Guitar champion Marty Friedman shared a few words of advice to all the guitar players out there regarding speed and playing fast, explaining to Total Guitar Magazine:
“Here’s a great tip: one thing you want to avoid is playing fast unless it’s absolutely necessary. If it’s not needed, then playing fast totally sucks.
“I hear so many people that are brilliant at playing fast, but the second they end their run, what they play completely negates anything that was cool about the fast stuff. It becomes completely lame; people spend way too long on the mechanical things.
“When someone holds a note or plays a great melody, that’s what sounds beautiful. If you’re playing fast, whether it’s sloppy or accurate is something only guitar players will be able to notice.
“Not only that, they also don’t give a shit. When you play a melody, that’s when you’re singing, and if it’s out of tune or not good, even your grandmother can notice that. That’s how much more important it is.
“If you get a call from Elton John about doing some session, he’s not going to want to hear your 8-finger tapping arpeggios… he’ll send you straight out the door. Sir Paul McCartney won’t want your insane diminished shit either – you’ll get fired. So think big and focus on your vibrato, make sure each note sounds nice. That’s how you sound professional.
“For all the kids learning how to play fast like their heroes, the hard thing is to distinguish the notes being played. Usually, the guys that play fast have a limited vocabulary, so find something where they played at a medium tempo, and it’ll probably be very similar to what they’re playing really fast. So if you learn the slower stuff, it will give you big clues to what they’re doing fast.
“I was a big Frank Marino fan as a kid and used to wonder how he played ultra-fast. By learning the slow stuff and speeding it up, boom! I had it. Saying that, Frank Marino is one of the tastiest fast players on the planet. Same with Steve Lukather… those are the guys with large vocabularies.”
Focusing on other aspects worthy of your attention and practice time, Marty noted:
“Vibrato is very important and there’s a way to approach it. Listen to all the types you like, and learn.
“It might be guitarists; for me, it was violins, cellos and Chinese erhus especially, as well as vocalists. Listen to the waves of how the note is being shaken. Often, a violinist will play a note completely straight with no vibrato and then with a bit more time start wavering it a little bit. I tend to like that approach.
“You hold the note, make sure you are spot-on and when you’re feeling like it needs to move, start fucking it. Literally have sex with that note… but only when it’s ready! [Laughs] When you do that, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of control. Then you decide how fast, how slow, how violent you wanna vibrate that thing.
“Jeff Beck is fantastic at that; he never plays these 64th-note patterns like these other maniacs. He has a way with melody that sounds beautiful… and that’s what people truly remember about you.”