PHOTO: Cindy Moorhead
This tip is a useful method for increasing picking speed. The key is not to focus on every single downstroke and up stroke but to only focus on certain pick strokes.
The easiest way to apply this to a single note tremolo picked note is to count the quarter notes in your head (or out loud), 1-2-3-4. If you’re playing 16th notes, you’ll be picking four notes for every count.
In the example below (EXAMPLE 1) you’ll see a repeating tremolo picked note on the G string. Try accenting the first note of each group of four and count aloud as you do so. The idea is to make the quarter notes your goal and forget about the notes in between.
Not only do you mentally concentrate on the quarter notes, but you physically accent them with your pick. One way of doing this is to use a thumb-and-forefinger motion to accent the downstroke—or you can just use a slightly heavier wrist movement. Really try and get an audible "snap" from the pick as you do so.
By focusing only on those quarter-note downstrokes, the notes in between take care of themselves. If you ever lose your thread, just stop and physically play only the quarter note downstrokes. This primes you mentally for the task, so when you do go at it and settle into a 16th-note blast, you’ll know exactly what pulse you’re accenting. You can apply this accenting approach to triplets as well. See EXAMPLE 2 below.
You just accent the first note of each group of six. Being a downstroke, this makes it much easier to emphasize.
Why do this at all? By focusing your attention on these accents, you stand a much greater chance of keeping yourself locked in with the tempo and avoiding that annoying, slowing-down effect that happens when you have nothing to physically and mentally to which to anchor your efforts. And what happens when you're able to lock in to higher tempos than before? You increase the speeds at which you’re able to drill some tremolo picking or some simple one-string shapes.
You can make massive alternate picking gains just by picking single notes on one string. By using the accenting approach and combining that with some speed bursts (speed work combined with rests for recuperation), you’ll be able to increase your maximum speed and overall stamina.
Ben Higgins started playing guitar at age 10. He’s released five solo albums and continues to teach guitarists from around the world. In 2012, he released the YouTube video “30 Shredders in One Solo,” in which he emulated the style of 30 of the world’s greatest guitarists. He followed it up with “30 Misplaced Shredders” and “Another 30 Shredders." In 2016, Ben developed his “Badass…” online courses, which are aimed at improving people’s technique in picking, sweeping and hand synchronization. To find out more about Ben and his courses, visit benhigginsofficial.com.