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The Art Of Playing Slowly

What benefits will you reap from playing slowly? Surprisingly enough you might become a faster guitar player and more important, you will become a better musician and guitarist!

How is this possible?

Life is full of surprises. Many people have experienced that they somehow have run away from life by hurrying all the time. Well, what has this to do with you as a guitarist!

First of all I would like to state that from personal experience I have found that many guitarists practice scales and licks faster than they should.

What do I mean with that?

Our present technical skill as a guitar player sets a limit as to how fast we can play scales and licks without doing damage to ourselves in various ways. What can happen if you play too fast?

Here is a list of things that can happen when you practice scales and other exercices or solos too fast:

1. If you play guitar in a speed that is above your technical skill level you will probably build up tensions in the muscles controlling your finger movements and also in other muscles that should not be used. You are also exposed to muscle injuries that might take a long time to cure.

The muscle tensions that is present when you practice on your guitar will tend to be there when you perform also. The way you practice is reflected in how you perform.

2. Always playing fast on your guitar deprive you of the opportunity to find out new things all by yourself on the guitar. I remember that one of my guitar pupils once came to me and said that he experienced a "dearth of licks" in his guitar playing.

One way to develop more interesting solos is to practice slowly. This will give your fingers and brain time to take other paths on the guitar frets. This will help you find your own style and help you play in a more innovative way.

3. The risk of making mistakes on your guitar increases the faster you play. If you want to learn a lick as fast as possible, the most effective way is to practice slowly without mistakes. Every mistake you make as you practice slows down your progression as you confuse your muscle memory with things that shouldn't be there.

How can you start to play slower?

1. Use a metronome. If you don't have one already you can buy a cheap digital metronome. You can adjust the volume so not to disturb your friends around you. I don't recommend that you use a metronome all the time but part of your practice time and especially when you want to play slowly and when you practice new material.

Some players feel like the metronome slows down when they play. Actually these players of course speed up unconsciously. It really is an art to keep a steady pace playing slowly.

2. Use part of your practice time to play extremely slowly with your concentration on playing as relaxed as possible in your whole body. Focus on pressing down the frets with minimal force and holding your pick with as little force as possible.

3. Learn to be aware of tensions in your entire body and especially in your hands. Be careful never to play faster on your guitar than your technical skills allows you to without building up tensions in your hands and the rest of your body. The way your body reacts when you practice is the way it will react when your perform.

In order to understand and be aware of tensions in your body I recommend that you learn muscle stretching and apply these exercises before, during and after your guitar practice sessions. Also learn muscle relaxation exercises.

The more relaxed you are as you play the better you will play on your guitar and the faster you will learn new guitar exercises. You will enjoy your guitar playing more and even your audience will feel the difference.

Thank you to Peter Edvinsson

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