


I feel like classical guitar would be insanely hard to master. I have had a couple of goes to begin to learn and sight reading alone does my head in. People talk about how hard it is - do you have a view on whether it would be harder than solo violin to become a virtuoso at? I’ve always wondered LOL not that I can do either!

I have always loved fast guitar music of every kind - metal, bluegrass, jazz, flamenco. You name it. The phase of the journey that I am on right now is primarily focused on metal/rock. I’m a huge Paul Gilbert fan, and would love to be able to approach some of the fast stuff that he does. But I hope to conquer metal, and then move on to adding some of those other genres/styles as well.

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Not addressed to me but I’m qualified to answer (curios to hear @Moje’s take as well).

Yes, it’s insanely hard to master, but so is anything worth mastering. The difficult things about it are much different than what we work at in virtuoso electric guitar.

First off, you need to establish if you “just want to learn some classical things” or if you want to go all in and do it “the classical way”. Anyone who just wants to learn some new things and is not pursuing a career as a classical teacher and/or player, I’d strongly recommend the former.

For me, the biggest “you don’t know what you don’t know” aspect was tone production. Though there is a small movement of players who are doing this without nails, just about every serious classical guitarist uses nails. They have to be shaped just right and buffed, and the point of contact with the string has to be just the right combination of flesh and nail for tonal consistency. It’s much less forgiving than anything we do on electric guitar, or even a steel string acoustic. Until you hear this for yourself, it’s most likely not something even a tone conscious electric player thinks about. The sound needs to be strong and project because remember, in an authentic setting, you’ll be playing un-mic’d and people past the 3rd row won’t hear you if the above considerations are ignored.

Unless you’re insanely intuitive, you’re going to need a teacher who’s been conservatory trained and understands the concepts involved in tone production and beginning technique. I haven’t even mentioned technique other than the nail/flesh contact, but to oversimplify things, the fingers must remain slightly curved, move from the MCP joint and not be allowed to collapse at the tip joint. To create the tone you push down and across the string. The sort of “clawing” we see many “fingerstyle” players use won’t work. It’s inefficient and also most likely a tone killer since it would make the flat part of the nail the only thing that hits the string. Thin/tinny sound will follow.

I’m a slow learner and I was self taught until the age of 17 when I got lessons from Peabody’s Julian Gray. It took me 6 months to a year to be comfortable with the technique 101 stuff above, to the point where my tone was always on point and I didn’t revert to the poor habits I’d developed on my own. Now, Rick Graham also got into classical a little later in life. I’d bet he did all of the above way faster than me. He’s insanely intuitive though. I had the mentality of “long sessions, lots of reps” … probably not much self awareness/reflection. After everything you play, think about what just happened, what was right/wrong about it, then if need be do it again until you only notice “right things”. That what I’d go back and tell my 17 year old self.

From there, it’s time to get into repertoire. The fretting hand of classical is probably the most challenging aspect. The contortions needed are unlike anything we do in rock music. It’s common to leave a finger or 2 in place while the others dance around it an play melodies. For this reason we also have to be really careful we don’t touch unwanted strings to deaden notes that should be sustained. Some of the stretches and shapes are just brutal. The only things I’ve seen that are almost this difficult, from a dexterity standpoint, would be jazz chord melody. The only thing I’ve tried playing that hurt my hands worse would be…any clean channel chords that Allan Holdsworth played :slight_smile:

Sight reading…yeah I always sucked at that. It didn’t stop me from playing the pieces I wanted to play though. My instructors would scold me. That actually exposes a form of gaslighting that’s prevalent in that world in general though. When you have someone ask you to do something you’ve never done, you’re not going to be good at (yet). No matter what instructions they throw at you, whether aggressive or encouraging, you’ll likely not be getting it “at the lesson”. They do this all the time when teaching dynamics and phrasing. “No do it again, you were to loud on beat 3”. “Well yes, beat 3 was better but now you’re rushing the phrase”. “Better but could you gradually slow it down at the end of the phrase while also getting louder?” I guarantee you if someone better than them was telling them this sort of nonsense in real time, on a piece they didn’t know, they’d be no better at it than I was in that situation. It’s part of how they keep the balance of power though :slight_smile:

I can’t comment on your question about the violin since I’ve only dabbled. My gut instinct is once you get that bow to stop screaching, it’s an easier instrument to play, mechanically, than the classical guitar is.


Man, this sounds so far from enjoyable in any sense. Maybe this works for younger folk…? As an adult I’d be out the door pretty damn quick :sweat_smile: