As you learn guitar and grow in confidence you will learn new techniques and undoubtedly want to play faster and use guitar tricks to progress even more.

Once you have all the techniques mastered, it is likely that you will realise that you don’t play fast enough. And while speed is only one aspect of playing guitar, it is something that comes with a very experienced or creative musician.

If you are serious about becoming an accomplished player, speed is one of the guitar tricks that you are to have to work on.

Often guitar players get discouraged when they realise that their lack of speed is preventing their progress, but this is normal, don’t give up, speed is something that you can learn, practise and attain.

man playing guitar on stage in shadow
As you practise, you will build up muscle memory. (Source: Unsplash)

Guitar playing speed is characterised by flexibility as your fingers are taught to relax. This will give you great freedom in movement. It also means that guitar tricks like guitar licks and solos found in jazz and rock pieces will be possible.

In this article, we are not going to discuss music theory, tablature, chord shapes we are going to talk speed!

So, are there guitar tricks to learning how to play fast? Do guitar picks play a role? Will you be taught speed in your online guitar lessons? Does speed come automatically when you learn guitar?

Controlling Tension to Play Faster

Controlling tension is the most important of all guitar tricks if you want to play faster.

And actually, these tips are even suited to beginners, so just because you are doing online guitar lessons doesn’t exempt you from practising your speed.

At any level, every guitarist faces the challenge of tension. Incorrect tension can prevent you from playing precisely and smoothly and slow down movement. As you learn guitar, remember that it’s key to teach your fingers to relax.

Tense fingers can also cause cramps, neck, shoulder and arm stiffness. Tension can even cause numbness and injuries like tendinitis.

Often as we learn guitar, we only realise how tense we are when it is too late and the habit has been established. Being aware of this from the beginning is some of the best guitar-playing advice you will hear.

How to Know If You Are Tense When Playing the Guitar

Here’s a little test to find out whether you are tense when playing the guitar: sit in a normal position with your guitar.

Using one of your guitar picks, or your fingers, play the first string back and forth. Begin slowly and gradually increase the tempo until you go faster and faster. Then, stop abruptly.

Examine how you feel. Is there any pain in your fingers, shoulders or hands?

Doing this will give you a physical and mental awareness of any tension that you could prevent you from increasing your speed and guitar playing progress.

brown guitar
Build up your technique slowly, whether you are playing an acoustic or electric guitar. (Source: Unsplash)

Slowly, you will begin to correct mistakes and improve your posture as you play.

Practise Your Fingerwork to Play the Guitar Faster

As you know muscles and indeed the body, have their own memory and you could even add this fact to your guitar tricks as you learn.

The more you practise, the more your body will get used to a certain rhythm.

As you practise, do regular exercises and try different movements and you will learn to relax.

Remember that muscular memory is not the same as intellectual memory – it works independently. As we move, we do not consciously control muscles. Think about when you learn to cycle or walk, it becomes a motor skill, you don’t constantly have to tell your leg to put one foot in front of the other, amazingly, the body does it all instinctively.

It’s the same when you learn guitar. And to play fast, you need to go through this stage of learning – it will require concentration and practise, but in the end, your speed will come naturally!

Build Up Guitar Speed by Starting Slowly

The most common mistake that people make as they learn guitar is to want to play at full speed or know all the guitar tricks as soon as possible.

This simply doesn’t work, as guitar-playing ability comes with constant, repeated, practise.

Whether you are doing online guitar lessons or have a private tutor, know that building up your techniques slowly is a great virtue. Give yourself time to progress. The same principle applies whether you are learning the electric guitar, acoustic or classic.

So whether you are trying to learn chord progressions for a rhythm guitar or want to speed along the pentatonic scale like a blues player on a fretboard, just start slowly. This advice is up there with the best guitar tricks.

Remember that Clapton and Hendrix were not born expert guitarists, they also started at the beginning. Make it enjoyable; when you need to learn new ranges or grasp a technique at least try playing something by your favourite musician.

Maintain a good posture, gently increase speed, use a metronome and build up speed and rhythm.

Playing the Guitar Slowly: A Tricky but Critical Step

It might seem slow and boring at first, but it’s the same as learning how to walk before you can run. Starting off slowly is essential whether you have chosen online guitar lessons or have a tutor.

If you begin by playing softly, you will be able to control your movement and easily identify what does and doesn’t work. This can apply to power chords, rock riffs, open chords, and arpeggios, but also as you try and master the fastest lead guitar or fingerpicking exercises.

Practise using both your left and right hands simultaneously. Keep an eye on muscle tension in shoulders, hands or fingers. Practising slowly will also increase your ear training and help you identify the complexities of the music which will also help to speed you up.

It doesn’t matter whether you are learning to play on an inexpensive guitar, your body will remember the exercises, power will increase and the speed of your fingers will begin to go faster and faster.

Use a Metronome to Practise Guitar

You might be wondering why you need this object to learn guitar, but actually it could be as useful as one of your guitar picks.

What is a metronome? It’s a machine that uses a steady pulse to set speed and help you to keep pace. It’s an excellent way to progress in terms of speed.

So how do you play with a metronome? First, begin by playing the range of your riff slowly, without help from your metronome. Once again, pay attention to the tension in your body.

Once you have played each note with care and have a feel for the sequence, set the metronome at a rather slow pace, 30 beats per minute to start and then start playing in time.

Once you have this speed mastered without tension in your body, simply speed up the tempo and play faster. It’s time-consuming and requires patience, but this practise will build long-lasting guitar-playing foundations. And while you might not come across this in your online guitar lessons, this is one of the important guitar tricks as you progress.

man using guitar pick to play guitar
Test your tension by playing a string back and forth. (Source: Unsplash)

Not only will you play better and faster, but you could also start to sing while playing the guitar.

More Techniques for Playing Guitar

The greatest guitarists, the ones who play fast, have the most guitar tricks.

Try and learn as many guitar techniques as you can by heart – whether it’s fingerstyle guitar or knowing chord shapes, everything will increase your speed and dexterity. Here are a few tips:

  • Start with simple legato exercises daily for 20 minutes
  • Pick a scale and play it over and over
  • Watch online videos on YouTube.

Play Your Guitar Every Day

There are many guitar tricks, but one of the best ones to remember is to practise regularly. The more you play, the more confidence you will gain, until eventually, you will be able to improvise on the guitar and even sing while playing lead guitar in a band.

With practise, your style will become more flexible, effortless and natural. And what’s more, you will be able to play fast if you want to.

It’s important to know that it’s not how much time you spend trying to learn how to play fast, but rather the types of methods you choose to get this right. As you learn guitar, make sure that you are always finding the best methods to help you progress.

Practise daily, work intelligently, apply the various techniques mentioned, and don't forget to tune your guitar regularly. Be patient and one you will reach the speed you are looking for on your guitar without even realising it.

A private tutor is often the best person to explain and present the guitar tricks and methods you need to make sure there are no gaps in your education as you learn guitar.

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Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.