In this article I would like to give you some helpful tips on how you can improve your guitar technique. It doesn’t matter if you are just a beginner or an advanced player. Follow the 3 steps below and you will make your practice sessions more productive.
1. Alternate Picking
Sounds simple and unimportant, but this can cause you trouble later down the line. When you repeatedly strum the same guitar string as part of a riff you should always apply the alternate picking technique i.e. hitting the string Down-Up-Down and so on. This ensures that every hit lands with uniform sound and also, it allows you to play at maximum possible speed. Too often beginners start by playing their riffs with just Down- or Up-picking because it was never explained to them properly. If this becomes a habit, it is difficult to change later on.
Trust me, I’ve experienced this first hand as I used to be a serial Down-picker. But then the day came when I started learning faster riffs and sweeps and I just couldn’t keep up anymore. Picking in only one direction slows you down significantly and if you ever want to shred fast, you will have to learn alternate picking – There’s no way around it. Don’t set yourself up with a roadblock from the start like I did: Learn it right from Day 1.
2. Quality over Speed
You just heard that juicy riff on the stereo or you just cant get that sweet lick out of you ears? You jump on your guitar and flick open the tab and start shredding…I know the feeling, I’ve been there many times before. You want to play the entire riff as fast as you can an make that crispy sound blast from your own amp. Hold up! Too often this approach leads you to neglecting technique and sound quality in pursuit of speed. What you should try instead is playing back the riff at half speed and practising it until your sound is perfect. Make sure you can hear every single note clearly and your left hand is positioned well at all times. Then slowly increase the speed while maintaining your sound quality. Believe me, this will not only improve your technique faster but your listeners will hear the major difference.
3. Use a Metronome
If there is a single advice that I wish you could take on board, it would be this: Always practise with a metronome. Timing is one of the most crucial elements of music and you should put much emphasis on it during your practise. Playing with a metronome keeps you in check during your exercise, but it also trains your ears. Practise with a metronome for a few sessions and you will notice that you have become more sensitive to the timing. It is certainly the only way you can train yourself to master high-speed riffs and solos. Also…our ears are very sensitive to timing discrepancies, so it is very embarassing if you slip out of tempo during your performance. During interviews guitarists such as John Petrucci, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai all agreed that a metronome is a very crucial component of every practise session if you are serious about improving your guitar playing.