The Road To Hell: Part 1
Hello there and welcome to my column. I remember when I first started out; I bought just about every guitar book and video known to man. I wanted to be the latest and greatest thing on the guitar the world had ever seen! While I tried to play the songs and licks of all my favorite idols, I usually would give up after a very long time (hours and hours), accomplishing nothing, and being frustrated. All the books/magazines/videos had the coolest licks in them but I kept wondering why I couldn't "just play it like it was". Then, one day out of the blue, I broke down and decided to take lessons. From those lessons I learned that I needed to develop my technique through developing an organized regimen of exercises and drills as well as learning things like theory, scales, arpeggios, chord/scale relationships, etc. Low and behold, I did just that and within my first year of playing, I had developed very decent chops as well as the ability to play those really cool licks that I wanted to learn so badly.
The following exercises are little sextuplet (groups of six) sequences that I practice to get my alternate picking going. I have seen some of these used by others. Some of them I made myself (feel free to do this too). I have only included single-string examples this time around due to the fact that this lesson is aimed at those that are just starting out. Still, I've been playing for 14 years and these still help me quite a bit. I tend to practice them chromatically and diatonically, on all the strings.
Here are some additional pointers to help you in your quest to shred:
1) WHEN LEARNING ANYTHING, PRACTICE IT REALLY SLOW.
This will help you in perfecting your technique. I tend to start all my warm-ups and exercises at about 40 bpm on the metronome. Ironically, playing a lick/exercise/drill/whatever as slow as possible is the quickest way to becoming fast which leads to the next tip:
2) ALWAYS USE A METRONOME.
All the great shredders swear by a metronome. If you don't have one, get one. It'll help develop timing as well as technique. Don't speed it up until you've MASTERED it at the current level. You need to be able to play it clean, consistent, and effortlessly.
This one is often overlooked. Your body and hands should not be tensing up the faster you go.
4) DON'T LIFT YOUR FINGERS ANY MORE THAN YOU HAVE TO.
I once had a martial arts instructor tell me that speed is the absence of unnecessary motion. Make sure there is no wasted movement
5) DO NOT REST THE PALM OF YOUR LEFT HAND ON THE NECK.
The only thing that should be touching as far as your left hand is concerned, is the thumb on the back of the neck and the finger(s) that are doing the fretting.
6) WHATEVER TECHNIQUE YOU USE, STAY CONSISTENT.
Some people pick with their wrist, some pick with their forearm, other use a combo of the two. Do whatever works for you, BUT make sure that you use the same approach to playing fast as you would practice slow and vice versa.
7) BUY ALL THE STUFF FROM CHOPS FROM HELL.
Out of all the books, videos, and other resources I've seen, the stuff here is very top of the line. Besides, I found my 3 new favorite guitarists from this site; Rusty Cooley, Derek Taylor, and Chris Brungardt.
In the next installment of this column, I will show some of my cross picking and position shifting exercises, but for now, have fun with these and remember if you practice these consistently, you'll shred in no time.