Blues Guitar Institute

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Quick Exercise to Build Finger Picking Speed

Lesson ID: TB098

Yep. I’ve said something like this before.

Playing fast for the sake of playing fast is silly.


You might not expect a lesson focused on speed building from a laid back finger picker like me. And while I stand by my comment about playing fast, the truth is you do need to work on your ability to play fast. For two reasons:

  1. Having the physical ability to play fast makes the slower stuff a breeze.
  2. The speed is there when you need it.

The key is, play fast when it counts. You don’t have to play fast all the time, but having the ability to break out a fast run when you need it comes in handy.

If you want to build speed, start slow. But be consistent.

Build Finger Picking Speed

The exercise in this lesson is certainly on the bluegrass side of things. It sounds like a banjo roll – not very bluesy. But, this little exercise has helped build up my speed in my picking hand. And the sheer repetition builds muscle memory.

If you practice this for a while, your fingers will start to take on a mind of their own. You will eventually be able to play this exercise on autopilot.

Performance Notes

As with any speed building type exercise, I recommend you start out slow on this one and just keep at it.


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I have had this exercise in my bag for quite a while and at first, I was playing it very slowly. It takes time just to get the fingers coordinated enough to play this little ditty.

I kept practicing it over the years and eventually, I was able to get my speed up.  Nowadays it’s a bit of a self-challenge to see just how fast I can get it.

Playing Fast is…

Remember:  Playing fast just to play fast is silly.  I stand firm in that.  But, when you use your speed to play something powerful – that’s what it’s all about.

Hopefully, you’ll find this exercise will help you build finger picking speed, coordination and agility that will in turn, help you tackle fast (but soulful) runs and licks.

When you are ready, there are two ways I can help you:

Back Porch Blues Course:  A proven system to fingerpicking the blues.  This step-by-step course guides you through building fundamental fingerpicking skills.  Plus, you’ll learn three levels of a delta blues style performance study to put your new skills into action.

Become a myBGI Member: Membership comes with access to Back Porch Blues plus over 70 step-by-step courses.  Get proven results with one of myBGI’s structured Roadmaps.

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