Many acoustic guitar players love playing bluegrass. For some bluegrass guitar players, speed can be a big obstacle on their acoustic journey. Learning how to play bluegrass guitar fast can be easy as long as you practice these three exercises.
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Bluegrass Guitar Lesson (Quick and Simple!)
Some of the most important aspects of bluegrass guitar are rhythmic accuracy, consistency, and feel. Before going through the exercises, be sure to establish your baseline with this simple exercise.
All you’ll need is your guitar, a flatpick, and a metronome. Pick one fretted note, and practice your alternate picking on that one note. Once you have that single note baseline, play along with the metronome. Make sure you are staying with the metronome on your alternate picking. A good tempo to start on is 100 beats per minute.
Once you can play with the metronome, try playing the major scale starting on that note. When you play through the scale, be sure to stay on tempo with the metronome. After you feel comfortable doing that, try increasing the metronome further and further. At the end of the day, this exercise with help with finger dexterity, picking speed, and muscle memory.
Bluegrass Guitar Exercises for Faster Playing
Bluegrass Guitar Exercise #1
Borrowing from the previous exercise, run through the scale using the metronome 10 times — non-stop. Once you do this, up the tempo on the metronome by five bpm. Then, play it 10 more times. Continue running through the exercise and increasing the tempo until you can’t play the scale anymore.
You may find that at a certain point you can’t play at tempo anymore. Keep pushing the tempo until the wheels fall off — but don’t strain yourself! At this point, return to the baseline until you can play at tempo.
Bluegrass Guitar Exercise #2
This exercise is a derivation of the previous exercise. Instead of having the metronome clicking along, turn it off and put it in the room — seriously, having it out of sight can take the edge off this exercise. From there, do the exact same exercise as before at a tempo you feel comfortable with. This might be fast, it might be slow, but the important thing is you can play confidently and relaxed.
Removing the metronome in this exercise helps you focus on the clarity of your guitar playing without the stress of the metronome. This auxiliary exercise will reduce the stress of playing fast and help you learn to play fast without any sort of guide.
Bluegrass Guitar Exercise #3
After doing the previous exercises for 10 minutes a day for one week, revisit the baseline exercise from the beginning of this lesson and see how faster your tempo is. Because you’ve been diligently practicing your fast playing and picking exercises, you’re going to see results. Keep in mind that building speed for bluegrass flatpicking is a slow and steady journey.
As you continue to practice your bluegrass guitar exercises, make sure you remember the 4 Ts: Tone, Technique, Tension, and Timing. If you notice that any of these Ts affect your playing, it’s time to slow down. Sticking to the exercises and keeping in mind the 4 Ts will help you play bluegrass fast.
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Tony, once again you have hit a home run! I have shied away from this speed stuff thinking that my fingers just won’t be able to know where to go. This is a great way to develop my speediest technique without being too frustrated.
Thanks man and keep the lessons coming.
Best lesson ever!
Really love this lesson Tony!! After ten minutes a huge jump in my technique, tension , timing and tone and will do this exercise every day for the next ten days
Really enjoyed this one. This is something not overwhelming. Helps me to keep pressing on and see results immediately. Thank you!
I have a ways dismissed my pinky finger for lack of strength , I guess. Now I realize how important this finger is. This will be a long journey to beef up my little finger. Any one out there have any training techniques?
Hi Colleen. Here’s a great left-hand exercise I learned from a pro. Start with index finger on 3rd fret of high E string.
Without using your right hand at all (except to steady the guitar), use index & 2nd finger to play the 3rd & 4th frets down to the low E and back up again. Move down a fret and repeat to 12th fret. Then do the same with 2nd & 3rd fingers, and again with 3rd & pinky.
Next use index & 3rd finger to play frets 3 & 5 across the neck and back, and again on every fret to the 12th. Then frets 3 & 6 with index & pinky (as above, across & back, down to the 12th fret). And last, 2nd finger & pinky on 3rd & 5th fret – across & back, down to the 12th fret.
I do these every day as my 1st warm-up. They’ll strengthen (and coordinate, and stretch) all the fingers on your left hand, but as you can see, the 3rd, 5th & 6th phases work the pinky. (The first time is gonna hurt a little.) Increase speed as you can without sacrificing tone or tempo. Better to do these WELL than to do them fast. Your speed and volume will increase as your hands get stronger.
I hope that’s helpful. ENJOY!