What are we calling “fast”

I’ve been wondering what would be considered a fast tempo (bpm) for any particular subdivision/technique.
I know we all strive to be able to cleanly play certain phrases with accuracy and speed.
Last night I pulled out the metronome and played my version of a descending 4’s lick. So, 16th notes. I can comfortably with minimal mistakes, high level of accuracy, minimal swiping and can play for an extended period of repitioions at 150 bpm.
I can push to 160 maybe 170 but I get sloppy and it begins to fall apart.
That’s when I started to wonder…”would this speed be considered fast by the average player?”
Obviously there are lots of people that
can play much faster, but what’s fast for the vast majority of players?

It depends a lot on the lick/technique I guess!

For what it’s worth, I think that these types of scalar licks you mention are already fast when played cleanly in the 150-160bpm region.


Definitely depends on the lick. There’s no way I could do sextuplets at 150.

Nono I meant 16th notes at 150, sextuplets would be a bit much :smile:

1 Like

For me, 16ths at 160 and sextuplets at 130 is fast.

1 Like

Playing 16ths at 160 bpm when playing one note on one string is a piece of cake compared to playing 16th-note single note per string arpeggios alternately picked at 160 bpm (for example, Glass Prison).

You can’t define “fast” this way.

1 Like

Personally I think that riffs/licks played perfectly in time @12notes per second and above sound fast.

I made a table to convert between bpm 16ths and triplet 16ths to np/s because I’m mentally lazy :stuck_out_tongue:

BPM 16ths 16th Triplets

120 8nps 12nps
130 8.6nps 13nps
140 9.3nps 14nps
150 10nps 15nps
160 10.6nps 16nps
170 11.33nps 17nps
180 12nps 18nps


We did a “picking speed poll” a while back to get a sense of typical max. picking speeds:


Not scientific data by any means, but fun to see as a ballpark. From what we gathered it looks like ~180 BPM (16th notes) is about average as maximum speed for those who participated. Mean, medium, and mode all about the same.

We didn’t get super specific with the poll but we were thinking fastest speed you can play period, i.e. assume single string / tremolo…of course definitely will vary a lot based on what you’re playing, making it impossible to really have one specific threshold for defining “fast”.

But still maybe interesting to know that 160 BPM 16th notes is roughly 90% of a typical player’s (or at least typical Cracking the Code viewer’s) max speed!


that’s why I said “for me” :wink:

1 Like

Well, for anything involving string changes, I do feel confident that I’ve been around long enough and talked to enough people (And heard enough players) to know that the average ‘string hopper’ can get stuck at 16ths around 110-130. That’s 7.3 to 8.7 notes per second, and it’s also 8th triplets at 147 to 173.

To me that means that people that can push past that have figured out ways (consciously or unconsciously) to avoid “string hopping.”

Because so many people get stuck there, I think clean picking past those tempos often sounds ‘fast’ to many if it’s not something like an easy sweep or a lot of notes on one string.

After that point, I’d agree with others that it depends on the technique being used and who is listening and what the criteria is. Playing one note per string zig zagging patterns, cleanly picked, at 16ths at 140 bpm would impress the hell out of me, but 2-3 notes per string, especially either all ascending or all descending, at that tempo is sort of just like ‘good professional player’ to my ears.

I think it might be too subjective and broad to bring about a useful answer. For example if you’re talking about what’s fast for walking into a guitar store in a small town vs what’s fast for getting a touring gig with some famous metal band, etc.

But I think it’s useful to acknowledge that common string hopping hump. Have just seen and hear way too many people talk about that 110-130 (16ths) range is being their sticking point for it to seem like coincidence.

And personally before I knew about slanting and stuff I spent years banging my head around that range. Honestly I might even say that I reached my max speed with general alternate picking around age 15 or so and stayed there for about 10-12 years until I learned about slanting stuff - and I was really working on it!!!


I can see I left that post too open ended and maybe I needed to be more careful with my wording.
I wasn’t necessarily looking for a “one answer fits all” type thing. That would be impossible.
Basically I asked because while I was playing the 16th descending at 150bpm I felt comfortable but when I try to push it and it began to fall apart I wondered if 150 is fast enough and maybe I was putting too much stock in pushing the bpm. Maybe I should worry more about playing clean and less on a metronome number.
That’s kind of why I asked what the average player would consider fast.
Obviously different patterns, different subdivisions etc change the answer.

1 Like

I think a reasonable response is - what do you want it to sound like when you improvise/play/perform? Are you ‘hearing’ or imagining things that are faster than what you can already play?

1 Like

That’s a good question.
Im not unhappy with the speeds I can pick, or the speeds I can move my fingers.
My synchronization isn’t always where I’d like it to be and some of the trickier patterns can be frustration.
I suppose if my actual technique could be cleaned up and made more accurate I’d be comfortable with that.

I’m fairly certain that I’ll never be as fast as Yngwie etc and im ok with that (mostly…lol)


If you want to explore some faster speeds, you could try some licks that can be played with a mixture of picking and pulloffs, you may be surprised how much faster you can go, and Yngwie himself does a lot of that!

This video by Petrucci gives some very good examples, which work great for UWPS:


Thank you for this!
This is actually something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.
I’ve noticed that many of my shredder heros don’t necessarily pick every single note. I’ve been thinking that I should explore more licks like these as well as more legato phrases. I love theshred thing but I really don’t need to be picking every note all the time.
Im going to have fun with this. Thanks!!

1 Like

I love a nice healthy mix of picking and legato. I love it because it can be hard to tell what the player is doing- it brings the mystery and magic back! And dynamics too!!

As for speed, scaler line 16ths from 160bpm onwards is fast, with 200bpm being the benchmark for elite players (anything beyond that tends to have diminished returns as far as musicality goes - in my opinion).

1 note per string lines (16ths), anything over 150bpm is fast

I don’t understand why notes per second is ever used (other than when converting 16ths to triplets etc). Seems a little pointless…

1 Like

I like using notes-per-second as an objective figure that doesn’t have to be quantified by anything else. For rhythmic values we have to state the subdivision and the tempo, for notes per second we can just give one number.

Depending on context we might be working with 16ths, 8th triplets, 16th triplets, 32nd, etc etc or even quintuplets, so the NPS thing just simplifies the data we really care about for the discussion


Its probably my inability to convert nps into anything meaningful that puts me off! If someone says to me 13nps, I have to get the calculator out to know what the hell they are talking about! :grin:

Whereas I can look at a tab book at the bpm and the highest subdivision in the song and know the likelyhood of me being able to play it with my current technique…


An easy way to convert from nps to BPM is to think in sextuplets:

X notes per second is equivalent to 6 notes per beat at X*10 BPM

10 nps -> 6s at 100bpm
11 nps -> 6s 110bpm

13 nps -> 6s at 130 bpm

and so on :slight_smile: