Developing speed on the guitar takes work. You’re not going to suddenly wake up one morning and be able to fly around the neck at super speed without putting in some time. As playing the guitar incorporates a number of different techniques, there isn’t just one method or approach to building speed. You need to have the technical ability to be able to do it in both hands but you also need to have them playing in sync. Otherwise it just sounds like a sloppy mess.

How about some ideas then to build speed and synchronise both hands. I’m sure everyone’s played an exercise similar to Figure A at some stage. Clean alternate picking with your right hand and clear, accurate fretting with your left hand is the aim. You can then obviously move this all over the neck to adjust to the different fret spacing and get used to various positions. 

Keeping the same constant semiquaver rhythm, and alternate picking with your right hand, there are plenty of variations. Figure B reverses the idea and leads off with your little finger on your left hand. Often your little finger can be much weaker than your other fingers so work at slow tempos ensuring all four notes in each group of four are clear and even.

Figure C breaks up the four fingers in a row idea and builds independence with 1st, 3rd, 2nd and little finger. You can then imagine the various permutations of this idea (reverse and then starting with a different finger). Some variations will feel much more awkward and unnatural. Don’t take this as a negative. Instead, think of it as a positive in that it’s something you’ve identified and are capable of changing with some work. Remember, at slow speeds it’s more about articulation and technique and building stamina and a strong sense of time.

Continuing with the semiquaver idea Figure D takes a four note phrase that descends and then ascends. Nothing exciting here, but try it at a slow tempo and then build it up. Hands up if you find faster tempos harder then you expected? Don’t be ashamed to say yes. It’s probably not your actual technique or hands, as individually they can do it. More so it’s synchronising the two so that they play cleanly and together. With some concentrated practice 140bpm is good going. Think endurance and try and play it for 20 seconds straight without missing a beat, then move onto a minute.

This is just a very simple introduction to some ideas to get your picking really moving. And remember these are just alternate picking as a start, of course there’s sweep picking, economy picking and a load of various concepts around them. Shred guys, country pickers, rock guys and everyone in between can benefit from solid technique.