As explained in those lessons, your riffs, licks and solos don’t need to be complex and fast to be of a good quality.
That said, if you’re an advancing guitar player, you will also want to use techniques that increase in the level of speed and complexity.
These advanced guitar exercises are aimed to train you gain more options for creating music. Options you didn’t have when you were a beginner or an early intermediate guitar player.
In these exercises we’ll be using techniques such as fast legato runs, string skipping, position shifting as well as string bends that go beyond the more common upward bend.
Advanced guitar exercise 1: Fast legato runs
In this exercise you’re given a scale sequence over the scale of A minor natural, using a three note per string pattern.
Descending, you should pick the first note of each triplet and hammer on the other two notes. Ascending you should do the same, but use pull offs instead.
Note: While the guitar exercises in this lesson should be played at the given tempo, most of the exercises in today’s lesson, can be played at a faster speed than that given in the exercise. Though building speed on the guitar is just one component of great guitar playing, it is important for advancing guitarists to start building their speed, both as an expressive tool, as well as to impress others.
It is true that some guitar players gave playing very fast, shredding, a bad name. The reason is that they’re able to play fast, but not to create melodies with good phrasing. Thus, they bore everyone to death when they try to show off their skills.
However, if used correctly and the other elements of great guitar playing are in place, the ability to play fast on the guitar actually proves that your skills are above those of an average guitar player.
Advanced guitar exercise 2: Wide intervals/string skipping.
In the above exercise, you’re playing notes that come from adjacent strings.
Wider leaps, those that involve skipping one or more strings are more difficult to execute.
The next exercise is a sequence on the minor pentatonic scale and makes broad leaps to improve your string skipping technique.
Advanced guitar exercise 3: Position shifting
In both the exercises above, you’re using notes that find themselves in one position on the guitar fretboard.
A way to increase your options when creating guitar riffs, licks and solos, is to shift from one position of the scale to another.
The next exercise is a sequence in the scale of A natural minor, but moves across the guitar neck, rather than across the strings.
Thus, to play the notes over which “PS” is indicated you have to shift your entire hand and put your index finger over that fret.
This exercise will not only help you learn the technique of shifting positions, but also learn scales better by seeing them from a different view, across the neck.
You can apply the given sequence to different three note per string scales, and on any two adjacent strings.
Advanced guitar exercise 4: Palm muted drone
In this lesson I show you how to use the palm muted drone to generate your own guitar riffs.
In today’s lesson we’ll be using the same idea in a riff/exercise and increase the level of complexity by having to quickly adjust your right hand between palm muting the open E string, and not applying palm muting technique to the rest of the notes.
Advanced guitar exercise 5: String bending and vibrato
String bending and vibrato; two of the most expressive guitar techniques you can use.
You have probably made use of the upward bend by now, and may use some vibrato, however keep in mind that both these techniques keep getting refined as you get better on the instrument.
The following are some suggestions on how to approach both:
Sting bending: Always make sure the bent note hits the intended pitch perfectly. Train both your ear and your muscle memory to always bend the string to the exact intended place.
Any amount of time it takes to develop this skill, is time well spent and will pay dividends in the future.
Once you’re able to to this fluently, experiment with different types of bends such as pre-bends and bend and release, as given in the exercise below.
When it comes to string bending, you should rely more on your ear than guitar tabs.
It is impossible to notate exactly how each guitarist executes his bends, so while tabs should help figure out the exercise, riff,lick of solo that you’re learning, if it doesn’t sound exactly like what you hear – go with what you hear.
Vibrato: There is bad vibrato, there is good vibrato and there is great vibrato.
Bad vibrato is when the player just wiggles the string randomly up and down to somewhat achieve vibrato effect.
If you’re doing that, you need to spend time on your vibrato and make sure you’re bending the string to the same place, and come back to the default position of the string every time.
Also check whether the timing of the small bends that constitute the vibrato is consistent.
Good vibrato is when the player can smoothly achieve the effect of vibrato on the note, bending the string to the exact same places and in time, every time.
Great vibrato is when the player expresses a specific emotion every time he executes vibrato on a note. When he varies the width and the speed of the bends according to the specific sound he wants to get. (Virtuoso guitar player Tom Hess is a great teacher on the subject of expressing emotions on the guitar, you can read some of his articles on this and other guitar playing topics here)
Keep all the above in mind while learning the next exercise that makes use of pre-bends, upward bends, bend and release, as well as vibrato on the long notes.
Conclusion: Becoming a complete musician
The more you advance in guitar playing the more complex and fast things you can play.
It is important to keep in mind though that complexity and speed are just a means to an end, not the end in itself.
They give you more options to express yourself musically but on their own they don’t make you a complete musician.
Which is what you should strive for at this stage, rather than being good on the instrument itself.
To do so, it is important that you also improve in the following areas:
- Music theory and applying it.
- Ear training
- Good phrasing
- Improvisation and creativity
- Writing songs
Though the above are not “a must” if you’re only interested in playing music composed by other people, being able to create your own music, and knowing what you’re doing will make you a complete musician.
Something which I personally find more fulfilling than just playing my favorite songs.
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