How to Play Guitar Faster | 7 Essential Tips

How to play guitar faster today

If you’re like most of us, one of your goals is to play guitar faster. After all, the first thing we notice about experienced guitarists is how fast they play. We feel like we’re plodding along note-by-note, whereas they’re moving up and down the fretboard at lightning speed. We can’t help but be amazed, if not a little jealous. How do they do it?

Some people might suggest they’re more “naturally talented” than the rest of us. It may well be true that some guitarists have a certain amount of inborn talent that the rest of us lack.

However, my view is that hard work combined with an intelligent guitar learning method can compete with, if not outclass, natural talent alone. To read more about the “myth” of all-determining natural talent in music, I highly recommend this article.

With all of that said, here are my 7 essential tips for speeding up your playing!

1) Focus on Accuracy

the secret to guitar speed is all about developing accuracy

You’ll notice a common theme throughout this post: fast guitar playing doesn’t come from trying to play fast. That is, if you increase your tempo before you’ve mastered the necessary movements, all you’ll get is sloppy playing.

As I mentioned above, we’re easily impressed by speed. However, we’re seeing more than just fast finger movements. In reality, what we’re seeing is speed and accuracy combined, with the latter being taken for granted.

Although you may find this counterintuitive, if you focus on accuracy, speed will come much faster than if you work on speed directly. Think of it this way: you can already move your fingers fast, right? You can prove this to yourself by doing jazz hands for a few moments. You just need to translate this finger dexterity to your playing.

I would say that speed on the guitar is unlocked, not created out of nowhere. If you focus on being accurate, then your fingers will speed up naturally. You’ll never have to force it! The bitter irony is that speeding up before you’ve developed accuracy will slow your progress, and it may just prevent you from ever playing faster.

2) Slow Down

Slow Down

If you only take one idea from this post, let it be this: to play guitar faster you need to practice slower. Honestly, it’s as simple as that.

Yet, some of the most simple things in life are also the most difficult. We all know that getting fit involves eating healthier and moving around more, and yet few of us are fit.

We know that our time and money are precious, but we choose to waste so much of both. These things aren’t difficult to understand; they’re difficult to put into action.

So it is with slow playing. You might have heard that playing slow is key to improving at guitar, but if you’re not actually doing it, you won’t see the benefits. What’s the point of understanding the importance of slow playing if, when it comes down to it, you can’t get yourself to play slowly? Self-discipline is absolutely key here!

Why Not Have Fun With It?


Sometimes it helps me to pretend I have to play everything in slow motion. I try to channel my inner child and make a silly game out of it. You should do your best to have fun with the idea of slowing things down. If you’re not sure what I mean, here’s a hilarious Jim Carrey clip to give you some inspiration.

The sooner you convince yourself that slowing down can be fun (rather than boring), the faster you’ll improve. Overall, you should think of slow practice as opening the door to fast playing.

Attempt to go fast too early and you’re basically running into a closed door, which leaves you worse off than you started. If you’re still curious about slow playing, you’ll find more discussion on it in this post.

Finally, I highly recommend you also check out this video for even more great advice on slowing things downIt comes from Dr. Mortensen of Cedarville University. He’s a piano teacher making videos for his incoming college students, but his ideas in this case apply equally well for guitarists of all ages and levels.

3) Improve Your Technique

playing guitar faster requires proper technique

If you want to play guitar faster, you could do worse than to scrutinize your technique. Your playing mechanics go a long way in determining your potential. Watching advanced players, you’ll probably notice that most of them follow the same technical guidelines.

That isn’t to say there’s no wiggle room, or that every guitarist holds their instrument in the same way. As we all know, some guitarists sit, some stand, some use a footstool, some rest the guitar on their right knee, some on their left, etc., etc.

You should choose a position based on 1) what feels best for you, and 2) what’s most common in your preferred style of guitar.

Also, don’t be afraid to mix and match positions. Some guitarists practice classical music with a footstool, steel-string acoustic on their right leg, and stand up to shred on the electric. There’s absolutely no harm in switching things up every so often. You might even discover a new favorite way of playing in the process!

Guitar Technique 101


Here are a few basic rules of good technique that most guitarists agree on:


  • As often as possible, keep your joints in the middle of their range of motion. This means you should avoid extreme wrist, finger, and arm positions.
  • Play with good posture: chin up, back straight, chest forward. This is where it helps to be a guitarist who stands!
  • Never exert more energy than needed. Fret with as little pressure as possible to get a good sound, and don’t barre more often (or more strings) than needed.
  • Combine tension with relaxation. Learn to rest your fingers after strenuous passages. Take breaks frequently and keep your practices relatively short.

If you’re looking for more detailed technical advice, I would have you check out this page. Although those

tips are tailored for classical guitarists, I believe any type of player will benefit from reading through them.

One last note on the importance of good technique: if you really focus on the craft of playing itself (rather than playing any particular song), then you’ll be able to play everything on the guitar better than before, not just any given piece you’re working on. In this regard, technical work is more efficient than ordinary repertoire practice.

4) Be Patient

Be Patient

Trying to play fast before you’re ready is like pulling on a tree to make it grow faster. The surest way to develop speed on the guitar is to be patient. Avoid developing narratives like, “I’ll never play faster because I’m a bad player.” You need to trust yourself and trust the learning process.

Remember that impatient playing is bad playing. If you want to become a good player (at any tempo), you need to avoid bad playing at all costs. It’s almost too simple to be true that good playing, no matter the speed, makes a good player. Yet so true it is!

I admire fast playing as much as the next person, but I’ve found that the less you “care” about the speed of your playing, the faster you’ll be able to go! Again, the key is not to force it.

Think of yourself as being on a kind of guitar playing diet: speeding through a scale (which probably has you flubbing some notes, missing others, etc.) is like eating a bunch of chips.

Slow, deliberate practice, on the other hand, is like eating a beet salad with homemade dressing. The better you keep to your playing diet, the faster you’ll improve!

5) Be a Musician First

music always comes first when learning guitar

I’ve found that it’s easy for guitar players to be more focused on their hands than on the sounds they’re making. By extension, they tend to want to speed up their playing in order to look more impressive, rather than for the sake of the music itself.

We should never lose sight of the real reason we became guitarists in the first place: to make beautiful music.

I’ve found that the more you care about respecting the piece you’re working on, the better chance you’ll have to hit your target tempo. If your focus is less on the music and more on playing fast to seem like an advanced player, that’s guaranteed to hinder your progress.

Again I reiterate theme of this post: the less you stress about playing faster, the faster you’ll go. It’s almost like a magic trick. If you go slowly and really listen deeply and care about the quality of your music, you’ll be playing fast in no time at all.

Personally, I find this all to be very good news. I’d much rather pay attention to the music itself than the speed of my playing anyway.

6) Strike a Balance with the Metronome

the metronome can help you play guitar faster, but avoid overusing it

Like any tool, the metronome can be beneficial or harmful depending on how you use it.

At its best, your metronome will help you stay in time, slow down or speed up with precision, and serve as your personal percussionist. At its worst, your metronome will make practice sessions boring or even hellish, coercing you to focus on musical time above all else.

All things considered, I think you should take a balanced view of the metronome. I wouldn’t go so far as to neglect it entirely, nor do I use it for every practice session. If you’re looking for a great metronome, here’s the best one for your money!

I will say this: one of the most common methods you’ll see guitarists use to speed up their playing is to increase their tempo on the metronome one notch (or 2-8 bpm) at a time. For instance, you might have a rule that if you play a passage correctly 7 times, you can go up a notch, and so forth. You should definitely try this strategy yourself and see if it works for you.

Personally, I don’t use the above approach as often as other players. I prefer to keep playing slowly and building up my accuracy even once a piece of music is well-assimilated. Once I get comfortable enough with a song, I find that increasing my speed to a target tempo is easy and comes naturally. Either method works, so be sure to experiment and see what you like!

7) Use Visualization

Use Visualization

Various kinds of mental practice can be highly effective. If you really want to cut down the amount of time you’ll need to get to those impressive tempos, I suggest you supplement your normal routine with some imaginative work.

Visualization in particular has helped me play guitar faster.

What I’ll do is close my eyes and picture myself as someone with X or Y ability on the guitar in the near future. Maybe I’ll imagine myself playing a fast piece perfectly in a future performance. Maybe I’ll imagine someone watching a video of my playing, thinking, “Wow, look at him go! Golly, I’ll never play like that.” And so forth.

I know this strategy might come off as somewhat crazy to you, and it is a bit crazy to be totally honest. However, you should remember that your mind is an incredibly powerful tool, much more powerful than we sometimes realize.

Learning to believe in yourself and your bright future as a guitarist will facilitate rapid musical progress. Trust me and try it yourself!

For more discussion on this sort of thing, check out this post I wrote on mental practice techniques.


I know that it can be frustrating to feel like you’ll never play as fast as other guitarists. Most of us don’t have to try hard to find someone (often much younger) whose talent blows us out of the water.

Don’t let those players worry you. If you’d like to play fast in the near future, then concentrate on making the most of your practice sessions right now. Do your best to play slowly, accurately, and musically, and I promise you’ll be shredding up and down the fretboard in no time.

Best of luck with your practicing!

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