Powerful Blues Guitar Speed Exercises That Make You A More Creative & Emotionally Expressive Guitarist
Nothing adds intensity to your soloing like playing blues guitar licks with speed. Learning how to creatively use speed together with other blues staples like double stops or pentatonic scales brings you one step closer to playing like greats such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. Good news is, this not very difficult to do and there are several great blues guitar speed exercises that help you do it quickly.
These blues guitar speed exercises add fire to your licks and make your solos more emotionally expressive:
Exercise #1: Combine Melodic And Soulful Blues Guitar Licks With A Dash Of Shred
Adding fast runs together with blues guitar licks sounds awesome – when it’s done right. Many guitarists wish they could do this but take the wrong approach by playing fast constantly without adding a sense of melody to their licks.
Here is a simple, fun way to combine blues guitar licks with speed:
Step One: Choose any one of the double stop licks below.
Step Two: Play the double stop and add one note to end that feels open-ended (like there is something more to come). For example:
Step Three: Repeat the previous step, but make it sound like the lick has ended. Like this:
You now have two short parts of a blues guitar lick: a beginning and an end. Notice: you can use whatever notes you want, you are not limited to these notes.
Step Four: Play between the two halves of the lick several times to get a good feel for it.
Step Five: Now insert a fast run in between the two halves to add speed to the lick.
Here is a basic example:
Step Six: Improvise 10-20 variations of your lick.
The more variations you think of, the easier this concept becomes and the better it sounds when you play with speed. Playing blues guitar with speed becomes natural and sounds musically expressive.
Exercise #2: Make Every Blues Guitar Lick You Play Feel Emotionally Intense
The more you value every note you play, the more high-quality your guitar playing becomes. Squeezing as much emotion from every note as possible makes every blues guitar lick you play sound intense! (Compare this to most guitarists who mindlessly waste notes, leading to mediocre solos.)
Here’s how to train yourself to play fast blues guitar licks that sound amazing by making every note sound great:
- Choose any note in the pentatonic minor or blues scale.
- Improvise for 1 minute using only this note. To make it as expressive as possible, play it using different note rhythms, vibrato, bending or slides. Use tremolo picking to add a touch of speed and intensity.
- Next, add one more note and repeat the process with both notes.
- Continue this process until you have 3-5 notes. Then improvise tons of different phrases using these notes for 5 minutes or so.
By doing this, you quickly see how incredibly expressive you can make a note. Training yourself to squeeze as much as possible from a single note massively raises the quality of your guitar phrasing as a whole and your blues guitar licks start sounding amazing!
Exercise #3: Play Blues Guitar With Speed Without Sacrificing Cleanliness
Myth: All blues guitar licks must sound sloppy, because that’s just the blues style. Wrong! There are plenty of cool blues guitar licks that sound gritty and intense… but that doesn’t mean they should be played sloppy (with unwanted string noise or sloppy technique).
For example, consider the song “Riviera Paradise” by Stevie Ray Vaughan. There are many instances in this song where he uses techniques like double stops to get a gritty (and awesome) blues sound. However, he does NOT play with sloppy guitar technique that includes open string noise or muffled notes.
Using proper muting technique is critical for making sure you play intense blues guitar licks with speed and accuracy. Here’s how to do it:
Use the side of your thumb on your picking hand to mute any strings below the one you are playing on, like this:
Then use any available fingers on your picking hand to mute strings higher than the one you are playing on by lightly laying them on top:
Use the side of your index finger on your fretting hand to mute strings above the one you are playing on:
Using both hands to mute as described above keeps all your blues guitar licks clean no matter what speed you are playing at. Apply these muting concepts together with the other concepts on this page and enjoy becoming faster and cleaner than you ever thought you could as a blues guitarist.
The blues guitar tips on this page help you become a faster and more creative guitarist. However, they are just the beginning. Study these blues guitar articles to learn how to develop badass blues technique that turns heads.