Today's “Awesome Talents“, and the first ever in the series, is about how to play fast on guitar, and increase guitar picking speed, with an expert guitarist from Germany named Nino Helfrich. Nino is going to introduce himself to us in the beginning, and then give us some awesome tips and advises on developing speed and accuracy playing the guitar. Check the interview between me and Nino below, and hope you enjoy it and find it helpful:
- Me: Hello Nino, how are you? why don't you tell us a little about yourself and your music?
Nino: Hi, I'm great, thanks! My name is Nino Helfrich and I’m a guitarist from Germany. My passion for the guitar started 5 years ago so you could probably say that I was already too late to pick up the guitar. I’ve been playing ice hockey for 15 years before that, so I never really had time to learn an instrument during my youth. My music can be described as 4 minutes guitar solos. The songs still have verses and a chorus but it’s all instrumental. The lead guitars take the place of the vocals. Compared to other instrumentalists my music is quite heavy. Something for the metal fans \m/
Me: Awesome! I love metal and rock n roll. My favorite metal bands would be Pantera of course, and the Finnish metal band Children of Bodom (CoB).
- Me: Who are your influences, and how did they affect you on playing the guitar?
Nino: Victor Smolski was the first guitarist that really had an impact on me long before I started playing. I used to watch him play but I never understood how he made those amazing sounds. That was years before I learned about tapping and whammy bars. Another huge influence was Korn. When I started playing I wanted to get a 7 string to be able to play some of their stuff. I didn’t know that there was a huge hype around 7 and 8 string guitars back then.
To be honest I thought they were the only band that used 7 strings. Even though I started on a six strings I got a 7 string later on because of Korn. After a few months of learning Green Day, Nirvana and Billy Talent songs, I came across Andy James. His playing was unlike anything I had seen before. I started to learn from his material which was way beyond my level. It was very challenging to learn his stuff and it is still today but it made me work very hard. I use a lot of alternate picking, string skipping and tapping which are things that I adopted from his playing at some point.
- Me: Tell us about your gear, your guitar and amps/pedals, and what was your first guitar?
Nino: From day one I was an Ibanez guy. I love RGs for their playability and their looks. My main 6 string is an Ibanez RG 3570z lb prestige which is called ’Asa’. You can tell that she’s been played to death. My main 7 string is a Ibanez RGD 2127 fx prestige called ‘Tori’. The fact that she is a baritone guitar helps a lot with tuning stability and intonation. They both have Dimarzio pickups. My third guitar is ‘Madison’ a Gibson Les Paul. ‘Madison’ is used for learning songs that feature a different tuning since she has a fixed bridge.
My first guitar was a very cheap copy of a Fender Stratocaster. Just horrible. The first good guitar I had was an Ibanez MTM 2 which was the cheaper version of Mick Thompson’s signature model. A shame that it broke one day. (Check Novice Guitar's recommended entry level and beginner guitars here)
For amps and cabs I use ENGL. Their cabs are extremly heavy but they are built like tanks. I prefer heavier cabs anyway because they just sound better to my ears. I’ve also used the Engl Ironball as my main amp for a couple of years now. Very tight and aggressive tone and you can use it at home as well as on stage. My album was done with the Ironball too.
For strings I use D’Addarios with different gauges depending on the guitar.
As far as pedals go I like all in one solutions. You have to keep so many things in mind when you want to built a pedal board correctly. I just use a Noise Gate, a Delay for solos and the Wah-Wah pedal from my Boss GT 100.
Me: Wow, I gotta say you've got a variety of awesome guitar gear there, you surely have lots of fun with these toys everyday, hah!
- Me: And now to our main subject. Why don't you give us some tips and advises on how to develop speed and fast picking on guitar, without losing accuracy?
Nino: There are two things I want to talk about before I get into how I practice: When it comes to speed and accuracy the most important thing is to use a metronome for several
First of all, it will prevent you from slowing down once you come across a harder part. It will force you to play in time and it will improve your overall timing. This will also help you a lot when you play with other people. The second reason for using a metronome is that you can see your improvement over time. This will help you to stay motivated. Another thing to keep in mind: You have to stay as relaxed as you can. Don’t put pressure on your arms, shoulders, hands or even your legs. This will slow you down! If you try too hard you will hurt yourself and never get as fast as you want to be. I’ve learned this the hard way and I still have to remind myself to stay relaxed. Look at guitarists like Jeff Loomis or Synyster Gates. They are totally relaxed on stage.
How I practice:
As an example let’s say you have an alternate picking lick (it’s the same thing with tapping, sweeping, legato etc). You can play the lick at 100 bpm maybe and it has 16th notes. Your goal might be 160 or 180bpm. What you don’t want to do is play it at 100 bpm for ours and get frustrated because you’ll just get sloppy. You have to slow it down and play it again and again and again (…and again and again…). Play it 100 times on 60 bpm and then increase the speed to 65 bpm. Play it another 100 times. Make sure that you play it perfectly every time. This might sound totally boring to a lot of people but you just have to put in the time.
This will built up your muscle memory so your fingers know what to do when you speed it up. When you play 10 or 15 notes per second your brain can’t think about every single note. Your hands have to do it automaticly at this point.
Once you’ll reach 100 bpm it will feel much easier. You can try to exceed your top speed now. When you feel your playing is getting sloppy (as not accurate and miss some notes) at 110 you go back and start slow again. This way you will work your way up to your goal. You can even write down how much you have improved so you’ll see your progress over several days, weeks and months.
There is no quick way around this. You just have to put in the time. It takes a lot of discipline but it will make you better.
Another thing you can do with very long licks is to split them up into smaller parts. Just take the first 6 notes and practice them with the method I described. Once the first 6 notes are up to speed take the next 6 notes and do it again. Then you can combine them and work your way trough the lick over time.
I know this sounds even more boring but you should ask yourself: How do you want to play at 200 bpm if you can’t even play the first 6 notes at 120?
Me: Good answer. I also, always emphasize on taking it one step at a time, read The Basics here, I can't stress enough how important it is to to play slowly at the beginning, and then gradually build up speed until you reach the desired speed. Also, I too believe that chopping long licks and exercises into smaller parts is a great way to practice and get to master them. Right on point there!
Nino continues: This method has two advantages: You can isolate harder parts and work on them. Maybe you can play a lick at a higher tempo but a single part slows you down. Isolate it and work on it so the whole lick will become easier. The second advantage is that you just have to think in parts instead of notes.
As I said before, you don’t have time to think about every single note when you’re playing at faster tempos. You just go from one part to the next one and if you built up your muscle memory, your hands will know what to do. There is no magical way to become faster on the guitar. It takes years to develop speed. The faster you get the harder you have to work for every single extra bpm.
Important: One thing I want to add here is this. Even though you should play slow to avoid mistakes, you have to run at some point. A sprinter will never become faster when he walks all day. Sometimes you just have to go for it and get a feeling for playing fast. How it feels in your hands and how much tension and pressure you really need. But only after you put in the time with your metronome.
- Me: What tips and advises can you tell to the beginner guitarist, to help them approach learning the guitar in a better way and get them to improve?
Nino: BUY A METRONOME! Seriously! Don’t be scared of music theory. It’s not rocket science. You don’t have to know every single scale on earth but don’t be one of those guys who don’t know what a pentatonic scale is (…after 20 years of playing). Get in a band and play with other people. The experience will help you a lot and it’s something that you can’t learn from a teacher or an instructional DVD. It’s the same with playing live.
Don’t listen to people around you that tell you that you don’t have the talent it takes. Everyone can learn an instrument at any age. Just because they don’t have the discipline to learn an instrument it doesn’t mean that you will fail. Put in the time and practice (playining ‘wonderwall’ at camp fires is NOT practice) and you will improve. Also don’t compare yourself to other guitarists. It will kill your motivation. Just try to be the best player you can be.
Novice Guitar team suggests that you check the following available metronomes:
- Soundbrenner Pulse – A wearable (on wrist, foot, anywhere you like), Bluetooth, pulsating (vibrating) metronome: Review here
- Amazon got plenty of good metronomes with excellent prices, check the collection here:
- Me: Last word to our readers and fellow guitar enthusiasts
Nino: Please check out my album ‘Dead Bodies In Motion’ on Youtube, Amazon, Spotify, itunes, CD baby etc. The best place to get updates on my music and projects are my social media sites on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Get in contact with me if you have questions! To everyone who supports me and buys my music, THANK YOU! You’re awesome! \m/
Such great tips and insight into the guitar world by Nino Halfrich, I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did writing those questions and reading these awesome, very informative answers. And I hope that starting from today, you take this information seriously and become a better guitarist. If you have any feedback or comments please feel free to leave them below, and I'll gladly reply whenever I can.
Contact Nino Halfrich Below, and support him please:
Nino's Twitter: Click here
Nino's Website: Click here
Nino's Facebook: Click here
Enjoy and Good luck! …