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Do yall have any good speed and dexterity exercises? Are there any that incorporate various bluegrass techniques ie slides, hammer ons, double stops, pull offs, ect?

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Use a tune you have commited to memory, set the metronome faster than it should be played. I personnaly don't believe in memorizing a scale study that you use to try and play faster. What did you accomplish when you get done? Yep, you can just blister that scale, then you go back to that tune your working hard on and keep stumbling through it. See what I mean?


There are lots of exercises, to help with dexterity, but most of what you need is embedded in the tunes we play. The true goal should be to play very accurate and clean. Over time, the speed will come. What I do is slow things down. It may sound weird, but in order to play fast, first you have to play slow. Take a tune and play through it at a nice comfortable tempo. Work on any trouble spots by isolating the measure or phrase if necessary. Then find the tempo (metronome) where you can play the entire song without any mistakes at least 5 times through. If you can't play it without any mistakes, then you need to slow it down and work through it. Once you can perfect it at a comfortable speed, then set the metronome a little faster, maybe one or two clicks. Keep repeating that exercise but make sure that you can play it perfect before you speed up. By doing this, you will find the very subtle differences b/t one or two clicks is hardly noticeable, but over time you'll be playing much faster. If you start a tune around 110, I can promise you that by doing it this way, within a week or two you'll be at 130-140 or faster, but, it will be clean. Let the speed come naturally overtime but the real goal should be clean and perfect.

This will also help with memorization and get you off the tab too. Once you can play from total memory, you'll notice a big difference in the feeling, timing, tone etc because you won't be thinking about the notes.

Good luck

I've always benefited more from learning lots of tunes. You'll learn licks that are "modular": they may be cut and
pasted into other tunes, and "generic" licks that may be substituted. In other words, let your tunes
be your "exercises" for all of the techniques you listed.

I agree with Dave: no one goes to jams and plays scales and technical drills. Try yelling "Let's jam on scales" at a jam.....
Well, you can't go wrong with Steve Kaufman:


Good luck!
Now this may sound strange, but as much as we think of speed as in the fingers, I find its as much in the mind. Just as the mechanics can hold you back so to can not thinking fast enough about the tune. I try and learn the tune clearly in my head as much as in my fingers. It helps to hum or la the whole tune or troublesome sections, and up to speed if possible. Then play sections immediately after singing or humming the tune. This also improves ear training and allows rapid learning of new material.
Some players such as Chris Newman are amazing at doing this - the rest of us just aim towards it.
Hope this is helpful
Hi there, For the past 6 months I've worked on 2 exercises I downloaded from www.freeguitarvideos.com. Go to bluegrass and find speed exercise. I've worked at it 30 to 60 minutes per day religiously. One is basically an exercise for the right hand and the other works with the left. I've found more success in the right hand. My picking has gotten a lot lighter and quicker and faster. I use it as a warm exercise everyday now.
Try it.
From Phil Waites: "...as much as we think of speed as in the fingers, I find its as much in the mind. Just as the mechanics can hold you back so to can not thinking fast enough about the tune. I try and learn the tune clearly in my head as much as in my fingers."

I'm finding this to be the case for me. It's really my thinking and memory that slows me down and makes me stumble. I know this because if I play while looking at the TAB, I can play faster than without the TAB. So I'm training myself to learn a piece in my mind as well as in my fingers. Something that has been very helpful to me lately has been to get the timing down very precisely while playing with a slow metronome. I find that what I want to play seems to come out a lot easier when I have a true understanding of the timing of the song's basic melody. After I get that burned onto the ol' brain, it is easier to add embellishments like slides, hammer-ons, double stops, and pull-offs.
You're dead right Jim, the best players I know have very agile minds and tend to pick up tunes quickly. i tend to sing scales, exercises and always tunes. If I cant get them quickly I just just break them down a few bars at a time and sing them while i'm learning them on the guitar. this seems to help train my ear while learning the tune. My wife plays fiddle and Irish whistle and picks up tunes incredibly quickly - she has them in her head well before they get to the instrument - very impressive.

Seems to me the ears and the mind are the most important - they take in the info and tell the fingers what to do.

keep "singing" and Pickin
I SO agree that most of our technique builders are already in the tunes we play. However one I give my students (and use myself) is scale sequencing.

Starting with a G major scale, giving each note a number (1, 2, 3 = G, A, B etc.) A USEFUL sequence for flatpicking would be:

1 2 3 1, 2 3 4 2, 3 4 5 3, 4 5 6 4, 5 6 7 5, 6 7 8 6, 7 8 9 7, 8 (1)
G A B G, A B C A, etc.

8 7 6 8, 7 6 5 7, 6 5 4 6, etc. ending with 2172, 1.
G F# E G, F# E D F#, etc...
Each of these exercises (played as suggested) end with a V - I cadence in a way we're used to hearing it.

There are MANY MANY sequences - book of them! We don't need them all. Another I find useful is:
1 3, 2 4, 3 5, 4 6, 5 7, 6 8, 7 9, 8 (1)
G B, A C, B D, etc...
8 6, 7 5, 6 4, 5 3, 4 2, 3 1, 2 7, 8 (1)
G E, F#D, E C, etc...

These two sequences make for great technique building. They can be applied to ANY scale or arpeggio.

The finger-buster I like to start with the chromatic scale in open position then use each of these sequences on that scale - great for L. hand R. hand coordination as well as dexterity and speed. (eventually)

I would be glad to elaborate if this doesn't make sense.

best of luck!



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