Speed Kills!

Posted: October 10, 2010 by Paul H in Tips & Tricks

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 4.34.30 PMOne of my favorite guitar teachers showed me exactly how to play like my heroes. His name was Gerrard. He had a true wood grain finish, but his real strength was his multiple speeds. The speed I paid for was 16 revolutions per minute (RPM). I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when we used vinyl records and my teacher, Garrard, was an old turntable that included that super slow 16 RMP speed on it.

The regular record speed was 32 RPM’s, so if I took an Uli Roth or Eddie Van Halen solo, and turned it to the 16 speed, Garrard would play it at exactly half the speed, and one octave down. At half-speed your human brain can pick out each note, and then using some common sense, and detective work, you can figure out at what location on the neck those notes were played.

Great players reveal their secrets at half-speed. You can hear all kinds of important nuances that fly by at regular speed. If a note was picked, pulled off, bent, what rhythmic grouping, or even the width and speed of a vibrato, you can hear it all. I just had to get used to hearing the music an octave down.

Later when I taught Classic and Modern Solos classes at GIT (MI in Hollywood) I used a Marantz tape deck that slowed to half speed so I could show exactly how a solo was played. These classes were extra cool because I also played videos of most of the players so we could analyze their hand positions.

Dang, now days we have it made. There are devices that slow MP3’s down and they maintain the pitch, like the BOSS Micro BR. These are called “Phrase Trainers.” You also have YouTube so you can see the players’ hands. Tabs abound on the Internet; guitar magazines give you tab transcriptions; or you can sign up for my Killer Lead program and I show all kinds of solos and licks clearly and slowly.

The main point I want to make is that if you are serious about playing guitar you need to have a device to slow the music down that you are learning. The human brain just cannot track at the speed guitarists’ play. Half-speed allows you to hear each note, the rhythm, and even if a transcription in a book or magazine is wrong. Yes, it’s quite common.

What’s scary to me is that I need a half speed device just to learn my own stuff if I haven’t played it for awhile, no kidding! I have a computer program or my Micro BR that I use to time stretch and loop small sections so I can figure them out.

As long as I’m talking about different speeds I should also recommend that when you practice with jam tracks you should practice them at different speeds. That’s why I include 2 different speeds of my jam tracks in the Killer Lead program so you can challenge yourself at a fast speed but also slow it down to make sure every note comes out clear.

Remember speed kills in more ways than one!


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