Let’s Talk Technique…

As blues players, sometimes the word technique leaves a… less than desireable taste…

Blues is about feeling the music and playing from your heart and leaving your soul bare on the stage for all to see and hear...

But, how do you think you’re going to do that if you can’t play well?

If I had a nickel for every time I thought, “Man, I love what you were going for there…” I would be a wealthy man indeed.

When you get a great idea, or you hear a cool lick or phrase that you want to copy, do you ever think, “too bad I can’t play like that?”

And then you might make up some excuses about small hands, or being too old, or not having time to practice… and in some instances where there is arthritis or nerve damage of some sort, those concerns might be legitimate, but for 995 out of 1000 students that I see, those excuses are nothing but excuses.

Wouldn’t it be cooler to hear something, have a pretty good idea of how it might be achieved (because you’ve played something similar, so you can kind of recognize it) and then tinker around with it for a few minutes and you’re playing around with it like you own it?

So I’m going to start on a mission today: I want to improve your speed (and that means, your techniques, your speed, your control, and your dexterity) by 10% over the next 30 days.

Really, I think I can get it up by 20%… but I realize that might sound unbelievable, so I’ll stick with 10% for now. (I’ve actually got proof that I can do over 20%, on average, because I’ve done it… but I’ll save that for later.)

My part, as you can probably guess, is videos and stuff that I do…

Your part, is that I need your time. I don’t need a lot, but if you commit to this, you’ll reap the benefits for the rest of your life.

Let’s start with about 15 minutes today… grab your guitar (though you won’t need it right away) and watch this, and take it in. If you can practice this in front of a mirror so that you can see your hand position, that’s all the better.

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34 Comments

  • Bill45

    Reply Reply May 4, 2018

    I studied classical guitar and flamenco in my 20’s and learned these exercises. There is a little variation you can do on the ascending scale that makes it a bit more challenging but it too has a lot of benefit if you can master the moves.

    The variation is: after you have reached the 4th fret on the 6th string, don’t lift all of your fingers to start the pattern on the 5th string. Lift the 1st finger to move to the 5th string while leaving the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers on the fret board on the 6th string. Then move the 2nd finger to the 5th string while leaving the 3rd and 4th fingers on the 6th string, repeat the process with the 3rd and 4th fingers.

    It’s hard to do and the key is to do it slowly at first to get the hang of it. One of the benefits is it helps you to keep your fingers close to the finger board even when any particular finger is not being used at the time. This is particularly helpful for what I call “the fly away 4th finger” problem. I see a lot of players whose 4th finger is practically pointing straight up from the fret board when it is not in use. From a pure efficiency perspective, the closer your fingers stay to the fret board, the easier it is to get the fingers to the fret board when needed.

    Watch any accomplished classical guitarist’s left hand. It appears to me moving effortlessly and the fingers are never very far away from the fret board! I know classical guitar “ain’t the blues”, but learning to keep the fingers closer to the fret board will help any style of guitar playing.

  • Benyaw

    Reply Reply April 21, 2018

    Thanks again griff

  • John

    Reply Reply April 21, 2018

    I have the bad habit of thumb facing stock,my issue is my fingers are not arched using the correct position is there anything I can do different, I can change knee and works better,but my problem has always been dead strings even on chords.yes I know drop wrist but it’s awkward

  • James O'Rourke

    Reply Reply April 20, 2018

    Hi Griff,
    This a very helpful exercise to increase speed. Thanks

  • Mark

    Reply Reply April 19, 2018

    Please Griff, do a Guitar Technique for Blues Course. I will buy it now! 😄. Seriously though, technique something I want to improve. I am sure my lack of is holding back my playing. Unfortunately the internet is full of peopl teaching technique that is aimed at youngsters who want to shred. Not for me and generally not focused on what is needed for playing blues.
    Griff is the man that can do this! How about it Griff?

  • ed wholley

    Reply Reply April 19, 2018

    My guitar instructor has me doing the same exercise using triplets. It has helped me with my picking hand lots.But I have developed that bad habit of my thumb coming up over the top of the neck. And when I try to keep it where it should be, everything falls apart. I know its a bad habit but having a hard time with it. Watching your video reminded me of my instructor pointing this flaw out to me. It’s somthing that just developed over time and now I feel that I’m gonna be stuck with it. I am aware of the issue but so hard to break away from bad habits. Thank you

  • steven siegel

    Reply Reply April 19, 2018

    Learning the basic how too is the key too playing as it should be and will better your playing as you do explain. My tempo is some times a issue in speed. We are not perfect.I will practice it. If you think your hand is weird you should see my left hand. You might be surprised I can play at all. Or at least what I can play. I think it was Robert Johnson that had his hand burned and two of his fingers were actually fused together. The man was truly good.

    • JohnnyB

      Reply Reply April 19, 2018

      Hmmm, just like Django?

  • tony

    Reply Reply April 19, 2018

    beginner stuff . a casual thing right leg . mel bay says left leg for country?

  • Elio

    Reply Reply April 19, 2018

    My guitar teacher taught me very similar exercise a few years ago and I saw results very quickly after I started doing it. Unfortunately, as you pointed out it’s easy to forget about it. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Raul Moralez

    Reply Reply April 19, 2018

    Great lesson. Tips are worth a million…Thank you sir! I will do these often.

  • Chris Roper

    Reply Reply April 19, 2018

    Great for me…..too old, small hands, no time, arthritis, but what do I tell my nine year old grandson when he tells me his hands are too small…..even with a three quarter sized guitar? I’ll show him anyway and tell him to start at fret nine? Will that do it? Great stuff, as always.
    Thanks Mr Hamlin,
    Chris Roper
    Nathan’s Grandad.

  • Scotty R

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Thanks Griff. Good attention to detail in this… Looking forward to seeing where it goes and if I can get another 20%

    I sure hope you’ll do a similar video showing proper techniques for blues playing as you described it. Eg. thumb-over, flatter fingers, better left hand muting. Seems many of the great blues players played that way and It’s something I struggle with.

  • larry

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    great job thanks for the lesson

  • Steve Black

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Awesome Griff,
    I was lucky enough,
    but hated it at the time ( many years ago)
    I did study classical guitar and you nailed it on hand position. So critical .
    I also played violin in grade and high school , again you nailed it.
    Awesome lesson in technique.
    Love it.
    Cheers

  • cowboy

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    learned versions of this years ago as warmup exercies…did more for me than any other exercise…thanks for reminding me of getting back to it…later.

    cowboy

    • Alexander

      Reply Reply April 18, 2018

      Tips like that goes a long way. Very helpful. Thanks!

  • Mike H

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Regarding the descending part of this exercise, I admit that I don’t understand the benefit of placing all 4 fingers on the string before playing the descending notes. Since it takes longer to place 4 fingers on a string than it does to place 1 finger, seems like this habit will slow me down, not speed me up. But if Griff says it helps, I’ll give it a spin!
    Best wishes.

    • ACE

      Reply Reply April 18, 2018

      BEEN PLYING FOR OVER 50 YEARS. FIRST TIME I HAD FLAMINCO LESSIONS AT 12 YEARS OLD. I HAD TO DO THIS , BUT HAVE ALL FOUR FINGERS ON THE FRET BORAD WHEN I WENT BACK DOWN THE BROARD, IT WAS HARD AND FRUSTRATING. I DID THIS FOR 6 WEEKS OF LESSONS.
      NOW I HAVE VERY BAD ARTRITIST IN MY LEFT HAND. I’M NOT AS FLEXABLE, BUT IT IS HARD TO PLAY IN PAIN.
      NO EXCUSES, I KNOW!! THEN YOU DON’T KNOW ERIC CLPATON. HE PLAYED HIS LAST GIG AT THE FORUM. I DID SEE HIM STRUGGEL. HE WAS IN THE HOSPITAL FOR A MONTH . HE HAS NERUOLICAL DAMAGE.
      AGAIN, I LERANED THIS WHEN I WAS 12. THANKS GRIFF

  • Corky

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Thanks Griff. I agree 100% with your advice. I know it works because it worked for me. Been doing it awhile and the exercise has improved my speed an accuracy a lot. Been playing over 25 years country and a little blue grass that long but need your great lessons to learn to play the blues. I did purchase Blues Unleashed a year ago.

  • DaveyJoe

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Very helpful. Thanks Griff.

  • Tom Hopsicker

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Nice lesson. Thanks!

  • Gregory L Senich

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    I laughed as you said, “If you’ve done this before and stopped, do it again” Or close to that. I had done it and I Had gotten better but I had quit for more “entertaining stuff”. What seemed impossible–that classical “grip” became moderately comfortable, but being in a rush, I passed on it to get moving, even though it is imperative very high on the neck (especially acoustic) where that rock grip fails. I see from even that bit and your now talk, that I could benefit from revisiting that daily. I saw progress and stopped it. Why? Doesn’t matter. Time to go back. Thanks for the kick in the butt. You Rock…as always.

  • kenneth berry

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    thanks going to try hard to work on this. Simple but effective.

    Thanks Griff…

  • Bruce

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    I will work on this but I must admit I have great difficulty on the higher frets even when the neck is right next to my neck. I’m playing a strat so that’s part of it but I have to stretch (a lot) even when the thumb is in the suggested position. Hopefully it gets easier!

  • Michael Chappell

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Hi Griff,
    Back to basics and I like this exercise. I always do a warm up Box 1 & 2 in different keys. But no great speed nor getting any better in speed maybe 40 BPM. This lesson has it nailed.
    Going to give it a good try each day for 15 mins.

    Thanks Griff

    Michael -Sydney- Australia 18th April 2018.

    • Michael Chappell

      Reply Reply April 20, 2018

      Hey Griff, Watched this lesson 3 times to memorise it and NOW started seriously doing it on Friday 20th April and practicing it in front of the TV without the amp as well. Using my Strat.. I am now dedicated to get in down pat over next 29 days and onwards as a warm up. Eventually I will practice it on all my 7 guitars so I will be familiar when changing from Strat to tele to 335 semi hollow etc.
      A Great wake up call as my speed was down around 40 BPM.

      Thanks
      Michael-Sydney-Australia 20th April 2018.

  • telypaul

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Nice one Griff, I got into this recently (found it on Art of Guitar) although I have been using Spider exe for ages occasionaly, but I have been warming up daily with this and it does work both with right and left hand.
    I do this along with other exe’s, Scales, frags RH triplets and 16th’s for maybe 15-20min daily, currently running at about 144 BPM, and I can hear and feel the improvement in my playing.
    I will never be good, and I think 144 is my limit but if you don’t try you don’t get.
    Sounds boring but worth the effort especially if you can feel it when you are finished.

  • mike z.

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Griff , this lesson is very helpful to me , especially the thumb placement . I remember a couple years ago , you mentioned dropping your wrist to get some chords . Today’s lesson will help me . I will save this and refer back until I can do it . Thanks again for a great lesson . Mike Z.

  • Bob S.

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Thanks Griff. It’s like with real estate…..location, location, location. I’m running up against the same speed/accuracy problem with Gypsy Jazz & Texas Swing playing. I’m guessing this technique’ll get me that extra percentage of both. Thanks again.

  • Javier

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Hi Griff,
    Thanks for your daily mails and lessons.

    I have a question about picks.
    There are picks of different sizes, soft, hard, etc.
    After several years playing guitar, I still wonder which kind of pick to use. 🙂

    Do you think pick type could have any influence on speed?

    I’d like to get your comments on this, if appropriate.
    Best Regards,
    Javier (from Spain)

  • Larry

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Wow that was pretty cool. Will start doing that exercise. You always come up with really cool ways to practice. I tell everyone your my teacher. I’ve been off my practicing do to worrying about my upcoming open heart surgery. Soon as it’s done I’ll get back in the groove and pick my guitar back up. Thanks Griff for all your teaching. You are one of a kind

  • Dave (Lucky)lackey

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    I focus maybe too much on technique ,and not enough on making music,
    Left brain,right brain.
    Any suggestions there?
    Admittedly,when I practice it revolves generally around shapes ,chords,notes…
    I played a lot of golf really got involved in the practice not so much the playing,
    I got pretty good never to expert or elite level,same thing with the guitar, I have gotten proficient , but just not to where I can play
    Can just play,?
    Best

  • John

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    Great lesson, always nice to be able to see the little things put so simply reminds me of a course I started and then never completely understand at that particular time.thanks again

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