This is the best way ever to play guitar faster, cleaner and more musically. It does not have to take years and years to reach a decent skill level.
The Slowpoke Approach, as I like to call it, is a simple method that helps eliminate mistakes, bad habits and stress in your guitar playing. I’m sure we all know what it’s like trying to play “at speed” and it sounds rushed, choppy, forced and just not musically pleasing. Here is a solution to that problem.
Use The Slowpoke Approach To Get To The Next Level Of Guitar Playing
This is a sure, proven method that can help you remember the tune, focus on the tone, and give you that muscle memory that is so important in making music. There is that magical zone where you are not thinking about playing, instead you are making music, from the heart. That is what we are after.
Nobody wants to spend hours, days, months or years practicing guitar only to discover that they are progressing at a snail’s pace. I know, that is my story; years of plodding along, learning a little here and a little there, but never really reaching the level I wanted.
It was actually a very slow speaking guy from the South who turned me onto this idea. It is, of course, not a new idea, but it was new to me. Wasn’t it Solomon who said: “There is nothing new under the sun.”? I’m pretty sure musicians from the ancient world knew all about the Slowpoke Solution, but, from my own experience and from playing music with others, it seems to be largely forgotten, unknown or ignored.
“Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.” – William Shakespeare
Here are some benefits from the Slowpoke Approach
- You are more mindful of what is going on. You have time to process the sensations, sounds, tone, feel of the pick and your finger movements
- You hold yourself back. This might seem odd, but, when you crash ahead (like I used to do all the time) you get burned out quickly because of your failure. Walk, then run.
- You learn it right. When you go slowly you have a chance to use the correct fingering, correct picking motion and play the right notes. You just can’t do that when you are trying too hard and playing at speed.
- You can focus. Doing something slowly requires focus and this engages your mind and body to learn more effectively.
- The Slowpoke Approach helps calm your insides. Inner tension destroys creativity and makes your muscles tighten up, especially when playing in public. This method helps relieve stress, centers your focus and helps you relax and enjoy your playing more.
12 Bar Blues Structure
As you can see, 12 bar blues can be broken up into sections or phrases. Celtic tunes and Bluegrass tunes also tend to follow a predictable structure, though totally different than our blues example.
The point is, you can learn one short phrase much easier than one long phrase. In fact, there have been times when all I could manage to play correctly was a few notes of a phrase. But that is not so bad, once you learn a little you can keep moving and learn a bit more and soon you have learned quite a bit!
Now, here is the painfully obvious, but hard to do part: once you have figured out that phrase or those phrases, turn on your nasty metronome and play it slowly, like 70 beats per minute, or at whatever tempo you can manage.
Important note! Playing with a metronome will not make you a robot. It will not quench your spirit or destroy your creativity. It is your friend, even if it is annoying.
Now play it at 60 bpm, over and over again. Now play it at 50 bpm, over and over again. Keep playing slower and slower until you think your brain is going to pop, then do the same thing in reverse. Keep going faster by 10 bpm increments, or even 5 bpm increments until you just can’t keep up and crash.
You can do this with each phrase, then several phrases, then an entire tune. I promise you, this works and you will probably never forget the tune, even years later. You have engraved it into your brain and taught your muscles what to do to produce that tune.
This method reminds me of working as an injection mold maker for years. I got quite good at one aspect, grinding. The other workers would ask me how I did this or that because my method was so much faster and easier.
My answer was that I reduced the process down to the least possible steps and tried to simplify everything into bite-sized chunks. Often their response was: “Huh! Why didn’t I think of that?” Once you saw the answer it was very simple and obvious. We humans have a remarkable tendency to complicate things and make it more difficult that it really is.
This is not to say that learning to play guitar fast, clean and musically is easy, far from it! But, we don’t need to make it more difficult than it has to be!
Good article, thanks!