The following exercise is designed to help you increase your alternate picking speed. We’ll do this by pushing slightly beyond your ‘comfortable limit’ in short controlled bursts. By ‘comfortable limit’ I mean the fastest speed you can play before you start to make mistakes or go out of time.
The lick is a short, single bar which consists of mostly 16th notes. However the first 3 notes of each half are 16th note triplets. You can play these faster than 16th notes. You can fit 16 sixteenth notes in a bar but you can fit 24 sixteenth note triplets. Once you get comfortable with this exercise you’ll find you’ll be able to increase your alternate picking speed quicker than you thought!
If you have trouble with the timing you may wish to play it as a combination of 8th notes and 8th note triplets over two bars.
Mechanics Of The Lick
The idea here is that you’re only pushing your speed limit in short bursts. This will help to build up your ‘muscle memory’. It will also help your confidence because you won’t be trying to maintain the highest speed long enough that you start to go out of time. It’s a good idea to practice this over a metronome or drum track if possible.
The lick itself is in C Major and can be repeated in a loop. Start on a down pick and use all alternate picking. The second half of the lick starts on an up pick. With practice you will be able to start the triplets on either an up or a down pick equally well.
Increase Your Alternate Picking Speed
This exercise will definitely help to improve your maximum picking speed. It will also help your stamina at your ‘comfortable limit’ since you’ll be playing it over and over on a loop. To start with I recommend you play it at a manageable slower tempo. To test your dexterity at a slower tempo, try to hold a conversation while you play through the lick. Once you are comfortable playing this slowly move on to try to find your maximum tempo. Your goal should be to play it 8 times through with no mistakes. Then if you want to improve your stamina and increase your alternate picking speed even further aim to be able to play it continuously for 2-3 minutes.
Be careful not to overdo it as you don’t want a repetitive strain injury. Make sure you have warmed up properly. Take a break if you feel the muscles in your arm or hand starting to become too tense or sore.
The following examples show the lick being played slow, 60bpm , then fast, 120bpm. 120bpm might not seem that fast but the 16th note triplets are quite challenging at this speed so its a good tempo to aim for, and then go beyond!
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