Lesson 1: Speed Picking Technique

Welcome to your first lesson! Every lesson is going to teach you a cool technique that you can incorporate into your guitar solos. If you are brand new to guitar soloing then this is the perfect place for you to start.

Each lesson includes warm-up exercises, music theory, and guitar techniques. At the end of each lesson we’ll put it all together in a guitar lick that you can practice and add to your arsenal of licks. Each lesson builds on the last lesson and will help you develop skills and techniques that you’ll be able to use in all of your solos.

Take your time with each  lesson. Practice using a metronome. Start slowly and gradually increase your speed as the exercises and licks become more comfortable. Let’s get started.


Warm-up Exercises

Nobody likes to practice warm-up exercises but they are important for a few reasons. If you are a beginner, my warm-up exercises will take your fingers out of their comfort zone. This is an important step for breaking out of ruts that every guitarist falls in. Warm-up exercises will get your mind and hands to stay on the same page and work together. The mechanics you practice in warm-up exercises will become ingrained in your playing and allow you learn more advanced guitar licks faster.

Warm-up exercises are not meant to be played for hours but rather to get your hands “warmed-up” and both hands working together. Before you know it you will be flying around on the guitar at warp speed. At that point, warm-up exercises will become even more important. Think of your hands like a singer thinks of his vocal cords. Practice 5 minutes of slow to moderately paced warm-ups before you put start screaming at the top of your lungs.


Play each exercise at 120 BPM (beats per minute). The (quarter-note) quarter note gets the beat. There are 4 beats in a measure. Count 1-2-3-4.

Warm-up Exercise 1

Use all down strokes and all 4 fingers – a finger for each fret.


 Tip: Keep your fret hand finger at the bottom of the fret to get the best tone.

Warm-up Exercise 2

Like the first exercise, use all down strokes and all 4 fingers – a finger for each fret.


Warm-up Exercise 3

Now play this warm-up exercise using alternative picking. Alternate a down stoke with an up stroke. Down-up-down-up (down-up-down-up)


Warm-up Exercise 4

Keep the tempo steady with the metronome. Slow the speed down if you have a hard time playing it smoothly.


Repeat each exercise until you feel like your fingers are warmed up. Play them smoothly, in time and keep your fingers at the bottom of the fret to produce good tone.


Guitar Theory

The guitar solo got it’s roots in blues. Even though Eddie Van Halen was classically trained, his guitar solos still stem from a simple 5 note blues scale. He adds color and passing tones using other notes but the core notes are all based on just 5 notes. That scale is the minor pentatonic scale.

Minor Pentatonic Scale

  • Penta means five
  • Five notes in the scale
  • The 1/2 steps in the scale make the tonality minor (versus major)

Let’s take a look at that last bullet point.

All scales are made up of whole steps and half steps. A whole step is 2 frets and a half step is 1 fret. Here is an example whole steps and half steps.


A major scale is a “happy” sounding scale and has 1/2 steps between the 3rd and 4th notes and also between the 7th and 8th notes. Look at the C Major scale below. The 1/2 steps are between the E-F and B-C.


A minor scale has a darker sound to it. It is used in most hard rock/metal solos. The minor scale has 1/2 steps between the 2nd and 3rd notes and also the 5th and 6th notes. See the A minor scale below. It has exactly the same notes as the C Major scale. It just has a different starting point.


Notice that if you start on the 3rd note (C on the 8th fret) you will be playing the C Major scale. Both scales share exactly the same notes but start at a different point. Because they start on different notes the 1/2 steps are in different places. Now, let’s take a look at the A minor pentatonic.


Notice the similarities between the A minor scale and the A Minor Pentatonic.

The A minor pentatonic scale is made up of the 1 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 7 notes from the A minor scale.

That’s a LOT of theory for one lesson! Now that you have some background on the minor pentatonic scale, let’s put it to practice.

Below is the full A minor pentatonic scale in the 5th position (it starts on the 5th fret). Practice playing this scale up and down. Start with all down strokes.

Now play the same A minor pentatonic scale using alternate picking. Remember to keep the tempo steady. Play slowly until you can play each note clearly with good tone. Down-up-down-up.


Speed Picking Technique

Speed picking, often referred to as tremolo picking, is a technique used by pretty much every guitar shredder. One of the most famous examples of speed picking is of Eddie Van Halen in Eruption. Solid picking skills are very important in being able to play fast.

We started this lesson by playing all down strokes and then moved on to alternate picking.  Think of speed picking as “alternate picking in hyper-mode”.

Speed picking is when you alternate your picking strokes (down-up-down-up) very, very fast.

To get started freely alternate your picking – down – up – down – up.

  • Keep your thumb and index finger tight like a vice grip on the pick.
  • Rotate your wrist/arm to pick down/up/down/up.
  • Don’t just use your thumbs and fingers to alternate pick.
  • If you pick like you write with a pencil you’re not keeping your thumb/finger tight enough.
  • Put an egg in your hand if you’re experiencing the “handwriting” issue.

Speed pick each note up and down the A minor pentatonic scale. Take your time and do it freely.


Now tremolo pick on just the open high E string.


Time To Shred

Now it’s time to put it all of the exercises and techniques into a smokin’ guitar lick. I mentioned earlier that one of my favorite tremolo speed picking techniques is Eruption by Eddie Van Halen. We’re going to focus on the top 2 strings (B and high E) for this lick.

Listen to the piece and notice how fluidly he picks. He could really play any notes that he wants. The right picking hand would not change. Just like in the final tremolo exercise above.

For this lick don’t worry about the phrasing at this point. You can play it by ear. The important thing is to get your right hand moving and learning how to alternate pick.


This concludes the first lesson. Practice these exercises and concentrate on these main points.

  1. Alternate picking (down-up-down-up)
  2. Tremolo picking – fast alternate picking
  3. Playing in time with a metronome

In the next lesson we will add 2 more speed shredding techniques.

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The 5-Step Plan to Guitar Soloing In 7 Days

  • Lesson 1: Speed Picking Technique
  • Lesson 2: Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs
  • Lesson 3: Tapping Like Eddie Van Halen
  • Lesson 4: Vibrato And Why You Need to Learn It
  • Lesson 5: Where To Go/What To Do Next