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Building Speed

Whether you're already playing in a group or simply attending musical get-togethers, the ability to keep pace with others can often be a trying experience.

A common question for many beginners and even those with more experience is how you can build speed. It's not a simple solution but there are steps you can take to increase your proficiency at tempos currently beyond your reach.

Myth or Fact?

Myth: speed = drive.

Fact: good musicians can play at moderate tempos with a lot of feeling. They make the music sound exciting and too often that's mistaken for a fast tempo.

Myth: all good musicians can play fast.

Fact: many good musicians can play fast, but it's the ability to play with feeling that makes one a good musician, not speed.

Myth: fast bands are more exciting.

Fact: exciting bands play great music. Whether it's celtic, bluegrass, old-time, jazz or other style of music, an occasional up-tempo tune can be a crowd pleaser. Play two or more in a row in that style and the crowd will ache for something different.

Myth: if I practice with a metronome and crank it up a few notches every day I'll be playing like blazes in a few weeks.

Fact: If this really worked everyone would be doing it.

Be sure you know where you're coming from. Too many people strive for speed before good tone, timing and technique... a very, very dangerous recipe for a beginner.

Speed should be gained slowly along with good tone, timing and overall musicianship.

Before You Start

There are some simple steps you can immediately take that may improve your ability to play at faster tempos.

We've said it before: old strings, poor bridge set-up, worn frets, bad action, or the wrong kind of pick are all factors that have a negative impact on your playing ability.

What's going to work for you? That's your job to figure out. Don't be afraid to try different strings, different picks. You'll know right away when you hit on a good solution.

With some of these basic factors out of the way let's look at some tips for improving speed.

Practice Tips

Have you noticed the pattern? The techniques presented for increasing your speed are really all about being a good musician. They're about really knowing your instrument and a thoughtful approach to your craft. Armed with that knowledge you're bound to find you can keep time with others. And with that out of the way you can focus more energy on the really important part... playing just the cool notes.

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