Every beginning guitar player, if they are honest with themselves has a desire to play fast. I urge you to consider the fact that playing fast does not make you a good guitar player. So when dealing with the desire to play fast, weigh your desire against the music and style of your playing. Is it necessary?
If you answered yes to the above question, congratulations, you are a shredder in training! So here is where your pride gets checked. In order to play fast, you must start slow, very slow. To build speed you must also build precision. Speed without precision is worthless noise.
Start by learning your scales and learn them one note at a time and play them in no notes, then 1 / 8th notes, followed by 1 / 16th notes. Always practice with a metronome. We'll cover the metronome later in this article.
Beginning guitar players tend to play all down strokes when they are banging out those first chords. As you progress in your guitar playing, you should start to develop an alternate picking technique in your guitar playing. Alternate picking is defined as the continuous rotation between down and up strokes.
Here is where your speed will start to pick up as you develop this technique. In fact your speed should double in theory because the time it takes to hit the next note is now cut in half. Use this technique on the same scales you have been learning. Use the metronome to make sure your timing is accurate. Build through your pentatonic scales and your major scales.
Start to introduce common licks into your repertoire at this point. Practice these new licks using your alternate picking where appropriate and work towards building your speed. Try to work towards doubling the original speed of the lick. Make sure it is still distinguishable and has musical quality in it.
If you want to build some serious speed into your playing this technique is going to take you to the next level. Sweep picking is a technique that not every speed player utilizes but is very noticeable when you hear it. Used mostly with arpeggio licks you can create some amazing speed with this technique.
If you do not know what an arpeggio is yet, then you have some extra learning to do. But a basic definition is playing the notes of a chord one at a time until all the notes are played. Sometimes each note is played more than once with each once played in a different octave.
The technique of using sweep picking means that we disregard the alternative picking technique we just learned and we play all down strokes but the difference is that we make a continues "sweep" across the strings starting from the lowest string to the highest string. Think of it as a slow strum.
To start learning this technique think of the E shape bar chord. Pick out the notes of the chord with one note on each string. Keep in mind that you do not let them wring out like you do with a chord. Each note is played for one beat wherever it is for a note or an 1 / 8th note or 16th or 32nd notes.
Use a Metronome
You should now understand that a metronome is a key ingredient to playing faster. Unless you are gifted from above with timing like no other player I know, you better get yourself a metronome and learn to use it.
There are several ways to use a metronome. You can use it to simply increase or decrease the tempo you are playing with but you can also set it to play whole notes or any subdivision of the notes. One technique is to set the metronome to a reasonably moderate speed and treat each click as a whole note and then play 1/4 notes or more and see if each one beat lines up with the metronome.
With all the technology available today you can download some amazing free metronomes to your smartphone or computer. You can still buy metronomes from your local music store if you wish but it is no longer necessary.
With these ideas you should be able to start developing a speed technique that will impress your friends. Keep in mind that if you only want to impress your friends, you may need to rethink why you are playing the guitar. Speed is not the pinnacle of guitar playing, music is. Originality and feel is more highly respected than any speed technique.
You will be able to impress people with speed if done in a professionally accurate manner. Timing is everything.