Sep 9th, 2009
One of the best weapons a guitarist has in the the battle to improve their playing speed is the Metronome. This small machine keeps perfect time with a series of beeps that can be configured for several purposes.
In this article I will explain the 2 most crucial settings to use on the metronome and their relationship to developing lethal shredding speed!
A Major factor to becoming truly fast is mastering tremelo picking. And guess what! Yep, our buddy the metronome is going to help us to do it.
Temelo picking is just alternate picking – down,up,down,up etc. - on one note so lets set the metronome up and get started!
Set the Metronome to 8th note triplets and adjust the tempo to a nice easy speed. Your starting tempo should be something you can play easily with no error for an extended time period. You should heara steady pulse of clicks (Tic, tic, tic – Tic, tic, tic – Tic, tic, tic – Tic, tic, tic) with a staggering feel.
Now start alternate picking in time with the clicks on the 5th fret of the large E string(note A). The clicks come in a series of 3 so I want you to play the 1st click of each group of 3 slightly louder than the other 2. This is your pulse click which needs to be in perfect time.
If your metronome has a pendulum arm or a horizontal LED display you should play the pulse note whenever the arm reaches the extreme left or right. In the case of an LED display this is the extremeleft or right LED light. It is common for metronomes to play the pulse note louder as well.
You should realize that when you hear a guitar player playing fast tremelo picking that the notes are a series of small bundles - in this case they are 3 note bundles – tied together to form a larger musical pattern. The pulse note will become familiar to you so if you solo over a song with a fast 4/4 tempo you can simply count off the pulse notes in time with the beat. A bar of tremelo picking using the above setting produces 12 notes per bar. By recognising you pulse note you only have to count from 1 to 4 to keep effective time using tremelo picking.
So now that you have a few ideas about how and why to do things you can increase the tempo speed. I like to jump up in 10bpm lots but you can use smaller amounts. The main thing to remember is not to increase the tempo by large amounts too quickly. Lets say you started at 80bpm and you executed your tremelo picking with no mistakes using relaxed alternate picking technique and economy of movement(small controlled movements). Now, bump it up to 90bpm and listen to clicks before you play anything.
Before you start you should realise that there is no difference between playing slow and fast. Its common for students to hear a faster tempo and immediately say to themselves “That's too fast I'll never do that”. And guess what? Their mind makes it true. Your mind is so powerful that it will make statements like this a reality. You should instead clear your mind of all thought and simply play.
Lets continue. Using the correct mindset above you tremelo pick perfectly at 90bpm so you would bump the tempo up to 100bpm make your mind calm and clear of distraction then go for it!
If you find that you were not able to make the jump to 90bpm then stay on 80 bpm for a day or two or even a week. If you are new to tremelo picking then you have to condition your muscles to perform the work. Training your muscles should be done at a slow tempo from 40 – 60bpm. Once this is done then attempt to increase your speed again and you will see a huge improvement.
I mentioned 2 crucial settings earlier. The 2nd is 16th notes. Set your metronome to this setting and listen to the clicks. This time you will hear bundles of 4 clicks(Tic, tic, tic, tic – Tic, tic, tic, tic – Tic, tic, tic, tic – Tic, tic, tic, tic). Lets start with a nice easy tempo say 60bpm. As before, start alternate picking on the 5th fret of the big E string(Note A). Play the pulse note slightly louder than the other 3.
The process for improving speed is the same for 16th notes as 8th note triplets.
You should practice tremelo picking separately on all 6 strings as each string has different resistence and uses the muscles in your hand differently
If you are interested in more information on my guitar teaching methods I do have an ebook available with MP3's titled Shred Lords – Neoclassical Guitar available at my website www.jameserceg.com. James Erceg is a full time professional guitar teacher and player.