If you're looking for some extra speed (and who isn't looking for extra horsepower in the digits), I've compiled a Top Nine list (hey, this is Guitar Nine) for the most creative ideas and/or mods to enhance your performance: some good, some not so good. I'm not making this stuff up... people have tried this crap.
Okay, so not really an epiphany, but... Keep your strings ultra low, almost to the point of unplayable. Who cares about fretbuzz? Your distortion will cover that up (which explains the horrible distortion sounds of the mid-'80s metal bands). As far as the neck goes, you want it as flat as possible with no relief, and huge, monster fretwire. I'm talking train tracks here. Better yet, scallop the board, too.
I could have lumped this in with the action, but it deserves it's own place on the list. Just put on the lightest strings you can find. I mean dental floss thin. I remember checking out this Judas Priest songbook when I was learning how to play, and it said that Mr. Tipton and Downing were using freakin' .007s for their two high strings. Those guys burned, so... 2+2.
Hey, what you do with yourself is none of my business. I don't advocate drug use. The hardest stuff I use is BC Headache Powder, but I've heard of some guys actually taking stuff to speed up their sensory perception. I'm sure your liver will thank you for the 128th notes.
If you want to play faster, play with slower people. Or you can play the song at 74 bpm, and those pesky 16th notes will sound like Yngwie on crack. It's basic mathematics...
Well, back in the analog days, some guys would slow the tape down, and play the leads over it. When you played it back in real time, it was just ridonculous fast. Of course, with these new fangled things called computers, there's all kinds of stuff to help. Rumor has it there's a shred VST plugin that's supposed to really clean up lead stuff.
Time to break out that trusty rasp and/or bastard file and get to work on your plectrums. File them down to a point. This one actually works pretty well, as you'll expend less pick energy due to the smaller contact area between the plastic and string, thus efficiently using this extra energy for faster licks. You can also bevel the edges for extra aerodynamics.
Yup, this list wouldn't be complete without mentioning the ol' cordless drill pick attachment. Just stick a bunch of picks on a rotary wheel, and use your trusty Makita to rip a magnitude 9.4 solo.
This gem of an idea is basically PAM, or spray olive oil. It was some kind of lubricant in an aerosol can. You'd spray it on the fretboard to minimize drag from old string crud and/or dry hands. An alternative is to use a stick of butter, but that's just being silly... too much cholesterol.
Who remembers this fashion statement? It was basically a spandex glove with the fingers cut off at the second knuckle. At the third knuckle on the palm side, there was this piece of material that best resembled the loop end of velcro. Anyway, you were supposed to take your trusty bottle of magic speed elixir and soak the velcro. When you needed that extra bit of speed, you could sop your fingertips into your palm for some extra juice. Kinda like the Fast Fret spray, but a little less conspicuous. Still turns your fretboard into a Slip-n-Slide.
So what are you waiting for? No more practicing! Chips for everyone! Make mine salt and vinegar.
Joe Bochar is an original guitarist originally from Rhode Island. When he's not playing with his guitar or Lego's, Joe can be found wandering the streets of Los Angeles, pedaling crack to lonesome, down and out 3-legged mice who suffer from fromagaphobia.
His latest project is "X", a self-produced instrumental guitar CD release.
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