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Guitar Speed Training – discovering what your hands are made of

Tennyson Williams

Tennyson is author of The Essential Guide to Guitar Virtuosity, which is an excellent ebook we recommend and can be downloaded from He’s just sent us this brand new lesson on guitar speed training, if you like this lesson make sure you visit his site!


A funny way to jump into this article is to literally talk about what your hands are made of.

Your hands consist of bones, joints, tissue, muscles, veins, nerve endings, and probably a lot more that we still don’t even know about. When you look at it in that light, you realize that there is a lot going on inside your hands, and that all of these things need to be addressed.

I’m sure that many of you know what it feels like when you burn your hand, hit your thumb with a hammer, or get a paper cut on your finger, but many beginning guitar players don’t understand what guitar related discomfort can feel like.

A lot of us have strained the muscles in our hands before, but straining your hands when practicing guitar exercises is a different matter.

Before the hand actually becomes strained, there is a sort of pre-strain sensation that happens, and we typically don’t even notice it. This kind of sensation is very subtle and acts as a warning sign of whats to come.

Its important to push your hands a little bit so that you can determine when this kind of discomfort is going to arise. I’m not asking you to destroy your hands, but it may be necessary to test the waters a little bit.

If you can do this, then the next time you practice an exercise, you’ll feel the warnings before the initial blow is delivered.

This is a great indicator of when you need to slow things down and let patience set in. If you try practicing further through this discomfort, you’ll end up taking a step backwards in your practicing.

However, a lot of guitarists can’t distinguish when they are about to over-do it, and then it is too late. You’ll recover and its not a big deal, but its very frustrating, and typically guitarists will get mad and try to practice through.

Your hands are very sensitive and fragile – you have to remember that. If you’re kind to them then they will be kind to you, but you must first journey into that dark place and discover the signs of over expenditure.

If you can do this, then this little trick will help you so much with your practicing, especially when it comes to training for speed.

An easier way to determine this is to try practicing an exercise at a rate of speed that is manageable for you. Make sure that you are playing the exercise at the fastest rate of speed that you possibly can.

After you have done this, try playing it at a higher rate of speed that you know you can’t yet play at. You will miss notes, struggle with the timing, and if you pay close attention, you will also feel a little too much tension in your picking hand.

That tension is the pre-discomfort that I am talking about. Anytime that you feel this, it means that you need to keep working on the previous speed, before you can move on.

When you have to take a step back and work on the previous speed, chances are that you will have to practice at this speed over and over again. That’s ok!

You will encounter several stopping points in your speed training efforts, and they will require that you work on them for a little longer than usual. This is very normal, so don’t think twice about it.

Best of luck and keep shredding!

Copyright © 2012 Tennyson Williams. All Rights Reserved.

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1 Comment

  1. hi tennyson so my question is if i devote myself 2 hours a day with scales as warmups and learning and trying to increase speed one step at a time with songs like cemetary gates and sweet child o mine will i be able to shread? if not how long should i practice? i am wandering this because my scedule with school which lasts until 4:30 and i stay home and relax until 5 to 6 then have singing training and until ten i have to fit guitar in there cause my bedtimes 10.