The greatest myth of speed

October 20th, 2012

One of the greatest myths about speed is that you have to develop fast ‘twitch’ muscles to be fast.

And words like ‘ballistic’ and ‘explosive’ are often used to describe the kind of action you need to cultivate to develop this speed.

The principle may have some validity in sports, but the guitar operates under slightly different rules.

On the guitar, it’s not how fast you can pluck the notes, but how fast you can get to the strings that determines your speed

Let’s say you have a task of pulling a lever in five different locations.

We’ll call these points A B C D E.

To perform the task, first, you have to pull a lever at point A, then you have to run to point B and pull the lever there, and then you have to run to C and pull the lever there, and then you have to run to point D and do the same thing, and the same again for point E.

What do you think is the most important determinant of your speed here?

Is it your speed in pulling the lever or your speed in getting to the location?

Clearly the latter.

Pulling a lever is a relatively simple task which doesn’t require much time, but getting to the location is the part that takes the most time and effort.

It’s the same in plucking strings on the guitar.

Plucking a string is a relatively easy task, it’s getting to the string that often takes the most time.

That’s why I’ve always focused on getting to the string quickly and efficiently rather than on the actual plucking itself.

In fact, if you have good speed in getting to the point of action, the actual execution of that action can be done rather leisurely, without hurrying.

And that’s what you’ll see good players do.

Even at the fastest speed, you’ll never see them hurry, in fact, they often look like they have all the time in the world to pluck the strings.

The next obvious question is, how does one go about developing speed in getting to the strings?

Finger independence, which I have written about before here.

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