How To Quickly Build Speed In Your Tremolo Picking Guitar Technique

By Tom Hess

Are you still unable to tremolo pick with super fast speed? Most likely, you are making the same mistake as the majority of other guitarists… you associate quick hand speed with fast picking. These two things don’t necessarily go hand in hand, and I’ll tell you why…

Truth is, the majority of guitar players already have enough speed in their fingers to play at very high levels. The thing that prevents them (and you) from doing so is the length that the pick travels for each note being played on guitar. Most guitar players are oblivious to this and think their lack of speed has to do with not moving their hands quickly enough.

To develop insane tremolo picking speed, you must increase the frequency at which your pick comes into contact with the string (don’t confuse this with simply moving your hand faster). When you do this, you strike the string many more times and your tremolo picking speed shoots through the ceiling!

Before you continue reading the rest of this article, watch the following video to see exactly how this is done:

Like you saw in the video above, you will immediately play with two times the tremolo picking speed by merely splitting your pick attack distance in half. Now that you are familiar with this idea, begin picking faster using the exercise below:

The first rule of building your tremolo picking speed: ALWAYS watch your picking hand during your picking technique practice! If you spend all your time staring at your fretting hand or don’t watch your hands at all while practicing, you will never develop incredible picking speed.

To begin developing faster picking speed, select an open string to use tremolo picking on and go through the following steps:

Step One: Continually pick using sixteenth notes at a slower bpm for around 15 seconds. Angle your pick at about a 40 degree angle while facing it towards the headstock of the guitar. This will keep you from losing dynamics or picking lightly while reducing picking movements. Like this:

Note: You will also generate greater power in your picking attack while using less effort by playing with a thicker pick (1.50 mm or more) instead of a thin one.

Step Two: Next, play at about a 10% faster rate while continuing to pick for an additional 5-10 seconds. Remember to keep watching your picking hand and maintain compact picking motions. This will make sure that no unneeded movement is being used that would keep you from increasing speed.

Step Three: Gradually raise the tempo you are picking at while still paying careful attention to your picking hand motions to reduce the distance between up/down strokes as much as you can. Additionally, pay attention to the following:

-Don’t ignore power and articulation whenever you are cutting down the distance in your pick attack. Keep a good amount of articulation in your attack by putting more of the pick in the string. This way you will be able to produce small picking motions while still maintaining a booming, powerful attack (instead of picking with the very tip of the pick like so many guitarists do – reducing their articulation).

-Your forearm and picking hand shoulder MUST be very relaxed whenever you are picking fast. It will not help you to tense up these muscles… it will only make you tired while increasing the chances of injury. Try to keep these muscles completely relaxed as you notice your speed increasing.

Keep raising your speed until you are tremolo picking at the maximum speed possible. Continue playing at this speed for an additional ten seconds or so.

Step Four: Now take a short break from playing for a minute before repeating the first three steps three more times. To improve your tremolo picking technique even more, switch between playing open strings and playing fretted notes (this will produce different levels of tension in the strings and challenge you to get better). Utilize this exercise with an effective guitar practicing schedule and you will quickly begin seeing killer results in your speed picking technique.

IMPORTANT: This concept of shortening the distance in your picking attack can be used in other areas besides just tremolo picking! As demonstrated in the video above, you should also implement this idea into your playing while using multiple string guitar licks and scales. This will embed your tremolo picking skills into other aspects of your lead guitar soloing technique and build your overall speed.

Using the lick below together with the exercise above. While doing this, focus on your picking hand so that you keep your pick attack as tight as possible (while playing with plenty of power and loudness).


Now that you understand how to develop a lot of tremolo picking speed on guitar, realize that this is merely one aspect of becoming a much faster guitar player. To find out more about the other elements that go into increasing overall guitar speed, check out this mini course on how to play guitar fast.

To understand much more about how to not only develop insane guitar speed but also become a creative musician, take guitar lessons online.


About The Author:
Tom Hess is a professional musician, composer, and highly successful guitar instructor who trains and mentors guitarists with online guitar tuition. Visit to get free guitar playing tipsguitar playing resources, mini courses and more guitar playing articles.

Make Your Fast Guitar Playing Effortless

by Tom Hess

What is the one thing that your favorite guitarists have in common when you see them playing fast? The answer is that all of them play in a manner that looks astonishingly easy. In fact, speed guitar playingnot only looks effortless – it IS effortless…or, more specifically, it BECOMES easy after you experience the process of training this skill correctly.

Sadly, nearly all guitar players can’t make their speed playing feel easy, and any effort to play guitar fast is a challenge. Reasons why this happens are plenty, but one of the most typical is pursuing the traditional practice mindset of beginning to practice slowly and building up speed little by little. Despite the fact that this approach DOES have a few of advantages, it also has many serious restrictions (when applied at the wrong time or mistakenly… as happens quite often).

The following factors are why the typical guitar speed developing strategy (practicing from slow to fast by increasing speed little by little) makes fast playing feel complicated:

  • It’s easy to become lazy and make entirely different movements at slow speeds in comparison to what you do when playing fast. Consequently, as soon as your speed improves past a particular point, your playing will become uncomfortable and hard, because now you will be using movements that you did not use in the past. I’ve already discussed this to a great extent in this article about how to practice to boost your guitar speed.
  • Releasing the excessive tension that usually builds up through faster playing is something that the traditional approach doesn’t allow you to practice. Therefore, as your speed grows, your guitar playing begins to become more and more like a challenge and you get fatigued fast.
  • You don’t practice for actual speed in your guitar playing (where you have to start playing without playing anything before). It’s much easier to play an exercise over and over, incrementally arriving at your peak speed and having the playing of that one exercise be great. However, when you must play the exact same exercise at your top speed IMMEDIATELY, with everything feeling effortless and sounding clean, the feeling is much different. Thus, traditional guitar speed building mindset doesn’t prepare you for playing in real life.
  • Ordinary guitar speed development methods force you to increase your speed with the full exercise all at once. In many instances this can cause mindless guitar practice(hoping to get faster by merely doing an exercise time and time again).

Note: the typical strategy of “start practicing slowly and speed up little by little” IS effective when you are practicing a new thing (and it’s also very useful for beginner – intermediate guitar players). However, the better of a guitar player you become (and the faster you wish to increase your speed in a specific exercise) the more you will need highly specific practice methods for overcoming your speed plateaus.

You now understand what the disadvantages are of the ordinary approach to building speed on guitar, so I will show you one of multiple approaches you can use to move beyond guitar speed plateaus and make your playing feel comfortable while playing fast. This strategy is one of many that I use with my electric guitar students to assist them in building higher levels of guitar speed.

Practicing Guitar With Speed Bursts

Rather than playing a whole phrase at a very slow tempo and incrementally increasing speed, split up that phrase into very small bursts (between 4-8 notes each) and practice every one of these at your TOP speed.

Watch this video to get a clear understanding of how to practice this concept:

When you implement speed bursts in your guitar practice, it will help you to develop your guitar speed easier and sooner. Below are the reasons why:


  • Your guitar speed will in fact come to be useful in real life playing (where you can’t play something time after time and rather must jump in and play something at your peak speed instantly).
  • You are able to use rests between the speed bursts to release tension from your hands and ensure that you use no more tension than necessary. This is a really effective approach to make your guitar playing feel extremely effortless and comfortable… exactly like your favorite guitar players.
  • You will teach your mind and your ears to become aware of notes at blistering speeds and hear/fix errors much more easily. This is CRUCIAL, because your playing will sound like a sloppy mess if you try to play guitar fast WITHOUT this skill.
  • You won’t be able to play guitar with lazy and slow movements – you are actually training them to do exactly what they should do when you are playing fast.
  • You will be able to instantly isolate portions from a larger exercise and concentrate on particular errors that prevent you from playing the full exercise at the speed you wish.

You have now discovered a noteworthy way of making fast guitar playing feel very effortless. The next action you must take is to learn all the other techniques that will help you to MULTIPLY your guitar speed while reducing your practice time by fifty percent (I will teach you how to do this for free). Discover how it’s done by reading this page about increasing your guitar speed.

About The Author: Tom Hess is a professional touring musician and guitar player. He also teaches and trains guitarists from all over the world in his online guitar lessons. On his website,, you can get additional free tips about guitar playingguitar playing resources, mini courses and surveys.

How To Play Sweep Picking Arpeggios Faster And Cleaner

Most guitarists can’t play sweep arpeggios as fast or as clean as they would like. They struggle to improve their technique but in reality, they have no idea where to even begin. This is a problem I see all the time and have helped many of my guitar students overcome.

There are 2 ways to go about improving your arpeggio sweep picking. One will keep you frustrated and sloppy while the other will allow to progress your playing to a whole new level and get enjoyment out of the process.

Which Approach Do You Take?

Guitar Practice Approach 1: Most would assume that, since their sweep picking isn’t fast or clean, that they need to practice MORE arpeggio sweep picking licks. This approach’s biggest problem is that you are ignoring the problems that stem from your bad technique. By avoiding the root of your guitar technique problems, you are only distracting yourself from real improvement. So with this approach you will end up knowing a lot of different licks, but they will all be executed sloppily and with poor technique.

Guitar Practice Approach 2: If you want to make your sweep picking arpeggios cleaner and faster, then you need to take the arpeggio you are working on now and make it its OWN exercise. By doing this you will be able to expose where your exact problems lie (down to the note) and figure out WHY you aren’t playing as fast or clean as you should. This will benefit your guitar playing in 2 ways:

· By correctly identifying and fixing fundamental problems with your guitar technique in this first exercise, you will see vast improvements in your technique (speed and clarity) in ALL of the arpeggios you practice in the future.

· By modifying these standard arpeggio shapes your new exercises will often be VERY unique and cool. You will see your solos improve as you incorporate your new sweep picking arpeggios into them.

To see an example of this second guitar practice approach in action, watch this video about making your arpeggio playing faster and cleaner while turning your exercises into killer sweep picking licks:

Get the tab for the 5 string arpeggio lesson here.

How To Apply This Idea Into Your Guitar Practicing To Make Your Guitar Playing Better:

The biggest lesson here is NOT the arpeggio exercises themselves. It’s NOT even playing your arpeggio notes with tremolo (as the video demonstrated). The biggest thing you should take away from this is that you have to use the correct mindset when you approach solving ANY kind of problem areas in you guitar technique.

1. The problems and mistakes in your guitar playing always have a cause. They are never just random. These causes can be identified (and must). If you settle for sloppy guitar playing technique you are hurting yourself immensely.

2. Searching for more guitar exercises will not be the answer to all of your technique problems. Instead, you should understand exactly where your weaknesses lie in your current exercise. This will help you to see which parts of your technique need to be improved thus helping EVERYTHING you play be faster and cleaner.

3. You can modify even the most boring exercises in a creative way. Now you will be able to improve your guitar technique while creating awesome licks in the process.

The video demonstrated an exercise that is just ONE (of many) examples of how to clean up your guitar technique while increasing your overall speed and accuracy. To keep your practice time to a minimum while vastly improving your guitar technique, check out this article on increasing guitar speed.

About The Author: Tom Hess is a highly successful recording artist and guitar teacher. He teaches guitar lessons online to guitarists internationally. Visit his website for more information about learning guit

3 Crucial Steps To Practicing Guitar Effectively

By Tom Hess

Have you ever been practicing something on guitar for many months without making a breakthrough? Regardless of how much work you put in, you just can’t make improvements… So you end up becoming disappointed, wondering if you’ll ever be able to play guitar like you want.

Before I help you solve this problem for good, you have to understand that you CAN become an incredible guitar player, just like your favorite guitarists. If you aren’t achieving your guitar playing goals, it doesn’t mean you have no potential, or that you lack natural musical ability. It just means one or both of these two things:

1. You never understood the right steps to take while practicing to play anything you want on guitar (more on this below).

2. No one ever correctly taught you HOW to practice the aforementioned steps. This part is a lot trickier (and self-taught guitarists in particular struggle with this) because it requires a detailed awareness of how to effectively practice guitar. It’s simple to understand WHAT to practice (since these things are often rooted in common sense), but implementing them correctly is not so simple.

Think of your guitar playing as a struggle between two forces: one side being the practice you do to make your guitar playing feel easier, and the other side being the problems that consume your playing (making it harder than it should be). Whenever one side overcomes the other, your goal is split between the following:

  • To keep making your practicing highly effective, so you can make faster progress (I’ve explained many ways of doing this in my other guitar playing columns).
  • To move beyond certain challenges that keep you from playing the things you want to play as well as you’d like to play them (this is what I’ll show you below).

To help you completely understand the practicing process explained below, watch this video that demonstrates how this approach makes your guitar playing better. Do this now before you read the rest of this article.

Note: although the video above shows how to practice guitar correctly using only a single context, the general process for solving problems applies in the same way to EVERY technique and guitar style (from shred guitar sweep picking to blues double stop licks, to fingerstyle acoustic licks).

Start playing whatever you want on guitar by following these steps:

Step One: Act As A Doctor While Practicing Guitar

The crucial mental error many guitar players commit while practicing is looking for a way to fix symptoms (what they think are the problems) in their playing, rather than trying to solve the real root causes (actual problems). This is even more common among self-taught guitarists, who were never shown effective ways to practice guitar. As you saw in the video demonstration above, it’s very simple to incorrectly diagnose a problem and falsely assume that you know its cause, only to throw away tons of time practicing the wrong things – making almost no progress at all.

The best way to stop wasting time on mere symptoms of problems and to really improve your guitar skills, is to get feedback from an expert electric guitar instructor who can analyze your technique and pinpoint the exact things that are keeping you back. In addition to giving you the immediate fix to your guitar challenges and frustrations, working with a teacher will help you become your own guitar teacher and solve guitar playing problems by yourself. This is easily the greatest benefit of guitar lessons, and is the reason why guitar players who learn with a great teacher quickly become killer players.

This is not unlike going to a doctor with some symptoms of not feeling well or having certain aches in your body. Rather than prescribing medicine for the top level symptom of any issue you have, a great doctor tracks every symptom down to its root causes and treats it, causing you to feel much better (getting rid of all the symptoms at the same time). Of course, doctors aren’t born with knowledge of how to solve health problems – this knowledge is gained and learned. The same can be describe your guitar playing: even if you struggle with correctly identifying the causes of your biggest guitar playing problemsright now, you definitely CAN overcome them and (over time) become your own guitar playing doctor.

Step Two: Transform Any Problem Into A Self-Sufficient Guitar Playing Exercise

Once you’ve identified the problem that is preventing you from playing what you want on guitar, your next move is to find out how to correctly isolate and fix it. As you observed in the video above, spotting the specific issue (the hammer on and pull off in that particular example) was NOT enough on its own. The next step is to place the problem into the original context to transform it into a self-sufficientexercise. “Self-sufficient” meaning: you do not have to look for great guitar playing exercises to fix it – the problem itself BECOMES the exercise you must work on.

To find out more about how to properly do this step of the process, read this article about practicing guitar more effectively.

Step Three: Don’t Stop Drilling…Until You Strike Gold!

Once you identified the exact problem that must be solved to move your guitar playing forward and you correctly transformed it into its own exercise, you now have to practice the problem until it’s solved.

The mistake that most guitarists make in this step of the process is not completing enough quality repetitions of the exercise to develop guitar playing habits to take the place of the old ones.

Version One: Some guitar players stop working on the exercise prematurely – they get bored, lose their focus and quit after practicing for only a few minutes… never to come back to the exercise again. So they simply never complete sufficient repetitions of the exercise to improve their guitar playing.

Version Two: Others will move forward through strong discipline and willpower to end up practicing the exercise for many hours at a time. Although they perform many repetitions of the exercise, the qualityof each repetition begins to decline as they play the exercise over and over, eventually losing focus. Read this column about practicing guitar in a mindless manner to learn more about this.

The right way to create a good habit is by continually practicing guitar in bursts of concentrated effort for several minutes at a time. Instead of practicing the same exact exercise for many hours on end, practice it for several minutes at a time, many times throughout the day, gaining tons of volume (repetitions) over the course of a week.

Version one of the mistake above frequently happens with guitar players who never use practice schedules. Their practicing is cluttered and random (and it shows in their playing).

In contrast, version two of the mistake above happens frequently to guitar players who don’t know the nuances of correctly training the body and the mind to play guitar. Instead, they attempt to build their practice schedules with linear guitar practice methods using a spreadsheet or a calculator (huge mistake!).

To steer clear of both mistakes, you must be aware that teaching a human being to play guitar is much different than programming functions into a computer. It’s for this reason that you must utilize aneffective guitar practicing schedule that is made for getting big results.

Now that you know what is required for playing whatever you want on guitar, begin applying the advice provided in this article (and in the additional resources given throughout) to make your practicing more effective and your guitar playing much more easy.

If you still have a hard time attaining the results you desire from your practice time, you will achieve your guitar playing goals faster by working directly with me. Check out this page about guitar lessons onlineand tell me about the greatest guitar playing struggles you currently face.


About The Author:
Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, songwriter and a pro guitarist. He uses the best online guitar lessons to train guitar players to reach their musical goals. Go to to get more guitar playing resources , guitar playing eBooks, and to read more guitar playing articles.

How To Play Fast On Guitar Using Effective Picking Technique

By Tom Hess

Want to learn how to improve your picking technique so you can play faster? You don’t need to look up brand new exercises for guitar… you’ll only need to make one simple adjustment. Use this simple concept from now on to improve your picking technique, and enable yourself to effortlessly play faster on guitar:

1. Whenever you ascend while playing strings on guitar (go from a heavier string to a lighter string), ALWAYS use a downstroke – regardless of the notes that came before or after what you are playing.

2. While descending strings (moving from a higher string to another string below), play with an upstroke.

(…you can still use alternate picking while playing several notes on a single string).

This idea is referred to as “directional picking”. I teach this to all my correspondence rock guitar students to help them become faster players. Many guitarists would (falsely) refer to this technique as “economy picking”. However, this term is a name for a separate technique (more on this below). The main thing to understand here is, of the three most known picking techniques (alternate picking, directional picking and economy picking), directional picking is by far the easiest to learn and master in order to develop insane guitar speed.

Here are four main reasons why directional picking is the best way for you to become a faster guitarist:

Reason #1: You use much less movement – this translates into FASTER guitar picking speed

As you play scales with three notes on each string it’s not necessary to skip over strings (as you would need to with alternate picking). Rather than doing this, you simply move directly to the next note by picking in its direction (as described above).

Here is an example of an ascending scale that displays this (the  symbol means “downstroke”, while  means “upstroke”):

Alternate Picking:

Directional Picking:

In the diagramsabove, the red indicators surround two downstrokes in a row when the scale is changing strings with directional picking versus alternate picking.

Notice: to develop incredible guitar speed using directional picking, you have to properly complete string changes with two consecutive down/up strokes and avoid a frequent mistake guitarists make when they initially use this technique. If you do it incorrectly (like most people when they begin), your guitar picking speed will not achieve its greatest potential. Check out the video below to see a demonstration of this idea to one of my guitar students who is just learning it for the first time:


Reason #2: You guitar practice become more efficient so you can build speed faster

After checking out the video above, you observed how directional picking uses similar picking motions used in sweep picking lead guitar technique. In other words, while practicing directional picking, you are also working to improve sweep picking. By practicing sweep picking, your directional picking becomes more clean and articulate.

Certainly, this does not mean you can neglect sweep picking practice altogether just because you are working on it with directional picking – it merely means that practicing each technique in isolation (directional picking and sweep picking) carries over to the other technique. Study the sweep picking video below and observe how the string changing motions from directional picking translate directly into sweep picking:

Watch the rest of the killer sweep picking video above.

With this in mind, practicing exclusively with alternate picking will NOT help you master sweep picking (and sweep picking will not help you master alternate picking). So you must invest additional practice time into mastering both guitar techniques separately.

All of the concepts discussed above make directional picking a great technique to work on when you feel like you don’t have time to practice guitar and/or want to play faster as soon as possible.

Reason #3: Directional picking vastly IMPROVES your accents and picking articulation

You may have heard the claim that alternate picking enhances the accents of your downstrokes while directional or economy picking are more quiet and limit you to playing with weak articulation. Fact is, accents and articulation come through better control of your overall technique, NOT by using downstrokes versus upstrokes. This is one reason why the claim above is wrong.

Here is some reasoning to show you why this false claim is TOTALLY misguided and why reality is the opposite:

*You can articulate any note using either an upstroke or a downstroke, whenever you want. To see for yourself, choose any note on guitar and play it with a downstroke… then immediately play that same note using an upstroke (but played with additional force). Chances are, you could easily do this. And if you could, then you already know that you don’t need to use a downstroke to have the note be accented. Accents and articulation are accomplished by having good control over your overall picking technique, NOT by focusing on downstrokes vs. upstrokes.

*The concept of alternate picking (strictly making ALL downstrokes be heavily accented and ALL upstrokes not accented) is very restricting. Since any note can be accented with any type of pick stroke, there is no true advantage to forcing yourself to play in the same manner all the time. On top of that, whenever you need to pick a different way (by articulating an upstroke or having the accent fall anywhere other than the downbeat), your playing will feel very awkward.

However, if you practice using directional picking (where accents can fall on any pick stroke), you won’t run into the problems above. You will learn to articulate notes either on downstrokes or upstrokes and will not be limited to doing so only on the downbeat. So directional picking provides more options for articulating notes in any manner you desire…IF you master control over BOTH downstrokes and upstrokes. After helping tons of students become killer electric guitar players, this has been the case for every one.

The main reason why guitarists who exclusively use alternate picking make the claim above is their upstroke articulation is weaker than their downstroke articulation. Therefore, when they try directional picking, it feels weird to them to use upstrokes for accents, and they have to come face to face with the weaknesses in their guitar picking technique. Instead of taking on their technical weaknesses to improve their technique, many merely choose to move back to their comfort zone and claim that “directional picking limits one’s articulation”.

*When you make string changes with directional picking, by playing two notes going in the same direction, these notes are more accented, due to the momentum and follow-through of the picking motion (watch the video above to see this).

Think about this motion in terms of boxing. Boxers are told to throw punches that go THROUGH their opponent in order to get maximum power in their punches. This is the same thing that happens with directional picking when you switch strings by playing two continuous upstrokes or downstrokes. You pick using momentum from a previous note to follow THROUGH the next note. This makes it much more loud and articulate (when you choose to make it this way).

When you only use alternate picking during string changes, you must go around the next string, kill all momentum and then reverse the motion to perform an upstroke. This is a complete waste. Additionally it keeps you from taking advantage of the momentum from the previous note because of the inefficient picking path.

Reason #4: Directionalpicking is a powered-up version of alternate picking

Most people who are against directional picking defend alternate picking, while ignoring the obvious: in most guitar playing scenarios, directional picking and alternate picking are completely the same. Whether you are playing on a single string or using two or four note per string scales, your pick will usually move in PRECISELY the same manner with directional picking or alternate picking.

The only scenario where directional picking separates itself from exclusive alternate picking is during 3 note per string scales, where it is logical to do so for the reasons stated above. As a result, directional picking has ALL the advantages of alternate picking, with none of its disadvantages.

Directional picking is NOT a separate picking technique and doesn’t require learning new picking patterns or relearning the way you play guitar. The only adjustment you must make in your guitar picking technique is what I talked about at the beginning of this article. With a little practice, you can apply this change into your everyday technique and build your guitar picking speed fast.

That said, even with all this information in front of them, many people decide not to take advantage of this technique, because of several false rationalizations…

False Rationalization #1: “I’d like to get good at alternate picking first and then change to directional picking”. This argument makes no sense because it makes no sense to practice a technique that 1. is less efficient and 2. you must unlearn/change later ANYWAY. It makes much more sense to simply begin using directional picking – gaining all the advantages of alternate picking, without any drawbacks.

False Rationalization #2: “Directional picking means you have to figure out picking patterns before you play them.” If you believe this, then you are conflating “directional” picking with “economy” picking. Economy picking is a technique that requires switching strings using a sweep picking motion at all times – thus causing you to plan how many notes per string you must play in every phrase.

Directional picking is not like this – you simply use the 2 rules I gave you at the top of the article. Then, you will alternate picking notes when it is the most efficient path to the next note, OR use sweep picking on string changes when it is the most efficient path to the next note.

False Rationalization #3: “Directional picking makes it harder to perform string skipping/inside picking because the pick has increased chances of hitting the string being skipped.” This argument is not valid in the same way that the argument that directional picking has weaker articulation is invalid.

Directional picking is not to blame for making anything more difficultit only exposes the weaknesses in your ability to play cleanly in some situations. These situations include continually picking inside a pair of strings and playing specific styles of string skipping that exclusive alternate pickers stay away from. When you understand weaknesses, you have a decision to make – you can master them and gain control to play how you want OR you avoid them and continue the lie about directional picking supposedly making string skipping harder. :)

Consequently, correspondence rock guitar students who learn directional picking from me, always have an easier time learning string skipping/inside picking than strict alternate pickers.

False Rationalization #4: “My favorite guitarist plays very fast with only alternate picking, and I want to play like him. Therefore, I will continue using only alternate picking”. If you think this way, know that:

*Directional picking is precisely the same as alternate picking in just about every scenario…only made MORE efficient when possible. So it only makes it faster and easier for you to increase your guitar speed.

*There is no doubt that many people play guitar fast while exclusively using alternate picking… however, you also can’t deny the obvious inefficiencies of this technique. So while you definitely CAN learn to pick fast on guitar while exclusively using alternate picking, you will build the same degree of guitar speed much faster, with little effort and frustration if you use directional picking.

False Rationalization #5: “Directional picking is only for rock/metal guitar players, it won’t work for my playing style.” Think again. Just because directional picking makes it simple to develop insane guitar speed, this does NOT mean it is unusable in non-rock/metal styles. Its most critical benefit is that it makes your overall picking more efficient so you can play better in any musical genre.

Now that you understand why directional picking is a crucial technique to add into your guitar playing, I want to teach you HOW to master it so you can reach your guitar playing goals in the quickest, least difficult and most straightforward way possible. Check out this page about effective guitar lessons and get started reaching your musical goals.


About The Author:
Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, songwriter and a pro guitarist. He uses the best online guitar lessons to train guitar players to reach their musical goals. Go to to get more guitar playing resources , guitar playing eBooks, and to read more guitar playing articles.

How To Play Incredible Guitar Solos Part Four: Create Intense Feeling While Playing Over Any Chord

by Tom Hess

The first step to playing intense, emotional guitar solos is being able to play a single note with tons of emotion. The next step is taking that single note and expanding from it, so that every guitar lick you play sounds extremely emotional.

Note: You will be lost in this article if you have not already read the third part of this series on how to play lead guitar solos. Read it now, if you have not done so.

To increase the emotional intensity in every single lick of your solos, you have to become aware of how each note feels as it is played above a specific chord/chord progression. Every note you use in your solos has a different function while it is played over different chords, so you can change the way a lick feels emotionally by combining different notes together. Here is an illustration of what I mean: if you are using notes A, B and D over a G major chord, each one of these notes functions differently (A as the second, B as the third and D as the fifth). If you were to use a G note in the place of the D note, it would function differently (as the root) and completely change the overall emotional feeling of the lick.

Visualize painting a picture using different colors. As you use one note over a chord, you only experience a certain emotion (this is the function of that note). Then as you combine this note together with several others, it’s like blending many colors together to create a new one. Just by altering one or two notes in a lick, you can cause a massive change in the way the lick feels.

To hear precisely what this sounds like, watch the video below:

To begin implementing this idea into the licks of your guitar solos, play the .mp3 samples below and use the instructions I made for you. Keep in mind that each sample has been recorded for an entire minute in order to make it easier to complete the steps below:

Lick #1 (Hear It)

Lick #2 (Hear It)

Lick #3 (Hear It)

Lick #4 (Hear It)


Step 1 Listen to the .mp3 file above for lick number one and play these chord progression to it:

E minor – A minor – C major – G major -

(Play each chord 5+ times so you can get a good understanding of how each note in the lick feels over it.)

Step 2– Identify how each note in the lick above functions when combined with the chords you just played. Doing this is important for recalling WHY any lick you play feels how it does – giving you the ability to recreate that same feeling in any musical context. This skill is one of the most useful skills to have as a musician… keeping you from becoming the kind of guitarist who wastes time trying to think of a lick that will sound cool over a chord (rather than KNOWING what will sound cool ahead of time).

If you don’t know enough about music theory to understand the above step, study the ideas in this music theory video.

Step3  Complete the first two steps again by playing the chord progression from step one over the remaining licks.

Step4  Go back and repeat the first two steps again. Instead of using the chord progression from step one, play these chord progressions over the licks they specify from above:

Play over guitar lick two: C major – E minor – C major – G minor

Play over guitar lick three: F major – G major – A major – E major

Play over guitar lick four: E minor – C major – G major – F major

Once you have finished the steps above, it will be much easier for you to understand how each note you play changes the overall feeling of your guitar licks. It’s crucial that you continue to pay close attention to the notes you use in your solos, so you can always convey the particular emotions you want – instead of mindlessly playing a bunch of memorized licks/patterns and waiting for something to sound good (like a lot of guitar players do).

It will be easy to play with accurate self-expression in your music, when you learn how to turn normal guitar solo licks into awesome guitar solo licks.

When you have the power to make any note sound incredibly expressive and can control the emotions of each note over specific chords, your guitar solos will become like an extension of your soul – making your playing sound highly creative and unique.

To get additional ideas on for how to write and play emotional guitar solos, read this page with methods for playing guitar with emotion.


About The Author:

Tom Hess is a professional touring musician, recording artist and online guitar teacher who teaches guitarists from all over the world in his online guitar lessons. On his website,, you can get additional free tips about guitar playingguitar playing resources, mini courses and surveys.

The Key Elements Of A Successful Music Career

By Tom Hess

Before you will achieve anything significant in the music industry you must acquire five key elements that all successful musicians possess. Without these elements in place, your chances of becoming successful as a professional musician are slim to none.

The following are the five crucial keys needed for developing a long-term, successful music career:

Music Career Success Key #1 – Stop Worrying About What Seems Possible

All of the most well-known and successful musicians did not achieve their goals by thinking realistically about what seemed possible. On the contrary, they focused their mind like a laser ONLY on what they truly wanted. When you make your goals in line with the things you want most, you will be much more motivated to actually achieve them. More on this in a moment…

Think about this – out of the following choices, which choice would inspire you to put all your time and energy into growing a music career?:

a) Making a recording of a demo with a band and possibly playing a few shows around town.

b) Being the main songwriter for an epic album that sells millions of copies worldwide, then going on tour internationally – playing to massive festivals of fans and making a great living through music, without needing to work a regular job.

Even if you aren’t interested in getting into the music industry to release music, you can still understand my point… Don’t ever accept anything less than what you WANT from a career in music (even if what you want seems like a really big accomplishment). Don’t waste your life pursuing things that you don’t really want. If you set goals for your music career that don’t really inspire you, you won’t be motivated to achieve them and you certainly won’t ever achieve your true musical goals.

All of the great musicians you have ever known, are just normal people like you. They started from humble beginnings – whether it was without a band, having low musical skills or not understanding how the music industry works (as well as countless other situations). Imagine what kind of outcome would have happened for them had they decided that it wasn’t ‘realistic’ to sell records worldwide, tour internationally and build a huge fan base. Well, they didn’t… they chose to pursue BIG goals and this is very fortunate for them (and the music industry as a whole).

Be like them. Start building your music career based only on the goals that motivate you the most!

Music Career Success Key #2 – Manifest Your Musical Dreams Into Reality Before They Actually Are Reality

Musicians who never achieve anything significant in this industry, build paths to their goals by starting from where they are in the present moment.

On the other hand, musicians who achieve great success do something completely different. They plan their music career by beginning from the end point of achieving their goals, and work backwards to the present day. They imagine themselves having already accomplished their major goals, then build their lives around this vision. This is a much more effective way of accurately determining the actions required for putting together your music career. Find out more about this topic by reading this article on achieving your musical goals.

Avoid having to rely on trial-and-error approach in your music career by working with an experienced music industry mentor who can tell you how to build a successful music career.

Music Career Success Key #3 – Sink Or Swim (Choose SWIM!)

Your music career success is dependent on possessing the above two keys. However, simply having ‘goals’ and a plan to reach them is not enough to actually do it. You must ‘take action’ day in and day out until your goals are completed. This might seem like a common sense thing to say, but the truth is, TONS of musicians fail to take action on realizing their musical dreams and never end up doing anything.

Consider this metaphor (I discuss this in depth with the musicians who I mentor for success): You’ve been diagnosed with some kind of illness that requires a critical surgery. If you don’t get this surgery done, you will die in 6 months. On top of that, the surgery costs a huge amount of money (100k+) and you can neither borrow money to pay for it nor get coverage from insurance. So you have one choice: You can do whatever it takes to make the money you need or you can give up and allow yourself to die.

This example is on the extreme end of the spectrum, but it effectively illustrates the type of mindset needed to achieve success in the music industry. Taking consistent action to move your music career forward is different than merely knowing what needs to get done, while waiting around hoping it will magically occur on its own (allowing yourself to ‘die’ in this case).

With this in mind, hard work/consistent action does not necessarily equal music career success, when you don’t know exactly what you should be doing to reach your goals. Get started building a successful career in music with a mentor so you can understand the right actions you should be taking at all times.

Music Career Success Key #4 – Make Sure Your Musical Goals Can Pass The ‘Why’ Test

It’s a fact that everything will not always go according to plan in your music career. It is in the most challenging times that your music career dedication will be put to the test. Examples of this could include:

  • Having to work full time at a job that sucks and having no idea how to quit your non-musical day job and make it in music.
  • Playing at dumpy bars with your band, because you aren’t sure what steps you should take to start playing at bigger, better venues.
  • Working with unmotivated band members who are bringing you (and the entire band) down.
  • Working to record your debut album, but having a difficult time because you never learned how to record cleanly, in as few takes as possible.
  • Not knowing how to get tons of music fans to hear your music.

Here is what you need to do in order to maintain your commitment and dedication to achieving your music career goals:

Take out the piece of paper you have that contains the list of your written goals (that you put together in key #1 above). Then beside each one write down the big REASONS you have for pursuing them. For every musical goal you have, answer this question: “Why do I want to achieve this?” Spend a lot of time thinking about this for each goal before you write down your response, and look over your goals/reasons two times every day.

When you make this a habit, you’ll be able to stay enthusiastic about achieving your musical goals whenever you are faced with any uncertainty or obstacles.

To find out more information on this topic, read this article about planning musical goals.

Music Career Success Key #5 – Don’t Try To Build Your Music Career Blindfolded

Even after you possess all four of the keys described above, you can still fail at building a successful music career. This can happen when you don’t know what to do next, are (subconsciously) sabotaging yourself or are using poor strategies for reaching your musical goals. The final key required for music career success is the training of an experienced music industry mentor.

A true mentor does not merely instruct you on what you should be doing or tell you about the inner workings of the music industry. Instead, a great mentor helps you bring out the strengths you developed through attaining the first four keys and makes sure you are on the right path toward your goals at all times, while keeping you away from the obstacles that many musicians face (that often lead to them to failure). Without this expert guidance, you are trying to make it in the music business with your hands over your eyes and are unable to truly take advantage of your know-how, musical skills and hard work.

Now that you are familiar with all five keys needed for music career success, take the following actions:

1. Focus on getting all the missing keys you do not currently possess.

2. Start music business training right now to begin reaching your musical goals faster than ever before.


About The Author:

Tom Hess is a recording artist, composer and a touring musician. Tom also mentors and coaches musicians worldwide to make it in the music industry. Go to his musician development site to get free music industry advice and learn more about the music industry.

How To Play With Killer Guitar Phrasing – Part One


By Nick Layton

Stop working ONLY on guitar technique! To play guitar solos and improvisations that sound really kickass you must also improve your guitar phrasing. For most guitarists, guitar phrasing is a foreign term… which is really sad. Truth is, playing with great technique does not translate to playing great sounding ‘music’. To begin playing great solos you only need to start with a single note. From there, you can expand to play some truly awesome stuff! Let me explain:

Being great at guitar phrasing means being able to clearly communicate your thoughts and emotions as you play – similar to how you would have a verbal conversation with someone to express yourself. You’ll never get the attention of your listeners by speaking in a monotone voice, and this same concept applies when it comes to your guitar playing as well. You must learn how to use various phrasing nuances to express yourself with only one note if needed, and more notes in other situations. The most important thing to understand about phrasing is HOW you play your notes (not the notes themselves). Here are the three critical guitar phrasing elements that truly great guitarists possess:


Vibrato technique is very personal to the guitarist using it, so it is crucial that you create your own unique playing style with this element. Contrary to what many guitarists think, vibrato requires years of practice to perfect (both technically and stylistically). To get started playing with good vibrato for yourself, think about how you want to hear it played. Listen to how vibrato is used by your favorite guitarists whenever they are playing solos. Then go online and find videos of these guitarists playing live, so you can see how they move their hands to create vibrato. Next, do your best to imitate their style in your playing. Eventually, you will begin developing your own style (as you mix together the different styles of your favorite guitarists). As you work on your vibrato, remember this: There are tons of different ways to play vibrato. For example, neoclassical guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen has a slow and wide vibrato, while blues guitarist B.B. King has a very fast and narrow vibrato. Think about what sounds best to you, and focus on developing that sound within your style. To get started improving your vibrato technique, practice using it while playing over backing tracks or during your favorite songs. If you want to develop your vibrato much more quickly, work together with a good guitar teacher. Additionally, remember to use vibrato on bent and unbent notes.

String Bending:

Every guitar player who has good phrasing skills understands how to use string bends in a highly creative manner. When you are able to put together a solid string bending technique with great vibrato, you will truly start playing creative and expressive guitar phrases. The best part about string bending is there are endless approaches to bending notes. For example, you can bend by 1/2 step, by whole step, by less than 1/2 step (microtonal bends) or use techniques such as ghost bends, vary the speed of your bends and so on.

A great example of a virtuoso guitarist with unique string bending technique is Marty Friedman. Rather than using a conventional approach to bending strings, he often starts his bends from a note that is outside of the key and moves the pitch of that note to where it becomes ‘in key’. This creates a very distinct and exotic sound that is a clear marker for Friedman’s style. Simply put, a creative string bend will make any note stand out to anyone listening.

Additionally, keep these points in mind:

First, you must make sure you are always keeping your bends in tune. If you release your bends a little too flat or sharp it will be very obvious – and it will NOT sound good! This is a very common mistake that most guitar players make. Work together with a guitar teacher who can hear whether you are in tune or not and keep your playing on the right track.

Second, don’t use the same types of bends all the time. Begin by playing half step bends and move on to include various other types, such as ghost bends and varying the rate at which you bend the string. Work to perfect each type with all fingers on your fret hand. Support the finger that is doing the bending with any remaining fingers you have available, to gain better control.

Third, pay close attention to the bends of your favorite players and copy the licks they use to get a feel for their style. Then work with a guitar teacher to get help with applying your bends into a musical context as creatively as possible.


By using ornamentation in your guitar playing, you can make every note massively more creative and interesting for the listener. Ornamentation is the general idea of using techniques to ‘embellish’ a note.

One way to do this is to use a trill. Trills are (generally speaking) rapid alternations between one note and another using hammer ons and pull offs. Trills were commonly used throughout the Classical music era and have also been used in rock music by many guitarists. The main idea here is to add more interest to the way you phrase your notes, so that they are always attention-grabbing. Another way to embellish your notes, is to play artificial harmonics with your pick. A great artificial harmonic can create a screaming effect, causing your notes to sound much higher in pitch. This will make them stand out from the other notes you are playing. Additionally, using your fingers to create natural harmonics over the fretboard can sound very creative (especially when combined with a tremolo bar). There are endless other embellishing techniques that could be discussed – however, these ones are a good start. It’s more important to master a few ideas first, so that you don’t overload yourself with too much information at once.

In this article, you’ve only learned three main elements of great guitar phrasing. In part 2, you will discover additional elements to help you improve your lead guitar playing.

Learn how to apply everything you read in this article by studying this free guitar solo phrasing lesson.

p> About The Author:


Nick Layton is a professional guitarist and guitar instructor. He has also written many guitar phrasing improvement courses.

How To Play Badass Guitar Solos Part 3: Expressing Emotions In Your Solos

By Tom Hess

If you are like most guitarists, you don’t know how to play emotional guitar solos. Fortunately, it’s easier to do than you think. Let’s test your current knowledge…

Choose one pair of notes that has the most similar ‘feeling’ to one another:

Pair #1: a C major chord in the rhythm with a G note being played over it in the lead – immediately followed with an E minor chord and a G note played in the lead.

Pair #2: a D major chord in the rhythm with an A note being played over it in the lead – immediately followed with an G major chord and a D note played in the lead.

If you are like many guitarists, you answered the first pair as the one that sounds most similar. However, this answer is way off! Here is why this answer is wrong:

Pair #1 has a G note being played over both the E minor and C major chords. Although the same pitch (G) is being used, this pitch does NOT sound/feel the same when played over each chord. The reason why is the G note is functioning differently: It functions as the fifth over C major and the third over E minor. The fifth and the third sound completely different.

On the other hand, the A and D notes in pair two actually ‘feel’ exactly the same (in spite of being different pitches). This is because they are both fifths – A is the 5th of a D major chord and D is the fifth of the G major chord.

To hear tons of examples of this, so you can fully understand this concept, check out the video below:

How To Quickly Make Your Guitar Solos Sound More Emotional Using This Concept

First, download the .mp3 file below. This .mp3 is simply made of a single note (E) that is played continuously for four minutes. Use this file to complete the steps below:

Click this link to play the audio sample

First Step: Allow the E note backing track to continue playing while you play these chords on top of it (let each chord sustain for 5-10 seconds): B major, F major, F# minor, F# major, E major, E minor, A major, A minor, C# minor, C major, D major, D minor. Imagine this like playing a single note guitar solo above every chord.

Second Step: If you already know how to build chords, you understand that the E note has an entirely different function when played above each chord from the first step. The next step is to figure out the function of the pitch as it is played over each chord. Here is an example: If you notice that you like the way an E note sounds while being played over a C# minor chord and you know that it is functioning as a ‘third’, you will recognize a third whenever you hear it being played over any minor chord. As you found out by watching the video above, the function of a note will always feel/sound the same no matter which note or chord you are using.

With this in mind, it is important to learn how to recognize the sound of other note functions as well (not just your favorites). However, you should begin by identifying the ones you like first, then expand and learn the others.

If you aren’t familiar with chord construction, do this:

  • Pay very close attention to how the E note above ‘feels’ when it is played over the different chords from the first step. After you learn more about music theory, you will be able to understand more about why each chord creates a totally separate feeling over the same note. This will help you apply the information so that you can create emotional guitar solos any time you pick up your instrument. For now, simply get accustomed to the different feelings that occur when the E note is played over each chord change.
  • Study with a great guitar teacher to learn more about music and quickly reach your guitar playing goals.

Third Step: Clearly identify the particular emotions that are created from each pitch function from above. Simply identify the emotions YOU feel – don’t worry about whether or not you have identified the ‘correct’ emotion. Start by asking yourself how it feels when a third, fifth, root, etc. is played over a certain chord (minor or major). This step is critical as it will help you memorize the unique sound/feeling of each function. This is essential for being able to play emotional guitar solos.

Once you have taken the steps above and have a solid grasp on the ‘feeling’ of each note function, begin seeking new ways to apply this idea into your guitar soloing. One exercise you can use to do this is to analyze the notes in the chords of the backing tracks you usually play over. Identify which note goes with which chord and find out what notes the chords have in common.

For example, imagine that this is the chord progression in your favorite backing track: E major, C# minor and G# minor. The E note is present in both the E major and C# minor chords. E functions as a root in E major and a third in C# minor. In addition, the G# note functions as a root over G# minor and a fifth over C# minor. If you were to solo above these chords, it would be to your advantage to use the common tones in each chord (as tools for easily changing the emotion being expressed). One way this is done is to sustain the shared notes over the chord change. This will instantly surprise anyone listening by generating a completely different emotion as the note is changing its function.

Of course, you should not ‘always’ be using this method in your solos. Doing this all the time will cause your soloing to become predictable and stale.

Although the concept you learned in this article IS very powerful and will help you improve the quality of your guitar solos… it is only the beginning! If you really want to become a killer lead guitar player, you must master the ability to make your listeners ‘feel’ exactly how you want them to feel with every note you play. Learn how by reading this page about creating intense emotion in your guitar playing.



About The Author:
Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, songwriter and a pro guitarist. He uses the best online guitar lessons to train guitar players to reach their musical goals. Go to to get more guitar playing resourcesguitar playing eBooks, and to read more guitar playing articles.

Why You Struggle To Attract Guitar Students In The Summer

by Tom Hess

You’re probably aware of how there are much less student inquiries during the summer than any other season. In most cases, guitar teachers have no solutions for this issue, leading to an added struggle tomake good money teaching guitar. With this in mind, just because there are less inquiries, does NOT mean you can’t get tons of students in the summer!

There are several reasons why guitar teachers can’t keep students during the summer. Here are these reasons and what you must do to not only ‘get’ students but grow your guitar teaching business as a whole:

Reason 1: Not Enforcing A STRONG Guitar Teaching Policy

Having a weak guitar teaching policy is a huge mistake for your guitar teaching business. Without one in place, your student base will quickly deteriorate because they will have the power to walk all over you, stop taking lessons without notice or take time off (without paying you for it). The most common teaching policy that leads to these things is a policy that lets people pay lesson-by-lesson. This kind of lesson policy leaves the door open for students to reschedule when they feel like it, arrive late, not pay on time and (in the summer) go on vacation for months at a time.

Truly successful guitar teachers charge their students per month, NOT per lesson. And if you want to get paid on time and not get taken advantage of… you should too! In addition, you don’t need to accept it as a loss when your students leave for summer vacation. To get ready for this situation, think of creative ways to train your students when they are unable to meet with you in person for a lesson. Discover tons of ways you can do this by checking out this free resource about earning a ton of money teaching guitar.

Reason 2: Giving Up On Even ‘Trying’ To Promote Your Guitar Teaching Business During The Summer Months

Because most guitar teachers understand that there are less student inquiries in the summer, they often give up on their promotional efforts during this time. This opens the door for you to market yourself to all the students that everyone else is ignoring. There are always students seeking teachers regardless of the time of year (even if there are ‘less’ in the summer). By being one of the only teachers to increase marketing efforts in the summer, you will effectively raise the percentage of students you are able to attract. This will essentially transform the summer months from your ‘worst’ time for attracting students to your ‘best’.

Reason 3: Not Having Good Promotional Ability To Begin With

In the other articles I released on how to teach guitar lessons, I discussed why most guitar teachers are completely unaware of how to promote their business. This prevents them from making a lot more money and helping their students in a much greater capacity. When you are unable to promote your guitar lessons very well, you will struggle even more during the summertime when you are being contacted by less people. This will make it extremely hard to sustain your guitar teaching business for a long period of time.

To make sure you keep your guitar students during the summer, work together with an experienced guitar teacher coach who will show you how to keep and attract students year round.

Reason 4: Not Telling Your Guitar Students In Advance About The Value Of Taking Lessons In The Summer

Guitar students generally have a host of non-guitar activities that they want to participate in during the summer. As their guitar instructor, you must help them understand why guitar is so much more important than all those other things. You must help them realize:

A) The specific reasons why getting better at guitar is more valuable for them than any recreational activity they could be doing.

B) How important it is to continue learning guitar in the summer so that they do not ‘lose’ all the skills they gained, only to have to relearn everything again in the fall (costing them tons of additional time and money in the process). This is the same thing that happens every year for your students who go to public school, so they can understand this concept clearly (and know that you make a good point when you explain it to them).

C) How taking lessons with you during the summer will be a very unique experience that they MUST be a part of. Here is one way (of many) you can give them this realization:

Create a unique event that only takes place in the summer months. For instance, you can create a lead guitar technique mastery program, hold live performance coaching or even host a road trip for your students to go see a cool band. Then you can show them how to play guitar like the guitarist in the band (as a standalone program). The creative ideas you can think of are boundless – promote these events well in advance and your students will be ‘pumped’ when the summertime finally comes around.

[Notice: The worst thing you could do is ‘reduce’ your lesson rates to try to keep your students - THIS is exactly how most guitar teachers lose their students during the summer because the students perceive guitar lessons to be of lesser value than the other fun things they could be doing.]

Now you know how to retain your students for the summer, learn how to get more guitar students during any season.


About The Author:

Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, recording artist and the guitar player. He helps people from all over the world learn how to teach guitar. Visit his website to get free guitar teacher resources and to read more guitar teaching articles.