Starting With Speed

In chapter 7 under “Wrist Motion” in the Pickslanting Primer, Troy was demonstrating 16th notes on one string one fret using the downward escape manuever. He mentioned that 180 bpm was well within the range of most people, and that tapping on a table or knocking on a door was similar to replicating that speed on guitar. I tried 16th notes on a metronome on one string and found that I could do it pretty comfortably at 140 and at 150 for short bursts before it fell apart. I was also “Chunking” as I was doing it. Troy watched me do it on CRACKING THE CODE OFFICE HOURS during a one on one call, and after I demonstrated that manuever, said that speed was not an issue for me. The question I have after being given that HOPE, which I do believe I have, is how to start string shifting and/or postion shift and get both hands to synch so I can maintain that speed across strings and frets. ANY SUGGESTIONS?

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Hi Scott!

In our call you were able to pick a single note on a single string smoothly for at least a couple bars of speedy sixteenths, and you could have probably done it for longer if we had tried. It seemed like it felt pretty easy to you and you didn’t appear to be struggling. And the pick attack sounded good / consistent. Once I see those basic elements, I stop worrying about speed in the sense of what precise metronome number you can reach. The most important consideration is that you have a reliable core picking motion that’s not stringhopping and will work for the kinds of lines you want to play. And you pass that test.

The next step is hand synchronization. And repeating single-string phrases are pretty useful for the Jorge Strunz flamenco-inspired style we talked about. So that kills two birds with one stone in the sense that these kinds of patterns make for good hand synchronization exercise, but are also musically useful for flamenco-inspired sounds — always the best way to go.

When you say “fell apart” what do you mean? When I try to pick as fast as I can, the motion doesn’t fall apart, per se. It just gets to a point where it won’t go any faster. If you’re referring to hand synchronization, sure, totally. That’s a skill that you have to build up. Have you been working on that and are you able to fret simple patterns in the same speed ballpark as your picking motion?


I Just had an epiphany relative to this post which I started. If you want to start developing speed, for example sixteenth notes at metronome 150 BPM, listen to the Strunz and Farah interview at the 1:08 point in the interview they star talking about metronome speed categories and demonstrate how sixteenth note triplets (6 notes per beat) at 100 BPM on metronome is the equivalent of sixteenth notes (4 notes per beat) at 150 BPM on the metronome. 6 notes per click at 100 BPM versus 4 notes per click at 150 BPM. Then when Strunz demonstrated the sixteenths (4 notes per click) at 150 BPM, I played along with him but only on 1 fret on 1 string and found it very easy. I realized as Troy told me, that if I can do that on 1 string and begin to go for the speed starting with position shifting on one string and gradually string shifting at that speed even it’s pure slop, that my left hand would gradually get the sense of what it had to do to keep up with my right hand, I.E., SYNCHRONIZATION., BUT WITH CHUNKING. That is critical even if the chunking is sloppy at first. This takes patience and not getting frustrated with yourself. I finally see it.


be also sure to watch the Martin Miller video on building speed on youtube. The notes I made from that video were extremely helpful.

I watched the Martin Miller video on YouTube as well as the 3 Cracking The Code Interviews with Martin Miller. My takeaway is:

  1. Don’t practice slow. Go fast enough to play closed loop
  2. Chunk. Always be aware of the first note and forget the rest of the notes. Your hands will eventually know what to do once you memorize the sequence. TRUST!
  3. Don’t worry about sloppy playing initially, If you don’t trip over yourself at first you’re, not playing fast enough to develop the feel.

Exactly and one also very important one: never loop for too long. Your hands should be completely relaxed at the start of each chunk. So either stop playing and start over after playing a chunk, or build in rests in the loop.

Once we can play pretty fast on short line/chunk … how do you developp stamina to maintain that speed ? I can easily play at 120bpm sextuplet on the famous Paul Gilbert lick but I can’t maintain it for more than 5 beats.

What is the right method to gain stamina for maintaining speed ?

Thank you ! :slightly_smiling_face:

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Then you try to play the chunk more times in a row. You just make sure your hands always are relaxed during the playing. If they tense up then other muscles will compensate and that’s not what you want. So you start with the chunk, you play it once, then pause. When that feels easy, you play the chunk 2x in a row WITHOUT pause (loop) and then pause. If that feels easy, you try 3x in a row etc. It’s like building up to run a marathon. You start with 1 km, then 2, then eventually 10-20 etc. But it’s no use to keep running when you are already completely exhausted; you are then risking injury. Hope that helped.

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I see ! Thank you ! I’m going to try this method.
I thought that I have to repeat at a lower speed but for a long period … well, not the right way, hopefully I asked.

So, to clarify … I practice with pause while looping the maximum number of chunk I can?
Ex : if my maximum is 5 times in a row, should I repeat 5 times then pause … then try again 5 then pause ?
Or should I practice 3-4 times in a row?

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That raises an important question - how much stamina do you actually need for a particular lick? I have found recently that stamina can vary greatly from lick to lick and trying to get all licks to the same point might be quite pointless. Take the Paul Gilbert lick as described above, do you need to play it 5 times in a row? The reason why I ask is that I was trying to work on it with a view that if I could play loads of repetitions of it, then I could play it across all strings and back again with ease - logical right? However, I found that I could pretty much play all across the strings already at my speed limit without stamina issues, but looping the same lick in one place for the same amount of reps was so much more difficult! I don’t anticipate needing to play the PG lick more than 4 times in a row, so I’m not sure I am going to try and work on the stamina level for that lick. Maybe there is a link between physical stamina and mental interest? I find that I have nore stamina over longer licks than short repeating ones… doesn’t help my chunking though, I suppose…

It’s hard to offer a very specific recipe since you are still in exploration mode, and your variations should be fairly small and random at this point.

Just remember, your goal is not to build stamina like a weightlifter, getting stronger and stronger with each session. Rather, you are using small variations to search for a motion that is slightly more efficient, and thus allows you to play longer before fatigue sets in. I can remember about 10 specific modifications to my form that I made consciously after breakthroughs of this type. I imagine there were far more than that that were unconscious.

If tension builds as you repeat, chances are either your initial form is not optimal, or your initial form is fine, but it deteriorates with each rep. The specific exercises you should do depend on these kinds of details, IMHO (thus difficult to prescribe remotely). But in most cases, it’s useful to focus on maintaining the relaxation and tone with each rep until your rep count increases naturally. Don’t aim at faster or more stamina, aim at relaxed with good tone (aka search for easy). When something is easier, you can do it faster with more repetitions.

FWIW, I have a few speed licks that I can loop more or less infinitely with no fatigue. Other licks I can’t do that (yet).

If you play 5 times in a row and it falls completely apart at the 4th, 5th time: you should then practice 3x in a row. The second you feel that your tension is rising too much, you stop immediately. Then you start over.

The other way (lower speed for longer periods) doesn’t increase your speed and stamina as fast.

Not for nothing, but I can’t knock on a table, 16th notes, at 160 bpm. Easily? Lol

Troy u sure about this? I feel like a loser…lpl

That would be 8th notes at 160 bpm. Knocking is not an alternating motion, so each knock counts for two.

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