What Now? I can play fast, but I don't know what to play


I’ve spent the past year or so religiously practicing the CTC way. i finally cracked MY code, and now i can shred at the speed of MAB. But,what i play sounds awful. Now that i can shred, I dont know what to play, it all sounds really mechanical, like the Paul Gilbert lick and descending sixes. i spent all this time trying to play fast, and now that i can i dont know what to play. Are there any resources you guys would recommend for improving creative improv at higher speeds?


Permission to ask a fairly stupid question.

Can you play creative things you like at low speeds?


You can also go and learn tunes that use these techniques now, so you can see how they fit into real music. When you see how other composers do it, you may get some ideas of your own as well. I personally like many songs by Paul Gilbert and Vinnie Moore, and they are a direct application of the anti-gravity seminar!


what players do u like? who or what do u want to sound like? When all else fails, just learn some other players solos or just copy some licks etc

a lot of players start with slow playing and learn how to do some blues phrasing etc and then they eventually add speed and longer runs etc…maybe you can just do the opposite.

one good starting point is to get good at bends with vibrato. Learn to bend with vibrato and then go into one of your runs and also learn how to finish your runs with a nice bent note

learn to highlight a few chord tones etc

some examples:

Yngwie. fast licks alternated with slow bendy stuff

John Sykes. best combination singer/writer/lead player EVER. Just copy his vibrato and half the work is done. Slow phrasing building up to nice fast lick

EVH. Take some Clapton blues phrases, throw in some nice licks highlighting a few chord tones here and there, then throw in some flashy picking

Jake E Lee. Start off with some nice bluesy phrasing, throw in some nice rhythmic touches, then build up to a nice fast continuous flash lick

Randy. start off with nice flashy blues lick, throw in some diatonic and/or pentatonic sequences, deep vibrato, phrase around a bit and hit 'em with another flashy continuous lick, noodle some more etc

Paul. nice slow bendy phrasing, highlight some chord tones, finish off with some nice sequenced arpeggio stuff

Bruce Bouillet (The Scream) mix in blues phrasing with some nice continuous legato, more blues phrasing, nice picking lick, more blues, u get the picture


Hey, congrats! That’s an awesome first step.

The second step, after figuring out HOW to play fast, is figuring our WHAT to play fast. That’s a whole 'nother can of worms, but a couple quick thoughts…

I tend to think of speed as a texture. And, music - to me - works best when it has a lot of variety in its texture. So, try think about music in terms of tension and release, ebb and flow, and building and raising tension over time. It’s kind of narrative really - a good solo or song should build like a story. In practice, that means I think it makes sense to think about using fast runs as an accent more than the “core” of a solo, or if you do want a solo of unadulturated shred, then at least thinking about breaking up note groupings here and there - like, don’t settle into straight 16th notes, add the occasional sustained note, bursts of triplet 16ths, maybe a couple 8th note runs here and there, etc. This is something I’ve been working on a lot in my own playing lately, when I start “shredding” in a solo, being very cognizant that I don’t become rhythmically repetitive, whatever I’m doing melodically.

Obviously, the other side of that coin is you probably want to think about not becoming melodically repetitive, either. Something I’ve found helps is that when I’m approaching a solo section, just siitting there and listening to the track, and trying to imagine a solo, before playing it. That helps ensure I’m not just ripping through patterns, but that I’m thinking about a solo compositionally. I figure I listen to a lot of music with really awesome, dramatic solos, so I know what one should sound like, and there’s no reason I can’t imagine one that sounds like me, but awesome-er.


This is exactly my philosophy on lead guitar work. Heck you said it better than I ever could and this advice even reads like a great solo. Well done.


Thank you. :rofl: In a former life I was a literature major, so if I can’t wing something on a message board with some eye towards narrative flow and structure, then I’d be an embarrassment to my alma mater!

…though, I do think thinking about an improvised solo’s structure in terms of some other form of expression - be it classical composition, be it a short story, be it a good joke, anything like that… is a pretty useful way to keep every solo you take from turning into a blizzard of 32nd notes. Really, thinking about a solo in terms of ANY sort of structure - like, off the top of my head I’m not exactly sure how you’d structure a guitar solo like a suspension bridge, but if you could think of a way to describe it, applying those concepts to a solo would probably yield interesting results - could probably work.

For what its worth - my favorite guitar solo is Satriani’s lead break on “Until We Say Goodbye.” The song itself is maybe a little stiff though it has some cool moments, but the guitar solo starting around 1:40 or so is just perfect, to my ears.

Couple notes -

  • The song is in Am, but the lead modulates to a new tonal center of Dm, and does so so subtly that I didn’t even notice until I saw a transcription. Satch is good for things like this, adding interesting modulations to his solos, to make it sound, right off the bat, that the solo is taking you somewhere, by starting somewhere else.

  • I think how he uses speed here is interesting - the first two bars are slow and melodic with a touch of speed for accent, followed by two bars of fast playing, followed two more two bar blocks of slower and melodic lines. Then, four bars bar blocks of speed, followed by two bars of predominately giant, tense, bluesy bends with a little bit of speed, and then two bars of big, but resolved-feeling bends forming a repeated motif, and then - similar to the first two bars - two bars of slower melodic playing but with the occasional fast, blistering line. It’s definitely a call-and-response sort of thing, where (IMO) the fast lines are more effective because of the way he sets them up with slower, melodic ones.

  • I also think it’s interesting how he does the same thing with his bends. For me, the “climax” of the solo isn’t a fast run, it’s those massively tense bends around 2:14-14, coming out of a fast section. You then contrast those immediately with the very “inside” repeated motif around 2:19, which sort of provides a little bit of resolution… just in time to set up another blistering fast run before you resolve the solo with that very chordal-sounding descending line into 2:30 or so.

  • Also, the fact Satch is playing this with what sounds like a Strat run through a light amount of gain? It’s completely no fair, haha.

Idunno. This is one of my favorite solos, and agree or disagree on the nature of the solo itself… I think there’s value in sitting down and working out a lead and trying to figure out what makes it tick, not just the notes and scales employed, but WHY they sound awesome the way they do… Regardless of genre there’s a lot of fertile material to be found there.


Everyone wants to play blazing fast and be able to improvise and shred at will, but completely blow past the part where they develop their inner ear, their listening and their creative drive.

My prescription to you is to take a small break to from running the rote stuff on the website and instead listen to the stuff that you love. Make a short list of your favourite stuff. Maybe it’s a whole song, maybe it’s a 10-second run. I don’t care what it is. Listen to it until you can sing it (or recreate it in your head) from memory without breaking a sweat. This may be tougher than it sounds.

Then learn to play it.

The stuff that we love is there for a reason. It’s trying to tell you something. When you’re learning the stuff that you love, you should consider why you love it. Be as vivid and as specific as you can. What is the opening run from “I’ll See The Light Tonight” (or whatever) trying to tell YOU?

Your creative drive and inner listening will improve with time but you need to feed it. Garbage In, Garbage Out, right?

Don’t worry about regurgitating paths that have already been crossed before by learning existing licks. As your inner ear develops your creative drive will start to muscle up. You’ll catch yourself wondering “hm, what if I tried THIS here instead?” You want to work on this until the ideas are basically screaming at you from inside your head while you play.

You won’t be able to play stuff that you like until you can image it in your head as vividly as you remember your favourite painting, most inspirational quote, recreate your favourite childhood memories.



I can’t nail down a specific song, but I’m sure I’ve heard this type of approach in some of Alex Skolnick’s solos with Testament. And Skolnick is a guy who I believe took lessons from Satch at some point and later got really into jazz harmony in his own right.


Yeah, Skolnick is awesome, really distinctive phrasing. One of my favorite thrash players.

Credit where credit’s due, you also hear it in a lot of Jimi Hendrix’s playing. Purple Haze, the solo section modulates from E to F#, Love or Confusion goes from G to Am, if I remember right, probably a few more I’m forgetting about…

Really, I gotta put more thought into writing chord changes for my solo sections. :smiley:


If I recall correctly, the holy trinity of my teen years (Warren, Jake, and George) did this sort of thing all the time, too. Very effective.


I know just what you mean. What to play? The agony of the blank page. or hissing amp. lol

Lots of great comments above.

For me the most interesting music tells a story. And your solos, fast or slow, should do just that.

Is there a way to expand on the melody or lyrics? What about expanding on the rhythm being played on the high hat? Contrast is always welcome too.

Can you play fast but make it sound like something other than a guitar? Can you play fast but give the impression it isn’t? What can you add texturally?

Just trying to add another pov, apologies if I repeated any of the great advice already given. (And props to the shout out for Sykes.)


this is the exact sort of post where we need to hear an example for us to make any meaningful recommendations



i havent been online in almost a month, went out of town for christmas vacation. im so sorry i havent replied but it seems like this started a great conversation. to your guys questions about my playing at slower speeds, yes, i would consider myself a good blues player, mainly a rock/jazz guitarist, my metal playing has always sounded kind of like friedmans slower solos, lots of bends and long notes with heavy vibrato followed by slippery guthrie style legato lines. but my legato lines were always an attempt to just play fast and rarely musical, nothing like guthries creativity ( hes probably my fave guitarist as of late ) . i always wanted to pick like gilbert, but as ive gotten faster picking, i like gilbert less and less, and have really gotten into yngwies stuff. listen to rising force like every other day. i just cant seem to come up with fast picking lines that actually sound good, ill work on some note for note solos, its probably time to tackle some of guthries stuff, which ive always wanted to do. Over vacation ive learned almost all of paganinis 5th ( cliche or what? ) in crosspicking, and man, classical guys know a thing or two about sequences and thats sure helped.


Yes, the classical people know quite a lot, don’t they?


If you like Guthrie, why not (more or less) directly learn from him? I bought his book “Creative Guitar 2” some years ago and it covers a wide range of ideas.
His licks sound very musical and maybe give you the much needed inspiration.


ill check out that book, thanks for the recco man!