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Notes Per Second and Good Guitar Playing

posted Sep 4, 2015, 1:18 PM by oneclipleft   [ updated Sep 4, 2015, 1:20 PM ]
This has been a favorite topic of mine since time immemorial, and I've tracked my progress on this beast here and there. How fast do guitarists play? The simple answer is: fucking fast. How fast do I play? That answer has changed over the years. But, as we all know, fast playing does not equal good playing (although fast playing is much, much more objective to measure). So, how fast to I play? I found out today. I will limit this to songs I've actually released, and I'm proud to say that my most recent record (ab)Useful, features my fastest guitar playing to date.

Now, I consider myself a good guitar player. I'm not a master by any means. I can't keep up with the guys in Lamb of God without heavy practice, for instance. I'm a serviceable lead guitarist, but my strengths truly shine in rhythm playing. I'm a rhythm guitarist, and you can quote me on that. But, as much as I love playing rhythm, I play lead on my own songs when the song demands it. So, how fast am I as a nearly unwilling lead guitarist? The answer surprised even me.

Turns out I can play 14.67 notes per second fairly accurately when necessary (this is calculated from a 1.64 second section from the Lender guitar solo). The most shocking part of this investigation is that it would put my normally slow-ass playing up there in a few lists of the fastest guitarists of all time. Is this surprising? No, not really. I contend that ridiculously fast guitar players exist everywhere. The reason people like me are not on lists is because we have no exposure. We're not noteworthy (sorry guys, we're just not. Society said so). I remember the day I realized that I could nail 10 notes per second accurately, all day long. (ab)Useful features sections up to 11.5 notes per second, sustained for a worthwhile duration with no special difficulty (rhythm parts included). Hell, I hit 10 notes per second on A More Perfect Union tons of times. But! 14.67 notes per second is my current top speed on a released track, and that only lasted for less that two seconds of repeated note patterns.

Verdict: Am I Michael Angelo Batio? Fuck no. Am I worthy of a place among the greats? Probably not. What I am, and what I've always described myself to be, is a competent guitarist. I get the job done. My guitar playing quality lives or dies on the quality of the music. It's my writing that defines my playing, not my speed. And you know what? I would rather be Adam Jones than Dave Mustaine any day of the week. Because I consider creativity and passion greater assets than speed or skill. Perhaps one day I'll cultivate both and leverage that combination. Odds are, I'll always write better than I play, and that's how I prefer it. Peace!
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