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Fundamentals, Revisited

I’m not the fastest or most technical guitarist, but I’m working on it. I try to remember the same approaches I teach when encountering my own challenges. Part of a solo I’m working on is quite difficult, not only for the left hand, but the speed, string skipping, hammer-on/pull-off pattern (just new to me), and—where I am currently getting hung up—right-hand fluidity.

There’s an old saying with music: “If you can’t play it slow, you will never be able to play it fast.” There is some truth in this saying, but it turns out, I wasn’t considering the feel of it here. Once I slowed down and added the “down, up” sixteenth note division to my right hand, I noticed I was choking at certain spots of the run, inverting the picking direction concerning the natural placement of the notes within the sixteenth note subdivision. When learning material beyond our technical abilities, we tend to view things as little chunks of information out of their greater context. This helps classify the information and make absorbing it more manageable; however, sometimes the parts become incongruent once we connect them. Well, this mismatch between pieces is what had been preventing me from speeding up! Once I slowed it down and got the picking directions back on that sixteenth-note grid, I noticed a down-pick on each string shift and the natural accent patterns! Then the run felt natural (like, for human hands), and I am confident this is exactly how the author played it!

I see this learning process with my students; it was humbling and enlightening to know that I am no different. Now that I can play it slow, I just have to learn to play it fast 🤙


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