Speed Bursts

In Pumping Nylon, Scott Tennant outlines speed bursts as a way to increase speed and fluency on both right hand alternation and tremolo.

The idea behind a burst is that anyone can play fast, if only for a short period of time. Playing fast is like putting your technique into overdrive. But it’s also a feeling that has to be captured. Playing quickly feels like one motion, something that Philip Hii calls grouping: making many movements feel like one. Stanley Yates calls it getting the knack for something.

Playing guitar is not meant to be hard and frustrating. It’s meant to feel easy. Playing quickly for a short time is a way to capture that feeling of easiness.

If you’re having trouble with RH alternation speed or a fast scale. Try building it up. Start with just two notes (at concert tempo). Drill those two notes until it feels effortless. Then add one more, work until it feels easy. Then add another, etc. Be sure to relax completely between each burst. Start at the tempo the entire passage is meant to be. Don’t try to work the entire thing up by notching up the metronome. Just play parts of it at tempo from the start.

Posted on in Classical Guitar Technique


  • bobber

    This idea seems to be quite profound when it comes to cultivating velocity. Check out Grisha’s take on it. He talks about thinking of a scale as one thing, like an arpeggio. That makes sense to me (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Vcf9K5BTNk). Hey, he might be a good interview too. Might be insightful to find out how he cultivated his velocity and how long it took him to get that fast.

    Doug Niedt also talks about bursts in part 2 of ami scales this month.

    • Christopher Davis

      That’s one of the things I’m starting to get, actually: thinking of something as a unit is very powerful. Philip Hii talks about that in his Ebook.