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Reader feedback: Playing slow to play fast

Play guitar fast by playing slowA few weeks ago I posted the results of my experiment with learning to play fast by playing slow, and outlined the process I used to dramatically increase my picking speed in a couple of focused practice sessions. Some readers have given it a try and are seeing results! PLAG reader AC recently wrote to tell me about his success with the approach:


I recently read your speed experiment post and decided to try it. I have to
say the results are astounding! I have tried a number of different ways of
practicing, and this method really makes the material become second nature.

It let me achieve a sort of “mindless” playing, where I don’t have to think/worry about the fingers getting it right as it’s so well glued. Being able to play tricky things without having to really think about them was something I’ve been trying to achieve since reading Kenny Werner’s “Effortless Mastery” (definitely worth a read).

Thanks so much for this, it’s really made a difference to my


[LL: my emphasis]

AC, I’m glad you got some value from the article. And thanks for the tip about Effortless Mastery — I’ve just ordered it. Looks like a great read!

Dear readers, if you’ve not given the “play slow” method a try, perhaps AC’s success will convince you that it’s worth a shot.

(Too bad I don’t have a “secrets to playing fast” product to sell, because AC’s email would make a killer testimonial to use in direct marketing! :cool: )

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+ Comment by jomaheux
2007-08-15 02:20:59

Oooh,it’s been so quiet here…People must practising like maniacs!

Lori,i just noticed the new pictures of your equipment at home.
Those are my kind of pictures!
Gorgeous new guitar!
How do you like the EMGs compared to your other pick-ups?
What brand are your monitors?

Please forgive me to be such a :geek:

Type to you later!

+ Comment by Juan
2007-08-15 17:42:54

Funny, I was just about to ask about the new Luna guitar. Very sweet by the way :smile:

+ Comment by Dinosaur David B.
2007-08-18 05:10:37

Hey Lori. The title of of your “Play Slow to Play Fast” article got me thinking about the other side of this thing. In my experience on my website, I encounter a lot of kids who think playing fast is the be-all end-all, and while I admire speed chops as much as the next guy, I have actually encountered young guys who can shred me under the table, but have ZERO ability to actually play SLOWLY, and melodically. And when they do, their control isn’t there. For example, I’ve got a very talented teenager on my site who’s been willing to listen to me and some of more experienced players on my site. And while he can play Petrucci stuff note for note, when I asked him to slow down, he was shakey. So I had him learn Jeff Beck’s Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers which has far less notes, but requries much more control.

Now clearly, you don’t need to practice fast to learn how to play slow, but I think those of us in a position to do so, should put some emphasis on learning how to play slowly, because (IMO) without SLOW, fast has no dynamic contrast (and you end up with guys like Yngwie who overplay on everything. Personally, I am far more moved by guys like Jeff Beck or John Sykes who can play beautifully, slowly (as demonstrated in any live version of John playing Lizzy’s Still In Love with You) — and then (still) rip your head off with speed chops elsewhere.

But the ability to slow down, play melodies, milk notes, apply a smooth controlled vibrato are the guitarists true tools of expression (more than speed is). And without that, you’re just wanking.

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-08-19 00:07:11

Dave, I *completely* agree with your points above. But I’ll mention two things which will (hopefully) shed some light on the ulterior motives behind some of my topics:

organic search traffic
link bait

Of course I consider other things as well, but any time I write about “shred” or playing fast those are my two primary objectives. Shallow, I know. But the amount of traffic/attention generated by my idiotic arpeggio vids and posts about playing fast VASTLY outweighs that from my forays into stuff I’m REALLY passionate about, like vibrato and phrasing. Go figure! :roll:

+ Comment by Dinosaur David B.
2007-08-19 00:40:40

I’m sure it does. But I wonder, if that’s just a chicken vs egg kind of situation. What I hate to see is young people making the same mistakes over and over if I can tell them things I WISH someone had told ME at age 18, or 22, or 25. PRACTICE your vibrato(s) practice your bends (i.e. bending in pitch) practice your CONTROL, your phrasing and melodies. Because even if you can play at Shrapnel Shredder speeds, without those other things in your toolbox, you’re STILL going to look and sound like an amateur to seasoned players. A lot of times, the lightbulb finally goes on for these kids between age 25-30, and they realize they have all the speed they’ll ever need and none of the rest of it. And then they have to play catch-up on everything. What I try to do is say: Here’s what I wish I would have worked on at your age IN ADDITION to speed.

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-08-20 02:56:08

Hear here. In fact, I’ll test it. Articles on the stuff I *really* like comin’ up soon!

Guest posters are also welcome to submit articles, nudge nudge, wink wink…

+ Comment by Dinosaur David B.
2007-08-30 05:10:11

What have you got in mind?

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-08-31 21:44:44

I’m pretty much open to anything, so if there’s some juicy guitar goodness that you’d like to write about, you’re welcome. You’ll get a wider readership in an article than in the comments section :-)

+ Comment by Dinosaur David B.
2007-09-03 23:13:11

What if we did sort of a back and forth discussion on the topic?

(No nesting below this level)
+ Comment by Lovecrafter
2007-08-19 20:10:05

Hi Lori and everyone.
I am a late starter on this guitar issue :) And unfortunatelly i also don’t have the patience of playing the same stupid lick over and over (don’t even have to mention, “slow”). I have that “economic” style in my picking :) Now i wanna ask, what is the evil thing in economy picking ? I mean, why is it bad ? Even some veteran shredders and famous names do that sometimes. I even saw Michael Romeo say that he uses economy picking with alternate picking in his playing.
So do i really have to change the way i am picking ? Cause if this is the way, it is gonna be a long and stressfull experience for me. I wish i didn’t quit the drums :) I was very good at it. But ahh whatever. Our issuse is the guitar :)

And i really should mention that Lori, seems to be a wonderful person, that she patiently replies each and every comment on this blog. Thanks a lot.

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-08-20 02:54:46

Oh dear, that “I don’t have the patience to…” thing is gonna bite you in the butt eventually, mark my words. Patience is your friend. Trust me. :twisted:

Anyway, economy picking is only evil under two conditions:
1) You mean to be doing some other kind of picking (like alt picking)
2) You are doing half-assed, crappy economy picking.

There is of course nothing wrong with using economy picking, and no need for you to change your picking style.

In fact, once I feel really comfortable with my alt picking I’ll be tackling economy picking as well.

I’ve seen links posted to this article in various places, and from the ensuing discussions I see that a follow-up post is in order to set some things straight that I forgot to mention or got wrong the first time around.

+ Comment by Graeme
2007-08-30 15:02:08

I have to say, I’m finding this practice technique really helpful. I’m already good at improvising and bending notes etc, but I’ve always had trouble with playing fast when I need to (i.e. when it’s not crass!)

Thanks a lot for the advice and inspiration!

+ Comment by Lorinator
2007-08-31 21:41:44

I’m glad you’re finding it useful, Graeme. Thanks for letting me know. :-)


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